Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Believe it or not! The Africans are celebrating their new life in Australia, despite their material disadvantage; increasingly sharing some aspects of their culture and tradition with other Australians.
And indeed African generosity knows no bounds! For example, the Sudanese refugees have brought their traditional Christmas celebrations to the city of Adelaide in South Australia; showcasing their culture and calling on all people of goodwill (Christians and non-Christians alike) to join them during the festive season.
The celebrations will feature religious processions through the city (along the lines of the Sudanese Christtian tradition). And there will be a lot of singing and rejoicing in the true spirit of Christmas.
Reflecting on this development, the Advertiser newspaper reports that Rev David Kuol, a Sudanese Anglican priest, who came to Australia as a refugee in 2003,will lead the combined Sudanese congregations - including Anglican, Lutheran, Uniting Church, and elements of the Catholic faith - in Christmas prayers and religious processions.
Monday, December 13, 2004
Café Enfield provides a range of activities for adults and children alike. It is a good place for individuals and families to meet other families in a non-threatening environment. And learn new skills. Or have a good cup of coffee. Or chat. Or read stories to children.
There is always something new at Café Enfield; something for everyone. A visit to the establishment is an interesting experience in its own right.
I remember my visit with fun memories. It was one of the best invitations I ever had.
In actual fact, Café Enfield is a new model of service delivery that is becoming increasingly popular with the new generation of African families in South Australia.
The result speaks for itself! Undoubtedly, it is an impressive sight to see the harmonisation of interests between the service providers and their clients at Cafe Enfield. A shared sense of purpose, of joy, and of celebration. Thanks to the efficient and effective management!
“My job at the moment is to build a good relationship with African women and children attending Café Enfield every Tuesday”, said Fran Stokes, the energetic coordinator of the program and the brain behind the Sudanese playgroup. “There is still a lot of work to be done”.
Fran has other more creative things in mind: “Eventually, I am hoping to recruit interested African women to work as care providers for the Family Day Care program”, she said in her usual ladylike and professional manner.
There are often self development opportunities for parents available at Café Enfield; including parenting workshops for new mothers, budgeting, cooking, computing, and even volunteering.
More stories on http://africanmigrants.blogspot.com/
Saturday, December 11, 2004
But change is in the offing! And Fran Stokes, a concerned citizen and an experienced multicultural fieldworker, is on a mission to address the African disadvantage.
In fact, she has dedicated her life’s work to helping the new arrivals; providing quality childcare projects in the emerging African community in South Australia.
“I am so much looking forward to supporting the African community in starting their own childcare businesses and looking after African children while their mums work, study, or have a break”, Fran said, thoughtfully.
“I understand their child rearing practices are different from our own and they do not work in isolation…I believe that in time we will get the best of both worlds working in harmony”.
Thus, to make her dream come true, Fran is working closely with the African community here; building an effective relationship with the African women and children in order to facilitate change.
Fran, undoubtedly, deserves our full support.
Friday, December 10, 2004
The African Community Organization of South Australia (ACOSA) presents the “African Family Day” on Sunday, 12 December 2004 at the Kilburn Community Centre, 59 Gladstone Avenue, Kilburn.
The event will kick off at 12 noon with interactive multimedia projects; focusing on the African family and culture in Australia, followed by a colorful display of children/students works.
The main theme of this year’s event is focused on African culture in transition; emphasizing the dynamics of African culture in the 21st Century.
Consequently, the “African Family Day” will feature live music, traditional and modern dance, fashion parade, arts and crafts, and refreshments.
So join the fun!
The event is co-sponsored by the Multicultural Education Committee, an advisory body for the Minister of Education and Children Services.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
The Africans landed in Hobart, Tasmania, a few days ago.
The new arrivals are among the 300 African refugees from the Rakham camp to be resettled in Australia recently. And more will soon follow!
Friday, November 19, 2004
For example, the Kongor Students Association (KSA) was recently formed by the new arrivals to identify and promote the interests of the Dinka speaking Sudanese students in Australia.
Thus, as the name suggests, KSA is an organization run by community conscious students who sometimes act as refugee advocates. Its members are drawn largely from the various universities and colleges throughout the land. The actual number is difficult to come by, but there are about 30 KSA members in South Australia alone.
The principal objective of the KSA is to help the young Sudanese who are still languishing in the refugee camps in Africa.
The aim is to maintain direct connection with the community associations in Africa, sponsor refugees, help them to read and write, and pay their airfares to Australia, if possible.
“We have just finished building a village library”, said Kuir, who has been a good member of the KSA since its inception. “We are now raising money for books, equipment, clothing, and writing materials for the kids”.
Thus, it goes without saying that donations from the KSA activists (and their supporters) in Australia is already making life a little more comfortable for the Sudanese kids in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.
Meanwhile, more funds are needed for other projects which are still in pipeline.
Saturday, November 13, 2004
Goaner Tutlan, a confident Ethiopian youth, who is now in Australia, and who as a nine-year old in Africa patrolled the Ethiopian-Sudanese border with an AK-47 machine gun has vowed to play football in Australia – a major career change.
In fact, his dream may come true. The Advertiser newspaper reports that the 22-year old is ready to be picked up by the Essendon Football Club next month. History is in the making!
If successful, Goaner would be the first Ethiopian player to star in the Australian Football League.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
For Gia, it’s a dream come true. He is now living happily in a nice suburban house in Adelaide with his wife and four children. And Johnson Juuk, an Adelaide resident, is doing an excellent job providing accommodation for the family; facilitating the re-settlement process. A show of brotherly love!
Thus, it is probably true to say that, as far as Gia is concerned, the dark days of suffering and deprivation in the refugee camp are over. And days when Gia (and his family) barely had enough to eat to keep body and soul together, are but a bitter memory.
Now, as the new reality dawns, Gia and his family can relax in the privacy of their own home and sleep well at night without fear of intimidation.
In fact, at the time of writing, they are doing just fine, both physically and mentally. Thanks to the kindness of South Australians!
Indeed, Gia’s passage to freedom was made possible through the generosity of the members of Modbury Uniting Church congregation, in South Australia, who paid the airfare, pick the family up at the Adelaide airport terminal, drove them to their new home, and show them around this wonderful city of churches, as well as helping them make sense of their new environment.
Gia’s dream is to lead a good life and experience “inner joy” and contentment.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
Readers of this piece will be delighted to know that Africa’s creative impulse is alive and well in Australia, as the new generation of African migrants and refugees make their presence felt throughout the land.
The new arrivals are spearheading the cultural revival movement. And John Deng, Aluong Nyandit, and Lem Ajith who joined the Paradise High School in South Australia this year are displaying great skills on the drums.
John, 14, openly admitted to the Sunday Mail reporter that he used to play the drums when he was a little boy in Kenya.
Indeed, the Africans are in a celebratory mode!
And, today, the lucky Australians, no doubt, will feel the spirit of Africa, the humor, and laughter, when the young New Age drummers perform at the Multicultural Festival to be held at Thorndon Park Reserve, Hamilton Terrace, Paradise.
Saturday, October 16, 2004
brains and beauty to match.
She was born in Eritrea 20 years ago. And spent a few years of her early life in Ethiopia, because of the unstable political situation in her home country.
By a stroke of luck, she arrived Australia in the year 2000 to begin a brand new chapter of her life - a long way away from Asmara.
And her world began to change!
“Life in Eritrea was extremely difficult for our family”, she said. “We were in constant fear for our lives…And fear of authority, violence, and destruction was never far away”.
Generally, it was the type of fear that rose and fell according to individual circumstances and the political climate in the new Republic during that time.
Meanwhile, Tsige has found some peace of mind and stability. She is doing extremely well for herself here; working and studying and generally happy to an Australian.
In fact, she appears to be quite comfortable with her new environment. And she reckons “Australia is a great nation; and a good place to live…There are lots of opportunities here”. No extremes of wealth and poverty!
