People come to Australia for many reasons – some want a better life, some are fleeing persecution, and some want to give their family the best opportunities possible.
In recent years, refugees settling in Australia have come predominantly from African countries that have experienced conflict and consequent displacement of populations. Refugees from African backgrounds are not a homogeneous group as they are a multitude of cultures, national groups and religions, but many share common experiences. Most African families who migrate to Australia, mine included, do so under the Refugee and Humanitarian Program. My family sought refuge in Kakuma Refugee Camp (Kenya) due to the Sudanese civil war that lasted for almost four decades.
I was born in Kakuma Refugee camp in Kenya, and I spent the first nine years of my life there. I attended school from Kindergarten to grade four at the camp, along with people of all different ages including adults who had not previously had a primary education. The story of why I was born in a refugee camp is too personal and painful for me to share in this article, but it shares common elements with the stories of thousands of other asylum seekers. Over the course of ten years, my mother went through the course of applying for a refugee status, and when I was nine years old we were granted refugee status and brought to Australia.
Settling into Australia was a complex and multidimensional process. However, I consider myself very lucky to have migrated to Australia at such an early age because primary school provided a cultural touchstone for me. Through my interactions, both inside the classroom and on the playground, I learnt how to deal with a diverse range of people, authority, rules and structure. School was an opportunity to build upon English language skills that I developed during my primary education in Kenya, and I participated in extra-curricular activities that helped forge my identity. In my early teen years, there was a great deal of cumulative pressure to both ‘integrate’ and ‘remain true’ to my South Sudanese culture. I was acutely aware of the differences in my appearance, culture and tradition. There was a lot of pressure from my Australian born peers to become ‘Australian’, as well as constant reminders from the South Sudanese community of my origins and heritage.
I negotiated this minefield of social pressures by actively participating in public speaking, debating teams, and leadership roles. These activities allowed me to simultaneously explore and embrace mainstream Australian culture and continue to respect and express my South Sudanese traditions. I learnt to belong to both cultures and celebrate my uniqueness.
I have recently graduated from a Bachelor of International Studies (majoring in Politics) at the University of Adelaide, and I am now in the final stages of my Bachelor of Laws at the Adelaide Law School. I found myself to still be part of a small minority in the Law School which remains relatively homogeneous and I would like to see more diversity on campus. However, studying law has presented me with new opportunities to negotiate my identity as an African born – Australian raised young woman.
This is very inspiring Nyanwella. You’ve climbed the ladder and I know you will keep going.
Stay real as you’ve been.
Best of Luck in the remaining part of the journey 🙂
Tiit M Arop
That is one great success story. Australia has consistently shown that it can bring out the best in our South Sudanese in greater numbers as opposed to other countries where our displaced citizens have resettled.
I certainly do imagine how much social pressure you may have experienced given that you are girl child of South Sudanese origin. I hope your story gets to motivate other upcoming South Sudanese in diaspora like yourself.
Awan Akuen Bol
Hello Nyanwell Angoth,
That’s what is means by education; Education is a directory for every person who involved in it. It tells you what you have experienced and what you have not came across or unknown to you. Education also alert you your strengths, weaknesses and threats (challenges) and opportunities, and opportunities of other people who might not know their opportunities. (To mention some regarding your article). I like your article, it has touched or expressed all elements of Civil War of Sudan that took some decades back, until The CPA in 2005 and Independency of our lovely Nation, The Republic of South Sudan on 9 July 2011, from North Sudan or Sudan.
Thank you for your kind words, Tiit.