Friday, December 30, 2005

The Child Died

There are calls for a royal commission following the sudden death of a two-year-old African refugee in Australia.

Richard Niyonsaba, a chronically ill boy from Burundi, died within 24 hours of arriving in the country.

According to The Australian newspaper report, the family fled an African refugee camp in November and sought medical treatment in Australia for the child’s chronic sickle-cell anaemia.

The African community leaders are saying that most refugees are not getting the level of support and care they need for survival during the early days of arrival.

The tragedy could have been prevented!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Love in the Antipodean Garden II (Haiku)

Haiku One: The Butterfly

The butterfly bats its wings
And love flows endlessly
In the vines Down Under

Haiku Two: The Koala Bear

The koala bear relaxes
In the perfumed gum tree
Suckling its young

Haiku Three: The Wild Rose

The wild rose of Alice
Sizzles with passion
Kissing the honey bee

© Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Yarn With Genet

An Ethiopia-born Genet Kabede, who came to Australia as a refugee, knows a thing or two about the problems facing the new arrivals. I talked with her a few days ago.

Fancy: What is your country of origin?
Genet: Ethiopia

Fancy: How long have you been in Australia?
Ten years. I was only 15 years old when I came to Australia.

Fancy: What do you like most about Australia?
I like the Peaceful atmosphere and the freedom of movement.

Fancy: What is your favourite food?
Genet: Thanks for asking! Ethiopian stew is my favourite dish. It is easy to make and very nutritious - a real treat. I love it! (Giggles)

Fancy: Do you have a favourite drink?
Genet: Oh yes! I like the fruitful sweetness of the mango juice; especially on a hot summer’s day.

Fancy: Have you read anything interesting lately?
Genet: I
am still reading the “Hospital by the River” by John Little. It’s my favourite book at the moment.

Fancy: What is your favourite TV program?
There are a few of those: I really like the Oprah Winfrey Show, and “The Bold and the Beautiful”. I also watch the “Body Work”.

Fancy: What sort of music do you like?
Genet: I like
the Ethiopian music – the traditional and the more contemporary forms.

Fancy: What is your goal in life?
Genet: My ultimate goal is financial independence and security. I want to finish my studies, then get a good job and make lots of money. I have a great passion for what I do.

Fancy: What would you do to help improve the living conditions of African refugees in Australia?

Genet: Changes in values and behaviour! I would like to teach them the language and how to communicate with people; helping them to get a good job, work hard, and set achievable goals for themselves. The first thing is to teach the new arrivals about the Australian culture. In fact, the young ones need some knowledge of etiquette and behavioural change. We must help them adapt and stand on their own two feet.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Big Smiles on the Beaches

It’s all smiles as Christmas brings an immediate end to race riots on the Australian beaches.

Under the ever watchful eyes of the big contingent of police, thousands of fun-loving Australians flock to Bondi, Cronulla, and Maroubra beaches to celebrate the festive season.

Thus, fears that Christmas could bring a new wave of racial violence on the Australian beaches were greatly exaggerated.

“Santa has done it again”; a voice said, with a big smile. “He has brought peace and harmony to the beaches”.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Old Man of Nigeria

There once was an old man from Nigeria
Who thought he had found a cure for malaria
He said: “This is a great discovery;
It will lead to the country’s recovery”
He was so excited he moved to Zaria.

© Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo 2005

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Aftermath of Race Riots

Prominent political figures in Australia say the recent race riots in Sydney are “symptomatic of deeply divided ‘Us/them’ dichotomies that are present in Australian society”. They call on community leaders to reinforce national unity.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Love in the Time of Distress

Deserted beaches of Sydney:
Text messages of love
Summer of great discontent!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Dream of Racial Harmony

Although their cultures are as different as chalk and cheese, the Australians of Middle Eastern extraction and the Anglo-Australians have decided to bury the hatchet.

In effect, they’ve agreed to work towards racial harmony and free access to the nation’s beaches regardless of race, creed or gender.

Thus, at the time of writing, community leaders on both sides are seriously talking about the need to overcome the negative influences of the great ethnic divide which led to the recent racial violence on the beaches of Sydney.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Crackdown on Racial Violence

The Australian police are on the lookout for trouble makers on the beaches of Sydney. Security has been tightened for beach goers.

In another development, the gang leaders, bikies, surfers and imams have decided to embrace each other in a gesture of goodwill – a deliberate attempt to ease racial tensions.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Spirit of Christmas

Like the reports of Mark Twain’s death, evidence that racial war in the beaches of Sydney would seriously dampen the spirit of Christmas in Australia has been greatly exaggerated.

Nevertheless, the fact is that Santa’s arrival is imminent. And people throughout the land are flooded with happy hormones as they prepare for the Christmas celebrations.

In fact, community leaders in South Australia have dismissed the possibility of a race riot in the state’s most popular beaches during the festive season.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Conversation with Lilliana Zacarias

When Lilliana Zacarias, a young girl from Malawi, arrived in Australia just over two years ago, she saw nothing but a golden opportunity to improve herself. Here’s a brief summary of my conversation with her.

Fancy: How long have you been in Australia?

Lilliana: I have only been here for two and a half years.

Fancy: What do you like most about this country?

Lilliana: Multiculturalism! I really like the lifestyle and the ethnic mix. There are people here from all over the world.

Fancy: What is your favourite food?

Lilliana: Fish. I like fresh fish. (Smiling like an angel)

Fancy: Favourite drink?

Lilliana: Any fruit juice!

Fancy: Favourite read?

Lilliana: I like inspirational books and my favourite author is Myers Monroe.

Fancy: Do you have any favourite music?

Lilliana: Gospel, R & B, and Rap – depending on my mood!

Fancy: What is your favourite TV program?

Lilliana: The Simpsons.

Fancy: What is your ultimate goal in life?

Lilliana: I want to make a significant advancement in life. And I want to achieve my goal of one day working as a qualified doctor or registered nurse. But overall, I want to be the best that I can be in this life and with my personal relationship with God.

Fancy: What would you do to improve the life of African refugees in Australia?

Lilliana: I would like to spend some time listening to their stories and assisting them with their needs. Furthermore, I would like to encourage all refugees to go for their dreams and to become educated so that they can achieve financial independence and help others who are suffering back in Africa.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Lonesome One

One tree hill:
Loneliness in the suburbia
In the depth of night!

© 2005 Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Friday, December 09, 2005

Love Flowers in December

It’s the festive season to remember
As real love flowers in December
The gift of a thousand roses and a bottle of gin
For the absolute delight of Yang and Yin
While the joy of Christmas brings them closer to each other

Copyright © 2005 Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Chasing the Australian Dream

Perry Pewee, 24, dreams of making a good living in Australia. But there are many obstacles to overcome.

“I like to live in Australia permanently”, said Perry with a broad smile. “It’s such a peaceful place…a good place to raise a family”.

Born and bred in Lamco city in Liberia, young Perry came to Australia as a refugee 18 months ago with almost nothing but the shirt on his back. But things are looking up. So it seems!

Like many refugees from the sub-Saharan Africa, Perry knows the value of education as the key to success.

And like the overwhelming majority of the new arrivals, he must now learn to live with the harsh reality of unemployment, coupled with low disposable income. Not to talk of boredom, and frustration!

Nevertheless, Perry thinks he is equal to the task. And he wants what all reasonable Australians want, in the best of times: a job, a home, and a good family.

Meanwhile, to my greatest surprise, he has wholeheartedly embraced the popular notion of “working and studying” as a way out of poverty, “if that’s what it takes to make it” in Australia.

Undoubtedly, Perry is determined to succeed.

Now, he has set his sights firmly on the pursuit of higher education as a means of improving himself. He is on the verge of achieving his goal.

But, at the moment, his number one priority is to finish his diploma course in Accountancy at Adelaide Institute of TAFE, before going to the university next year.

True to form, Perry is a young man on a mission to rescue his family. “I want to bring my whole family to Australia as soon as possible”, he said.

“I miss them a lot…can’t live without them”.

His mother and four sisters are still living in Lamco; trying to make a living in post-war Liberia – which is not an easy task. But for Perry, growing up without his family is the main source of his worries. His father died during the war!

“Looking back, Lamco used to be a great place in which to live before the civil war in Liberia”, said Perry. “Now, things are a little bit uncertain”.

But, as the earth moves, Perry is working hard to achieve his goals; honestly believing that, one day, all his dreams will come true.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Triumph of the Lost Boy

Alone in the world
The lost boy came looking for refuge
And changed his life forever.

Lifting his hands in triumph
He entered the Land of Oz
Kissing the ground.

Copyright © 2005 Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Friday, December 02, 2005

Christmas in Australia

Every year, the African community in Australia shows its vibrancy as families and friends gather to celebrate Christmas.

Now, the new generation of African philanthropists are out in full playing Father Christmas to the needy; bearing gifts, entertaining children in the new and emerging communities in Australia.

African philanthropists are ordinary men and women from all walks of life who show a great deal of love for humanity; performing charitable actions; donating money to those in need; including friends and relatives back home in Africa.

Thus, when it comes to the good old-fashioned charity, African philanthropists are hard to beat. And Christmas is one of their busiest seasons!

These idealistic Africans are showing the world that they are no pushover in the charity stakes, as they settle into their new life in Australia.

