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Refugee week success stories

Watch video - Courage, resilience and determination—my refugee story

Elijah: So before I came to Australia I was in a refugee camp for seven years in Uganda. And that was the reason why I came and I came here in 2002 as an accompanied minor.

Sarah: Over 11 years ago, we met each other and we fell in love... But um, we couldn't get married. We are from different religious backgrounds and ahh... Our marriage is forbidden in Iraq. So we have to, um... flee. Yeah.

Elijah: Look I left Sudan and now South Sudan when I was young, and I was missing friends and you know, a few relatives. So it was part of a, a homesick if I could say.

Sarah: When um, community support program was opened then that was the only way.

Emmanuel: Like we were just about to give up. And we went through the process of applications, there were many things that came up. Many difficulties for us actually, like we didn't have many friends or family here in Australia. And it was not easy for us to go through all this and we tried to apply from many countries. Not just Australia.

We didn't dream too big. It took determination to come to Australia.

Elijah: When I first arrived there was that time of honeymoon you know.

When I settled, I went to school and now start thinking: You know, I need to make money, I need to get a job. There's always an opportunity for those who dare to dream and want to achieve something. The only challenge is how to get there. It's just a matter of you embracing it and get that support.

Sarah:  A couple days after we arrived we wanted to walk and just explore the area and uh... people were walking and running and they... they said "G'day" or "Hi, how are you going?” And um... we looked at each other said "What? Why? Why are you smiling and saying hi to us... they don't know us". We didn't know.

Elijah:  One of the things I want my fellow Australians to think about is to help those who need our support the most. And that includes people like refugees and migrants, to show them the way and say this is Australia, this is how it great it is, and this is how we can get there together.

Sarah: I think it's only because all refugees have of hope, they can get somewhere when they can be free or safe and have small wishes like having family or being together like us.

Refugees, they just want to live in peace and have small wishes. So, yeah.

Photo of Atak Ngor

Atak Ngor

Atak is currently studying a Bachelor of Media at University of Tasmania and is looking forward to continuing his positive contribution to society.

“I was born in South Sudan in 1997 during the civil war. I’m the second youngest in a family of seven children—all boys. In 2003, when I was about six years old, my family and I fled to a refugee camp in Kenya. We lived at the camp for about four years until we came to Australia in 2007.

“It was a struggle in Kenya. We went everywhere barefoot and we were always hungry. I was never hungry at home. We had a huge farm with cattle and we’d go for walks every day through the crops.

“But, we did have some good memories in the four years we were in Kenya. I remember there was a huge celebration with hundreds of people dancing around in a circle and people in the middle were drumming. My brothers and I were playing hide and seek at the time and I hid in a tree and fell asleep. When I woke up, there was no one there anymore. All the dancing had stopped and it was so quiet. I got down and walked back home – and I got in so much trouble for falling asleep in that tree!

“It was a hard time for me but I think it builds character and I don’t really stress about my life now.”

In December 2007, ten year old Atak and his family came to Australia as humanitarian entrants.

“For me I think that ten years old was the golden age to come to Australia and to understand the culture. I wasn’t too young to forget where I came from. Nor was I too old to not be able to adapt to society in Australia.

“But, I didn’t speak much English. I started school straight away at the beginning of 2008 and it was quite difficult not being able to speak English. I remember there were more challenges that I had to overcome with kids at school and bullying.

“But, I like to think of myself as a fighter.”

At just 21 years old, Atak ran for Alderman with Hobart City Council.

“Unfortunately I didn’t get in! I think being a councillor is a noble thing to do. I wanted to be a representative of my people because I felt that we needed change in the community. I was reading an article about someone who decided to become an alderman and I thought that was a great way to contribute to the community—so I decided to run for Hobart City Council.

“It was really fun and a great experience and I was surprised by the support from the community. I was so thankful and grateful for that support.”

In 2017, Atak started an investment company.

“I decided to try something new, but it didn’t work out. I think you’ve just got to have an idea and the courage to execute it. Obviously it doesn’t always work out, but for me testing ideas and failing takes courage and then you learn from that.

