Refugee Week

This year, Refugee Week runs from Sunday 17 June to Saturday 23 June. Events are held all over the country to celebrate the arts, food and culture brought to Australia by refugees, as well as to support discussion of refugee policy in Australia. 
To mark the occasion, we took the advice of the Mount Druitt Ethnic Communities Agency and went straight to the source: sitting down with Moisema Fofana, a young refugee from West Africa with a truly inspirational story.

Westpoint: How did you come to find a home in Australia?
Moisema Fofana: I was born in 1988 in Liberia. Two years later the civil war erupted and my family was forced to leave our home country and seek refuge in Sierra Leone. When civil war broke out in Sierra Leone we moved to Guinea, where I spent most of my childhood.
I came to Australia in 2007 with my mother and younger sister. My dad, who was already living in Australia on the humanitarian program, sponsored us, and we were fortunate to be reunited with him and my other siblings in Adelaide, South Australia. 

In what ways did your experiences growing up shape who you are today? 
My family never actually lived in a refugee camp, but I had very similar experiences to those that do. Being a young person exposed to government sanctioned violence and murder made it difficult to trust any system of government. Although my family had already settled here, I initially found it very difficult to adapt to the Australian system.

Since arriving in Australia, what have been the major changes in your life?    
I always loved playing soccer and I was very good at it. Actually, I was so good at it that I really wanted to pursue professional soccer as a career. Unfortunately, I had to abandon this dream when I came to Australia because of communication and cultural barriers. I watched other kids play, but I never really engaged with them. 
After six months in the country I enrolled in high school, which was a very happy day. I was able to go to school and work part-time without fear of violence and/or persecution. 

In 2009 I moved to Sydney and obtained a Diploma in Business Management at TAFE. I then completed a double Diploma in Counselling and Communities Services in 2013, and subsequently enrolled in university. This year, I graduated from the University of Western Sydney with a double degree in Social Science and Criminology. I have since been working full-time and volunteering for major NGOs.

You’ve been a great advocate for refugees and isolated communities that have not had the opportunities most Australians have. Can you tell us about your organisation, Aus Talent?
We began Aus Talent last year with the support of Binning Entertainment and Mount Druitt Ethnic Community Agency. It’s a talent show with performances including dance, music, comedy and much more. 
The purpose of Aus Talent is to unveil the hidden talents of young people in the community. This is one of the biggest challenges experienced by young refugees and migrants; we come here with dreams and aspirations but are faced with challenges such as language barriers and a lack of resources. With Aus Talent, we hope to help eradicate some of those challenges.

Who is your greatest inspiration?
I’m inspired by all the hard-working migrants who came here to change their lives and the lives of their families. Also, my family, especially my big brother Moivabah Fofana who has managed to complete a Master’s Degree in Law despite all the interruptions during his education. 

If you’re as inspired by Moisema’s story as we are, check out the event calendar and get involved in local celebrations. 
Aus Talent is back for a second year and will take place on 15 September. For further information contact austalent2017@gmail.com. Those interested in auditioning can simply fill out an application form.