One of the biggest tragedies today is the plight of the Sudanese refugees. After escaping from torture, trauma and war in their homeland, they sought out sanctuary in countries of opportunity like Australia. Unfortunately, they didn’t realise how xenophobic the population is over here, and subsequently were vilified and accused of creating gangs to intimidate and attack people with. Please take a look at this clip:
As you can see, the media has taken a couple of incidents and run wild with them, completely distorting the truth and using it to push its own agenda, of supporting a cutting down of our Sudanese refugee intake. The sad thing about this is that too many people take this kind of news as gospel in Australia. We are a very uneducated population when it comes to the reality of politics. But whats worse is the media taking advantage and sustaining this by fueling the fire with controversial reports for commercial gain.
There are over 2 million refugees from Darfur. Most of them have seen their friends and family killed, have experienced torture and other such traumas and are extremely emotionally scarred. They come from an environment of horrors, to what they hope will be a successful and happy future here in Australia. They have no concept of our culture, nobody taught them what Australian life would be like, and we are quite ignorant of them. Hence, miscommunication occurs.
They are a very family and community orientated people, boys gathering in groups are not standing around to intimidate at train stations and shopping centres. They are doing what was normal for them back home, what makes them feel part of their community, and if you said hello to them you would be surprised by the warmness of their response.
It has been difficult for Sudanese people to integrate into Australian life because approximately 60% of refugees have literacy and numeracy problems in their own language, let alone with English. They are put into classes based on their age and not education level. The rest of the Sudanese who were once doctors and other high profile or professional roles find that their qualifications are not accepted here, and are forced into menial work. Without proper English skills, finding a job in Australia is almost impossible, despite how motivated and eager they are to start their lives over again by working.
We need to think about the social and structural changes necessary when welcoming refugees into our country. Education on both sides, for better social cohesion, is a must. Housing, jobs, counseling, community activities and financial support is needed. Instead of filling up the newspapers and tv news reports with xenophobic nonsense, we must be realistic and supportive to our new neighbours. Because the fact of it is, statistics for crime by the Sudanese are actually quite low, and misrepresentation of both sides from the media is turning people against them unfairly.
Have you given them a chance? Have you spoken to any of them? I can tell you that they are sweet and kind, very welcoming to conversation and accepting once you’ve given them the opportunity to be. And yet, people prefer to throw bottles at them in the streets as they drive past, or scream racist abuse at them.
Its the age old Australian way of fearing those who are different. We’ve gone from hating Asians, to ‘wogs’, to Muslims, and now we have an old favourite, the white vs black, which first began with the Aboriginals. We look at them with prejudice, associating being black with the gang warfare types of groups in America. But they are not forming gangs, they are hanging out with their mates just like you or I do in pubs.
Will Australia ever be welcoming to those who are different?