Innocent Karabagega 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. 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.
Reproduced courtesy of Susan Gordon Brown
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