One thing is certain, though: Tsige’s star is shining. She is a young woman of distinction, a great communicator who believes she has what it takes to be successful; and who injects a great deal of energy and optimism into her life with delightful results.
She has made her mark in the mainstream labor market; having worked in the retail sector ; and gained useful experience that has served her well.
Tsige enters the university next year to study financial accounting – a milestone for a young woman who came to Australia as a refugee a few short years ago. Now, she believes that studying at the university will “open doors” and improve her life chances.
Thus, behind the sweet smiles (and lady-like demeanor) lies a rock-solid determination to succeed. Tsige definitely believes her time has come.
And what does the future hold for her? Undoubtedly, Tsige wants to “work hard and be successful” and nothing will stand in her way.
But her most beautiful dream is to go back to Africa one day, and help the poor and the less fortunate ones who are still struggling for survival in the most appalling circumstances.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Recently, at the official launching of the new information kit and poster for the FGM program in South Australia, the Minister of Health, Lea Stevens, spoke eloquently about the “culturally sensitive nature of the (FGM) problem”; emphasizing the need to “educate the community about the phenomenon of female circumcision, its impact and consequences”.
Indeed, her speech was well received by the emerging African community in South Australia. And, more importantly, the educational content of the program is becoming increasingly popular with the migrant population; especially the new arrivals.
Essentially though, the FGM program has two principal aims. The first aim is to assist those women and girls in South Australia who might be at risk of being subjected to female genital mutilation.
The second aim of the program is to minimize the negative effects of FGM; especially its adverse health outcomes and the psycho-social harm experienced by victims of this age-old practice.
In this case, given the importance of the FGM debate, Australia is light years ahead of most countries in creating public awareness of the problem.
The FGM program in South Australia comes under the community development framework; focusing on capacity building and profound respect for individual rights.
For more on this topic, please read this fascinating book: The Africans in Australia, Seaview Press.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
More than 300 candidates of all political persuasions; including Labor, the Democrats and the Greens have signed the refugee guarantee pledge; vowing to support a significant policy change on the refugee issue, if elected.
Read more stories on www.refugeeguarantee.com.au
Monday, October 04, 2004
In fact, the situation has remained virtually unchanged throughout the election campaign, until a few days ago when Mohamed Selhab, a 37-year-old Algerian asylum seeker walked into the office of Ross Cameron, the sitting Liberal member for the Federal seat of Parramatta, and asked for mercy.
Now, as the political pendulum swings towards the sensitive issue of refugees and sylum seekers, some form of assistance is in the offing!
Mr. Selhab’s case is an interesting one, for a variety of reasons. He was freed from detention in 2000 and now facing deportation, despite the fact that his lovely Australian wife is pregnant with their third child.
The point to note is that the Liberal Member of Parliament, Mr. Cameron, who is standing for re-election, pushed the issue on top of the political agenda when he promised to look into Mr. Selhab’s case.
“I am going to write (to the Immigration Minister, Senator Amanda Vanstone) seeking a reconsideration of the case in the light of changed circumstances – namely the wife’s pregnancy”, Mr. Cameron told The Australian newspaper, to the utmost delight of the Parramatta Refugee Action Group.
Friday, October 01, 2004
But, in recent years, certain cultural practices, such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or “female circumcision”, have come under intense scrutiny - a development some fear would criminalize the practice and eventually cause the African population to be fully assimilated into the mainstream Australian society.
The point to note, however, is that FGM occurs in more than 40 countries around the world, and more than 28 in Africa. Although there is no documented evidence that FGM is currently being practiced in Australia, it is a highly sensitive issue in the emerging African community in this country.
Nevertheless, the struggle for women’s health is a global struggle that cuts across all cultures; and is closely associated with the fundamental issue of female circumcision.
In fact, there is an argument that sees FGM as a barbaric tradition, with debilitating physical, psychological, and sexual implications, that should be overridden by law. Another strand of argument sees the practice as a violation of basic human rights.
In South Australia, for example, the law says it is illegal to “aid, abet, counsel or procure a person to perform female circumcision or FGM on a woman , girl or female baby”.
This means it is against the spirit of the law to help someone circumcise a woman, girl or female baby (or get someone else to do the same thing).
Furthermore, the legislation preventing FGM in South Australia was enacted on the 26th April 1997. Under this legislation, a person who intentionally performs, arranges, or assists female genital mutilation on a person is guilty of a serious offence with a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment.
Meanwhile, emphasis is on effective education program for the prevention of female genital mutilation, and not punishment per se.
Thus, at the time of writing, there is a public health agreement funding for 5 men and 28 women to work as facilitators of the program in the emerging communities, and also helping the mainstream society come to terms with the implications of the FGM; issues the wider society does not fully understand.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
“Life in the refugee camps was difficult”, he said; reflecting on his previous life and times. “There was no security. No sufficient food. No freedom of movement”.
A virtual prison!
And, besides, “You can’t even go outside the camp without police escort”, Rod said. “Anyone who dared to venture outside the camp without official authorization was severely punished”.
Indeed, Rod Mbeki (name slightly changed to protect his identity) has come a long way. He left his homeland, Burundi, after the Hutu Massacre more than a few decades ago; seeking refuge in neighboring countries and never knew what was ahead of him.
How things have changed? Now, Rod appears to be relaxed and comfortable in his suburban Adelaide home in South Australia; making the most of his new environment and learning English as a fourth language. In fact, he already speaks French, Swahili, and kihundi fluently.
Thus, in a characteristic expression of African optimism, Rod is upbeat about his new life; seeing Australia as a “nation of peace, freedom and opportunity”; obviously believing that he can achieve whatever he wants to achieve in his new country.
The sky is the limit!
Saturday, September 25, 2004
The tyranny of distance may not be a significant factor in Kuir’s life. But Australia is still a long way from the Majak village in the Kongar district of Southern Sudan where Kuir was born and bred.
Nevertheless, Kuir is extremely well-adjusted; and is making good progress. He is spellbound by the quality of life and the educational opportunities in Australia today. And like most migrant youths struggling for survival here, he wants to have the good things of life and the level of education he couldn’t have had in his home country.
But Africa still beckons. And Kuir still dreams of his ancestral homeland; thinking about the good times and the bad. “I miss the laughter, the broad smiles, the rhythm of community life, friends and relatives in Africa”, he says. And, of course, he misses the real life stories of the local heroes - stories of enlightenment, of struggle and survival.
In fact, he still remembers the time, in the early 1990s, when the rogue elements of the Nuer militia force killed his people and took their cattle.
“It was a terrible situation”, Kuir says. “I fled (the violence) across the border to Uganda to save my life”.
And yet, and yet , “Africa is where my heart is”, he insists. But “I like Australia” and the Australian way of life.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Meanwhile, there is no specific offer of assistance.
But a report in today’s Australian newspaper says that the Government in Canberra is likely to announce that logistical contribution would be made to the AU effort in Darfur as soon as possible.
Watch this blog!
Friday, September 17, 2004
Nevertheless, the point to note is that without such tender mercy in the form of state intervention, he could have been detained for life.
Monday, September 13, 2004
The milk of human kindness started to flow in the right direction (where it’s needed most) after a visit to South Australia in June this year from the Watoto Ugandan children’s choir.
Members of the two congregations will be heading to Kampala soon to visit the villages and build houses for the orphans of the civil war and the deadly AIDS epidemic.
They need your support!
Sunday, September 12, 2004
James has a smart and creative way of thinking about his adopted country, Australia; seeing it as a “home away from home” and “a good place to bring up children”. He is one of the new arrivals from the war-torn Sudan - barely four months old in Australia. In fact, he is still self-consciously trying to come to terms with what it means to start a new life in a new culture.
But there is absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind about James’s survival ability, even in the most challenging conditions. James grew up in Kajakeji near Juba in Southern Sudan - the heartland of the current struggle.
