Watch the interview with Nene in the video at the top of the page.
When did you join the Students Against Racism group?
I joined SAR in 2008 when I first came to Hobart College.
What prompted you to join?
After telling my story to my teacher she told me that it would be good for me to tell others to help them build understanding of issues about refugees and asylum seekers. The group wasn’t operating then and I was the first member.
What were those early days in the group like?
Gini brought in Justin Kenyi and Jean Murray to start the group. We all got along very well because we had similar experiences and got to know each other better. We started to rehearse our stories with Gini. The first time I told it in public I was scared and nervous, but the audience – Hobart College students and teacher – was great and Gini said no one could notice I was shaky. I felt pretty good when it was over and it was a great boost to my confidence.
How are things in the group different now?
I’ve done my story more than 40 times in public now and I don’t feel nervous any more. There are now about 35 in the group but it still has the same feeling of togetherness. The backgrounds are more diverse now; there are Australian born students as well as people from a variety of different cultures. We go to a lot more different places now, last year we even went to Melbourne to present to Preshill School.
What would you say that you have gained from being a part of the SAR group?
Experience, skills, maybe a career, friends.
What have been the challenges?
When I first started, language was a big challenge. Also when there are arguments in the group it makes things hard. Time, because I’m also studying and it’s hard to manage everything.
You’ve been sharing the story of your journey to Australia for many years now – does it get any easier to tell?
I’m less nervous now – more confident. But sometimes there are some things that make me sad and sometimes it’s difficult to answer people’s questions because the answers would be too horrible to remember. In the last 2 years I don’t need my notes any more!
Do you think that it’s been effective in educating Tasmanians about the experiences of refugees?
Yes, because it helps them to build understanding. The comments and feedback show that it makes people here realise that they take things for granted, like education, which was difficult in the refugee camp.
What about reducing racism?
In the first 2 years here I experienced a lot of racism but now I don’t notice it. Maybe because I ignore it, but I hope it’s also because people understand more about refugees.
This year you have been working as Trainee Project Officer on this project. How has that been?
Great, very good. I have learned new skills in how to plan, manage and deliver the project. Also I’ve got the opportunity to work in the TCGL office; it’s the beginning of my career path.
You’re also studying at the Polytechnic. Tell us about that?
I’m doing a Certificate III in Community Services and I’m doing similar things to in the SAR group. We spent the whole of term 2 on refugee issues and we went to a school to deliver a workshop. I went to Kempton Grade 5 and 6 with someone from Amnesty and that was easy because I’d done it so many times before.
What are your personal goals for the future?
Next year I’m doing Diploma I in Community Services, then Diploma II in 2013. After that I hope to go to Uni to do Social Work. Eventually I want to work as a Social Worker with refugees. I want to work with those who are traumatised when they arrive and help them settle in to a new country.
I’ve never been to my home country, Sudan, so I’d like to go back one day to visit – not to stay – I feel that Australia is home now.
Born in Sudan.
When I was 3 months war came to my town.
My father was killed by the soldiers.
My mum took three of her kids and me and escaped.
My older brother and sister were taken by my uncle.
I have only seen them in photos.
I grew up in a refugee camp.
In the camp, people were not treated well and life was very hard.
There was a lot of violence, criminals and people were killed for their money and possessions.
We heard that the United Nations was helping the refugees go to Australia.
We waited to see if we could be accepted.
Arriving in Australia:
We waited for four years. Finally we were accepted.
It was a great day for my family.
On the plane we were excited but nervous.
I wanted to know what it would look like and what would happen.
It was a long trip and I didn’t know what to expect.
What would my new life be like?
We arrived in Hobart, our friends were at the airport.
We hadn’t seen them for six years.
We had a party for two days.
Then we had to settle.
Living in Between:
Settling in was a bit strange.
Everything was different.
I miss my friends and I didn’t know how the system worked.
I started school, I made friends and I knew my life here would be okay.
I am getting used to Australian culture.
I am taking the good things from this culture and putting them with the good things from African culture.
It is great.
I know about 2 ways of living. I love it.
I love the freedom here. The education system here is very good.
The teachers turn up. In Africa they didn’t get paid sometimes so they didn’t turn up.
We have a new chance here.
We have food and a house and I can go to school.
I can have a future here. I want to change the world.
I want people to know about what’s happening in other countries in Africa.
I can do this here. Everyone is friendly, my family is safe, I feel a part of Australia and I have a place to call HOME.