Gum Mamur is a Melbourne youth worker who says he is 'loving life' in his adopted country.(Supplied: Gum Mamur)
Gum Mamur still remembers the excitement he felt every time he saw a white foreigner while growing up in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.
But when he arrived in Australia, he was puzzled that his smiles were met with blank looks or sideways glances.
Mr Mamur is from South Sudan and spent his childhood in refugee camps before moving to Melbourne, where is working hard to make his mark.
He is a youth worker for the Les Twentyman foundation, where he helps plan early intervention programs that support young people at risk of entering the youth justice system.
"I am loving my life in Australia," he said.
"My immediate family is here, and I have got plenty of great friends around me as I continue to chase my dreams of helping young people, parents to reconnect with their kids and make a difference in the community."
But it hasn't all been smooth sailing and at times, adjusting to cultural norms in Australia has affected his confidence.
"In Africa, every time a white person came to our continent, we would chase their car, and get really excited and want to say hi to them," he said.
"I come here, I say hi to people on the streets.
According to the 2016 census, around 7,700 people living in Australia were born in South Sudan, but in 2018 the Refugee Council of Australia said the real number was closer to 24,000.
Most are refugees who fled civil war in the African nations.
New life in Perth after refugee camp
Charles Salah, who lives in WA, spent 11 years in a refugee camp before arriving in Australia.
As a boy, Charles Salah used to walk 11 kilometres a day to attend school.
"That was my commitment because I wanted to be educated," he said.
Mr Salah, 38, arrived in Australia in 2005 on a humanitarian visa after spending 11 years in a Ugandan refugee camp.
After moving to Australia he completed an English language course, then a public health degree, and he was now living in Perth.
Expertise helps community fight coronavirus
Mr Salah said his experience in public health combined with his knowledge of the South Sudanese languages meant he could share important COVID-19 information with the community
"We used social media like Facebook and WhatsApp groups and forums to post recorded health messages and send it to those platforms where the members can access it," he said.
Before the pandemic, Mr Salah was also involved in providing career advice and supporting young South Sudanese students with volunteering opportunities to give them a better chance of securing employment.
He is also working with Perth's South Sudanese Community Association on a cookbook, featuring recipes that be passed down to the next generation.
Helping families through dialog
Alycone Alphonse has volunteered in Melbourne community radio and hopes to help Indigenous communities.(Supplied: Alycone Alphonse)
Alcyone "Ally" Alphonse describes her life in Australia as "nothing but a miracle".
She's now pursuing a postgraduate degree in early childhood education and wants to work with Indigenous communities.
"In the early childhood sector, you get to interact, partner and collaborate with their families, and understand how they view life and their view of the world," Ms Alphonse said.
"I would like to help find a middle ground, through dialogue, conversations with different family members, elders in the community and talk about things that are dear to them."
Using 'love and respect' to build a better society
Like Mr Salah, Ms Alphonse also spent time in a Ugandan refugee camp, after her parents and six siblings were forced to flee their home in Khartoum in the early 2000s.
"I grew up in a very multicultural society," she recalled.
I went to an Indian school and we lived in a neighbourhood with people from different countries — Somalians, Lebanon, Syrians including different parts of Asia and the world."
She has completed a journalism degree and worked extensively in Melbourne community radio, volunteering for South Sudanese programs.
Ms Alphonse believes storytelling and education is an important tool to help people become more accepting and welcoming.
Natal Jimma is a South Sudanese refugee based in Melbourne, and the 2019 recipient of the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) and ABC Selwyn Speight Diversity Scholarship. He holds a bachelor of journalism from the University of Queensland and speaks multiple languages, including Bari, Arabic Juba, Swahili and English.
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