“Your peers respect you because you try something new and have the resilience to keep going on to the next thing if it doesn’t work out‑‑not just because you succeed in something.”

Atak is currently studying a Bachelor of Media at University of Tasmania and is looking forward to continuing his positive contribution to society.

“My refugee friends and I have a huge drive to succeed and to do something great and improve our lives and the lives of others.

“They’re doing amazing stuff for Australia and Australian society and they keep me motivated to continue to change our community for the better.”

Photo of Sarah Yahya

Sarah Yahya

Sarah is now starting her career as an Australian public servant.

Sarah Yahya was born in Iraq in 1995 and came to Australia in 2007 as a humanitarian entrant.

“I was six years old when my mother, my younger sister and I fled Iraq in 2001 to escape religious and political persecution. I belong to an ethnic minority called Sabian Mandaeans, one of the oldest and last surviving gnostic religions in the world. We are pacifists and we face persecution and oppression.

“It was a dire situation at that time. News of our people being kidnapped, killed, abused and forced to convert began to surface. With an invasion looming, we became very unsafe.

“A number of our family members fled during previous conflicts, and my grandmother and uncles fled after the embargo was imposed and survival became difficult.

“We fled to the neighboring country, Jordan in a small car in the middle of the night.”

Six years later Sarah and her family came to Australia to resettle as humanitarian entrants.

“I was a month shy from turning 13 when I arrived in Australia in 2007. In many ways, those first few months were the hardest. I was restarting my life for the third time in an unfamiliar country and didn’t know a single word of English.”

Sarah – like all refugees- is resilient.

“I started high school for the first time in the first few weeks after my arrival and as a young person, I had trouble understanding what was happening and why it was happening to me. It took me a long time to find my place, recognise Australia as my home, and not fear being forced to move ever again. 

Sarah is now starting her career as an Australian public servant.

“I would like Australians to know when they think about refugees that being resettled doesn’t mean we get over our past traumas easily. When you have been unsafe for so long, it takes time to heal.

“Often, we feel immeasurable guilt for having a safe place to call home when many of our people linger in despair.

“Refugees in Australia can make positive contributions and live a full life when they are offered support and understanding.”

Photo of Vian Ammen

Vian Ammen

After one year in Australia now I dare to think about starting my own business and design company.

Vian was born and raised in Iraq and came to Australia in 2017 as a humanitarian entrant.

'Leaving your home is not an easy thing to do. It means leaving your memories and the people you love. It is exactly like leaving a precious piece of you without knowing if you will ever get it back someday.

'Getting a normal job was almost impossible because we simply don't share the same beliefs as the dominant parties in Iraq.

'My husband is a dentist and we were terrified of the incidents that happen every day to his colleagues. The environment became unsafe for growing a family or having a career. 

'Living in our country became impossible because of violence against doctors and dentists. This was when we decided to leave.'

Vian and her husband came to Australia in 2017 as humanitarian entrants.

'We chose Australia to be our new home as my husband's family has lived happily in Australia for five years.

'I arrived in Australia in August 2017 with big ambitions to achieve a bright future and career in a safe environment.'

Vian is a graduate architect and at first she faced challenges getting a job in Australia.

'A lot of barriers faced me, like the lack of local experience and understanding of the language and the culture.

'The way to overcome these challenges was by blending in with the community. I started doing volunteering, which helped to develop my language and networking, and then the job opportunities started to appear.

'At first I worked as a freelance designer for small projects from home, and then, by gaining some local experience, I managed to work for an Australian company as an architectural draftsperson.

'I am now balancing the two jobs. I am also working on getting my license and gaining a higher degree very soon.'

Vian is hopeful about her future in Australia.

'After one year in Australia now I dare to think about starting my own business and design company.

'Everything seemed very hard in the beginning, but with determination and hard work all barriers started to vanish. 

'Being a refugee is not shameful. We suffered and struggled through tough life but we insisted on living and achieving to prove the world that success is achievable.'

Refugee week image

Jan and Ipek

They are pursuing their academic dreams and raising their family in multicultural Australia.