This Christmas though, the emphasis is placed firmly on “care and support” for the less privileged members of the new and emerging communities.

Indeed, Christmas is fun time in Australia. It’s also a time of reflection and generosity!

In Adelaide city, for instance, African residents (old and new) will get together to “Talk Africa”, during the long Christmas break; sharing the sweet and bitter memories of the Christmas past. And tales of the home they left behind!

The Nigerians will impress with a big multicultural party of their own as is always the case during the Christmas festivities Down Under. An extremely delicious pepper soup will be on the menu, just to spice things up a little bit. And yours truly will join the fun!

Furthermore, elsewhere in the neighborhood, the Christmas spirit is alive and well among the Sudanese Christians in South Australia – elements of the Dinka and Acholi communities are, definitely, in the festive mood.

“We are busy organizing our first Christmas party in Australia”, so says Pele Okumu, the foundation member of the newly established Acholi community Association in Adelaide city.

“It will be a good show…and everyone is welcomed to share in the joy of Christmas”.

But the secret is already out: the Acholis will offer some tantalizing Christmas dishes to tempt anyone who likes the traditional African food (and its post-modern derivatives).

The talk in the street is that African-Australians are big on Christmas spirit and everyone knows it. In fact, they have the best Christmas party in this neck of the woods.

Come to think of it, they are lighting up the suburbia with hopes of Christmas cheer and with a great deal of fun, food, and music.

Nevertheless, Christmas in Australia will be incomplete without a good dose
of generosity, hope, peace, security,and tolerance.

Indeed, charity and welfare play a vital role in feeding the poor and breaking down the barriers of race and inequality during the festive season.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Love in the Antipodean Garden


Love filters into the air
Like the smell of amorous roses
In the antipodean garden


The spring flowers burst open:
The bees oil their wings with desire;
Signaling the new dawn of kissing in the vines


The female kangaroo moves delicately
Across the manicured lawn
Her heart beats for Joey

Copyright © 2005 by Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Old Man from Congo

There once was an old man from Congo
Who liked to play his bongo
When the night was fair
And beautiful voices filled the air
During the all-night bingo

Copyright @ 2005 by Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Bogus Woman

The Bogus Woman is a powerful and explosive piece of theatre which Daniel Clarke, the energetic theatre director/producer, has decided to bring to South Australia as part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival, from February 25 to March 19 2006.

This is the story of a young African woman who has to flee her country for her life and tries to seek asylum in London. What follows is the atrocious way in which she is dealt with by the State - humiliated, abused, interrogated and locked up.

Winner of the First Fringe Award at the Edinburgh Festival, The Bogus Woman (by Kay Adshead) is a work of great potential – a passionate and committed piece of theatre that must be seen by all.

It, vividly, dramatises not only the unrest at Campsfield Detention Centre but also the thuggish and often racist backlash that followed. The protagonist describes in harrowing terms the Centre’s “prison for profit” regime.

The beauty of The Bogus Woman lies in the fact that it is empty of dogma and reveals, remorselessly, the human consequences of the asylum seeking system.

In fact, this work has the power to change many hearts and minds. The piece has also been accepted as part of the Fringe Youth Education Program which is specifically aimed at schools.

The Bogus woman is a well researched play and one that must be taken seriously, whatever your thoughts about political theatre may be. It is likely to draw a large audience in Adelaide during the Fringe Festival.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Rhythms of Life

Spring time in the camp!
The fight ends but friendship lost
As the new life begins

Monday, November 14, 2005

African Haiku

the young refugee
arrives with stars in her pretty eyes
dreaming of freedom

the delicate rose in her element:
how wonderful is the image of the lonely
beauty in fancy clothing

a new dawn
in Terra Australis...
cherry blossoms

behold the essence
of endless desire, the nectar of
the first flower of spring

she opens the
golden gate of wonder with glee -
fortune beckons

inspired by the stellar influences,
she reflects upon the meaning of love and
loneliness in the spring of life

the sound of laughter
along the scented lane of destiny
this joyful day

© Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Limerick in the Camp

The refugee camp was a riot
It was no place for a ballot
But I had a great yearning for freedom
In my longest hour of boredom
Before the arrival of the gentle pilot

Copyright © 2005 by Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Friday, November 11, 2005

Legal Studies for the Community Workers

The Legal Services Commission in South Australia, under the auspices of the Adelaide Institute of TAFE, is now accepting enrolments for the "Law for Community Workers" course.

The course has a very practical focus: developing relevant skills in giving legal information and assisting people to understand legal procedures.

It is aimed at community workers or staff in government departments involved in direct contact with clients of diverse cultures.

People in the new and emerging communities in Australia are encouraged to apply.

The course consists of two modules, each of 21 weeks duration. The first module focuses solely on "Conflict between Individuals"; while the second module takes a look at "Conflict between Individuals and the Government".

These accredited modules are a pathway to a recognised tertiary qualification in Justice Studies (Legal Services Stream). They may also be used as electives in the Community Services award or possibly in a financial counselling course.

The text book is The Law Handbook which is available free online at

For enrolment information, please contact Justice Studies on 61 8 8207 8322 or write to the Department of Justice Studies, Adelaide Institute of TAFE, 120 Currie Street, Adelaide 5000, SA, Australia.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Rise of the Black Caesar

There once was an African called Cesor
A courageous man with a beautiful visor
Who argued with Pemulwuy all night
About who had the absolute right
To hunt the giant outback monitor

Cesor landed in Australia, in 1788, as a total stranger
He was the legendary bush ranger
Who so dearly loved the Land of Oz
And remained one of us
A colonial icon with a dagger

In the First Fleet he came in chains
But made creative use of his brains;
Laying the foundation for the Emerald city
What a pity? He did not have enough time to party!
He was probably too busy guarding the fertile plains

For Cesor, the black Caesar, life in the new colony
Was anything but funny
What with all the shackled convicts?
And relentless conflicts
Desperate souls with no honey!

Yet, the fearless colonial warrior didn’t know
He would have to stoop so low
Just to make a living
In a frontier so unforgiving
A heartless land with no dough, until now

He was the greatest hero of his time
Living as he did in the age of the dime
A strong believer in the idea of nationhood
Caring for the poor just like Robin Hood
In his prime

Thus, in the fullness of time, he won his freedom;
Having fought so hard for the kingdom
He sacrificed his meager ration
To build a new station
In the idyllic town of Wyndham.

Copyright © 2005 by Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Born Alone

There once was a young man from Sierra Leone
Whose name was Lyone
He said, “I am a refugee with attitude”
And “I enjoy my solitude”
After all, “I was born alone”.

Copyright © 2005 Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Sudanese Refugees at Work

Finding any kind of work has always been one of the biggest problems confronting African refugees during the early days of arrival in Australia. But, now, there is a good enough reason for optimism.

Recently, 25 Sudanese refugees were offered employment at the local meat works in the City of Murray Bridge – 80km east of Adelaide, South Australia. More recruits may soon follow!

The good news is that the vibrant Murray Bridge community, where residents enjoy a prosperous lifestyle, has welcomed the Africans with open arms.

Meanwhile, Nayano Taylor-Neumann of the Lutheran Community Care Refugee Services in Murray Bridge is working closely with the new arrivals; helping them to make sense of the world around them and providing resettlement services.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Taste of West Africa

The West African migrants and refugees are making their presence felt in South Australia; enriching the cultural life of the state.

Residents are extremely delighted as “A Taste of West Africa” comes to the city of Prospect.

This is a cultural festival like no other. People from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Togo, Sierra Leone, and Liberia will entertain the audience; showcasing their culture at the Prospect Town Hall on Sunday, 30th October, 12noon-5pm.

The festival will feature the cultural dance troupe from Sierra Leone, West African drumming, and fashion parade of traditional African Attire, arts and crafts exhibition, and much more.

Come and join the fun! Be entertained by traditional West African music, feast on the delicious cuisine and enjoy the arts and crafts.

For more information, please contact Fil on (08) 8342 8115; Veronica on (08) 8342 8113 or Jasmine on 000400 119 565.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Forgotten Men

African migrants and refugees are making the most of their new life in Australia. But there is a crisis of confidence among the new arrivals.

Nevertheless, recent development in capacity building has provided a unique opportunity to empower the African men, strengthen relationships, and keep families together.

Rene Weal knows a thing or two about the plight of the new families in the process of transition. She is the coordinator of the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) program in South Australia and member of staff of the Department of Health.

In response to the alarming rate of family breakdowns in African communities in Australia today, Rene has become increasingly aware of the need to support African men (as well as women) in their struggle for adaptation and survival.

As a professional service provider, and a very good one at that, Rene’s aim is to “empower and support African men as the pillars of the emerging communities”; forming a support group for those in distress – the first of its kind in the country.

These are the forgotten men with no hope (the war victims from way back), men who have lost everything, and who are still being traumatized by the memory of Africa’s long wars, famine, death, and destruction.

What the Dickens are we going to do to soften their pain? We must bring African men back in from the cold, so to speak, and come to terms with their needs – thereby, supporting their transition to the new society.

In actual fact, the new arrivals are suffering because of the combination of several factors: culture shock, language barriers, and loss of power and status in the new and challenging environment.

