Friday, January 28, 2005


The Local Government Councils in South Australia have deliberately adopted cultural diversity as a framework for policy development and planning in the 21st century, following the Refugee Council of Australia initiative on the “Declaration of a Refugee Friendly City”. This initiative gives local governments the opportunity to declare their commitment to refugees and migrants.

Meanwhile, the South Australian councils that have declared themselves Refugee Friendly include the Mitcham City Council, Murray Bridge Council, Gawler Town Council, City of Prospect, City of Norwood, Payneham and St. Peters and the City of Marion.

Others are on the verge of adopting the Declaration.

Thus, according to the Refugee Council of Australia, the Declaration of Refugee Friendly City is simply a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees and migrants into the community and upholding human rights.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


About 400 West African refugees have arrived Australia in a chattered flight from the troubled region. And there are indications that future refugee in-take will continue to grow.

In fact, the Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, said yesterday that the number of refugees from the West Coast of Africa is likely to increase as Australia responds to the UN demand for effective action in the region.

This is good news for those refugees in Liberia and Sierra Leone who will benefit from Australia’s new sensibility in West African affairs.

Monday, January 17, 2005


African refugees who have experienced war, torture, and imprisonment are working hard to rebuild their lives and provide for their families in Australia.

The United Wood Cooperative (UWC) has been formed by a group of African-Australian men who now reside in North Melbourne and the Flemington area. The aim of the group is to create employment for the new migrants and refugees.

The principal objective of the UWC is to assist the resettlement of the new arrivals; helping them to become more familiar with life in Australia and the systems and methodologies employed by successful western commercial business operators. It is an excellent experiment in enterprise education - an experiment that has already yielded some positive results.

The project is supported by Adult Multicultural Education Services (AMES)and the Ministry of Community Services and Housing.

The goal is financial self-sufficiency for the participants and the long-term economic sustainability of the African community in Australia.

As a cooperative enterprise, the UWC is noted for its operational efficiency and product excellence. It makes everyday items of great interest to the new arrivals: beds and furniture at a price that is affordable to people on low income.

The UWC product line is based on the need of the new settlers, and reflects African creativity and ingenuity. The organization makes fantastic, durable “planter boxes” from recycled hardwood timber. The “planter boxes” are available in a range of natural wood colours and are popular as great gifts ideas and garden accessories.

And there is a growing demand for UWC products.

Indeed, the achievements of the organization at this stage must be noted. It is probably true to say that the UWC has laid a good foundation for the resettlement of new migrants and for the development and growth of African capitalism in Australia.

Sunday, January 16, 2005


Special services were held in churches and mosques throughout the land as Australia observes a national day of mourning for victims of the Asian Tsunami (At least 17 Australians are known to have died and others still missing). Flags flew at half mast and people were asked to observe a minute’s silence as a mark of respect. The Prime Minister John Howard marked the day by attending a service at St Andrews Anglican Cathedral in Sydney.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


As thousands of Sudanese all over Australia celebrate the signing of the peace deal in the Sudan to end Africa’s longest civil war, information coming in reveals Australia has taken a large number of new refugees under the Refugee and Humanitarian program.

Figures released by the Immigration Minister, Senator Amanda Vanstone, show that by the end of the current financial year about 13,000 people would have been granted visas under the program; with the Sudanese refugees expected to account for 70% of those resettled in Australia.

Australia’s generosity is making a difference! Close to 5,000 visas were granted to the African refugees between July and November 2004. And Senator Vanstone said the number is in line with government policy expectation.

Monday, January 10, 2005


He has an enormous appetite. But the simple act of eating or searching for that perfect dish has become a spiritual journey for Jeff Akanimo whose passion for food has undergone a significant change in recent years.

“I was a big eater, as a young man growing up in Nigeria”, said Jeff, as he reflects on his life and times. “I loved my food so much that I tended to over-eat all the time simply because mum was such a good cook”.

“I have eaten a lot of things in my life. I remember eating a large portion of pounded yam in Nigeria, a bowl of rice and chicken, washed down with a generous supply of fresh palm wine, and a plate full of green vegetables”.

“And I don’t feel guilty about my passion for food; because eating and drinking are a natural way of being; a great source of inspiration for me; although things are becoming a little too complicated at the moment”.

Jeff speaks candidly about the nature of the Nigerian cuisine, which he says is ingenious and varied; and tasty enough to arouse the enthusiasm of the epicure. And as a true believer in the culinary arts, he should know!

“In my early years as a teenage boy, mealtime in the family home was always my best part of the day; a pleasurable moment to cherish”, he said.

“But, wait for it, despite my large appetite for food, I didn’t put on much weight. In fact, I was as thin as a rake at one stage…and mum kept asking me where all the foods had gone to…Of course, she was just joking! I was a keen sportsman; a soccer player, and a bundle of energy!”.

“By the benefit of hindsight, I would have liked to put on a bit more weight, but it didn’t happen that way; no matter what I ate... My fast metabolism was partly to blame”.

Besides, Jeff told me he didn’t put on excessive weight while in Nigeria because of his “active lifestyle” and the fact that he ate only “the best foods available”; mostly fresh vegetables, low-fat, low-carb food of the “Omega 3” variety. But that was a few years ago!

In fact, Jeff’s first love was food (and eating and drinking were his forte); although he now admits his relationship with food has undergone a significant change since his arrival in Australia.

“I have lost my passion for food since leaving home, because of the changing cultural conditions”, he said. “I have been working too hard; trying to keep my head above water”

“I don’t have the time and the resources to indulge anymore…Or follow my passion. Besides, I’m such a lousy cook”.

“I never saw the inside of a kitchen until I arrived Australia…I never learn to cook. And living alone has had a significant impact on me”.