Jan and his wife Ipek settled in Australia as humanitarian entrants. They are pursuing their academic dreams and raising their family in multicultural Australia. This is their story of courage, resilience and determination:

'I am from Rojava in Western Kurdistan, North Syria. I was born into a Kurdish family in Afrin. I studied English language and literature, then continued to study a Masters.

'Being Kurdish in Syria limited every pathway for me, therefore I was unable to complete my degree. 'I have been arrested, tortured and attacked by government security and militias a number of times just for being interested in Kurdish language and culture.

'I hoped for a better life, so in 2009 I went to Iraqi Kurdistan­, but my life there was also not easy.

'Being a refugee in Iraq did not offer me the freedom I was dreaming of as it was sometimes not possible to travel from one city to another.

'Nevertheless, even under those dire conditions I continued working as a linguist, researcher and journalist. I worked for many international organizations, including the United Nations, until we came to Australia.

'My wife, Ipek, studied conflict resolution and worked as a consultant and interpreter with UN missions and investigated the Ezidi massacre in Shingal.

'Together we worked with international press agencies in the war zones and produced a number of documentary films.

'When we first heard about the Humanitarian visa, we were excited but also worried because living in Australia meant being far from our loved ones. However, we were expecting our first child and we wanted to have a better and safer life-and to continue our academic study. We had no doubt that Australia would be the best place. 

'When we first arrived in Sydney, we were welcomed by one of our journalist friend from Australia. It was quite emotional as she was in tears when she saw us and gave a cuddle to our baby who she met for the first time.

'Our life in Australia is safe and secure. Speaking English helped us to resettle easily and find jobs in a short period of time. We even purchased a house after our first year in Australia. We have many other dreams and we have no doubt that we will reach those here.

'What we are admire and makes us love Australia is the multiculturalism, opportunities and equality for everyone. We believe that refugees contribute positively to that multiculturalism and this makes Australia one of the most colourful country in the world.'

Photo of Awker Ruel

Awkar Ruel

As a child I thought I’d always be a civil engineer, but in Year 11 I changed my mind and was drawn to architecture.

Awkar was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1995 and lived with his parents and brothers.   

"We lived a normal life in Iraq. My dad was a civil engineer; my mother kept busy looking after us all and running the house, while my brothers and I attended school," Awkar said.

"We loved playing soccer back home in Iraq. But it wasn’t like Australia with sporting teams, uniforms and playing fields. Iraq is a third world country so we would play in the streets, sometimes with a soccer ball but sometimes anything we could find including soft drink cans".

"I also loved to go to work with my dad; I thought one day I would grow up to be a civil engineer just like him".

"The war began in 2003. I was 10 years old when we were forced to flee Iraq due to the fear of persecution simply because of our religious beliefs. We knew people who’d lost their lives to the war so we knew we didn’t have a lot of time".

"We packed some photos, clothes and whatever we could fit into a few bags and drove the 18 hours to freedom in Syria".

"We spent six years in Syria, and continued attending school but we knew it wasn’t home. It was like waiting at the train station for the train to take you to the final destination".

In 2011 Awkar and his family were granted visas through the Special Humanitarian Programme.

"Being granted the visas was a big relief.  We had waited a long time to be able to find a place to call home and start our lives again," Awkar said.

"When you are waiting in limbo you don’t really know what hopes and dreams to focus on as you don’t know where you’ll be. I knew I always wanted to study and to make my parents proud as they went through so much for us".

"One of my greatest memories was arriving in Australia at 16 years of age and being greeted by family at the airport. Some of these family members I had not seen for 14 years, while others I hadn’t seen since I was born".

Once arriving in Sydney Awkar very quickly settled into school life. Starting school at the end of Year 10 he couldn’t speak English very well and he knew the HSC work would start in Year 11. 

"When I started school I undertook an intensive English course to allow me to get up to speed.  I also watched videos and read to help my development of English," Awkar said.

