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Innocent Karabagega

Innocent has a mix of Hutu and Tutsi heritage, but prefers to be known as a global citizen. He fled his home country of Burundi, after he drank poison intended for his father in an assassination plot. He arrived in Kenya, after a long journey, often on foot through the bush. He was unable to speak the language and too ill to make himself understood. He didn’t know you could register as a refugee and get help — he didn’t even know what a refugee was. He spent 18 months in hospital before being granted asylum in Australia. 

Arriving in Melbourne he was shocked to receive a room in a share house and a case-worker, who connected him to the local Burundian community. He thought he would be in another camp.  

They took me to a community centre to teach me how to cook. One of the biggest mistakes my case-worker made, she showed me chicken in Coles which were ready... and I could eat straight away. Since I get to know that section, I’ve been eating chicken and drinking milk. I didn’t learn to cook any more.  

Everything here is strange, but much of it is good. He says, unlike Australian women, African women don´t have relationships, they are slaves to their husbands. Innocent believes that if African families could be more like Australian families, then Africa could be great. 

Innocent feels lucky to be in Australia. He can sleep at night without fear and has been able to work and go to university.  

…we are here! My family...everyone is employed, and pay tax like any other person. And my children, they speak Australian language and eat Australian food.  

Innocent and the Prime Minister of Kenya, 2015
Kenya
photographer Hon Bob Njagi

Innocent met the Prime Minister of Kenya Raila Odinga to speak about the recent coup in Burundi in 2015 and the future of the country. When Innocent fled Burundi in 2010, with United Nations assistance he travelled to Kenya where he spent 18 months in hospital before being resettled in Australia in 2012.

REPRODUCED COURTESY OF INNOCENT KARABAGEGA

Reviewed 10 March 2021

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