He has been through a lot in his life; witnessing the horrors of war, death, destruction, starvation, malnutrition and disease in his native Kuku community in Sudan. He lost more than a few relatives and close friends. And, as the war dragged on, all what he worked so hard to achieve vanished into the thin air. The effect on James was devastating!
He ultimately survived the horrors of that war and the local militia atrocities and triumphed! And live to tell the tale!
Nevertheless, surviving the war is one thing, but surviving the peace is becoming an even more challenging proposition. “Starting from the scratch is not easy for me…I‘ve had a lot of problems here already; notably rental problems”, James said. ”They often ask for references, level of income, bond, and rental history which I can’t provide, because I’ve only just arrived”.
And, more importantly, there are employment problems, too. James is a qualified bookkeeper, a true professional, with 15 years experience in the public and private sectors before the war got out of hand in his homeland; but he just can’t seem to be able to find a suitable job in his field of specialization; partly because his qualifications are not even recognized in Australia.
Yet, James is not giving up. He has a healthy appetite for life; and is ready to try anything. Meanwhile, he has been busy polishing up his English language skills and upgrading his professional credentials. He definitely wants to remain active in the community here and to be self-employed.
“I want to set up my own business”, he says without prompting. “And start making some real money…I have something to offer the Australian people”. And he, definitely, believes he has what it takes to run a successful small business here in Adelaide city.
James draws a great deal of strength from suffering and hardship; seeing his new life in Australia as an opportunity to try new things and change his life for the better.
Friday, September 10, 2004
As the war in Sudan drags on; and the irregular militia groups known as the Janjaweed continue to terrorize the predominantly non-Arabic villagers in Southern Sudan, an increasing number of African refugees have found their way to Australia under the Australian government’s special humanitarian program.
Consequently, Australia has granted visas to more than 14,000 Africans under the humanitarian program in the past two years. And close to 10,000 of these Africans have been from the Sudan, according to the recent issue of the Australian Financial Review (AFR).
The government’s own figures also revealed that in 2003-04, about 4,500 people born in Sudan settled in Australia under the program. But the impact of the war (and the militia brutality) has taken its tool on the refugees now arriving Australia. And help is needed in a lot of areas.
This calls for a full range of services; including the torture and trauma counseling services which is part of the wider package designed to heal the psychological wound and help the refugees adjust to life in Australia.
Common problems areas in which support and counseling may be needed include: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and lethargy.
Other services to assist the refugees might include meeting the new arrivals at the airport, providing transport, arranging housing, emergency medical and dental services, clothing, food, and basic household goods.
The point to note is that the provision of re-settlement services often call for a great deal sensitively with men and women, because of their cultural background and the impact of their experiences.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
The needs of the African child in school have also come into focus; challenging the established views of educational planners and teachers; leading to a rethink of curriculum development at all levels.
In fact, a significant change is in the air and some schools have already responded, positively, to the educational needs of the new arrivals.
School liaison officers have been employed in some metropolitan schools and put to work with the African families; helping to deal with some of the issues facing the African child in school - a move that is likely to facilitate a more collaborative arrangement between the school system, parents or care givers.
Meanwhile, the Seaton Primary School in Adelaide, South Australia, is looking for a qualified language instructor to teach an African language to all classes R – 7 ( a total of eight classes) for weeks 1 – 8 inclusive in term 4, 2004.
The African language to be taught is not specified at this stage. I assume it will depend on the qualifications of the successful applicant. Be that as it may, this is a positive development for the Africans in Australia.
This development has led to several conclusions: that is that the Africans are here to stay. Evidence points to the fact that African culture and values are increasing being recognized and articulated into the system in a way nobody could have predicted a few decades ago.
Sunday, September 05, 2004
As a student in the “Comboni Parents Secondary School” in the Dinka-Bor country, David witnessed the worsening crisis in his homeland, first hand, and the disastrous effects of the war on his people. The wounds of that terrible carnage are still fresh in his memory.
He lost everything of value to him during the war; including his dear mother, father, brothers and sisters. Now, he is all alone, an orphan in a highly competitive and unforgiving world, and the one and only survivor in a family of seven. He was in the Kiriyandongo refugee camp in Uganda before coming to Australia four months ago as a refugee. This is a new milestone for David.
Meanwhile, David’s eyes have seen a speck of light at the end of a very long tunnel, a sure sign of hope. At least, he can now afford to smile, from ear to ear, because Australia has given him a measure of peace and security - a good reason to live; thereby restoring his faith in humanity.
David is, no doubt, trying to make sense of the new environment. “Everything is new …and there is no war here”, he says as he reflects on his experience in Australia, so far. “I have learnt a lot already, and have made some new friends. ..Above all, I’m enjoying my studies”, not to talk of the new sense of freedom. But there are new challenges ahead.
Finding a part-time job has proved too difficult for David. He definitely wants to work, not just to keep the body and soul together, but so that he could put enough money aside to help others who are still languishing in the refugee camps. But who will employ him? I still think he needs a great deal of help in this direction.
If you can help, then, please drop me a line!
During our meeting, David talked at length about the generosity of Australians; focusing, appreciatively, on the efforts of those organizations (and individuals) who have helped him in the recent past and are still helping him now. “The Salvation Army, for one, gave me some winter clothes”, he said. And, more importantly, the “Australian Refugee Association (ARA) helped with some furniture: chairs, tables, and, of course, some nice cooking utensils”. Furthermore, the “ARA even helped to pay my fees…In fact, they have sent me to the TAFE college to learn English…I’m delighted”, to say the least.
David is of the Dinka-Bor extraction, a proud son of the soil. And a man of many tongues: he is literate in many languages; including Arabic which he speaks fluently. Now, for reasons of survival, he has decided to learn English not as a second language, but most probably as a third or fourth language. He’ll use the time spent on the language course to stop, pause, and reflect on his career options.
Thus, after the trauma of war and devastation in his country of origin, David’s luck is gradually changing. Like the vast majority of African-Australian youths, David sees education as the way out of poverty. He wants to work hard, settle down, and in a few years time, go to the university to study international relations and the law.
Good luck David! And may all your dreams come true!!
Friday, September 03, 2004
Alifatou (popularly known as Alifa) was born in a little village of Bafilo (near Kara) in Togo, West Africa. She is an experienced world traveler and a keen sportswoman who has been in Australia since 1999. She was in action in the Women’s Shot Put event during the 2003 “Telstra A” series held at the Sydney Athletic Centre. And was one of the Star performers.
Inspired by a love of humanity and a love of challenge, Alifa has worked extremely hard to help the disadvantaged migrants in the emerging African communities in Australia. Her heart goes out to the “uneducated, the unemployed, and the poor women” who are trying to make a new life in Australia; but have found the daily struggle for survival really difficult to bear.
Thus, unlike their highly skilled, well educated, and career-minded counterparts who have enjoyed a lot of freedom and equality since their arrival in Australia, the uneducated women are in a world of their own; searching for a place in the new society. We now know very well that these disadvantaged women need a lot of help to cope with life in Diaspora. Simple things like shopping, using public transport, and interacting with people in the local community are beyond their level of competence because of the total lack of English language skills and their husband’s desire to restrict their freedom of movement, just to “protect” them.
Alifa talks candidly about the plight of the poor and the seriously disadvantaged in the emerging communities in Australia; and what people of goodwill should do to alleviate the problem of adaptation and re-settlement. But the wider community is yet to come to terms with the essential nature of the complicated factors at work in these communities.
Meanwhile, some of these unfortunate women are increasingly being insulated from the positive influences of mainstream values and beliefs. They are largely unemployed and seem to stay indoors most of the time. Consequently, they have no choice but to perform the traditional wifely duties as pre-ordained by the patriarchy: cooking, cleaning, and caring for the children and husband, out of the prying eyes of the public. They neither work. Nor study. Nor participate actively in social activities outside the confines of their home environment; especially during the early years in Australia.
