June 24, 2013
FOR a couple of hours yesterday afternoon, Ballarat’s community leaders, editors, sport stars and business owners were all reduced to being refugees.
The city’s who’s who were forced to contemplate the spectre of leaving their home at a moment’s notice with only five things to take.
The Centre of Multicultural Youth and partners’ inaugural The Five Things Project, saw 10 panellists share their moving and heartfelt journey with an audience of 150 people.
The event was held as part of the Refugee Week from June 16 to 22.
The panel, which also included refugees and asylum seekers living in the Ballarat community, was facilitated by David Vincent Nyuol, the critically acclaimed author of The Boy Who Wouldn’t Die.
Mr Nyuol said being a refugee was not something that anyone planned.
“Imagine your country has kicked you away because you have no right, imagine you have no food or water,” Mr Nyuol said.
“You are forced to flee your country and you don’t know where you are going but you keep walking because you have hope.”
CMY Youth Advisor, Sudanese Community, Nyanhial, 22, said she was born in a refugee camp in Ethiopia.
“I was a refugee all my life until I arrived in Australia at the age of 13,” Nyanhial said.
“Now I am doing a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Ballarat.”
Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council, chairperson, Sundaram Sivamalai said he came to Australia with only $30 in his pocket.
“I was a refugee all my life…now I am doing a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Ballarat.”
“I lost my dad when I was four years old,” Dr Sivamalai said.
“Although, I was born in Malaysia (of Indian parents) I had no citizenship.
“My personal position was depressed, angry, frustrated and lonely.”
However, he said, his faith deepened and he was prepared to take any risk to further his studies.
“Always there is hope,” he said.
The emotionally charged afternoon, which saw many participants struggle with their emotions, culminated with a performance by Justin ‘Happy’ Hayworth, Paige Dugan and local Ballarat Hazara community members.
Ballarat resident Anne-Marie Cullinan said the event showed a more humane side to the refugee story.
“It brings the refugees and asylum seekers to real people,” Ms Cullinan said.