Seeking asylum and barriers to success

I was born on the border of Ethiopia and Sudan during the Second Sudanese war. When I was a small child, my family walked to Ethiopia to flee the conflict

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Pic: Akuol with her brother and father at her graduation Source: Provided

Twelve months later, we were lucky enough to be picked up by the United Nations Human Rights Council and sent to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

"Growing up in a country with no rules, I knew from very early on in my life that I wanted to be a lawyer.”

We lived there for 11 years.

Eventually, we were granted protection visas and moved to Australia in 2001 where I started primary school in Footscray.

My experience in school was difficult. Coming into a new country, I didn’t know how to speak English very well so I didn’t have many friends.

Eventually, I became involved in sporting teams and made friends and a new support network that helped me as I moved into high school.

Growing up in a country with no rules, I knew from very on in my life that I wanted to be a lawyer.

I also knew I wanted to do something that gave back to the community so I started volunteering at AMES teaching English to people who had recently arrived in Australia.

Doing this volunteer work made me realise I wanted to pursue a career in Human Rights law with a focus on refugees and people seeking asylum.

I’m now studying my Masters in Human Rights law, I’m a migration agent and run my own practice in Footscray and I volunteer time providing free legal advice at Melbourne’s Asylum Seeker Resource Centre to people seeking asylum.

Growing up, my mother was a teacher but once we arrived in Australia she found her skills were being overlooked. This is a very common scenario for refugees who may run successful businesses or have promising careers in their home country but struggle to find work once they have settled.

It is common for people to question your abilities because of communication barriers so it was important for my family to find a support network to help find work.

Starting a business can be difficult for anyone but for refugees, who may not have any family, friends or support, it becomes significantly harder.

Our community sticks together to support one another but it’s important for other people to lean in and provide help too.

Businesses can help refugees in their community by offering them English classes or simple training. It can be difficult for people to go out and find work when they first arrive so it can be very significant to offer help with writing a resume and talking about previous experiences.

Small things can make a big difference and it’s important for everyone, not just in our own communities, to play a part.

Akuol Garang is a Master of Human Rights law student and migration agent.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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