A woman in this situation is totally dependent on the husband who controls her every move, and he is well respected at home because of his position of power and influence. He is the superior partner in the equation, the “Alpha and Omega” so to speak, the sole bread-winner who knows what is right and wrong for the entire family. He controls the family budget, a role that gives him tremendous amount of power. And he is not complaining because he has found a good way of dealing with status anxiety which is the lot of most migrant men. Thus, when he speaks, the wife listens; and both appear to complement each other quite well.
But, come to think of it, “There is more to life than listening to a man all the days of your life”, said Alifa who has extended a warm hand of friendship to many of the poor and lonely women here in South Australia; helping them with the necessary information about their rights; and women’s health issues.
Alifa is a good facilitator and knows exactly what she wants in life. “I have to find my own way in life: working, studying, and making a living…I don’t depend on any man to tell me what to do”. Indeed, Alifa’s time has come!
Actually, it is not just a question of patriarchal conspiracy that is keeping some of the poor African women in this position, there are well entrenched socio-economic and psychological dimensions of the problem. And old values die-hard!
Yet, again, as Alifa would have us believe: “It is good to listen to one’s partner and take advice but sometimes you have to discover things for yourself”.
One thing is certain, though: Alifa’s work in the African community here is yielding some positive results. She is seen as the rising star in the emerging communities. And a fine young woman of influence.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
The good news is that the government has amended its refugee policy, in response to public opinion. Senator Amanda Vanstone, the Immigration Minister, is on record as saying that the Government has tweaked its much-criticized Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) scheme to give temporary refugees priority access to a pool of mainstream migration visas.
Although the good Senator is not getting soft on illegal migrants, she has made it transparently clear that the rules will be relaxed for those who wish to marry an Australian citizen. Or move to regional Australia for 12 months.
Of course, Senator Vanstone is thinking about marriage of a certain kind: that is the popularly accepted marriage of the Adam and Eve vintage; but not marriage between Adam and Steve, so to speak. Anyway, you get the drift!
Be that as it may, the relationship between marriage and freedom has now been firmly established in the minds of refugees and asylum-seekers who want to call Australia home. Many are rubbing their hands with glee!
But first they have to find the right partner.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Nevertheless, they are beginning to get a better grasp of the extremely liberal teaching and learning culture in Australian schools – a culture that is vastly different from the African school system where punishment for a wrong answer is the order of the day.
For the African child though, making sense of the new system is the real challenge; it is also part of the fun!
But the main objective is to develop an educational program that equips African children with the basic skills necessary to gain access to mainstream education and employment opportunities.
Although research in this area is still in its infancy, anecdotal evidence increasingly points to the link between literacy levels and long-term unemployment in the emerging African communities in Australia – a fact that should be of major concern to educational planners. And parents alike!
In fact, African children are great learners; they come to Australian schools with an open mind - wired to learn; so to speak, but with different cultural and linguistic experiences to begin with, as well as different levels of readiness for school work. It is, therefore, the responsibility of parents, teachers, and the school system (working together) to support their development of literacy and numeracy skills.
Friday, August 20, 2004
A recent Newspoll report in the Australian newspaper shows that 61 per cent of voters now believe asylum-seekers should be allowed to enter Australia.
There is also a groundswell of support for change in the hard-line system of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) which prevent genuine refugees from staying permanently in Australia; and claiming full citizenship rights.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
The council has passed a motion asking the state government to lobby the Federal authorities on the issue. “The motion is about population, which is a concern of local government”, Councillor David Winderlich said in a recent statement.
“Here we have a long-standing problem and a group of people who have been terribly unlucky in life…We can do the humanitarian thing and do the right thing by them”.
The issue of a rapidly shrinking population is a fundamental one; a major concern for Australian political leaders of all persuasions. And the matter will not be allowed to rest.
In particular, South Australia is really keen to attract higher numbers of migrants and refugees to offset the threat of shrinking population and economic decline.
Currently, there are 9,500 temporary refugees or TPV holders in Australia who are allowed to stay for three years before being returned to their countries of origin, if in the opinion of policy makers, the conditions in their home countries seem to have improved.
The council’s decision is a step in the right direction. It will go a long way to help increase understanding and acceptance of temporary refugees; encouraging them to find a new home in Australia.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
The Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the current Chairman of the African Union, has called on the Burundi government to investigate the massacre and bring the murders to justice without delay, according to reports emanating from a special summit held in Pointe Noire, economic capital of DRC.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Mr. Harley, who is the Chairperson of a new group, the Coalition of South Australians for Human Rights, would like to see a significant change in policy direction.
In his capacity as Public Advocate, Harley calls for the introduction of the Bill of Rights in South Australia, arguing quite convincingly that such legislation will provide legal protection for people whose rights are infringed by public policy.
Uppermost in his mind is the protection of refugees and the mentally ill.
Monday, August 09, 2004
But critics of this policy will not be silenced. In fact, they continue to argue that asylum-seekers are stateless people; that statelessness is not a crime. Therefore, they should not be detained.
In other words, detaining the stateless people for life is an enormous punishment for a crime they did not commit.
Sunday, August 08, 2004
And asylum-seekers who are “stateless or lacked identification” could be detained forever under the law; if the government can find no other country to accept them.
Lawyers and fervent supporters of asylum-seekers draw attention to the ambiguity in the law; arguing that the court should look to the international human rights provisions for guidance on the issue.
Nevertheless, the court’s position remains unshakable - a big win for the Howard government. But bad news for those who want a more liberal asylum policy.
On the whole, the court’s asylum ruling will have a significant impact on the asylum-seekers whose cases are yet to be decided; and on those whose status in Australian society is difficult to determine.
Many Africans will be affected by this decision.
Saturday, August 07, 2004
One day, baby Jamal barely had the strength to cry. His poor mother was extremely worried.
In fact, “Jamal was starving to death and his mother was forced to watch, powerless to prevent it”, said Tim Costello, Chief Executive of World Vision Australia, who has just returned from Darfur in the Sudan.
Baby Jamal’s mother was turned away from the hospital because she had no money to pay for her son’s treatment. “All it costs to save Jamal’s life was $8”. And, at the nick of time, Costello came to the rescue!
The scene of hunger and desperation; of death and decay, has been repeated all over Southern Sudan. Thus, as conflict over land and water resources exploded into widespread violence and lawlessness in Darfur, an estimated 1.2 million people are still living in inhuman conditions in refugee camps, with no help in sight.
An additional 200,000 people have fled their homes and sought sanctuary in the neighbouring country, Chad, as the predominantly Arab militia engage in an orgy of violence and ethnic cleansing.
Meanwhile, the international community is increasing pressure on the Sudanese government to ensure peace and security in Darfur.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Now, as luck would have it, the Maughan Uniting Church in Adelaide, South Australia, has come to the rescue. The great act of human kindness began in 2003 when the church welcomed its first group of four Sudanese refugees; and has since assisted 38 others to come to Australia. And more are on the way.
The church Minister , the Rev Dr. Elizabeth Vreugdenhil is on record as saying that “the church has found the need to reach out and help bring refugees to Australia” after hearing stories of their great suffering, extreme poverty, and deprivation.
And reaching out to help those in need is what Dr. Vreugdenhil does best. Through her insightful approach, the church’s action has helped save a lot of lives; and has also lifted a lot of people out of poverty. In fact, it has opened up numerous opportunities for African refugees in Australia.
In actual fact, the church does more than helping to facilitate the passage to Australia. It has worked hard to provide a support network for a congregation of about 200 Sudanese who use its facilities for worship every Sunday.
Thus, with a great deal of compassion and humility, the Uniting church groups are actively seeking opportunities to assist in the resettlement of African refugees in Adelaide.
Indeed, this is a great act of faith in humanity and the best gift ever to the emerging African community in Australia.
