Ibby follows his dreams after a “life of hardship and struggle” in his homeland

Ibby follows his dreams after a “life of hardship and struggle” in his homeland
Brendan Rees

From escaping violence in his homeland of West Africa to setting up his own business, Ibby of Southbank said he was “forever grateful” for his new life.

When Southbank resident Ibrahim “Ibby” Barrie arrived in Australia as a refugee at the age of seven with no English skills, he never imagined chasing a dream of one day opening his own barber shop.  

Now aged 20, his dream is edging closer to reality after having recently registered his own hair and beauty business called Y&L Effects, which stands for “Young and Loaded”.

It has been a tough journey for Ibby who was born in Sierra Leone, a country in West Africa that was in the midst of a civil war, and a time when his family were “always in survival mode” after having become “normalised to a life of hardship and struggle”.

“Life there was not about chasing dreams … it was more about surviving and being able to live day-by-day,” he said.

In a bid to escape rebel violence his family fled across the Sierra Leone border to Guinea in the hope they did not “not meet an untimely death” but soon discovered their new home was “anything but peaceful”. 

“When I was only six or seven, I heard what sounded like rocks being thrown on the front gate of the compound we were living in along with gun shots with screaming and commotion going on,” he said after coming under attack by rebels.

“Individuals in their homes had to create ways to protect themselves by placing broken pieces of glass on the top of the walls surrounding the houses along with barbed wires to prevent rebels from climbing over at night.”

He said others “went as far as putting electric wires on the door handles of their homes just to make sure they woke up the next day – that’s how horrifying the situation really was”.


I was traumatised, for me it gave me another look at humans. I was so scared. Although it did not change my character to be kind to all people, like my father and mother were, as this situation only made me stronger.


During these “hard times”, his dad provided for Ibby and four siblings by running a pop-up store on the side of the road selling medications and other essentials while his mum cooked and looked after the children as well as selling meals she prepared from their home. 

Ibby’s life changed when he and his family members were accepted into Australia in 2008 after fleeing rising violence and insecurity of their home country, thanks to the help of his uncle who had migrated to Australia in 1994 after earning a New Zealand Commonwealth Scholarship.  

“Being at such a young age I did not know much of what was going on but all I knew was that my parents were extremely excited,” Ibby said, who was later reunited with his older sister and other relatives who had come to Australia two years earlier.

“When we came here it was a completely different world. Me being in a house where I could see the lights on and having toilets within the house and then you would flush it … for me this was crazy.”

“For the first time in our life we finally started experiencing comfortability.”

After settling into Melbourne’s western suburbs, Ibby initially struggled to fit into school after he and his siblings were bullied because “we were very different”.

However, a turning point came when he started Year 10 at Point Cook Secondary College where he discovered a passion for hair cutting after he began cutting his own locks off and other family members.

“People started noticing my skills and that’s when I said to myself, ‘I may as well capitalise off this new-found talent’. For the rest of my schooling, I was giving all my mates hair services as a self-made barber.” 

Today, Ibby works as an Australian Tax Office agent and in a customer service role at Culture Kings retail store in the CBD. 

Through his love of music, he also performs and does club promotions at several nightclubs but has never lost sight of achieving his dream of opening his own barber shop.

“I’m in the process of looking and doing some research about shops around Southbank that I can potentially rent,” he said, which had been “slowed down” during the COVID lockdown.

“I’m extremely happy … it proves not only to myself but to others that passion in combination with hard work, anything is possible,” adding he was “forever grateful” for his life in Australia.

His achievements include learning to play the piano proficiently, being a high-level soccer player, learning to sing/rap, undertaking photography and becoming a self-taught artist/digital designer.  

“The way that I look at it, every single day that goes past reminds me of how blessed I really am and something that I will forever cherish.” •

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