Griffith University students have held an early celebration to promote Refugee Week 2013 in Australia.
The event held at Logan attracted guest speakers Naomi Cameron from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), David Copeman from Amnesty International, Sue Bishop from the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) and Sharon Orapeleng from the Queensland African Communities Council (QACC).
Along with students from Woodridge State High School, staff and students from Griffith were entertained and educated about the harsh realities of life that some students from refugee-backgrounds have had to endure and overcome before finding a better life.
Sanesie Dukuly, the passionate founder and president of the Griffith University Refugee-Background Students Association is originally from Liberia and shared some of his own story after having lived in refugee camps in Guinea for 14 years.
“In the camps, I did not have access to good health care services or education and the major source of livelihood was limited to relief food supplies donated by the international communities through the UNHCR and World Food Program (WFP).” said Mr Dukuly.
“In spite of all the trauma, multiple displacements, extended stays in refugee camps, disrupted schooling, language and cultural problems, I was able to find the strength within myself to study English at TAFE and completed a diploma in Youth Work,” he said.
“I then enrolled in a Bachelor of Human Services degree at Griffith University on the Logan campus and achieved good grades and a GPA of 6.0.”
“In November 2012, I received the Student Leadership Award and the award for academic excellence by the School of Human Services and Social Work.”
Mr Dukuly introduced three colleagues from the team within their student association, who shared some of their own refugee stories and their passion, like his, for life and the challenges and opportunities that education can provide.
They have all had to learn a new language, new culture and a new way of life but they all agreed that these new challenges were far better than their past ones.
Jonathan Nkunzimana from Burundi, fled political and civil unrest in his homeland and spent his early years in refugee camps across the border in Tanzania. He is now studying a Bachelor of Business and International Relations.
Lang San Kim from Burma (Myanmar) escaped her homeland to live in India for many years before arriving in Australia. She now studies a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Human Resources Management.
Kibangula ‘Kiba’ Aoci from Congo, grew up in refugee camps in neighbouring Tanzania without any access to real education. He now studies a Bachelor of Human Services.
Through their will and determination along with the support of friends, family, charities, welfare services and access to education at both school and university, they have achieved that better life here in the Logan and similar stories are occurring across Australia.
“This day is a celebration of the positive outcomes that can and have been achieved by many students from refugee backgrounds. We want to bring people together and increase community understanding of the refugee experience.” Mr Dukuly said.
The celebrations were rounded off with performances by students from Woodridge State High School and a friendly game of soccer and kite flying.
‘Restoring Hope’ is the current theme for Refugee Week, which commences Sunday 16 to Saturday 22 June, Australia’s peak annual activity to raise awareness about the issues affecting refugees and celebrate the positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society.