Saturday, July 31, 2004
A serious housing crisis is affecting the resettlement of African refugees in South Australia. And there is, apparently, no immediate relief in sight given the boom in the private rental market, and the lack of affordable rental properties for those on very low income.
The category of refugees most affected by this crisis is the “sponsored refugees”. As the name implies, “sponsored refugees” are those refugees sponsored by family members who are already in Australia.
All “sponsored refugees” pay for their own airfares to Australia and meet their living expenses. They are not entitled to some of the welfare benefits others take for granted soon after arrival. In fact, they have to fulfill their own housing needs in the private rental market. And this is the horn of the dilemma.
Recently, thousands of refugees arriving in this state come as “sponsored refugees”. They are the poorest of the poor, with no independent resources of their own. They depend solely on the goodwill of others; notably families and friends and private welfare agencies.
They have neither job. Nor income. Nor rights. Nor security. Nor a place they can call their own. And overcrowding in the available homes has become a significant problem; putting enormous pressure on existing families.
Come to think of it, these refugees have absolutely nothing really, except the presence of their own mind and the rock-solid determination to survive.
Meanwhile, the housing crisis continues. The sense of crisis is exacerbated by the fact that most refugees are considered “risky tenants”, for one reason or another. And the landlords will not even offer them the lease because they have no rental history in Australia; and obviously no “references from previous landlords” to support their application; having only just arrived in Australia from refugee camps.
Thus, in the short-term at least, the refugees are still in limbo, despite efforts at resettlement. It is paradise postponed. Most are yet to enjoy the freedom of renting their own place; let alone developing and controlling their own resources.
Nor will they realize the great Australian dream of owning their own home any moment soon, given the nature of the present crisis.
Friday, July 30, 2004
A big smile broke out on his face as he landed in Australia. It was a long journey but Ismail Madhi has finally made it. He has successfully reunited with his family after years of separation and loneliness.
Ismail, 22, was born and bred in Port Sudan. He is one of four children of a once prominent Sudanese merchant. He arrived Australia a few years ago after living as a refugee in Egypt for 10 years.
“I like Australia” he said, because “there is so much that is wonderful about the place”. And he loves the Australian landscape and the flora and fauna.
His story is one of hope and survival in an alien environment.
Ismail still thinks he is “better off now”; more so than he was in Africa. And he believes he has a “great future in Australia” , despite the daily struggle for survival, the non-recognition of his academic credentials and the myriad problems of resettlement.
“You can study and acquire new skills here” he maintained, “there are countless opportunities ” for self-improvement.
Meanwhile, Ismail has a message for all new arrivals in Australia: “Work hard and never give up, no matter what"; for, as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining.
Saturday, July 24, 2004
African migrants and refugees are making a positive contribution to the Australian economy and society, by setting up new businesses and sharing the best aspects of their culture. The evidence is not hard to find.
The Rhino Infotech is a computer business recently established by two energetic Nigerians, Emeka Onyenso and Justin Anyanwu, who have adopted Australia as their new home.
Faced with a great deal of disappointment in the mainstream labour market (after leaving school), both Justin and Emeka quickly learnt that the important thing in life is to make a living doing something that one loves most. “We wanted to be self-employed…and also to have access to secured sources of income for the future” said Emeka, the technical manager of the business. “We also wanted to make a significant contribution to the Australian society”. It seems to me that all their dreams have, finally, come true, on all counts!
In fact, the establishment of Rhino Infotech as a business venture is a good reflection of what is happening in the African-Australian community is Australia. Creative and innovative Africans have ”taken the rhino by the horn”, so to speak, accumulating wealth, the old fashion way, by dabbling in the world of business; and more directly by investing and re-investing their capital in innovative new enterprises.
Although many migrants and refugees still live in relative poverty, things are changing for the better in the newly emerging African communities. Some have become totally engaged with the Australian society (now, they appear to be more Australian than the Australians) and are making their presence felt in many areas of human endeavor.
The demand for technical education and training is increasing enormously. And Rhino Infotech fills the gap by offering “cheap” and affordable computers to customers for profit; providing basic technical advice and training for the new arrivals; as well as the long-term unemployed.
“We have had a lot of happy customers and business is picking up” , the marketing manager , Justin, said to me recently. “On the whole it has been a good year for the Rhino”. Although the profit figures are not available at his stage, the business does seem to have a great deal of potential. And the future looks bright!
The point to note, however, is that the African community is here to stay; and some migrants and refugees are feeling really good about themselves in the new environment. Indeed, the career-minded men and women are making giant strides, moving up the corporate ladder, setting up new and innovative firms, or making the rounds as wages and salary earners in Australian society.
For more on this, contact: http://africanmigrants.blogspot.com
Thursday, July 15, 2004
The fact is that Melanie (friends call her Mel) is not an ordinary girl, but a girl on a mission to achieve greater things and help build a better society.
With brains and beauty on her side, it seems to me that she was born not only to think of the welfare of others but also to help those in need. “I have an interest in Africa and the African people for as long as I can remember” she says, “my first aim was to become a lawyer in order to help break-down the apartheid regime in South Africa…But that has already been accomplished by Nelson Mandela”.
Nevertheless, Mel’s interest in Africa has not waned. So it was that after finishing school a few years ago, she spent two months traveling across Africa; visiting Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, and South Africa. It was a journey of a lifetime, and one that opened her eyes to the reality of the human condition in that continent.
“I think what most countries in Africa need is basic infrastructure, first aid facilities, hygiene, and medical education” she says with a great deal of conviction, “there are so many lives that can be saved, and so many hungry mouths to feed. Yet there are a lot of people who are still suffering” in Africa.
Mel knows quite too well that one doesn’t have to go to Africa to help the needy. Help is needed everywhere, especially in the newly emerging African communities in Australia.
Now studying at the University of South Australia, Mel’s creative mind is always at work; thinking about the welfare of others. And exploring options for a better life. “I decided that I wanted to become involved with developing African community in Adelaide (South Australia)” Mel says. “And not knowing where to start, I contacted the Australian Refugee Association (ASA)”. She also decided to get in touch with the Gilles Street Primary School which has a program for ‘New Arrivals” students and began working with the Sudanese students and students from various other countries.
It was the fulfillment of a dream. Through talking with the children, Mel realized that there were very few opportunities for the African children to get involved in the Adelaide community outside the school environment. Something had to be done!
This got Mel’s humanitarian impulse working overtime; thinking of the different ways in which she could help the newly arrived migrants and refugees settle into their new lives in Australia. “My first idea was to start a basketball team, as this is an area in which I have a lot of experience, both coaching and playing” she says. Here, the principal assumption was that basketball will give the children something physical and positive to do; helping to keep them off the streets.
Mel’s experiment is working. The basketball project is one of the most popular projects in the African community today. But she needs more support and more funding from various sources, so that she can keep the project going.
Finally, Mel’s next project (and the most ambitious of the lot) is to help “The Lost Boys” (whom we featured on this blog recently) find their feet in Australian society. Being young and community conscious, she is extremely knowledgeable about the critical issues facing young people as they try to establish themselves in a new country.
Have you any encouraging word or suggestions for Mel? Please use this medium to express your views.
Thursday, July 08, 2004
In fact, during my discussion with him, Adil talks candidly about his experiences in Eritrea and the repressive nature of the regime in that country.
His father, a prominent businessman, Mohamed Saeed, was arrested on the way to work one day in 1994 and has not been seen or heard of since then. Adil reckons this was not an isolated incident because two of his former school teachers also disappeared the same day, without trace.
In recent years, such disappearances have become a regular feature of the Eritrean political landscape. The actual number of people involved is difficult to ascertain, but many of those opposed to the authoritarian tendencies of the existing regime are still missing; some presumed dead.
