Socceroo's tireless refugee work rewarded

Awer Mabil was forced to flee a war-torn African nation before spending his early childhood in a refugee camp.

Eventually finding safety in Australia, he has since gone on to represent his new nation in the green and gold on soccer's biggest stage.

As well as the winger's efforts on the football pitch, where he was part of Australia's World Cup efforts in Qatar, Mabil is the founder of not-for-profit Barefoot to Boots, which aims for better health and education for refugees.

The soccer star grew up in the Kenyan camp after his family fled from civil war in Sudan, before arriving in Australia aged 10.

Mabil is driven by the memory of his sister, who died in a car crash in 2019, as well as being a role model in the migrant community.

His sporting journey and refugee advocacy work has led to him being named Young Australian of the Year.

In a pre-recorded acceptance speech, Mabil said he wanted to make the most of the opportunity he was given through his position as an advocate and Socceroos player.

"It has become something more than football. Football is a foundation but through that we help hospitals and equality rights," he said.

"For me the most important thing is to help the next generation and also inspire them to be themselves and follow their dreams."

While Mabil was unable to accept the award in Canberra on Wednesday due to team commitments with side AC Sparta Prague in Europe, he was represented by his mother and uncle.

Mabil paid tribute to his family in his acceptance speech, noting the sacrifice his mother made in bringing the family to Australia.

"We moved across the world to give us this opportunity to pursue our dreams and for me, she's the biggest inspiration," he said.

National Australia Day Council chair Danielle Roche said the soccer star had used his success to help advocate for others.

"Awer fled conflict and went on to represent Australia at the highest level as a Socceroo - an extraordinary achievement," she said.