"I wanted to be school captain. Some of the students were horrible and bullied me for not being able to speak English very well. They said "you won’t get the role, the other guys are better". But to me it wasn’t about being better; it was about proving to myself I could do it. I proved them wrong and I was voted school captain at Kogarah High".

"As a child I thought I’d always be a civil engineer, but in Year 11 I changed my mind and was drawn to architecture. I was inspired by the Opera House".

In 2015 Awkar started a double degree at University of Technology (Sydney). He is currently studying a Bachelor of Design and Architecture and a Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation.

"One day I received an email from the university about a scholarship to study in Denmark. I was very interested so I applied and was lucky to be selected," Awkar said.

Awkar was one of five Australian university students to win a scholarship, the Multidisciplinary Australian Danish Exchange (also known as MADE by the Opera House) to study in Denmark, the home of Jørn Utzon, who designed the Opera House.

"I was beyond happy to hear I had won a scholarship for seven weeks to study in Denmark. Even dreaming about the future, I never thought this would be possible," Awkar said.

As a 21 year old Awkar is already contributing to the Australian community and those who’ve helped him.

"I am studying full-time three days a week and working two days a week in an architectural firm. I love it as I am getting real life experience," Awkar said.

"I have also spoken at high schools and shared my story. If my brother and I can come to Australia only understanding the words "hi" and "how are you" and now be studying at university then others can too. I always say hard work beats talent, when talent does not work hard".

"Once I finish my degree I would like to work full time and become successful in my industry. I’d like to study again and complete my Masters. My long term dream is to build up more knowledge and experience and start my own architectural firm".

Photo of Annie Nkiere

Annie Nkiere

We had lost everything and I was excited to start building a new safe life for us filled with hope.

Living in her home country, Annie had dreams of becoming a leader of a not-for-profit organisation and had graduated from a course in English African literature and Culture and a Diploma in Business studies.  Her dreams came to a halt when Annie and her two children were forced to flee their home in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to safety fears and ongoing political issues in the country.

"We fled the border into Cameroon where there were no refugee camps, but we had to find safety. Life was very hard for us, especially as a single mother," Annie said.

"I applied for an Australian humanitarian visa while in Cameroon. While waiting for the assessment of our visas, I assisted other women to apply for humanitarian visas. Many of these women had their visas granted before me and I was scared we would not receive visas ourselves".

"Then finally we received the good news we had been hoping for, our visas had been granted. We arrived and settled in Darwin in 2008; my daughter was 12 and my son eight at the time".

"Arriving in Darwin was a miracle. We were so happy to be selected among many refugees who had been forced to flee their homes. We had lost everything and I was excited to start building a new safe life for us filled with hope".

"My greatest memory of arriving in Australia was using an ATM for the first time as we didn’t have access to banking in Cameroon."

"Once we were settled, I commenced studying again so I could begin working and rebuilding our lives. I attained a Diploma in Business Administration and began working full-time at Melaleuca Refugee Centre, a service offering intensive support to newly arrived humanitarian entrants".

"Now, in 2017 I work as a Community Development Program Family Support Worker within the same organisation. The role involves supporting people of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) migrant and refugee backgrounds to settle into their new lives in Australia".

"I work with newly arrived refugees and migrants to explore cultural differences between Australia and their country of origin and exchange ideas about dealing with Australian systems, with a focus on family relationships, and parenting".

"It is very rewarding work. My personal experience surviving everything I went through makes me an understanding and compassionate support worker and give them hope when working through their traumatic issues. I get to reassure others they are safe here and they can work towards achieving their dreams".

Photo of Maxeem Georges

Maxeem Georges

Maxeem Georges was a successful accountant living in Syria when life changed.

"I graduated from Aleppo University as an accountant, rising in the ranks to become a Chief Accountant with a media company in Homs. I was leading a quiet life, but then the Syrian civil war began," said Maxeem.

"My office was down town where lots of fighting occurred. I remember one day being at work and the fighting was literally outside the building. I was so scared. I managed to escape and get home while many of my colleagues were stuck in the building for hours waiting for a safe moment to leave".