Although no-one knows for sure where Mohamed Saeed is, Adil undoubtedly believes that his father is still in prison in Eritrea and calls for his immediate release. “It is a very stressful situation for the whole family” Adil says, “I’m deeply depressed about the whole thing”. But, according to recent reports, the Eritrean government would neither confirm nor deny the arrest and detention (or otherwise) of Mohamed Saeed.
Meanwhile, Adil wants his mother and three brothers, who are now living in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, to join him in Australia. “I have been trying to bring them to Adelaide in the past two years but without success” he says, “ family
reunion is a very difficult proposition for refugees (and migrants) here”.
Adil still loves Asmara . “It is a beautiful place”; he says, with a strong feeling of nostalgia: and also loves Australia for the “ peace of mind and security” it offers. But his father’s release from prison and family reunion are the most important things in his life at the moment.
Your thoughts on Mohamed Saeed's fate will be highly appreciated.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
The civil war in Sudan orphaned 30,000 youths, among whom were “the lost boys”. The term refers to the 20,000 or so children, mostly boys, between 7 and 17 years of age who were separated from their families. They flee the violence by swimming through crocodile invested waters and sleeping in dense tropical forests full of armed troops and wild animals.
The lost boys have found their way to Australia, primarily due to the new sensibility in Australia’s refugee policy; and the recent increase in refugee intake based on humanitarian considerations.
Most of the lost boys are so young they are incapable of managing their own affairs. They live from hand to mouth, not caring about the future. Others are well-adjusted to the new socio-cultural environment, and quite conscious of their own identity.
Nevertheless, living on the fringe can be a tough proposition; especially for the lost boys. But the Africans think they have found a practical solution. Indeed, a new philosophy that sees education as the key to success has been adopted in the emerging African communities here. “Working and studying” has become the new mantra, widely seen as the road to progress.
Jur Deng Jur, 22, is a lost boy made good. He is a shinning example of what could be accomplished through discipline and hard-work. As a student of engineering at the university of South Australia, Jur has everything to live for. “My greatest ambition is to finish the engineering degree” he says, “so that I can get a good job and help others who are less fortunate”.
He sees a bright future in Australia and appears to be extremely patriotic: “I have been a refugee all my life” he says, with a great deal of emotion; now “I’m proud to be called an Australian citizen”. Quite frankly, Jur has admitted that Australia is the only country in the world that has given him what amounts to full citizenship rights.
A similar sentiment is expressed by Mamer, 17, who is still in high school and plans to go to the university to study law. Like Jur, Mamer likes the lifestyle in South Australia; and sees real value in education as the way forward for the new generation of Africans in Australia. Both appear to be well focused, with a strong determination to succeed.
Indeed, Jur is a lucky man with a great deal of personal integrity and courage. He is hard-working and conscientious; and believes he can “make it” in Australia. This reminds me of some of the important home truths about the position of African refugees in Australia; namely, that all refugees are not equal; and that some are more equal than others.
Unfortunately, some of the lost boys are still in limbo; they have completely lost their way in the new country. As one said to me recently: “life in Australia is very strange…it’s really very new to us. We are so confused”. And overwhelmed by loneliness and fear.
Some are so young and inexperienced that, they can’t even cope with little things like paying the bills. Without parental influence, they don’t have the discipline required to lead a successful life. They don’t know where to start; and how to manage their finances. Mobile phone debt and accumulation of debts from friends have become a big problem and the main source of interpersonal conflict.
It seems to me that what the lost boys need most is the “Guardian Angel”, a mentoring program that can guide them, ever so gently, through the labyrinth of an increasingly complex society. Such a program must address the real needs of the target group and must be culturally sensitive.
There are important lessons to be learnt from today’s post: understanding the predicament of the lost boys gives us a new perspective on Australian society; and an insight into the human condition.
Saturday, July 03, 2004
Indeed, Christine has come a long way. She was born in Obbo, near Torit in Eastern Sudan. She arrived Australia in 1988 after walking for three months over unforgiving wilderness from Sudan to Ethiopia; seeking refuge from the fighting in her home country. She was hungry, frightened, and weakened by sleeplessness. Yet, she prevailed. This was the beginning of her long walk to freedom.
Meanwhile, she is extremely delighted to be an Australian. "This place is good” she says with a broad smile, “you can’t hear the gun shots here (or loud explosions)”. In other words, there is no war of national liberation Down Under. No militia activities to worry about. Nor famine. Nor torture. In fact, Christine is quite happy with her new life; it is a relatively relaxed and comfortable lifestyle for a woman who spent years in a refugee camp in Ethiopia.
Christine is, indeed, a supermum because she fulfils herself by putting her family first, over and above all other considerations. She is the sole bread winner, and head of the household. She supports herself and her children on one income; having separated from her husband years ago.
But being a supermum is not all fun and games. There is a great deal of responsibility involved. Christine has assumed complete financial control over rent, food, medicine, schools fees, uniforms, transport, entertainment, and pocket money for her children; without any outside support.
Furthermore, as an African-Australian woman, Christine says she has experienced racism in Australia. “I have heard negative comments and racist remarks directed at me as I go about my daily business” she says, “but that does not bother me”. She is not daunted. Nor is she in any way bitter about her experience. Over the years, she has learnt to deal with adversity through positive thinking – a great lesson to all of us.
Thus, with her shyness and ladylike demeanor, Christine continues to strive for success, obviously believing that the world is hers for the taking. She has done very well for herself here: managing the home, taking care of her five children, studying to improve herself, and working hard on her “Hair and Beauty” business to supplement her income.
She is a lovely woman and a wonderful mother.
As a qualified accountant who could not get a job because no-one would recognize her qualifications, running a small business comes as second nature to her. And she is on the verge of a major break-through in building a home-based business and generating a good income stream for the future. The sky is the limit!
Watch this spot!
Saturday, June 26, 2004
Pele said he was held at gun-point by rebel soldiers of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), tortured, starved, and beaten unconscious at one stage, for refusing to join the liberation movement.
There was mindless violence everywhere: from the little village of Parajok where Pele was born, to the capital of Torit. No one was safe. Doors were blown open with grenades as the rebel soldiers and forces loyal to the government rifled through houses.
Pele later fled across the border and sought sanctuary in Uganda. His junior brother was probably not so lucky: he was murdered in cold blood for questioning the rationale of the movement and for refusing to join the SPLA in 1991. It was a vile and senseless murder. Murder most foul!
This unfortunate incident was the most traumatic experience of Pele’s young life. Yet he received no psychological support or counseling even after arrival in Australia. Meanwhile, the emotional wounds are still fresh, so to speak, and the pain appears to be unbearable. Yet, Pele soldiers on.
Africa is still in his mind, always. “There were enemies on all sides”, he says, “we were running away from the brutality of the government militia”, on the one hand; and the “criminal activities” of the renegade “elements of the SPLA” on the other; they were fighting for control of the civilian population, and the resources. Consequently, there was chaos and mayhem in Southern Sudan in the 1990s.
Pele’s family was split apart as a result of the conflict. He made the dangerous journey to Uganda. His parents, along with his brothers and sisters fled to Kenya.
Pele’s arrival in Australia in 1999 was a mixture of sadness and joy - joy because, he believed, he had finally found “Peace and security in Australia”, a new home. And sadness because his wife and three children were left behind in Uganda. A strong sense of loss overwhelmed him.
“Separation from my family is sad and painful”, Pele confesses “I feel quite guilty about it”. In fact, he grieved the separation from his family much the same way he did for the loss of his brother.
The psychological effects of separation and loss has made it almost impossible for Pele to cope with life as a refugee. Nor is there any immediate relief in sight. To make matters worse, there is also the almighty financial problem to worry about because he has continued to support his family in Africa from his meager earnings in Australia.
He has tried, quite unsuccessfully it seems, to send for the children he left behind and to bring the entire family to South Australia through the family re-union program. But, “there is no luck so far”, he says, “ I’m extremely disappointed”.
