AS her husband and son were gunned down before her eyes, a mother turned to her 12-year-old daughter and pressed a single finger to her lips.
Now 40, Leila Abukar, the Liberal National Party candidate for the seat of Yeerongpilly, in Brisbane’s inner south, in the January 31 Queensland election, vividly recalls being ushered into a four-wheel-drive by her quick-thinking mother as the war-torn Somali capital of Mogadishu descended into bloody chaos.
‘‘There were a lot of dead bodies [and] bullets in all directions,’’ she said.
‘‘It was not a nice experience.’’
After ditching the car, Ms Abukar and her surviving family members walked for a week to a Kenyan refugee camp.
They dug to unearth desert wells and scavenged fruits from nearby trees to stay alive.
When they arrived, Ms Abukar says her brothers had to sleep outside their communal tent to ensure the females were not raped.
In the years that followed, she shuffled through numerous camps – necessary in part due to a self-directed but controversial campaign against female genital mutilation – before her family’s fortunes finally changed in 1997.
On her 19th birthday, an Australian immigration officer gave Ms Abukar a gift to remember: a plane ticket to Brisbane.
‘‘I said, ‘I haven’t celebrated my birthday for so long’,’’ she said of the resettlement plan, which was made possible under the Women at Risk refugee program.
The gift has led her now, almost 30 years after her mother ordered her to stay quiet, to try to speak up for the state seat of Yeerongpilly.
The mother of two says she wants to give back to the community on Brisbane’s south side that has nurtured her.
But whether voters are supportive enough to clinch her a win at the polls remains to be seen.
In 2012, the LNP’s Carl Judge won Yeerongpilly with just a 1.4per cent margin before defecting over public sector cuts.
He had a short-lived stint with the Palmer United Party and is now standing as an independent.
Meanwhile, the ALP is standing Mark Bailey, who has said a shift in the ethnic make-up of the area is ‘‘not that big a factor’’ for the 2015 ballot.
But Ms Abukar rejects the suggestion her appeal purely resides with the multicultural vote.
‘‘I represent everyone,’’ the practising Muslim said.
‘‘I’m a very proud Queenslander who wants to make a difference.’’