Settled refugees contribute
The face of country towns is changing as more refugees settle in regional areas.
My neighbours are a large Sudanese family who constantly tell me they love Orange “because people say hello here”.
Since the Second World War, Australia has taken about 13,000 refugees annually with a growing proportion from Africa.
Although most settle in the city, we are seeing more moving to country towns hoping to open new doors for their large Sudanese family groups which typically include distant relatives.
My neighbour Mariam is like most mothers.
She takes a primary role in caring for the family and manages the budget which is especially challenging with five children and our extra cold winters.
Sudan has been plagued by civil war since 1956, when it became independent from both Egypt and the UK after 59 years of rule.
The war resulted in the deaths of 1.9 million people and one of the largest displaced populations of any country in the world with 4.4 million leaving their homes.
Many of those millions and many before and since have echoed Euripides (431 BC) who said “there is no greater sorrow on earth than the loss of one’s native land”.
Mariam’s family fled Sudan with nothing, endured traumatising experiences and spent years waiting for a new life in a new country.
Sudan is a highly oral culture – only 46 percent are literate – which presents a great challenge in learning to read and write English.
Mariam is finding it difficult to attend TAFE English classes after becoming tethered to home – caring for her grandson whose mother is away.
A lack of English, skills and education also impacts on finding good jobs.
Mariam is keen to work.
She has volunteered at the school canteen and made African food for a local festival.
She has a casual job delivering brochures into letterboxes a few hours a week.
We pride ourselves in rural areas as being welcoming and helping each other in a crisis.
Let’s support women like Mariam and help them to improve their English by inviting them into our circles.
There is much we can learn from each other.
Anthropologist, Margaret Mead, well-known for her work on cultural issues, said if we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognise the whole gamut of human potentials.
For more, you can read Classroom management strategies to address the needs of Sudanese refugee learners (2007) by Ursula Burgoyne and Oksana Hull, or visit www.sailprogram.cjb.net – the Sudanese Australian Integrated Learning Program website.