It has been widely acknowledged that while there are a number of groups providing social support for women, very little has been done to support African men during the early days of arrival – a period of confusion and realisation, coupled with a sense of bottomless uncertainty.

In recent years, there has been some wailing and gnashing of teeth as African men struggle to make sense of the world around them.

Thus, having lost their power and status in the new dispensation, they suddenly realise that life is no longer what it used to be. Even the vital role of “breadwinner” or “head of household” has been taken way from them, as a new type of family relationship emerges and the old values give way to the new.

Consequently, they believe, they can no longer control their family. Nor discipline. Nor punish. Nor protect their wives as they used to do in the old country; hence the emergence of status anxiety as a significant problem of adaptation for African men. Yet, they know not where to turn in times of crisis.

The nature of this crisis highlights the feelings of anxiety, disorientation, misunderstanding and frustration.

The plight of African men in Australian society does not always feature prominently in the timing and sequencing of service delivery to the new comers during the early days of arrival. But the situation is rapidly changing. Thanks to Rene Weal!

In fact, Rene has worked tirelessly with the new families to address this issue. She has consulted very widely with key people in the new and emerging African communities; including men in distress.

She is the first social worker to focus on the plight of the new families and the precarious position of African men.

Furthermore, she is the first woman to come to terms with the proposition that educating African men on the essential elements of the Australian family law can expedite the process of adaptation to the realities of the new social order.

Indeed, there is a groundswell of support for Rene’s work with the African families here and her views are well respected by all concerned.

Now, it is generally accepted that capacity building in the new and emerging African communities demands what Rene Weal describes as the “empowerment and orientation” of African men and women as soon as they arrive in Australia.

And educating African men on all aspects of equal opportunity in Australia is a good starting point - a potent instrument of enlightenment and capacity building.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

On the Rail

There once was an old man named Tutson
Who lived in Findon
He always believed that the “tollway”
Will kill the “railway”
And bankrupt Mr. Livingston.

Copyright © 2005 Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

On Female Circumcision and the Law

The phenomenon of female circumcision has long been regarded as a traditional cultural practice, in some quarters (It happens in many communities around the world). But in the eyes of the law, in the 21st century Australia, it is nothing more than Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); hence, a criminal offence.

Female circumcision is against the law in all States and Territories of the Commonwealth of Australia. And each State or Territory has its own laws against the practice.

In South Australia, for instance, FMG is covered by section 26 of the Children’s Protection Act 1993.

The practice has been illegal since 1997.

All procedures involving partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs, whether for cultural or other reasons, are prohibited by the law.

Therefore, it is against the spirit of the law to perform the following types of female circumcision or FGM:
• Remove or cut out any part of the female genital area (the law calls this “excision”)
• Stitch up the female genital area (infibulation) – excluding therapeutic reasons.
• Cut the clitoris or part of the clitoris (clitoridectomy).
• Damage the female genital area in other ways.

The point to note is that female circumcision, as an ancient ritual, has no place in a civilised society and must be abolished because of the obvious health implications.

Immediate health problems can include violent pain, repeated urinary and kidney infections, as well as problems during labour and childbirth.

In fact, 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”; even if the female wants it to be done.

Anyone who breaks this law commits a serious offence and can be sent to prison for up to 7 years.

South Australia has an effective education program for communities which practise female circumcision. The program is also aimed at helping all education and health workers understand more about the practice so that they can provide better services to women and girls who are circumcised.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Africans Add New Sparks to Australian Life

African electrical workers from Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe are enjoying their new life in Australia, according to the Sunday Mail report.

Thanks to the emerging new sensibility in Australia’s recruitment policy.

As skilled workers, the Africans are adding new sparks to the local electricity supply industry (so to speak); helping to ameliorate the nation-wide shortage of skilled workers in Australia.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Flight

There once was a young man from Nigeria
Whose name was Gabria
He took the bull by the horn
On that fateful morn
And brought an elegy to Australia

Copyright © 2005 Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Sunday, October 09, 2005

My Brother's Keeper

The best way for the African migrants and refugees to secure a future in Australia is to create it. And, if the recent development in the educational sector is any indication, Africans are working within the school system to help young people realize their potentials.

The professional men and women in the new and emerging African communities in South Australia are volunteering their services to bridge the cultural gaps; helping the youths acquire relevant skills and listening to community concerns.

The talk in the street is that the new breed of African philanthropists is performing socially useful functions.

They are feeding the poor, educating the youths, and mentoring the new arrivals; helping the lost boys find their way in the mainstream Australian society.

In fact, the need for survival is overwhelming. And Africans are helping each other come to terms with life in the periphery of the post-industrial society.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Tales of the Refugee

There once was a young man from Somalia
Who found a refuge in Australia
And lived to tell the tale

He said “I have made my peace with time
And found a home away from home”
In the sun-burnt country
Amongst the perfumed gum trees

It’s the same site where
The honeyeaters feed
Where the spring flowers
Lose their pollen
And where Cook
And the rainbow warrior,
Met in that immortal encounter

Thus having planted his roots
In the great antipodean soil
He could now allow his eyes
To dream again

Yet Africa still beckons
Its magnetic force immense
Despite the human condition
And the lurid clouds of war
Of famine and despair

Even in the best of times
The constant longing
For Mother Africa (MA)
Captivates his young mind
And energizes the soul
As he does the daily battle
For survival

The Somali is not alone
For distance warms the heart
And feeds the imagination
Of the young and old alike
As they live out their odyssey.

Copyright © 2005 Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Bilingual School Support Officers

The emergence of African bilingual workers is reshaping the Australian education system in the 21st century; adding real value to the education and training of the new arrivals.

The Bilingual School Support Officers (BSSO) program is an initiative of South Australia’s Department of Education and Children Services. Generally though, it is administered through the English for the speakers of other languages program.

Currently, there are 21 African BSSOs from different language groups operating in South Australian schools. And the result, so far, has been absolutely impressive.

In fact, there is an overwhelming support for the program. The parents love the idea, the students adore it, and the community leaders think it is the best thing that has happened in this part of the world since the slice bread.

Nevertheless, the role of the BSSO is to work with classroom teachers in order to bridge the gap between students and the curriculum; helping the new arrivals to understand the language of instruction.

“The BSSOs also help children with academic problems”, so says Gordon Tutt, a Sudanese refugee who works as a bilingual support officer in the Adelaide metropolitan area.

“Due to cultural differences, there have been some disputes among the students themselves or with students from other ethnic groups.

“In such cases, BSSOs often work with teachers to mediate conflict using their cultural knowledge”.

The point to note, however, is that African ingenuity (or creativity) has been deliberately used in the Australian school system to facilitate learning and to generate positive educational outcomes for students of all cultures.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The African Festival of Cultures

A really funky African Festival of Cultures will be held in Sydney (Australia), 15th October 2005.

The festival is a deliberate attempt to celebrate the richness of African cultures; showcasing the African traditional music, along with the contemporary African-Australian hip-hop and R&B.

The Sydney audience will be treated to the mesmerizing rhythm of the African drumming; and lots of singing and dancing.

The highlight of the festival will be the Sudanese Goo Goo dance, and the masquerade spirit dance from the Igbo people of Nigeria. The Ethiopian chanting choir will also be on show.

Join the fun!

For more details, go to:
or call (02)9793 8324

Friday, September 30, 2005

Dancing in the Fringes

Give hope a chance!

The survival needs of the new arrivals for shelter, food, health services, education, work and other basic necessities of life are being met by individual efforts and by various governmental agencies. But there is something missing in the Land of OZ.

Dr. Gary Pennington, a visiting lecturer at the University of South Australia and the facilitator of the New Arrivals Outreach Project, knows a thing or two about the new migrant communities. He suggests that the missing ingredients are in the areas of play, sports and dance, as well as effective coordination of such services.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that community facilities and programs which most Australians take for granted in the mainstream society cannot be accessed by youths and families in the new and emerging communities.

Indeed, as Dr. Pennington suggests, play can form an important link between people of different cultures.

We must, therefore, find a more creative way of using play, music, dance, and sport to give new migrants a chance and build bridges across the various subcultures.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Chants of the Lost Boy

Upon becoming the youngest victim
Of Africa’s longest war,
Oku began his long journey of survival.

He came to the ancient Land of Oz,
Like a stranger in the night
Searching for a refuge.

The gentle wind swept away his fears
And his new love softened the pain of transition;
Heralding an exciting new beginning.

From the nearby hills
A red kangaroo watched with interest;
Scrutinizing his every move like a hawk!

The kindly full moon adorned the sky
Lighting his winding path
To the land of his dreams.

Finally, the “Lost Boy” made good;
Embracing at last the safety of isolation
A dose of inner peace liberates his consciousness.

Yet, he struggled to establish his bearings;
Waiting anxiously for the morning light
Still to come – if not the challenges ahead.

But like Lazarus of old,
He would never say die despite the pain
And the trauma of transition.

Copyright © Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo 2005

Monday, September 26, 2005

Diversity Works!

The “Diversity Works” program is part of the Australian government’s multicultural policy, implemented by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs.

The program encourages and supports Australian organizations interested in using elements of cultural diversity in the workforce to optimize performance, promote innovation and connect with the new and emerging communities.

