A Griffith business student has been named Queensland Young Cultural Diversity Ambassador for 2014.
An active volunteer with the Queensland African Communities Council, Paul is a youth leader and advocate for the rights of young, culturally diverse Queenslanders.
It is a role he has embraced in the wake of an eventful and sometimes turbulent childhood growing up in Africa.
Paul was born 20 years ago in war-torn Sudan from where his family was forced to flee. They sought sanctuary, first in Ethiopia, before making a new home with 180,000 others in a refugee camp in northern Kenya.
“I was very young and I remember very little,” he says. “I used to play a lot with my older brother, but being a young person I didn’t know too much about the struggle we went through. My parents tried really hard to put food on the table and my dad was in and out of a few jobs trying to get us to a better country.”
That opportunity arose in 2001 when the Joseph family moved to Brisbane where Paul started school as a pupil of Yeronga State School.
His life in Queensland moved forward in leaps and bounds, and he enrolled as a business student at Griffith University earlier this year.
He has never lost touch with his native land, or allowed memories of his own past to dissolve. Through his volunteer work QACC and Access Community Services, he has sought to support new arrivals to Queensland, not unlike himself once upon a time.
“I try to help them find their feet and create community connections, just help them feel more comfortable and at ease with life in Australia.
“It’s important they are provided with the services that help them understand things like Centrelink. Having a person to show you how to use your bankcard, for example, or enrol your kids in school makes a world of difference.
“Multiculturalism is a major part of living in Australia. It’s about focusing on each other and engaging with people from all walks of life. That’s what makes Australia.”
The Queensland Cultural Diversity Awards aim to promote cultural diversity through the promotion of excellence in this area and by profiling the efforts and achievements of people like Paul.
“I am earnestly grateful for this because I am very sure that every other nominee for this prestigious award was as capable of winning this award,” he said.
Paul’s passion for tourism brought him to study at Griffith. “I would love to see more people go to Africa to really experience it.”
- Listen to David Curnow’s interview with Paul Joseph on 612 ABC Evenings.