"My wife and I were married during the war and we stayed living in our home for a year, but it was too unsafe and we were forced to move back to my village Al-Mozayana with my parents. We lost everything due to the war, our home and all our possessions."

"Work was hard to get in Al-Mozayana and for four months I was not working. I started to make a small living selling medical supplements. In order to make enough money to live comfortably I was required to travel around, this was not possible when fighting was occurring just 4km from our home".

Maxeem and his wife Christina welcomed a baby boy in 2013 and shortly after fled Syria for safety in Lebanon.

"We moved to Lebanon hoping we would be able to find our way and start a new life. We didn’t feel settled there, we knew it would not be home," said Maxeem.

Maxeem had been living in Lebanon for a year and 10 months when he and his family were granted visas to come to Australia through the Humanitarian Programme.

"The day we received the news our visas had been granted we were very very happy. We knew Australia would provide us opportunities and a place to call home," said Maxeem.

"We arrived in Sydney in 2015. It felt amazing to be in Australia, we went from feeling dead to feeling alive".

Once arriving in Australia Maxeem was keen to settle into working and studying.

"My greatest memory of resettling in Australia came nearly as soon as we landed. Three days after arriving I went to Liverpool TAFE to enquire about studying English. A TAFE staff member advised me there would be a test and with no study I completed it on the spot. A couple of days later I received the call that I had passed the test and could enrol in a English for Academic Purposes course. I was really happy," said Maxeem.

After completing his English studies Maxeem won a role with Allianz Insurance through an innovative partnership between Allianz Australia and Settlement Services International (SSI). This partnership provides career opportunities and support for refugees and migrants who have settled in Australia. Maxeem is also now studying for his Masters of Finance.

"Once completing my Masters of Finance my next dream may be to complete my PhD. I don’t have dreams for a big beautiful house because I know you can lose these things in one moment as I did in Syria. Material goods aren’t important to me, what is, is working in finance an area that I love and earning money to support my family and live our lives," said Maxeem.

"Arriving in Australia I received support from many people, including those at Liverpool TAFE, Settlement Services International and Allianz Insurance. I’d like to now give back to others. Australia is a land of great opportunity. I have been encouraging other newly settled Syrian refugees living in my area to get out there engage and integrate into the Australian culture. There is so much to be hopeful for here in Australia".

Photo of Flora Choi

Flora Choi

Flora was born in Sudan in 1995 and is one of seven children.

Flora was born in Sudan in 1995 and is one of seven children.

"Mum raised us on her own and really strived to give us the best with the little she had. I hold an image of her as a very proud woman though she went through many struggles. She was a singer and artist who used her singing to express her views," Flora said.

"I don't remember much of my time in Sudan as I was only five years old when we fled.

"As a youngster I loved Christmas, but I remember our last Christmas in Sudan was very sad because my mum wasn't there. We had to visit her in prison. She had been imprisoned for a short period as the Government saw her as a rebel who supported the SPLM (Sudan People's Liberation Movement). The SPLM was Sudan's biggest rebel movement. Mum performed songs to support the movement."

"My mum was released and not long after my step-father was kidnapped and we didn't know where he was. It was at this point we could no longer remain in Sudan, our safety was number one. My mum packed up the family and we fled to Egypt".

"Egypt was a very different country—it was still a foreign land to us and was a real struggle for the family. I don't really have any memories of ever playing as all of us were working. I had to look after my younger brother and sister and I wasn't allowed to go school because it wasn't safe".

"It was during this time that we received help from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). IOM facilitated our registration as refugees and helped us apply for our visas".

Flora and her family were granted visas through the Humanitarian Programme and arrived in Australia in 2003.

"All of a sudden we all got new clothes and I remember driving to the airport. Mum then told us that we were going to Australia," Flora said.

Flora shared two of her favourite memories of her first years in Australia.

"My first greatest memory in Australia was when I discovered poetry at primary school. I had been going through a tough time. My school principal gave me a notebook, which I still have today. She encouraged me to just write my thoughts down, without structure. I am now a writer," Flora said.

With a passion for both social justice and writing, Flora commenced her Bachelor's Degree in International Development at the University of Adelaide in 2013.