Furthermore, the Diversity Works program encourages the removal of impediments (such as prejudice and discrimination) to the effective participation of culturally and linguistically diverse employees in the workforce.

The Department produces resources such as training materials, and publishes case studies of businesses that are succeeding in using their employee’s language skills and knowledge of other cultures to:

• Trade with other countries and move into new markets

• Create new products lines or improve existing ones to meet the needs of overseas markets

• Market products to different migrant communities in Australia

Under the “Diversity Works!” program, strong partnerships have been established with a number of leading Australian corporations to promote the use of foreign language skills, business networks and market knowledge to Australia’s advantage.

This goes to show the extent to which cultural diversity can be used as a potent instrument of profit maximization.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Thinking about Cultural Diversity

Negotiating the complexity of Australia’s cultural diversity is a challenging task. But managing diversity is a task that must be done.

Cultural diversity is the variety of human cultures, social structures, belief systems, and strategies for adapting to situations in different parts of the world.

Over 43 per cent of Australians were born overseas or had at least one parent born overseas, according to the 2001 Census.

“Diversity is present in every aspect of our lives in Australia”, says John Cobb, the Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs.

“Our workforce and our consumer market reflect this diversity...Our diversity creates a wealth of opportunities for business in local markets”.

Since 1999, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs has commissioned over 90 research papers, toolkits, training resources, and case studies covering a wide range of cultural diversity topics and issues.

The findings of the research projects are shockingly familiar. They highlight a general lack of understanding of Australia’s cultural and linguistic assets by top management.

The research concludes that organisations need to take a diversity management approach which recognizes the implications of cultural diversity for Australia’s future prosperity.

On the whole, effective management of cultural diversity is seen as a good thing.

Stakeholder consultations have highlighted the need for the development of “Diversity Works!” program to encourage the teaching of cultural diversity in schools in order to maximize its benefits for all Australians.

Meanwhile, the resources for teaching and learning about diversity are available free of charge on the Diversity Australia website:

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A Positive Climate for the Sudanese

There is a surge in population, as the Sudanese migrants and refugees call Australia home!

New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that almost one in four people living in Australia were born overseas – the highest proportion in more than 100 years.

Furthermore, the ABS data also indicate quite clearly that the Sudanese are the fastest-growing population among those born overseas; increasing by an average of 26 per cent each year since 1996.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Partnership for Education

The Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) in South Australia wants to consult with the African community leaders, on educating the new arrivals.

The aim is to identify processes through which African community leaders, parents, and caregivers can have a greater participation and engagement in the system to ensure positive educational outcomes for African learners.

Emphasis is placed on partnership in education. This is a genuine attempt to map out effective strategies for community involvement in the educational process.

Indeed, DECS is actively supporting refugees and humanitarian migrants from African countries in its schools.

The Department is currently promoting a number of education and training initiatives in the new and emerging African communities in South Australia.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Life after Katrina

The light shines again in the land of dreams,
As General Katrina retreats to her lair for a thousand years
Innocents triumph over adversity!

Yet, the dead cloud hangs over the city
As the land gives up its secrets;
Showing Katrina’s deadly hand.

But there is a flicker of hope in the horizon,
As Providence sooths the pain of the brave
And the Big Easy rises from the grave.

Nevertheless, thoughts of Katrina’s sinful ways abound,
Tales of the hungry wind that devours the city
captivates the mind
Yet, the struggle for survival continues in earnest.

Thus, as the flood recedes, life begins anew;
The dark cloud rolls away with ease;
(revealing the deep blue sky)
And the new era opens with a kaleidoscope of colors.

The bright sunshine warms the heart of the heroic survivors!
And the ageless spirit soars with delight
As the city birds make their presence felt.

Songs of joy and laughter fill the air once again!
A brand new world emerges from the ashes of the old,
Like a beautiful bride from the heavens beyond.

Copyright © Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo 2005

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Ethiopian New Year Celebrations

The New Year is one of the biggest events in the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar.

The members of the new and emerging Ethiopian community in South Australia will celebrate this 3,000-year-old tradition with a gala dinner, music and dance and fashion parade.

The traditional yellow flower decorations will be used to mark the event, on 24th September.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Humanitarian Program

Australia’s population reached 20.1 million at the end of June 2004.

Current projections suggest that the country’s population may be around 26 to 27 million by the middle of this century, according to a special report by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA).

More than 75% of Australia’s population lives in three states, notably: New South Wales (33.3%), Victoria (24.7%), and Queensland (19.3%)

In particular, South Australia has become home to more than 1,500 humanitarian entrants in the past year. A further 1,500 are expected to arrive during 2005-06.

About two thirds of humanitarian entrants to South Australia are refugees. Refugees are defined by the Commonwealth Government as “People who are subject to persecution in their home country, have a strong need for resettlement and have been referred for resettlement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)”.

The Refugees come from many countries; including the Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Burundi, Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Uganda, Rwanda, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan.

About 50% of the refugees are children.

Ethnic groups now resident in South Australia include various sub-cultural nationalities and language groups from the Sudan, such as Nuer, Zande, Dinka Bor, Dinka Gorgriel, Dinka Aweil, Acholi, Bari, Raja, Kuku, Northern Sudanese, Nuba, Made; and Middle Eastern groups such as Kurdish, Iraqi and Turkman.

Most humanitarian migrants receive government support for up to six months after arrival in Australia and are then assisted by various community organizations.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Feeding the Poor and the Homeless

The fear of litigation is alive and kicking - a phenomenon that is driving away potential food donors in Australia. This goes to explain why the restaurants, supermarkets and food manufacturers wishing to donate unwanted, edible food to charities are afraid to do so.

The Christian welfare agencies in South Australia and the SA Law Society have asked the Government to amend the Civil Liability Act to provide legal protection to food donors, according to The Southern Cross, a Catholic monthly newspaper.

Meanwhile, because of the concerns over legal liability, potential food donors deliberately throw away excess good quality food that can be used to feed the poor and the homeless.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Refugee Policy under the Microscope

Most Australians support the Howard government’s policy towards refugees and asylum seekers, according to The Sunday Mail newspaper survey of 14,000 people.

An overwhelming number of people, 76 per cent of respondents, believed Australia treated illegal immigrants either fairly or too leniently.

However, forty-five per cent of those interviewed said they did not support mandatory detention of children.

On the contrary, thirty-eight per cent said they support keeping children in detention.

In fact, according to the survey, two-thirds of those interviewed agreed with the government’s mandatory detention policy.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina's Wake!

With lightening speed from the heavens
She sacked the city of New Orleans
A city of love, laughter and music
Killing thousands;
Leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

Oh Katrina
Why did you do it?
And why are you so cruel
And so merciless?

Copyright © Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo 2005

Katrina's Eyes

They run for their lives
As Katrina weaves her deadly web
Around New Orleans,
Killing thousands!

Innocents tremble
And tens of thousands are homeless
In Katrina’s wake.

Then suddenly she falls into slumber
Leaving behind a city in ruins,
The trail of anarchy engulfs the land!

Helplessness and ultra-violence
In the land of the free.

Copyright © Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo 2005

Friday, September 02, 2005

African Music and Food Celebration

A celebration of African music and food has been organized by Panhom, a charitable organization based in Adelaide city in South Australia. Panhom’s main objective is to raise money for schools and healthcare facilities in war-ravaged Southern Sudan.

Come and join others ( on Saturday, 3rd September 2005) for an afternoon of fun, dance and extremely delicious food.

The event will be held at St. Luke’s Mission Hall, 35 Whitmore Square, Adelaide.

Please contact Mel on 0422 816840 for more information.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Support for Refugees

The West Torrens Council in South Australia is investigating the best possible way of supporting the growing number of African refugees moving into its area.

One real option is a scholarship program for those refugees preparing for education and training. Other programs are in the pipeline.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


The homeless man goes everywhere
But nowhere in particular
He wants a home
But finds none
The park bench is his bed,
And the old bag his pillow.

All alone and lost in the city of light
There is no home but gloom,
Nothing but the dog of despair
A phenomenon that haunts him everyday.

The homeless man is a desperate soul
The poorest of the poor
Struggling for survival in this ancient land
Sleeping under the stars
As providence looks down on him
Watching over his every move,
Out of sight of ordinary mortals!

Yet, beyond the city lights
Darkness covers the land
A sense of loneliness overwhelms him
As he searches in vain for a place
Amongst the refugees and migrants;
In the cold heart of the concrete jungle
Home is nothing but a distant dream. Grim reality!

Not even the sun can warm
His lonely heart (nor dry his tears),
Only true love and care will do!

Copyright © Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo 2005

Friday, August 26, 2005

African Soccer Players in Australia

The White City Soccer Club in South Australia has decided to open its doors to the African-born recruits, in an attempt to break down racial barriers. Consequently, the new migrants and refugees are making their presence felt in the highly lucrative sporting arena.

The new sensibility in the club’s recruitment policy has already yielded some positive results. The new recruits now come from a wide range of countries; including Liberia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

Nevertheless, while crossing the cultural divide may not necessarily lead to nirvana, there is a golden opportunity for progressive clubs to make use of a highly motivated African outfit; and benefit from the experience.

