Despite hardships, South Sudanese Australians keep up spirits

Dinka community leader Bol Aweng Machar talks about the community’s challenges and achievements in Melbourne, at a gathering of South Sudanese to celebrate a Masters graduate from the community.

The South Sudanese community in Melbourne are celebrating their achievements against a background of turmoil in their home country, and stigmatization in Australia.

South Sudan has been rocked by civil war since 2013.

The new country came into existence in 2011, with no institutions or infrastructure, and bogged down by power struggles resulting in civil war.

In Australia, there are an estimated five thousand people either born in South Sudan, or having South Sudanese ancestry.

There is evidence the South Sudanese, as a young community, are stigmatised.

For example, young South Sudanese say the police pay unnecessary attention to them, when they are just going about their day to day business.

In response, South Sudanese people in Melbourne have set up programs which try to build and repair relationships in the community between young and old, as well as outside the community with groups like the police.

Abraham Telar’s graduation being celebrated by South Sudanese community in Melbourne. Image: Clement Deng.

Recently, one young South Sudanese community member celebrated the completion of his masters degree.

Abraham Telar and his parents invited the whole community, including the Dinka language group he belongs to, to mark his graduation with a Masters in Politics and Public Policy from Victoria University.

At the celebration in the Croatian hall in Sunshine, Dinka community leader Bol Aweng Machar said the occasion was a significant one.

“We are showing this to encourage children from primary to university and most importantly to those who drop out to gather themselves together with courage,” Mr Machar said.

“If Abraham Telar started his school in a remote and semi-desert of Kakuma refugee camp, scorching sun, and proceed to a masters degree then we can do it too.”

Pictured: Abraham Telar. Image: supplied

He said that the community was seeking support to help tutor children, and encourage them to go on to similar success as Mr Telar.

“We are under the South Sudanese community (as a whole) led by Kot Manoh. Therefore, what we do as a joint South Sudanese group, is to talk to the government to give us funding so that we can look for teachers to help those children whose parents cannot help them with assignments.”

Mr Machar said South Sudanese community leader Kot Manoh says the Australian government has released $AU1milion for community funding.

“He would call a meeting soon to tell us the kind of projects this money was released for and also, for us to suggest to him what we think should be given the first priority in the community.”