"As a writer I'm passionate about social justice issues – I want to help people and I'm especially interested in the issue of women's rights and gender equality. International Development is characterised by this. I think as human beings we have an obligation to help people who are less fortunate than us," Flora said.

"The Dinka name my mother gave me is Nhyandiar, which means 'a girl who belongs to women'. I try to live up to this name. I am a proud black woman and I am proud of my heritage. Every decision I make is influenced by this meaning".

"The biggest hope for my future is to use Australia as my base as it has become a huge part of my identity. I want to first complete my degree, to publish my first full text which I hope will be a collection of all my poetry and I hope then to gain a Masters degree in Law or International Development."

"My interest in social issues came from my experience and my involvement in the United Nations Youth Forum and the South Australian Youth Parliament, which allowed me to see the world as a global community".

"I would one day like to go back to Africa to work, especially in South Sudan. I would like to start a not-for-profit organisation that helps people in South Sudan, especially women and children".

For now though, Flora is happy to continue her studies while also engaging in other activities to keep her inquisitive mind occupied.

"My advice to others, who have settled in Australia through the Offshore Humanitarian Programme who are thinking of studying, is simple—just do it. Even if it scares you—you won't know what your strengths are unless you try. When I started my studies, I didn't think I would go far. It's all about believing in yourself and believing in the depths of your abilities".

Photo of Daniel Mubake

Daniel Mubake

When my mother graduated from university with a Nursing degree in Australia, it made me believe that anything is possible.

Daniel Mubake was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and grew up with his parents and eight siblings. Life was good, Daniel went to school and spent time with family and friends.  That was until life in the Congo dramatically changed for the family in 2001 when the war began.

"The city where we lived, was becoming very dangerous as a result of the internal war. One evening my Dad said something on the radio that made him a target. We felt our safety was at risk and we were forced to flee the country to Tongogara refugee camp in Zimbabwe," Daniel said.

"While life was not easy in the camp and we knew it would not be forever, part of my daily life was structured around attending school. My parents have always valued education. There have been moments where we had little money but we would always have a school uniform and books".

While in the refugee camp, Daniel’s family applied for humanitarian visas to Australia. In 2005 they were granted visas to be resettled in Australia.

"I still remember Mum and Dad saying "We are going to Australia"and we were like "What? Where is Australia?" Daniel said.

"It was our first time on a plane for us kids. We were excited and just couldn’t wait. We were all dressed up; my dad had suits made for us. We were so happy to finally wear our suits, because they were made especially for the trip to Australia".

"I was 12 years old when we arrived in Australia. That whole time we were in Zimbabwe, we couldn’t wait to leave. We knew we were going somewhere, so when we finally got here we were like "this is it!"My parents didn’t worry about anything after that".

"I really loved growing up in Adelaide. I got to know lots of people because everyone seemed to be connected, and I thought that was amazing. Adelaide is the place I have lived the longest, so I feel very connected to Adelaide. It’s home".

This feeling was confirmed for Daniel when he travelled to Kenya in 2012 to visit family.

"I visited Kenya on my own to explore, because my view of Africa was different. I was surprised. I had planned to stay for two weeks, but I only stayed a week because I couldn’t wait to get out of there. That was the moment that really confirmed Adelaide was home," Daniel said.

"After we left the Congo we never saw our family, we are now starting to reconnect. While in Kenya I met my mum’s siblings for the first time. It was really strange because my aunty looked just like my mum, but sounded very different. It was like meeting strangers but knowing they were family".

In his final year of his Bachelor degree Daniel started his business,Swift Delivery and Removals in Adelaide. 

"When I came back to Australia from Kenya I felt a real sense of responsibility and was thinking about my purpose. I felt I was destined to improve people’s lives so I started my business. The initial idea was to start a group of businesses to encourage young Africans through work. That’s the reason why I couldn’t stop because it is something that resonated with me," Daniel said.

The business, in its third year, currently employs four people with backgrounds from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"I look back and I am really glad to have gone through the experience of setting up and running the business because it has basically shaped my character," Daniel said.