In fact, the talk in the street is that anyone skilful enough to play soccer in Australia will be given a chance to do so. And the gifted and dynamic African players are already queuing up to showcase their skills.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Arrival of the Super Dad

The members of the African community in South Australia were at the Adelaide airport to welcome Paul Sebith Olak, a Sudanese refugee, to the land Down Under.

Paul, affectionately known as the super dad, arrived in Australia with his wife and 9 children (a large family by Australian standards), after years of hardship and deprivation in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Price of Freedom

Today, there is an article in The Australian newspaper about the fate of Cheikh Kone, a refugee from Ivory Coast in West Africa, who has been finally allowed to stay in Australia after 32 months in Port Hedland detention centre.

But his freedom comes at a hefty price. Nine months after his release, he has been hit with a bill for $89,260 from the Australian federal government for the cost of his imprisonment.

You may think it could only happen in Australia. But there are historical precedents.

Come to think of it, the first time in recent memory that the innocents had to pay for their own incarceration was in post-revolutionary France under Robespierre. And the second was under the Nazi regime in Germany.

History has a funny way of repeating itself!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Garry's New Life

Garry Lokang, a Sudanese refugee, has arrived safely in Australia; escaping poverty and distress from one of Africa’s longest wars.

After 15 years in Adjumani Refugee Camp in the West Nile District of Uganda, Garry says he is ready to start a new life in Australia.

Relatives and friends were at the Adelaide airport to welcome him. So were members of the Sudanese Community Association in South Australia.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Lost Boys in Australia

In the fullness of time
The mighty hand of fate guided the lost boys
From Africa to the land Down Under
And changed their lives forever.

It was a journey like no other,
An emotional journey to the world “unknown”!
Yet, the young victims of war kept plodding along;
Weathering the violent storm;
Flying over the hills and the mighty oceans
And finding their way across the sea of change.

Then, as the new day dawns in the silent Land of Oz,
The lost boys of Sudan make their presence felt
And their new life begins in earnest.
“We have arrived”, a voice said, reassuringly.
“Thank heavens…We’ve finally made it to safety”.
Tears of joy spring from their eyes,
It was a wonderful antipodal day;
And a magical moment for all!

The lost boys came with nothing,
Nor parents, nor money; nor worldly goods
But their golden hearts and dreams;
Largely driven by the quest for refuge
In the sun-burnt country
Beyond the distant horizon!

And yet, despite the ravages of time,
The lost boys have survived and thrived,
Under the most difficult circumstances
Sowing the seeds of hope!
And apparently comfortable with the images
Of the modern suburbia.

Now, a promising new life emerges like a spring flower;
Filling their lonely hearts with joy
And healing the deep wounds of war.

Copyright © Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo 2005

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Refugee Children

Africans who came to Australia a few years ago, as refugees, are making a significant contribution to the intellectual and cultural life of the country. But there are challenges along the way.

Having acquired the English language skills in a relatively short period of time, African teenagers and young adults are making their presence felt in schools and university campuses across the land.

In fact, most have taken to vocational education and training like ducks to water; seeing education as a way out of poverty.

Generally, the perception is that formal education is a good thing – a sure means to an end.

Essentially though, there are several motivational factors at work. The refugees are combining the African spirit of enterprise and survival with the best of what Australia has to offer in the form of formal education and training.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Rise of Khadija Gbla: a Life Full of Promise

The road to paradise is not for the tender foot. But Khadija Gbla, a young girl from Sierra Leone, is determined to create a new life for herself in Australia.

“It was a long and memorable journey to the land Down Under”, Khadija says; reflecting on her long passage to Australia. “It took ages to arrive…But we finally made it”.

In fact, it was happiness itself when she touched down in Sydney with stars in her eyes. But her real journey through life had only just begun. The early days of arrival in Australia were the most difficult days of Khadija’s young life, as a refugee.

(She was only 13 years old then, when the civil war in the West African country of Sierra Leone forced her family to seek refuge in Australia. She is now 17 and wiser beyond her years.)

Looking back, there were unresolved problems of adaptation to the Australian way of life. The yearning for Africa overwhelmed her!

“For days I didn’t see any African in this part of the world - not even a soul; only a sea of alien friendly faces. I didn’t know anybody here”, she says.

“Everything was different; including the food, culture, attitudes, values, and even the transportation system”.

The rapid pace of change was just too much for a young impressionistic girl like Khadija to take.

“I became sick and depressed for the first time in my entire life”, she says.

“But it wasn’t sickness from any type of disease; it was just the fact that my own self was trying to make sense of the world around me”, she explains.

“I was empty. I was lost. My whole world fell apart. I didn’t know who I was, as a person, anymore”.

In fact, as far as Khadija is concerned, those were the days of great discontent, of uncertainty and lots of pain. But those days have long gone, forever!

Now, as the new reality dawns, there is a sense of wellbeing, even of confidence and excitement in Khadija’s world as she waltzes into adulthood.

“I was held back by my own thinking during the early days of arrival – probably due to fear of the unknown”, she says.

“Now, I have found myself. I know who I am and what I want out of life”. Nothing surpasses self-discovery! (So, that’s where all the abundant energy and excitement are coming from.)

There is absolutely no doubt that Khadija has turned over a new leaf; excelling in her studies at the Mitcham Girls High School in Adelaide, South Australia. She has a great passion for learning! And a burning desire to make a significant contribution to the Australian society.

“I have accepted Australia as my new home (effectively breaking down the barriers)”, she says, with a broad smile.

“And I have every reason to aim high and achieve my goals; I think anything is possible here in this country”. The sky is the limit, really!

Khadija is a silent achiever; a young girl on the move. Among other things, she is an active member of the “Youth Parliament” program in South Australia. She is also on the verge of joining the Youth Advisory Committee in the Charles Sturt council area; giving African youths a voice in program development.

Meanwhile, she wants to get actively involved in humanitarian work; helping those in need; including fund raising for breast cancer research in Australia.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Racial Profiling in Australia

The security agencies and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) are closely monitoring dozens of Australians who have had links to Islamic terrorist groups overseas. But the government has ruled out racial profiling as an effective means of fighting terrorism.

“Competent authorities do not target people on the basis of their race”, so says the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock.

In other words, racial profiling, the use of race as a major consideration in law enfrocement practice, has no place in a free and democratic society like Australia.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Australian Help for Famine Relief in Niger

The Australians have opened their hearts and wallets to the suffering people of Niger in West Africa. They donated an impressive sum of $140,000 during the first week of an appeal for famine relief in that country; according the Australian Red Cross.

The money will be spent on food distributions in the mobile feeding centres located in Niger and the neighbouring countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Death of the Sudanese Vice President

Today is a very sad day for the Sudanese people in South Australia, as they mourn the death of John Garang, who led the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army for more than two decades and was recently appointed as the Sudan’s first Vice President. He died in a helicopter crash.

“It’s a very sad day for us all”, says Alier Ateny, a Sudanese refugee in South Australia.

“I think there will be a lot of instability and conflict in Sudan”, as the struggle for leadership succession gathers momentum.

Most admit that it will not be easy to fill John Garang’s shoes, no matter who succeeds as the new leader of Southern Sudan.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Growing Support for the African Community

There is an over-whelming public support for the African community in Australia in the fight against racism. As the city of Sydney rallies behind African refugees, a Federal Government Minister has visited the racial hotspot in Toowoomba in a bid to defuse simmering racial tension in the city.

The visit follows the circulation of racist material in the city, which is home to 750 Sudanese. And Toowoomba’s leaders are furious that the actions of a few racist elements have tarnished the city’s proud record in successful refugee resettlement.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Sweet Taste of Freedom

There is life beyond the razor wire. A total of 42 children and their families have been released from the immigration detention centres in Australia, so far.

And for those children who were born in prison, this will be their first taste of freedom in the land Down Under.

Indeed, this is a significant development and a clear indication that the Federal Government’s policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers (and refugees) has outlived its usefulness.

There are cracks in the fabric of policy, so to speak!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Africans Boycott Macquarie University over Racist Remarks

African students in Australia have decided to stage a boycott of Sydney’s Macquarie University over racist remarks by Associate Professor Andrew Fraser. The professor claimed that refugees from Sub-Saharan Africa were a high crime risk because they had low IQs and high testosterone levels.

The comments have led to increasing harassment of innocent Sudanese Students in places like Toowoomba, according to The Australian newspaper report.

Consequently, the students have called on the university to discipline its professor and curb racism.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A New Door Opens for Refugees

At last, the asylum seekers in Australia have something to smile about. The full bench of the Federal Court has ruled that asylum seekers whose Temporary Protection Visas (TVPs) had expired could be issued with a permanent visa.

This means they can no longer be deported unless the government could prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that their country of origin was safe.

The refugee advocates are rubbing their hands with glee.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Australia's Trade and Investment Relations with Africa

The Australian parliament will soon begin public hearings on trade and investment relations with the North African countries of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia.

Consequently, the Federal parliament’s Trade Committee invites interested persons to make submissions addressing terms of reference by 5th August 2005.

For more information, visit:

Saturday, July 23, 2005

African Refugees Face New Hate Campaign

Today, there are cracks in the proverbial melting pot; so to speak! The right wing extremists in Australia are targeting African refugees in a new wave of race hate campaign; according to The Australian newspaper report.

