Friday, April 29, 2005


The “Shop for Your School” program in Australia is growing from strength to strength. This year, the Westfield Shopping Centres have joined forces with World Vision to help build up to 3 new schools in the poor African country of Zambia.

The program has recently been launched at the Westfield West Lakes in South Australia. And there is incredible prize pool of educational technology for schools; including Apple iBook Laptop computers, Polaroid digital cameras, and Lexmark printers.

Under the nation-wide scheme, special key tags will give shoppers at Westfield Shopping Centres the chance to win prizes for their schools in Australia, while also helping to build new schools in Zambia - a win-win situation for the African and Australian kids.

Shop and make a difference!

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Today, the local library in South Australia celebrates cultural diversity. You are invited to join the West Torrens library in the celebration of "Harmony and Tolerance" with a free evening of African music and food.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


The Australian troops are moving into Africa’s most troubled spot, to maintain peace and stability. They are expected to join the 10,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in the war-ravaged Darfur region of Sudan within a matter of days.

The initial deployment of 15 Australian Defence Force personnel would include logistics and air movement specialists, as well as military observers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Some refugees live in their own little worlds; doing the daily battle for survival. But the outlook for the African families in Australia is becoming a lot more complicated.

For one thing, the new migrants and refugees constantly battle the deep feelings of guilt over leaving their sweet little children in the care of strangers. But, in practice, they have absolutely no choice if they have to work outside the home for the much needed residual income.

Childcare is an enormous problem for the new arrivals simply because many Childcare Centres are full, especially in the city. Besides, childcare practices are culturally different in Australia than they are in most countries of Africa.

And parents have problems understanding the procedures in the childcare centres since a significant number do not speak English. They have difficulty communicating with childcare staff (about their specific needs).

Nor do they understand the culture. Nor time management. Nor the bureaucratic demands of some of the childcare establishments.

Furthermore, the high cost of childcare is beyond the reach of people on low income. Consequently, most young families have been priced out of the market.

Yet, there are other problems. The tyranny of distance makes traveling difficult for those young mothers who do not have cars. But are forced to rely solely on public transport to get to the childcare centres, far away from home, in the outer metropolitan areas.

Thus, for the newly arrived migrants and refugees, access to childcare has become an expensive proposition; with no viable options in sight.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, is variously known as the City of Light, the Garden city, the City of Churches, the Athens of the South, the jewel in the national crown of the arts and sciences. But homelessness is a significant problem.

“We have problems because we have no rental history”, said Jeff Thomas (not his real name), a refugee from Liberia and a new resident of Adelaide. “If you don’t have a good rental history in this country, they reject your application…I have been rejected four times”.

And Jeff is not alone! But how can that be? One does not have a “good rental history” in a refugee camp.

In fact, the problem of homelessness in the emerging communities is receiving some long overdue recognition because of the overwhelming evidence of over-crowding, and housing shortage.

“It’s not easy to find a place to live when you are new, here”, so says Gatluak Guandong, a Sudanese refugee who came to Australia with his wife and five children a couple of years ago. “It took about six months for us to find a house, close to the city…It was a long wait; but a big relief when we finally found one”.

The new arrivals are the most affected (and by far the most disadvantaged) when it comes to the phenomenon of homelessness in the city.

Up to 40 percent of new migrants and refugees have experienced periods of homelessness since arrival in Australia; according to a study by the Flinders University of South Australia.

This is due to several factors; including low income and apparent lack of capacity to pay rent.

Nor can we forget the fact that homelessness is the result of direct discrimination in the private rental market.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Encouraging the new generation of Africans to drive safely has helped transform Abdi Nuh’s driving school into a centre of success. So what motivates this budding entrepreneur? And what makes Abdi tick?

“I set up the 21st Century Driver Training School because I believe people should learn how to drive safely”, says Abdi, a Somali refugee from way back and a former taxi driver with several years experience on Australian roads. “Safety on our roads is extremely important…Besides, good driving is needed to save lives”.

Nevertheless, we learn to drive by driving but defensive driving is an attitude.

As a devoted family man with a beautiful wife and two lovely kids, Abdi is passionate about safety and defensive driving in the suburbs of modern cities. He loves his work as a driving instructor and business is booming.

“The African youths, in particular, should be taught to drive safely as soon as they arrive in Australia”, so says Abdi, the guru of defensive driving.

In fact, Abdi admits he is having fun doing what he likes to do most - teaching others to drive well.

He is increasingly training and assessing the driving skills of the new migrants and refugees; having positioned himself as the trainer of choice in the emerging African communities in Australia.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Tying the knot can be a whole lot of fun, if you are as sentimental as Abraham Koor Abuol, aged 32, and Ms. Anger Maker Lual, 24, who were recently united in a holy matrimony in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, in Australia.

The bride and groom are well known refugees from the Dinka-Bor country in Southern Sudan. And both are devoted Christians of the Anglican faith.

