Refugee Week 20 – 26 June: Agnes shares her story

Refugee Week 20 – 26 June: Agnes shares her story

Agnes has called Australia home now for almost 20 years. After fleeing war-torn South Sudan with her young children in 2002, Agnes says Australia has given her a second chance at life.

‘We are very lucky and happy to be here,’ she said.

Agnes (pictured left) was in her early 20s when she, and her late husband, fled their home country of South Sudan.

‘Life in South Sudan was so hard,’ she said. ‘It was very awful – you can die anytime, gun shots everywhere, you can hear it all the time. My husband and I were looking for a better life for our family.’

Before leaving South Sudan, Agnes was living with her husband’s family, sharing a one-room house with 21 members of the family, with no water and just one meal a day.

Agnes and her husband fled across the border to Uganda, where they lived for eight years, planning their migration to Australia. Just two months before they were due to leave for Australia, her husband died.

On her own with three children under 10, Agnes carried on the couple’s dream and came to Australia.

‘My husband was gone but I was determined to give my young family a better life, to give them an education,’ she said. ‘It was such a relief to arrive here and we were made to feel very welcome by everyone and settled very quickly.’

Agnes attributes much of her ease of life in Australia to the people she met through her local Catholic church and the support she has received from CatholicCare.

‘I was first introduced to CatholicCare through a friend who started growing vegetables in the community garden,’ Agnes said. ‘I asked if I could have a space too and we grow Sudanese greens and corn, among other things.’

Agnes is also very grateful for the support she receives from the team at All Saints of Africa. ‘They helped my children with their homework if I wasn’t able to, and they have connected me to a financial counsellor among other things. They have been wonderful to us.’

Now a mother of 4, Agnes has forged a career in nursing as a nurses aid in a residential aged care facility. She is now studying through the University of Tasmania to become a registered nurse. At the same time, three of her children have finished Year 12 and one is also studying at university to become an ambulance officer.

The family has so much to look forward to.

‘It is so hard to still see my family suffering in South Sudan and I hope to be able to visit them one day,’ she said. ‘When I look back I do wonder how I did it on my own but I am so glad I did. This is our home now and we absolutely love it.’