The recent campaign against the African war victims in Australia is evident in the following areas of the country: Toowoomba, Blacktown, and Parramatta in western Sydney where most of the new arrivals and their families now live.

But the Africans are not rattled. Nor their trust in the nation betrayed. In fact, most Africans have stood firm in the face of rampant racism. And all fair-minded Australians are right behind them in their struggle for survival.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Bombs Create Panic in London

The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, calls for calm as bomb explosions create panic in London.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Racist Professor attacks African Refugees

Professor Andrew Fraser of Sydney’s Macquarie University in Australia has launched a fresh attack on African refugees. And the public is not amused!

The Canadian-born professor claims that refugees from Sub-Saharan Africa should not be allowed into Australia because they had low IQs and “significantly more testosterone floating around their system than whites”; making them a crime risk; according to The Australian newspaper report.

The African community leaders have labelled the statement racist and inflammatory.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Identity Fraud

The Australian government plans to crack down on “identity fraud” as part of a broader strategy of fighting international terrorism, rampant welfare fraud, people smuggling, and illegal immigration.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Free at Last

Today, the good news is that Australia’s longest serving detainee, Peter Qasim, has been released from the immigration detention centre, after almost seven years behind the razor wire.

It’s a fantastic day for all freedom lovers!

Now, with a brand new temporary visa under his belt, stateless Peter Qasim is allowed to live in the Australian community; and can look for a job when his health improves.

In fact, he is free to do anything within reason. In a manner of speaking, he can now watch the big brother, if he likes; instead of the big brother watching him.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

National Identification Card

The national ID card is back on the political agenda in Australia, to counter the threat of international terrorism. But the debate about the national identification system is still in its infancy.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, set the ball rolling when he publicly stated that he would “Never say never” to the idea of a national ID card for all Australians. But he cautioned against “knee-jerk” reactions to the potential terrorist threat in the country.

One thing is certain though, the national security consideration has made the “Australia Card” or the creation of some form of electronic individual identification system a much more attractive proposition now than it was in the 1980s when the idea was first suggested by the Hawke Labour government.

Yet, in 1987, it was Mr. Howard who, as an opposition leader, campaigned against the “Australia card” . Today, he is the champion of a national ID card system. The London bomb blasts have, definitely, changed everything; reviving plans for a broader rethink of the national security question in Australia.

The most persuasive argument, at the moment, is that the national ID card will aid the campaign against terrorism. It may even help prevent unlawful detention of refugees and asylum-seekers. The jury is still out on the subject! And civil liberties groups have condemned the scheme.

Nevertheless, on the related issue of national security, the Prime Minister believes anyone who does not think that Australia is at risk from suicide bombers is complacent and foolish.

Thus, every measure that makes it harder for terrorists to mask their plans and hide their identities continues to frame the debate about the need for a national ID card in Australia.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Australian Investments in West Africa

The African community is delighted with the news that Sphere Investments, an Australian exploration outfit, has recently expressed an interest in iron ore projects in Mauritania and has also acquired oil and gas ventures in Mali.

Furthermore, Sphere has something else out of West Africa; it is targeting major discoveries in Niger, Chad, and the Sudan.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

New Breed of Workers

A completely new specie of the proletariat has been found in Australia. The Prime Minister, John Howard, announced this significant discovery in a landmark speech to business leaders last night. He described the new class of workers as those workers who are willing to put Australia’s long term interest before their own.

Meanwhile, nobody knows exactly how large this new specie might be. And any attempt at accurate classification has so far proved fruitless.

In fact, all what we know at the moment is that the new breed is white-collar and blue-collar; including “knowledge workers”.

“They work each day in our factories”, so says the Prime Minister. They also work in “Our businesses, our great service companies, our farms and mines”.

This is good news for the Australian economy of the 21st Century. These highly productive “enterprise workers” know that businesses must be successful for their jobs to be secured.

They also know, in their heart of hearts, that it is the right of managers to manage and workers to do as they are “told”.

Nevertheless, the distinguishing feature of the new breed of Australian workers is that they are very relaxed and comfortable with workplace reforms; even if that means a drastic reduction in wages and conditions.

Thus, the new specie of the proletariat is a highly skilled group of workers united by an attitude of mind – workers who can single-handedly change the fortunes of most industries.

Affordable Housing Initiative

The Adelaide city council in South Australia has developed an Affordable Rental Housing Initiative for the low income earners – the first of its kind in Australia.

This new and innovative program ensures that young people are not priced out of the city housing market.

Furthermore, the program also provides a viable and affordable rental option for the new migrants and refugees who want to sample the unique lifestyle Adelaide city has to offer, at reasonable cost.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The New Age Africans

The new generation of Africans in Australia strongly believes in the power of positive thinking. And thinking about Africa has become the most potent instrument of adaptation and survival in the emerging communities.

Thus, as the African proverb says:

You can take a child out of Africa
But you can’t take Africa out of a child.

Generally though, the longing for a meaningful existence has also kept alive important strands of African consciousness in the land Down Under. Yet, there is evident of significant progress in a number of areas.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The G8 Summit and New Deal for the Poor

The three-day summit of the G8 countries (the world’s most powerful nations) ended in Scotland with a new pledge on climate change and the dawn of a new era of aid to the world’s poorest nations.

Although details are sketchy, the decision signals a “new deal” for Africa on trade, access to AIDS medication, and the cancellation of debt for the poorest countries, most of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Bomb Attacks in London

Blood in the streets of London as the deadly hand of terror rips apart the city’s heart; crippling the transport system. On last count, 38 people have been killed and 700 wounded; including 7 Australians.

My thoughts and prayers are with the peace-loving people of London; and the victims of international terrorism.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

New Housing Program

There is a new hope for the 7000 homeless people in South Australia, as the drive to provide affordable inner city housing shifts into high gear.

In effect, homelessness in Adelaide city has, finally, been recognised as a significant problem – a problem that is now on top of the government’s agenda for social inclusion.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Act of Giving and Sharing

African refugees in Australia are showcasing their traditional ideals of philanthropy by helping each other on a daily basis; giving and sharing their priceless little possessions and aspects of their culture.

In its contemporary form, African philanthropy is a survival mechanism designed to help the new arrivals come to terms with the immediate problems of adaptation to the new environment. The aim is to facilitate the smooth transition to a new and better life.

Concerned with issues of poverty and inequality, African philanthropists reach out to those in need. And giving and sharing have reached new heights!

People like Johnson Buol Juuk knows what it means to be poor; and what charity is all about. He works with the new arrivals; helping out whenever he can; winning friends and touching many hearts in the emerging communities.

And Johnson is a kind and generous soul, a Sudanese refugee with a golden heart. He obviously likes to help the new comers read and write; acting as an interpreter and trying desperately to bridge the yawning communication gap between people of diverse cultures.

The talk in the street is that Johnson wants to play a key role in the development and implementation of African language programs in South Australian schools.

And he is well qualified to do the job!

He is a native Dinka speaker, with a good knowledge of the Dinka Culture and lifestyle.

Thus, the point to note is that the act of giving and sharing has become a fundamental means of helping those in need and managing the African disadvantage.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Happy Cape Verde National Day

On this day, the Republic of Cape Verde achieved independence from Portugal in 1975. Now, the country remains one of Africa’s most stable democratic governments.

Rwanda Liberation Day

Today, Rwandans across Australia celebrate their liberation from genocide and dictatorship. It was on this day in July 1994 that the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) liberated the capital Kigali.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Elements of African Philanthropy

A new mode of idealism is sweeping across the emerging African community in Australia; and one of its main features is the belief in the infinite potential of African philanthropy.

By way of definition, African philanthropy is a new type of giving and sharing; a utopian vision of reality. It is an effective grassroots movement that relies on the goodwill of ordinary people to resolve a number of nagging problems affecting the new generation of African migrants and refugees throughout the land.

In its most active form, the movement facilitates the resettlement process; helping the new arrivals, feeding the poor and housing the homeless. It has the power to alter the perception of the new environment in significant ways.

In fact, the real strength of the movement lies in its ability to identify the need and mobilise resources for the common good; creating linkages with well-established charitable organisations and individuals.

African philanthropists have worked cooperatively with community organisations to provide moral and financial support to the new arrivals. As powerful volunteers and care givers, they live modestly; giving and sharing and helping those in need.

It is the poor helping the poor at the local level, where it matters most!

Essentially though, it could be argued that the African philanthropists are the unsung heroes of our time; whose activities have remained largely unknown in the mainstream society.

Margaret Bako, a Sudanese woman of distinction who came to Australia as a refugee in the 1980s, has worked tirelessly with a number of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs); including the Australian Refugee Association; helping the new migrants and refugees make sense of the world around. Her recent appointment to the Women’s Health Advisory Council in South Australia has brought the work of the African philanthropists into sharp focus. Meanwhile, she is trying to carry women’s health issues over the cultural divide; thereby building an effective relationship between the public health system and the emerging African communities.

Yet, Margaret is not alone! Others have also made their marks in many areas of need.

One of the rising stars in the movement is Tony Oyet, a refugee with attitude. He is a selfless, highly motivated young man in his prime of life who has worked tirelessly to help others and never sought any reward or recognition.

