“It’s not good enough to believe there must be a right of initiation where every new arrival group has to cop a baptism of fire,” he says.
Nyadol Nyuon migrated to Australia from Sudan after her father was killed and attributes her focus on education, which has since led her to become a lawyer and activist, to her mother.
However, in school Nyuon was deflated by the low expectations she received from her teachers. “There was an expectation that people who come from refugee or migrant background wouldn't be able to excel in certain things.
“At the end of the year twelve I was feeling a sense of defeat. I just gave up [and thought] maybe they're right”.
As an adult, Nyuon says she now has to deal with different expectations from the broader community. “To be embraced by Australia, you constantly have to be perfect; to be succeeding; to be grateful,” she says.
She also struggles with the collective guilt placed on her when individuals in her community do the wrong thing. “We hold the idea that we treat people as individuals - we will punish them individually – but [the Sudanese community] is tried collectively”.
Soutphommasane explains this as “The panic and anxiety that has accompanied just about every wave of refugee resettlement in Australia”.
“In Australia, almost half of our population was born overseas or had parents born overseas. We have an opportunity to start conversations away from headlines and enjoy one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world,” he says.
You can listen to the whole conversation in the podcast above.
Andrew Maxwell is host of the Art of Inclusion podcast and is Knowledge and Development Manager at Diversity Council Australia.
This podcast was originally published by the Diversity Council Australia and was co-published by bluenotes. Subscribe on your preferred player: iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Whooshkaa.