Meanwhile, what is Pele’s plan for the future? “What future?” he replies, “I have no future here while my family is still languishing in the refugee camps in Africa”. Then again, “my plan is to re-unite the family”.
I came out of the first meeting with Pele with a great deal of empathy; obviously believing that maybe there is something I can do to help him soften the pain and anguish of transition. Yet, I suddenly realized that I haven’t got all the answers; but I will do my best.
Thus, in the final analysis, I believe, maybe there is someone out there who could provide the answers, who could wipe the tears from his eyes, and put a big smile back on Pele’s gentle face.
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Today’s post is a profile of Abdi Ali, a “local hero” who has achieved great things and has been able to turn his life around for the better since arriving Australia as a refugee.
Abdi, 40 something, was born in Northern Somalia and grew up happily in the capital Mogadishu till the inter-clan political rivalry tore the place apart, and the whole system descended into chaos. He fled to Kenya for security reasons.
Consequently, as luck would have it, he came to Australia in 1999 with his wife and children, after 7 years in a refugee camp in Kenya. What an incredible experience the passage to Australia must have been for the young family?
For Abdi, there are no words to describe what it meant to be given the opportunity to leave the refugee camp and to be “accepted in a good and peaceful country” like Australia. Nevertheless, he did not underestimate the challenges that lie ahead of him in the new country.
Reflecting on his life as a refugee in Australia, Abdi now says, “I knew life would be tough from day one”. And after a thoughtful pause, he adds: “experience has proved me right; but I have learnt a lot”. Alas, it’s not easy to raise a large family with minimal income; and living below the poverty line is a nightmare.
But, Abdi, our “local hero”, has no regrets. He has weathered the storm (and would not be daunted by any adversity). He is made of a sterner stuff! In fact, he has single-handedly raised a family, and brought up healthy, confident, and well-adjusted children on minimal income; a great achievement by any measure.
Although he is the first to admit that his new life in Australia is generally good, “things are becoming harder” as the children grow up (he has three kids in primary school and two in pre-school – a large family by Australian standards), Abdi appears to be quite confident about the future. Thus, his quest for a peaceful new life has been successful. “We are very happy here”, he says.
One thing is certain though, the happiness of Abdi’s family depends not on endless accumulation of material things, but on deeper appreciation of the moment (the quality time they spend together as a family).
A former Mogadishu school teacher, Abdi talks passionately about his “love of teaching”, although he has not been able to work in his “chosen profession” since he arrived Australia – mainly due to the lack of recognition of his qualifications in the new setting. He has, however, managed to find part-time jobs in other areas, as well as studying for an Advanced Diploma in Accounting. “I like financial accounting”, he says, and “would like to work as an accountant”.
Meanwhile, the family is a fundamental factor in Abdi’s life. He takes great pride in raising a happy and contented family, despite the challenges of transition. He is a good father and husband; a bread winner in his own right: “I don’t have anything else here but my family” he says, “ my children are my best gifts ever, they mean a lot to me”. He thinks the world of his beautiful wife whom he describes as his “right hand person” and a “tower of strength”.
He likes the city of Adelaide so much that he is now trying to bring other members of his family to South Australia through the family re-union program.
In deed, it is fair to say that Abdi is a great survivor and knows how to make ends meet, even in the most extreme circumstances. He has a positive frame of mind and seems to have deliberately trained himself to see happiness and contentment even in the most mundane areas of life.
Monday, June 21, 2004
On the 26th June, the African Heritage Association of South Australia (AHASA) will present a big “African Night”, the 2004 African culture mega show. The event will be held at the Ukrainian Hall, 66 Orsmond Street, in Hindmarsh.
The night will feature a blend of good food and drinks from all corners of Africa by seasoned Chefs. In fact, the mega show is an opportunity to showcase the best of African arts and crafts and world music from the Caribbean, as well as musical genres from South Africa, West Africa, Central and East Africa.
The highlights of the night will be Ebby Allottey and the “Afrikeeko” from Ghana whose repertoire includes the “Highlife” music, soca, funk, and reggae. And, of course, the Super Nile Band from the Sudan will be on show.
Also taking the centre stage will be the 7-piece ensemble from South Africa led by Cape Town artiste, "Snow". And a Senegalese drumming ensemble led by Master drummer, Lamin Nanky.
Thus, in essence a good time will be had by all. There will be a lot of fun: a lot of singing, dancing, and laughter. You would not want to miss the multicultural dancing group performing the African popular dance (Soukouss) from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
As usual, DJ Joe will provide the recorded interludes between the live music and the rest of the night. So, come and dance the night away!
Join the fun and laughter!!
Saturday, June 19, 2004
The afternoon gig will feature a 12-member outfit popularly known as the Nile Band - a dynamic group of musicians from Sudan and Liberia . The group has five vocalists, among whom are the following Sudanese refugees: Deng Manyuon, 27, Grang Kuol, 20, Eva Tear, 19, and Steve Tongun, 16. These young people have found a new home in Australia and are now celebrating their new lives through music.
The Nile Band will play at the Governor Hindmarsh Hotel for the World Refugee Day. And they will get the crowd on their feet with the energy and vitality of contemporary rhythms from Africa.
The main theme of the event is “ A place to call home” and it is a tribute to the displaced people in the world trying to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity.
The event is fully sponsored by the Australian Refugee Association (ASA) and the Migrant Health Service (MHS).
Friday, June 18, 2004
To begin with, the worldwide number of refugees and other people who have fled their homes (through no fault of their own) fell by 18 per cent to just over 17 million in 2003 - the lowest level in a decade, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This figure includes the “forgotten” people of Western Sahara who have been living in refugee camps in Algeria and Libya for the past decades.
On the contrary, bugging the trend is the Sudanese refugee population which increased significantly: from 508,200 to 606,000 during 2003 mainly because of the civil war in the South and the new crisis in Darfur, West of the country - a fact that is of major concern to the Sudanese people now living in Australia.
On a slightly more positive note, the international community is stepping up pressure on the Sudanese government to open up the war-torn Western region of Darfur to aid agencies. And European leaders also plan to call on Sudan to hammer out a political accord as soon as possible to resolve the conflict and contain the flow of refugees. Similarly, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warns that the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur requires immediate attention - a warning that should be taken very seriously, in deed.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
A charming teenage refugee from the war-ravaged Sudan, Kuir always sets his sights high and has a firm belief that being a refugee is no impediment to progress in Australian society. But at the same time, he says quite frankly that “ It is hard being a refugee” because, according to him, “You have to do everything by yourself”. Kuir says he left his family behind in Africa when he arrived Australia in 1999: his dad is in Uganda and “mum is in a refugee camp in Kenya”. Now, he is all alone, looking after himself; and doing it well.
Kuir, 19, loves everything Australian; especially the people of Adelaide: “Australia is a free and peaceful country” he says with a broad smile, and “ the people here are nice and friendly; I would like my parents to be here with me ”. Ever so conscious of his own identity, Kuir sees the good side of everything; and he is wiser beyond his tender years.
Being a born optimist (and a bright student of International Business), Kuir says he knows how to “make it” in Australia: he wants to get a good education and work hard so that he could support his “mum and dad” who are still languishing in the refugee camps in Africa.
Meanwhile, Kuir is still paying his own way through college, a stupendous achievement for one so young. Thus, while some refugee children who are starved of parental love and affection have fallen by the wayside, Kuir has survived the refugee process and thrived and live to tell the tale. He is a living proof of the fact that a brighter future can rise out of even the most dire circumstances; although it is early days yet.
I think Kuir Alaak has a bright future in Australia. But he needs our moral support. Please send him some encouraging words of wisdom through this medium.
(It should be noted that some refugee children of African descend have quickly adjusted to the Australian way of life and are thriving in the school system. Others are struggling to survive: they are in the most vulnerable circumstances; deserving of our support, and government protection from physical and emotional abuse)
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
A few years ago, a group of orphans from war-torn Sudan and other countries in Africa arrived in Australia to start a new life. But the transition from one culture to another have proved to be extremely painful and confusing for some but positively rewarding for others.