He works with street kids, giving and sharing, offering advice on how best to access the mainstream services during the early days of arrival, where people are at their most vulnerable position in the community.

Meanwhile, through the generous support of Adelaide Central Community Health Service, Tony has found his real niche in life by getting involved in the inner city Youth Development Projects; including drug and alcohol counselling to run-away kids.

Thus, in a very real sense, the new way of giving and sharing is here to stay. The activities of African philanthropists like Tony and Margaret (and others) have done a great deal to improve the lives of the deprived and the homeless; helping those at the margin of society.

Friday, July 01, 2005

African Language Programs

Today, the African language programs are becoming more popular in Australian schools. Thanks to the foresight of the principals and program designers.

Indeed, I was over the moon, so to speak, when I first heard from reliable sources that the School of Languages in South Australia is working towards the successful introduction of Dinka and Swahili African languages into its current programs.

And the African community is delighted!

Meanwhile, African-Australians are now confident that the school system has found new and innovative ways to further strengthen and promote the learning of African languages in Australian schools.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Working for a Living

Educated migrants and refugees are increasingly turning to the poorly paid menial work in order to survive, as a result of subtle forms of discrimination and non-recognition of their academic and professional qualifications in Australia. But menial work is not everyone’s cup of popcorn.

“I work as a cleaner most of the time; and I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty”, said Sam Chol, a Sudanese refugee whose noble proletarian ethics is the envy of all.

“I’ve washed dishes in the restaurants, work in factories, and even drive a taxi for a living”.

Sam is a thoroughly flexible modern worker; who is not ashamed of odd jobs, who knows a thing or two about the struggle for survival. But he is not alone!

Generally, most of the Africans I know do tend to prefer paid work, of any definition, to welfare cheques. In fact, they hate the dole - they really do! Since working for a living is the African way of being, there is a strong belief among the new arrivals that work provides a stepping stone towards greater prosperity and a better life in Australia.

For example, the new refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone have made their presence felt in the Australian labour market within a relatively short time; working as factory hands, nurses, cleaners, childcare workers, cooks, and aged care providers; injecting a healthy dose of African optimism and high spirits into the Australian economy and society.

Nevertheless, a significant number of the new migrants are still unaccustomed to manual labour. They still dream of the good old days; dwelling on their former glory; and always reflecting upon the superior lifestyle, they believed, they once enjoyed.

For instance, some elements of the post-independence elites of tropical Africa who, by a cruel twist of fate, now find themselves in exile in a strange new land, naturally give short shrift to any idea of menial work. Having been unduly influenced by the trappings of class privileges (and the values of “labour aristocracy”), they would not even consider manual work as an alternative to idleness.

“I’m looking for a good job”, Charles Idowu informed me recently. “Nothing blue-collar, mind you…Menial work is not for me. That’s what my servants used to do back home in Africa”.

Sadly, those bogged down in the past have no future to speak of; and are losing their status and health in the new order. (Work is directly responsible for our health and wellbeing.)

Generally though, the new generation of African migrants and refugees in Australia are really trying to work hard for a living; doing odd jobs as they come. Some are forging ahead in the services sector, running small businesses of their own; while others “work and study” to improve themselves.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Other Side of the Brain Drain

The decision by the Australian government to grant permanent resident status to successful overseas students has brought enormous benefits to the country; increasing the nation’s human resource base.

This is one of the best decisions this government has ever made!

In fact, the policy is so successful that the number of applicants for permanent residency in Australia has doubled since the program came into being in 2001.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Rise and Fall of the New Man

A silent revolution is taking place in the emerging African communities in Australia. But not everyone is happy with the recent developments in the new order, as roles and responsibilities continue to change.

The point to note is that the once proud and powerful African men have swapped their traditional role as the sole breadwinner for more home duties, through no fault of their own. They are the victims of circumstances!

In the age of constant change, the traditional power relationship between men and women is breaking down faster than one could imagine. Gone are the dominant male ethos and the sharp distinction between the public and private domains. The division of labor along gender lines has all but disappeared; giving way to a more inclusive definition of roles and responsibilities. Hence, the rise of the new man!

In families where women have a measure of economic power and the freedom that goes with it, and where men are generally unemployed or under-employed, the definition of the breadwinner has changed forever. The glow of feminine power (and glory) is there for all to see – a development that has been more evident in the new and emerging communities than anywhere else in Australia.

Thus, for the first time in living memory, the hitherto powerless African woman has tasted the fruits of real power and freedom in domestic affairs. And having achieved the all important financial power in her own right, she is not about to relinquish control.

Thanks to the phenomenon of migration which has been a positive factor in women’s lives. And an absolute nightmare for the African men!

Now, the all powerful (and all conquering) male has become a sorrowful soul in exile; and no one cares.

In fact, as the female member of the household becomes the new breadwinner by default, it’s the hapless male who does all the cooking and cleaning and washing and ironing; albeit, for reasons of survival (although, deep down, most men still look to the “good old days”; obviously believing that staying at home with kids is a woman’s work). Indeed, this is a new and challenging development for the African man in Australia.

Nevertheless, the new man is a loving and caring man, who brings a lot of talent and creativity to the new society. He probably feels comfortable working at home; caring for his wife and kids; doing the daily battle for survival, while at the same time trying to come to terms with the demands of living in a post-industrial society.

But things are not always what they seem!

And even in the best of times, the new power relations is taking its toll on the African family; increasing tension at home and, inevitably, leading to a high rate of separation and divorce; especially among the new migrants and refugees.

Thus, having lost his traditional power and status in the new and ever-changing environment, the African man is a shadow of his former self – a dejected soul pre-occupied with status anxiety; forever dreaming of honor and respect!

Now, to add insult to injury, his self-image has been damaged beyond repairs. He thinks he could no longer discipline his children. Nor punish. Nor impose his will on the family, as he used to do in the old country.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Women in Slavery

The age of slavery is not dead. If anything, it is alive and well.

Indeed, it is worth reflecting on the fact that more than 1000 women in Australia are living in slavery after falling victim to human trafficking rings (the modern day slave traders), according to the report by the human rights advocacy group.

These unfortunate women are the would-be migrants who ended up in an appalling and deplorable conditions of slavery.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Songs of Hope

The remarkable watoto African choir singers, made up of the Ugandan AIDS orphans, have landed in Australia with songs of hope in their hearts.

Meanwhile, they are in Adelaide city to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The watoto choir will entertain the Australian audience with traditional African tribal rhythms and dance, before moving on to New Zealand and Singapore.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Taste of Freedom

The man of the moment is Peter Qasim, a desperate and stateless soul, whose endless cry for freedom has touched the hearts and minds of many Australians.

Now, as luck would have it, he has managed to win back his freedom after spending nearly seven years of his young life behind the razor wire - all because he entered Australia illegally.

Finally, the Australian authorities have given him enough reason to live; issuing a visa that will free him from indefinite immigration detention.

But that’s not the end of the story!

Meanwhile, Peter is one of the long-term detainees being treated at Adelaide’s psychiatric hospital in South Australia.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

World Refugee Day Forum

Creating a multicultural community is a task that must be done! So says the organiser of this year’s World Refugee Day Forum in Adelaide, South Australia. The forum focused on the issues affecting cultural development in the new and emerging communities. And was well attended!

The theme of the forum was “The courage to create a multicultural Australia”, with participants drawn from a wide range of communities.

Ibrahim Jabateh, the President of the Liberian community in South Australia was there. So were the representatives from the Refugee Youth Network.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Australian Citizenship Ceremony

The Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) is conducting a special Australian citizenship ceremony to mark the World Refugee Day. And I am extremely delighted to report that refugees from a diverse group of countries will be conferred with the Australian citizenship.

The event will be held at the Migrant Resource Centre in Adelaide, South Australia. And light refreshments will be provided, to celebrate this unique occasion.

World Refugee Day Empowers

Thousands of Australians mark the World Refugee Day, as mass demonstrations across the country condemn the policy of mandatory detention of refugees and asylum-seekers. The issue still looms large in the public imagination, despite recent concessions by the Federal Government.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

A Big Win for the Refugees

The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, has made significant concessions on the controversial policy of mandatory detention of refugees and asylum-seekers who enter the country illegally. But the fundamental basis of policy remains unchanged.

Essentially though, a better refugee policy is emerging in Australia. And the big winners are families, women, children, asylum-seekers behind the razor wire, and holders of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs).

Thus, under the new policy framework, long-suffering parents and children will be freed from indefinite detention and thousands of people on temporary protection visas seeking permanent residency would have their applications to live in Australia fast-tracked.

Generally, the new sensibility in Australia’s refugee policy has given the Immigration Minister the discretion to release children and their families into the Australian community; ending years of detention.

On the whole, it’s a big win for the refugees and the asylum seekers.

More stories on

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Church and State

The Egyptian Orthodox Christian community in South Australia has grown steadily over the past two decades. But its recent decision to embark on an ambitious expansion program (and build a new hall for its Sunday school classes) has been flatly rejected by the West Torrens Council.

The Councilors, in their wisdom, argued that the expansion proposal did not serve the needs of the wider society. The Coptic orthodox congregation is not amused.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Divorced Fathers Come in From the Cold

A significant change in Australia’s child maintenance policy is in the offing, according to the recent proposal. The big news in town is that almost two-thirds of the long-suffering divorced fathers would pay less in child support.

