FOR Brisbane nurse Racheal Magot there are always small, daily reminders of being a refugee.
“You can work hard, but you never forget; it will always be with you,” Ms Magot said during Refugee Week from June 18 to 24.
“Until I came to Australia, I thought life in the refugee camp was the best that life could be.
“It was all I had known for most of my life – from when I was eight years old until I left at twenty-one.”
Ms Magot (pictured), now 33, married and with two children, is a nurse at the Mater Hospital, South Brisbane.
Her parents live under conditions of drought and famine in their native South Sudan, and she has siblings who remain in refugee camps in Uganda.
Ms Magot said her family hardships and experience as a refugee helped in her daily nursing, particularly in providing compassionate care to patients who have similar backgrounds as refugees.
Born in Sudan, she fled with her family when she was eight years old.
War had broken out and it was too dangerous to stay in present-day South Sudan.
“We had to leave our home and hide in the bush. Often we had no food,” she said.
Her family fled to a refugee camp in Kenya, which became their home for 13 years.
“Most of the time, I was happy in the refugee camp,” Ms Magot said.
“Although there were occasional attacks from the local Kenyan host community, we were relatively safe, we had two meals a day and I was able to go to school.”
Ms Magot received a scholarship to attend St Joseph’s Girls, a Catholic high school in Kenya.
She excelled and her brother, who had resettled in Australia, sponsored her to come to join him as a refugee and further her studies.
It was at high school that Ms Magot also met a young man, also a Sudanese refugee, who would become her husband and join her in Australia.
“It wasn’t until I arrived in Australia that I realised how much hardship there was in the refugee camp,” she said.
“I found Australians to be friendly and most people were welcoming. I think most Australians are open to multiculturalism.”
Ms Magot overcame the initial challenges of moving to a foreign land and culture.
“I was away from my support network. I had my brother, but in the refugee camp I was surrounded by a large, extended family – 18 of us in total,” she said. “The biggest challenge was the language barrier – not just understanding English but also the different accents. Also, no one could understand me.”
Ms Magot’s priority after arriving in Australia was to complete a Certificate III in English, and two years later she started a Bachelor of Nursing, a profession she had hoped to one day enter.
“When I was in high school, I volunteered with a local HIV/AIDS unit for patients who didn’t have family to support them,” she said.
“I liked the social part of the job, and the feeling that I was helping someone.”
Ms Magot has lived in Australia for 10 years, been a citizen for eight years and a nurse for five years.
“I enjoy nursing and I’m thankful for this and other opportunities I’ve had as a refugee in Australia,” she said.