It was a perfect match - a mixture of the old and the new, so to speak. The bride price was a paltry sum of 100 cows duly paid to the family of the bride, as a gesture of love and sincerity; according to the age-old tradition.

Clear evidence of passion, charm, and character was present throughout the colorful ceremony; showcasing the best of what African-Australians can offer in the new marriage order.

Needless to say, everything went according to plan. The lucky couple, Abraham and Anger (Angkaa), were extremely delighted! So were their close friends and relatives.

Thus, when all was said and done, the invited guests were treated to a sumptuous dinner and entertainment; including traditional music and dancing, often punctuated with speeches and laughter well into the night.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


The new generation of African refugees have their first taste of freedom in the land Down Under, as they search for a new home and a new life. Gone are the gruesome memories of Africa’s long wars. Death, famine, and destruction are but a distant memory.

The fact remains that more than 17,000 Sudanese refugees who have escaped the civil war and extreme deprivation are presently trying to make a new life for themselves in Australia.

On the whole, the total number of Africans coming here under the humanitarian program is likely to increase in the foreseeable future, given the new sensibility in Australia’s relations with Africa.

But there are enormous challenges relating to feeding, clothing, educating, housing, and caring for the new arrivals. Engineering a prosperous future is no mean feat!

Thursday, April 07, 2005


I have a confession to make. My greatest pleasure in life is seeing the manifestation of human generosity - acts of extraordinary kindness or goodness. I'm referring to the generosity of Australians of all walks of life, who look after the welfare of the African refugees in their midst; helping them with the basic necessities of life during the early days of arrival.

I really admire those who open their hearts and minds to the new residents; welcoming them to the community and trying to make them feel comfortable in the new environment.

My heart goes out to those who spend their precious time, energy, and resources to help the “Lost Boys” come to terms with life in the city of light; thereby facilitating the resettlement process.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Living as a refugee is not for the faint-hearted, given the trauma and the tedium of daily life; but finding his soul mate is definitely one of the best things that can happen to Pele Okumu.

“I want my wife back”, says Pele, a Sudanese refugee, who has been trying, unsuccessfully, to re-unite with his wife for the past two years. “I’m so lonely without her…I’m completely lost”.

Pele has now lodged an application with the Immigration Department to bring his beloved wife, Mary, to Australia from a refugee camp in Kenya. And the whole community is right behind him. Voices of support are coming from the left, right, and centre.

Meanwhile, you are invited to support Pele in his quest for family re-union.

Monday, April 04, 2005


African migrants and refugees have found a rich tapestry of life in Australia. When they are not working as service personnel in the growing security industry or driving taxis when they’re not studying, they have made their presence felt in a number of areas. Now, their skills are in high demand in the caring professions throughout the land , mainly as teachers, nurses, and doctors.

At the other end of the spectrum are the brand new arrivals, the semi-skilled (menial) workers of all sorts who take the jobs other Australians would not touch with a 10-meter pole.

Essentially though, these relatively young, fun-loving, tolerant, and easy-going Africans have the right attitude for survival in an alien environment.

But despite their position in the food chain, the new generation of Africans have proved to be magnificent workers - efficient, versatile and ever-willing to learn.

They have something very special to offer the modern industries: a positive mental attitude and work ethics that are the envy of other Australians. No wonder the Australian employers increasingly see the new arrivals as an attractive source of cheap labour.

Recently, a meat processing company in Western Australia, has sponsored five “slaughtermen” from Ghana to work in its abattoir in Bunbury, 180km south of Perth; providing them with temporary business visas that may last up to four years.

The thing is that the Australian meat industry is far-sighted in its recruitment, induction, and training policy. In fact, it is ready to import African optimism and work ethics to revive the ailing industry and keep its expansion plans alive.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


Optimism and hard work have positively reshaped the future of African families in Australia. And the new generation of African migrants and refugees are already making good use of their new found sense of freedom and security to re-engineer the family structure; raising happy and well-adjusted children, largely, in single parent families.

Nevertheless, the new-age family structure is not without its problems, as the new arrivals suddenly discover. “It is hard for me to raise these children on my own”, says Grace, 25, a single mother of three. “The children are happy but they still want to know where their father is…They ask too many questions”.

Yet, Grace is not alone in her experience of single parenting.

In fact, many of the African children now arriving in Australia cry out for some form of parental control that is lacking in their young lives. They are found in the primary schools across the land and most of them come from single parent families. Their fathers are either missing in action. Or killed in the long running battles way back in Africa. Or separated from the rest of the family.

The high rate of divorce in the emerging communities is also a significant factor in this equation.

And yet, not too long ago, who would have thought that, within a relatively short period of time, single parenting would become the norm in the emerging African communities in Australia. It is a highly functional (and dynamic) family structure; and an effective means of survival in an alien environment.