But there is a sting in the (de)tail.

Under the new dispensation, the cost of supporting children will be determined on the basis of the parents’ combined income. And the total cost of maintenance will be distributed between the parents according their capacity to pay and the time they spend with the children.

Thus, for the first time, overtime payments and income from second jobs are exempted from the assessment of the father’s income. Furthermore, divorced fathers who have a new family will be able to set aside a portion of their income for the new child before being forced to pay maintenance.

This, indeed, is a clear win for the divorced father’s. But the big brother is watching!

Nevertheless, in the new formula, custodial parents - mostly women – would keep all the family tax benefits; unless the father has the child more than 35 per cent of the time. A big win for the hard-working mothers!

But, in the final analysis, divorced fathers still have more reasons to celebrate. They will pay less in child maintenance and still manage to keep some cash for their new families.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

On Mandatory Detention Bills

The Australian rebel MP, Petro Georgiou, has decided to push ahead with the process of introducing two private member’s bills into the Australian parliament. The bills are aimed at dismantling the controversial policy of mandatory detention of asylum-seekers and refugees who enter the country illegally.

The principal objective of the bills is to release long-term detainees into the community (and abolish indefinite detention). Thus, if successful, those on temporary protection visas would be allowed to stay in Australia permanently.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Bush Rejoices as the Heavens Open

The Australian farmers were praying for rain. But they got more than they bargained for as the heavy downpour, flash floods, and wild storms hit many areas of the country; bringing an end to the worst drought in decades.

And, despite serious property damage in some areas, farmers throughout the land are celebrating their good fortune as the heavens open just in time; resurrecting their hopes for a decent grain production this year.

The rain virtually ends the blues!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Dreaming of the Promised Land

The road to the Promised Land is not for the tenderfoot. But dozens of hardworking farmers across Australia have shown real interest in taking up the offer of free land and tax free farming opportunity in Kenya and Tanzania, despite the risk.

The free land sweetener offered by the African countries to boost agricultural productivity is great news to the experienced and well resourced farmers. This is a value proposition that is virtually unheard of in today’s highly competitive marketplace. And those farmers who are looking for a good investment outlet and a new challenge are responding accordingly.

In South Australia, for instance, the newly established African Chamber of Commerce (AFRICOM) have been inundated with calls by the long-suffering farmers who see the Promised Land as an attractive proposition, a great opportunity for the future!

But, first, they must learn the language, the culture, and the African tradition, although such great learning is not a prerequisite for entry.

Monday, June 06, 2005

A Child is Born

A bouncing baby boy brings an enormous joy to the Sudanese family in South Australia. Garang Buol was born in Modbury hospital on 31st May 2005 with her mother’s beautiful eyes and jet black hair.

Thus, for the first time since their arrival in this great country as refugees a few years ago, Johnson Juuk and his wife, Aluel M. Biar, have finally got something to write home about; and something very special to celebrate. The birth of Garang has put a big smile on their faces.

Meanwhile, Johnson has a new take on life with this new addition to the family. “It’s a wonderful gift”, he says. “I have been blessed”.

Garang is their 5th child.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

African Philanthropists

The best kept secret in the Australian society today is the emergence of a new generation of African philanthropists. They are ordinary men and women from all walks of life who show a great deal of love for humanity; performing charitable actions; donating money to those in need; including friends and relatives back home in Africa.

Quite clearly, the young migrants and refugees are showing the world that they are no pushover in the charity stakes, as they settle into their new life in Australia. The emphasis is on care and support for the less privileged members of society.

The Liberian refugees are sponsoring other Liberians to come to Australia, for a better life. And the good deeds of those from Sierra Leone, Somalia, Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa are not far behind. With love of humanity deeply embedded in their hearts, they believe, they can build a better world. Their philanthropic activities are increasing by the day.

More importantly, the “lost boys” of the Sudan are now adapting to change in the land Down Under and are selflessly supporting other “lost boys and girls”; paying their airfares to Australia, as well as providing moral and financial support during the early days of arrival. These notable achievements are the works of the new and emerging African philanthropists of our time. It is the case of the poor helping the poor to a better life!

Nevertheless, there are limits to this type of philanthropy, as over-crowding becomes a major problem, due to the shortage of affordable housing stock. In fact, there are cases of homelessness and despair, of 17 people living in a three-bedroom home in the north-eastern suburbs of Adelaide in South Australia. But this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Yet, as far as the African philanthropists are concerned, the existence of homeless refugees hidden in jam-packed houses has added new momentum to the movement; encouraging more acts of charity and generosity in the emerging African communities in Australia.

Thus, in the city of light, my eyes have seen clear evidence of African humanism at work and unbelievable acts of generosity by African-Australians.

Having witnessed the ravages of war, famine, and deprivation in their homeland in recent years, the idealistic new generation of African philanthropists are creating alternative visions of the future, based on inherent desire to help those in need. They dream of a peaceful world; always seeing the big picture!

Quite frankly though, sharing your money or material possessions with people around you is a prospect that may chill the spine of many a capitalist. But the visionary new generation of African philanthropists do seem to have a perfect understanding of the human condition. For their world is a world of generosity, of give and take; of live and let live!

Their celebration of life and the human spirit have done a great deal to lighten the burden and ease the pain of transition.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Promised Land

African countries are considering several options necessary to boost productivity in the agricultural sector. One such option, and by far the most popular and controversial, is to lure young South Australian farmers to Africa by offering them free land and tax-free farming.

The promised land is good news to those who would like to have their own farm, as confidence on the land hits a new low because of the drought.

The Kenyan High Commissioner to Australia, His Excellency John Lepi Lanyansunya is presently wooing farmers with the right credentials; those with experience in the farm-business sector, who can bring machinery, capital, and technical skills to Kenya.

And the African Chamber of Commerce (AFRICOM) in South Australia is offering more information to interested parties on the African free-farms proposal.

Monday, May 30, 2005

A Day to Remember

Most people I know genuinely believe that the 25th of May was a very special day for the emerging African community in Australia, as the “Africa Day” festivities breathed new life into the city hall. For me, personally, it was a day like no other. A day to remember.

More importantly, it was the first “Africa Day” celebration in South Australia. And Michael Harbison, the Lord Mayor of Adelaide city was there, as the keynote speaker. So was the Kenyan High Commissioner to Australia, His Excellency John Lepi Lanyansunya. Other dignitaries and local heroes also made their presence felt.

In fact, the occasion was celebrated in style, as African-Australians graced the city hall in their majestic robes; obviously appreciating the moment.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Angel From Sierra Leone

Having escaped the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone a few years ago, Khadija Gbla is gradually coming to terms with her new life in Australia. But there are enormous challenges and, of course, exciting new opportunities.

With a strong sense of right and wrong, Khadija speaks eloquently about the plight of African women in Diaspora; focusing on women rights and gender relations. (She obviously knows what it means to be a refugee, based on her own personal experience.) She can feel their pain. And she shares their aspirations for a better life.

Meanwhile, she honestly believes that something must be done, and very quickly too, to soften the pain of transition.

“I want to stop the suffering”, Khadija muses as she reflects on the enormous challenges facing the new arrivals and the significant problems of survival in the land Down Under. “I want to work with people and make a difference…why can’t we have equal opportunity?”

Yet, Khadija is only 17 years old. A young woman who knows a thing or two about the struggle for women’s rights (and men’s responsibilities in gender relations), and who projects a wholesome image of youth and vitality, with a natural beauty to match.

She is an enlightened child of the universe who is wiser beyond her years; and who is extremely proud of her dual identity as an African-Australian.

“I like the Australian culture and life-style…This is a good and peaceful country”, she says. “But we need a multicultural education system that works for everybody…a system that meets the needs of women; especially the new arrivals”.

Khadija is an idealistic young woman with an angelic voice and a cheery disposition; a daughter of the revolution (so to speak) and one of the shinning lights in the emerging African community in Australia.

“We must aim at the top”, she says, without much ado. “We can’t make changes in society by staying permanently at the bottom”. This sentiment is shared by the overwhelming majority of African youths in Australia.

But there are other fundamental issues in Khadija’s universe which must be noted; such as the preservation of cultural identity.

“How do we pass on our language and culture?” That’s the question that has pre-occupied Khadija’s fertile imagination in the past few years. “Something has to be done for the future generation…We must preserve our cultural identity, as Africans”.

In a refreshing flourish of humanitarian rhetoric, Khadija talks at length about the welfare of the new migrants and refugees. She really wants to help those in need. And she wants to do community work in order to improve the living conditions of African women in Australian society.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Movie and Food Night

Panhom is organising a great movie and food night to raise money for education and health care facilities in Southern Sudan.

The event will take place at the Windsor Theatres, 362 Henley Beach Road, Lockleys, South Australia ( Sunday 6.30 pm, June 5). Cost: $15.

Come and see Hotel Rwanda, meet nice people, and share some great food; while, at the same time, supporting Panhom’s noble objectives.

As a charitable organisation, Panhom works with the Sudanese people and the global community to provide acceptable standards of education, social justice, and basic infrastructure in the war-ravaged region in order to alleviate the suffering and chronic underdevelopment in Southern Sudan.