Community Citizen of the Year: A story of sacrifice and resilience

  • 7 September 2023

For many Australians, it would be impossible to imagine the hardship and daunting experience of a child refugee. The plight you would face, and the sacrifices you would need to make for a better life, is something that most of us will, thankfully, never face.

Moolay Ta Loh has. When she was seven years old, her parents made the decision to send her to a refugee camp on the Thailand border, so that she could continue her education. She lived there for 11 years with her auntie, only seeing her mother once during this time, due to being denied by the military.

In 2009, she was able to come to Australia on a refugee program, living with her uncle Melbourne. Determined to make the best of the sacrifices she and her parents had made, Moolay enrolled at TAFE to improve her English, and, two years later, got her first job working in hospital laundry. After meeting and marrying her husband in 2012, the search for work saw them move to Katanning in Western Australia.

While her husband has worked with WAMMCO ever since, Moolay made it her mission to become involved in the local community, by helping others who had experiences like her own.

“It is my calling and part of my Christian faith to help others. I became a community connector in 2022, helping the Karen community, particularly young mothers and children, living in Katanning. I like to help them be confident and strong to communicate with other community members. The mothers I help feel more confident and supported to join in the community.”

women and children taking group photo
Moolay with some of the mothers and children she helps

Moolay supports new residents by driving them to medical appointments and acting as an interpreter, but also encourages them to learn English themselves to help them feel the confidence she refers to. She goes on to describe to us the positive impact that helping others has had on her own journey, but also passionately acknowledges that none of it may have been possible if she hadn’t come to Australia all those years ago.

“When you help your community, you grow as a person and better understand how to fit in the world around you. You gain confidence, become more motivated, develop more skills and attract more opportunities. Living in Australia means our children are educated and have good opportunities. It means freedom and equality.”

woman speaking on stage
Moolay giving her acceptance speech as Shire of Katanning’s Community Citizen of the Year

In 2023, Moolay was named Shire of Katanning’s Community Citizen of the Year, for her dedication to helping new residents.

If you know someone like Moolay who you want to thank and recognise, nominate them in the 2024 Community Citizen of the Year Awards at

The Community Citizen of the Year Awards are proudly supported by the Department of Communities, 9News Perth, 6PR Perth and WAtoday.

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