For Daniel the next chapter has brought him to Sydney where he is currently undertaking a Masters of Commerce, majoring in Finance and Banking.

"After graduating from my undergraduate degree I spent two years trying to further explore my purpose. Today I feel like I am destined to do things around the lines of finance," Daniel said.

For Daniel there is a key moment since arriving in Australia in 2005 that has stuck with him.

"When my mother graduated from university with a Nursing degree it made me believe that anything is possible; if my mum can do that at that age, what can I not do if I put my mind to it? This would not have been possible if we were still in the Congo or Zimbabwe. That was a confirmation that Australia really is a land of opportunities, and our ambitions are the limit," Daniel said.

Where to from here? Daniel has some ideas and the future sure looks bright.

Photo of Nene Manasseh

Nene Manasseh

When we received the news that we would be moving to Australia we were very happy.

Nene doesn’t really remember much of her life in South Sudan. Most of her childhood was spent living in a Refugee Camp.

"I was born in 1991 in Torit, South Sudan and spent the first three months of my life there. I am one of six children and my family were happy living in Torit, but then the civil war began," Nene said.

"My family was forced to flee Torit. My dad was a solider in the Army and my mum moved us from town to town for many years trying to find safety. During this time two of my siblings and my uncle were separated from us. They went to Khartoum; I never saw them again after that. My father was captured during this time and taken to prison where we are told he later passed away".

"My mother was unable to find anywhere safe for us in South Sudan to live permanently, so when I was four years old we moved to a refugee camp in Kenya".

"Life in the camp was very hard. We relied on rationed food drops from the United Nations each fortnight we had to make last. My mum did some work in the camp as a cleaner and a cook to make some extra income to support our family," said Nene.

"While we had little food we also witnessed terrible things including killings and assaults in the camp. Many locals did not approve of the camp on their land so they would ask us for our food. Anyone who said no was killed".

"While in the camp we did the best we could as children to have fun. I would play with my friends and fetch water and fire wood to help pass the time".

"We hoped we wouldn’t be in the camp for long, but the years passed and we were there for 10 years. We watched people die from the violence inflicted by others, while many died of starvation and hunger".

In May 2015 Nene, her mother and two brothers were granted visas through the Humanitarian Programme. 

"When we received the news that we would be moving to Australia we were very happy. My mum had given up hope and we thought we would be in the camp for the rest of our lives," Nene said.

"It all happened very quickly. Officials from the International Organisation for Migration came to the camp and conducted a two day orientation with us about what life in Australia would be like and a month later we were in Australia".

"I was 14 when we arrived in Australia; I remember being so excited and felt a real sense of safety. I knew we would no longer be hearing gun shots or witnessing people die".

Once landing in Australia Nene and her family settled in right away. Nene’s mother began studying English at TAFE and Nene and her brothers enrolled in high school.

"My greatest memory of resettling in Australia was learning the basic things that many take for granted. Such as learning how to use a microwave, I remember it clearly the first time I used one," Nene said.

After completing Year 12 Nene went on to complete a certificate three in Community Services. She then completed an Arts degree with a major in Sociology and Gender Studies.

In 2008 while studying Nene shared her story with her class mates. She told them what she had to go through in South Sudan and Kenya and of her difficulty of fitting into Australia due to racism.

"When I told my class this story, two others in my class shared similar stories. We then decided to start a program dedicated to breaking down social and racial barriers called Students against Racism (SAR). I am very proud of our work. Nine years on we have all graduated but we are still sharing our story. We have delivered over 150 SAR workshops to over 10,000 participants including with Tasmanian Police, schools and businesses," Nene said.

In 2015 Nene finished her degree and began working at the Hobart Womens’ Shelter helping women and children to recover from the effects of having lived with domestic violence. Nene makes a real difference as a case worker to the women at the shelter.

"My dream for the future would be to complete my Masters, continue to share the message about racism through SARs and continue to help those in the womens’ shelter. My dream has always really been to help those in need. I’d also like to one day help others who have come through refugee camps to resettle in Australia," Nene said.