While the majority of the young men and women have been successfully re-settled, thanks to the efforts of the humanitarian agencies; a small minority have slipped through the safety net. Obviously, dazzled by the city lights, drunk with youthful exuberance and a misguided sense of freedom without parental control, they have taken to the streets and popular entertainment venues; presumably to have a “good time” and “Take things easy”. But, generally speaking, life wasn’t meant to be easy, as the former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser once said.
Although some are barely out of puberty, this “lost generation” of African orphans in Australia are struggling to survive and are doing it tough. Some are still roaming the streets; searching for money, food, and shelter and a sense of belonging. They are yet to find themselves in the new society.
Thus, for this hardcore group of orphans, education and training is not a priority, despite the tremendous opportunities available here (some have dropped out of school, and out of work). And people in the emerging African communities in South Australia are genuinely concerned about the future of these kids.
In fact, it seems to me that being so young and restless and poorly educated is a recipe for disaster in a highly competitive post-industrial economy like Australia. But it is not too late to rescue these orphans from the brink of disaster and provide for their physical and emotional needs in a supportive environment.
What do you think? Any suggestion?
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Although Dakena is a relatively new refugee from Liberia, he has managed to convince me that he is ready to lead a successful life in Australia. He is the most highly motivated individual I have ever met. In fact, he’s got what it takes to be successful: the drive, a “wicket” sense of humour, and a strong determination to succeed.
Come to think of it, Dakena works most nights of the week. And during the day, he studies, full-time, for a Diploma in Business Administration. He is a bundle of energy with a nerve of steel. Meanwhile, he is doing extremely well and has the ability to do even better in years to come. His work ethics is the envy of many.
Ever so humble and focused, Dakena still believes he has a long way to go before reaching his goal of a stable financial future. “I am still learning about life as a refugee; still trying to figure out how the Australian system works”, he says, “ I work hard everyday because I have a wife and three lovely kids to support”. And a whole, prosperous, future ahead of him here in South Australia.
Monday, May 31, 2004
Mona (friends call her Mona Lisa) has various hobbies and interests that should be noted: she wants to travel, see the world, and if possible engage in international business. In her freshly minted mind, traveling is a form of education and always will be.
She was born in Port Sudan (the chief port of the Sudan on the Red Sea), but moved to Egypt because of the crisis in her home country. The family arrived Australia in 2000. And Mona is adapting extremely well to life in the land Down Under. “The life-style in Australia is quite good…and the people are friendly”, she says with a sweet smile, but “finding a good job is very challenging”.
Indeed, Mona is a beautiful young woman with a “clean life-style” and a strong religious belief. She neither smokes. Nor drinks. Nor go to the night clubs. But thrives in the company of good friends, and the family.
Thus, in a very special way, mixing beauty and intelligence and a good sense of humour has served Mona well. In fact, it has contributed immensely to her success in Australian society.
Sunday, May 30, 2004
Ayen is only 18, (friends call her Nefertiti because of her immense beauty), a sweet and delightful girl who loves music and art and is totally comfortable with her status in Australian society. “There are lots of opportunities here”, she says; “Australian women have a great deal of freedom and equality” compared with women in patriarchal Africa. Her principal aim is to go to the university, study law, and “fight for women rights in Africa”. I think she needs all our love and moral support.
In fact, Ayen sees the world with the sweetness and skepticism of an Angel. She welcomes the peace agreement between North and South after half a century of civil war in her native Sudan, but is greatly disappointed that a separate conflict in the Western region of Darfur will prolong the agony and despair in that country.
This, in a very small nutshell, is the beginning of the record of Ayen’s life and times in Australia. May all her dreams come true.
Thursday, May 27, 2004
Aime` left his homeland in the Congo because of the civil war between the forces of the late President Mobutu Sese Seko and Laurent Kabila’s rebels; and has never looked back. The revolt that brought Kabila to power erupted when the Zairen Tutsis took up arms against the Mobutu government’s plan to strip them of their land and force them to leave the country. As a result of the rebellion, law and order collapsed in the country, the national army disintegrated, Kabila came to power and renamed Zaire “The Democratic Republic of Congo”. Aime` fled to Tanzania; and from there, he moved to Thailand as a refugee.
He came to Australia four years ago to start a new life. And having lived and loved and improved his English in South Australia, he has taken to the Australian way of life like ducks to water. “I like Australia – it’s really very peaceful here” he says “the people are nice, loving, caring, and friendly”.
Aime` has a well refined taste in fashion and is always impeccably dressed. He likes sports, and the finer things in life; including popular music. And plays soccer at weekends "Just for fun”.
Aime` is extremely flexible in his approach to the job market. He has worked in a number of part-time positions in Adelaide (and continues to do so), “Just to keep the body and soul together”, as he puts it, “What I really need at the moment is a full-time job”.
Nevertheless, Aime` is the first to admit that finding a full-time job is becoming a “big problem” for African refugees in South Australia, even for the well qualified professionals like lawyers, accountants, engineers, doctors and teachers.
Aime` is still “working and studying “ and hoping for the best.
Sunday, May 23, 2004
He reckons being in Australia has restored his hope in humanity and has given him the opportunity to study and improve himself, despite the separation from his family. “I always wanted to understand the dynamics of the international business environment; and learn more about finance”. Tony is a voracious reader with an obvious passion for his studies.
He speaks of the problem of isolation and distance from the family he left behind in Sudan: “I have been trying to bring my family here since last year, but without success”. Nevertheless, despite the set-back, Tony still believes there is no better place in the world than Australia. In fact, he likes the life-style in Adelaide, the goodwill of the people, and the wider community support for the African refugees.
Tony says “anything is possible” here. And, with such a positive frame of mind, there is something very special for him in the “Promised land”. He has a bright future ahead of him in Australia.
Watch this space!
Saturday, May 22, 2004
Saturday 22nd May 2004
This forum is facilitated by the Multicultural Education Committee (MEC), an Advisory Committee to the Minister of Education and Children’s Services in South Australia.
The aim of the forum is to develop:
• Greater cultural awareness of the problems facing African migrants and refugees in South Australia and to support the participation of parents and students of African background in schools and Children’s Services.
• School-wide inclusive strategies to support students in African-Australian communities
• Community and education networks for improving cross-cultural understanding in learning commuinties
On the whole, the forum is a genuine opportunity to discuss African disadvantage and address the issues affecting the newly arrived refugees and migrants in Australian society.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Towards this end, the Australians have opened their hearts to African refugees. The Federal Government says in a recent policy statement that 75% of the Australian refugee intake this year will come from Africa. The Sudanese refugees will be the most numerous group of the African contingent among the 1800 humanitarian refugees to be granted asylum in Australia in 2004.
In South Australia (and other states), a new wave of migration is making its mark as refugees from Africa seek a safer place to live - away from the horrors of famine and civil wars in their home countries. A total of 8000 Sudanese and 2000 Somalis have arrived Australia since 1996; and 600 Sierra Leonians since 1999, but more are coming every month.
Generally speaking, Australia is a land of migrants and refugees. The first wave of migration to this ancient land was mainly from Europe; the second wave from Asia and Latin America. The Migrant Resource Centre (MRC) of South Australia believes that the third wave of post-World War II migration to Australia is coming from countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zaire. The MRC is, basically, concerned with welfare issues and has provided resources to help the resettlement of more than 3000 newly-arrived refugees in South Australia in the past few years.
The new sensibility in Australia’s relations with Africa is already bearing fruits and is likely to generate enormous socio-economic and cultural benefits to the nation in years to come. The Africans are very popular here; and are extremely adaptable. Their smiling faces and regal appearance have endeared them to the Australian population at large.