Grievance Debate: Mount Gambier Migrant Community

Thursday November 28, 2019

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (15:25): I rise to make a brief contribution about a wonderful community member in my electorate, Chanceline Kakule, and the work that she has been doing in a multicultural sense on bringing our community together.

There is no doubt that during the last decade Mount Gambier has become a city of many cultures. Hundreds of Burmese, Congolese, Karenni and Sudanese people have migrated to Mount Gambier to begin a new life, bringing their families and their cultures. Some have found employment in the agricultural or forestry industries, others have gone into higher study or volunteering and some have begun successful businesses. They share their cultures through events, dance, music and community dinners.

According to recent census data, more than 10 per cent of people living in Mount Gambier were born overseas. Mostly, the city has welcomed their newest residents. However, like anyone who moves to a new life in a different region, they can have experiences that are positive and experiences that are negative. Negotiating language barriers, housing, employment, schooling, even shopping among residents who have lived in the town their whole life can be a challenge for both sides.

Chanceline Kakule moved to Mount Gambier when she was just nine years of age. She was born during a time of war, and her family fled from the Congo to Zambia, where they spent seven years in a refugee camp. When they first came to Australia, the family lived in Tasmania and then Geelong before relocating permanently to Mount Gambier. Another three children have been born into the family whilst living in Australia. Chanceline says Mount Gambier feels like home to her family and they enjoy living in there because they have been able to reconnect with people they knew from the Congo.

Earlier this year, Chanceline started a branch of the E-Raced program in Mount Gambier. E-Raced is a program that originated through the ABC's youth storytelling platform Heywire by a friend of hers in Queensland. It aims to combat racism one story at a time. The group understands that, while racism cannot fully be erased, young refugees and immigrants can play a significant role in decreasing it.

The group's members, who might be from Italy, the Congo or the Solomon Islands, speak at schools and events and talk about their experiences of integrating into a community. They have been invited to Harmony Day and Refugee Week celebrations, and their stories of war, poverty and personal experiences can have a major effect on people. Chanceline said it was important to connect with the younger generations as they are the future leaders of tomorrow. She says, 'If we can change their mindset in one way, we can make a positive influence and continue to pass the message along. We make a difference one step at a time.'

By sharing real-life stories about traditions and cultures, it counteracts the stereotypes and perceptions of immigrants and their way of life. One member of the E-Raced group shared a story of a little boy who came up to her before her presentation and said that he believed 'refugees are a waste of space'. After she spoke, he went up to her and apologised. Racism begins with a lack of education, a lack of understanding and a lack of acceptance. Chanceline says that if people are curious they should feel open to asking questions and not be worried about saying the wrong thing. The take-home point is to get to know people before you assume anything or judge them.

Working towards true social equity is as important for regional communities as it is for big cities and we can all play our part. It is important to feel connected to and valued in our community, and this group is working towards a more open and inclusive Mount Gambier. With strong community support, I am looking forward to seeing what this group can achieve in the future. I would like to congratulate Chanceline on her E-Raced program that she is starting in Mount Gambier, and any support I can offer I do so.