Meanwhile, “I can still recognize a perfect dish when I see one”, Jeff says. But “excessive eating and drinking are not high on the list of my priorities”. He probably has other, more important, things in life to worry about.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


The Sudanese government and the rebel leaders in the South of the country have signed a peace deal in Nairobi to formally end the 21 years of war – Africa’s longest conflict.

And the Sudanese-Australians are celebrating!

Peace at last!!

Saturday, January 08, 2005


He likes to think that “Australia is a rapidly growing economy and a melting pot of cultures”. But, as a foreign-trained medical doctor, who migrated from Nigeria to Australia, Dan Uche has had his fair share of disappointments in the job front.

“It would not be an exaggeration to say that I have experienced difficulties in a number of areas since my arrival in Australia” Dan admits. “But the most important thing for me at the moment is to embrace the new culture, adapt, improve my knowledge, and look for an opportunity to use my skills”.

A chance meeting with the good doctor was a golden opportunity for me to take stock of the challenges facing some of the new African migrants to Australia, as they struggle for survival; trying to come to terms with the reality of living in the brave new world of the 21st Century.

“I completed my studies at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital in Nigeria a few years ago before coming to Australia in search of greener pastures”, Dan explains. “But the non-recognition of my professional credentials poses the greatest danger, as far as I am concerned”.

Nevertheless, Dan says he is ready to do what it takes to be successful; he is made of a sterner stuff and African optimism has become his weapon of choice: "I think there are jobs out there...I really believe I can make it in Australia, there is absolutely no doubt about it".

“Meanwhile, my goal is to work as a General Practitioner (GP) in the rapidly growing health sector in Australia”, he says. “But, as a foreign-trained doctor, I have to go through an arduous registration process in order to be allowed to practice”.

Yet, he is not bitter about the experience. “I know finding one’s way in a new culture is not always easy; but I’m excited about the prospects of living in Australia and the different opportunities available to me here”.

“I didn’t know what to expect at first but I have already made some progress: in fact, I have successfully completed the Australian Medical Council Multiple Choice Questions, (a preliminary examination)”, Dan said, with a sigh of relief.

“Nevertheless, I think there is still a long way to go yet, before I find my rightful place in the Australian culture and society”.

In fact, Dan does not in any way underestimate the enormity of the problem confronting him, as a new migrant.

“Trying to penetrate the system is no mean task”, he said; taking a deep breath. “There are enormous challenges for the new arrivals, mainly because of the socio-cultural differences; and lack of local experience and right contacts”.

“At the moment, however, I am searching for an opportunity to undergo some form of clinical training…While at the same time seriously preparing myself for a series of compulsory clinical examinations in the months to ahead”.

Thus, “if all goes well”, Dan still believes he might just manage to “pull it off”, and work in his chosen profession in the near future. Then again, this is Australia where medicine is not just a profession, it is a birthright.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


A positive attitude to life and hard work have eventually brought her a bit of fame and increasing recognition as an effective member of the local community.

Joyce Modong of Woodville Gardens has recently won an appreciation award for her work in promoting cultural understanding in the western suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia.

The award was presented by the Housing Minister, Jay Weatherill And according to the Weekly Times Messenger newspaper, other prominent Housing Trust residents from the area also receive awards for their contributions to the community.

But the significance of Joy’s award must be noted. In fact, she is the first African woman to be honoured with such an award. And besides, her constructive engagement with the local community seems to fit nicely into the great Australian tradition of community work.

Joyce likes to help!

“I enjoy working with people; helping those who cannot help themselves”, she says.

“I work with old people on a daily basis: washing, ironing, cleaning, talking with them, sharing the culture…Telling them about Africa”. Her work has touched so many people!

One thing is certain, though! Joyce has been sublimely integrated into the cultural landscape of modern Australia; drawing inspiration from her African roots and a great sense of community.

She is also active in the emerging African community in South Australia; “helping the new arrivals, advising them, giving them reason to live”; especially those young people who are lost in the urban jungle.

“These kids need a lot of support”, she says, with a great deal of empathy. “They don’t even know exactly where their parents are. Or where their next meal is coming from”.

She takes the poor and the helpless youths to heart; forever thinking about their welfare; and wishing she could do more to help them.

Thus, without an iota of doubt, the official recognition of Joyce’s work is a great personal achievement for a woman who came to Australia as a refugee just three years ago in search of protection and a better life for her family. Her metamorphosis is the stuff of legends!

Before arriving Australia, Joyce and her 8 children spent two years in a Ugandan refugee camp after fleeing the civil war in Southern Sudan.

“Life in the refugee camp was extremely hard for me and my children”, Joyce says.

“There was very little to eat…And the living condition was deplorable; but we managed to survive. It was difficult, to say the least”.

Now, she is at peace with herself: obviously conscious of her own identity as an African-Australian, while at the same time seriously trying to embrace the fundamental values of the mainstream culture.

The thing is that as a quiet, unassuming, woman with natural abilities and zest for life, Joyce has what it takes to make an effective contribution to the development of civil society in Australia. She is incredibly smart, interesting, and thoughtful!

A devoted mother!!

Saturday, January 01, 2005


As the evil hand of Tsunami weaves its deadly web, the human tragedy it leaves behind touches the life of millions.

The fact is that the spread of the Tsunami disaster to the East coast of Africa has already killed at least 114 people in Somalia; according The Australian newspaper report.

On the last count, more than two dozen people have lost their lives in Kenya, Tanzania, and the Seychelles.

And thousands more have been left homeless!

Thus, in the wake of the Tsunami fury, East Africa is in turmoil. And the international aid agencies are trying to cope with the crisis.