Harmony Day is a time to celebrate our nations’ diversity and while many of us who have been born in this great country have grown up in its safety and beauty there are also others who have fled their own country to seek the safety and refuge we often take for granted.
Emmanuel is one such proud Australian who never takes our country’s safety for granted. He shares his story on the Australian Government’s Immigration and Citizenship website.
We were constantly hungry, and when it rained we had to hide under the trees for shelter.
After spending 12 years in a Tanzanian refugee camp, Emmanuel Nkengurutse described becoming a citizen on Australia Day 2010 as being given ‘a second chance at life’.
Originally from Burundi, a land-locked West African county that has suffered from civil war, a 10-year-old Emmanuel and his family fled to Tanzania in 1995.
There, they were put in a refugee camp, where they lived for 12 years, before being granted humanitarian visas and coming to Australia in 2007.
Emmanuel described life in the refugee camp as a struggle, saying he and his family survived the first few months without access to proper food, drinking water or shelter.
‘We were constantly hungry, and when it rained we had to hide under the trees for shelter,’ Emmanuel said.
After finally receiving food, drinking water and plastic sheeting from the Tanzanian Government and the United Nations, the family set about building a home.
‘We built four-walled houses using bricks we made ourselves out of mud, and used plastic sheeting for roofs,’ he said.
Emmanuel remembered the day he received a humanitarian visa to Australia as the most important day of his life.
‘It was a feeling…something beyond our thinking,’ he said.
‘We had dreamed of coming to this beautiful country. It was a miracle of God, to come here.’
Emmanuel is proud to have become an Australian, and said what he loves most about the country is the security that he and his family can now enjoy.
‘The safety of the people is guaranteed and no-one is treated unjustly,’ he said.
‘In Burundi, our lives were in danger because there were people there who would kill us.’
The safety of his family is the most important thing to Emmanuel. His four brothers and three sisters live together under one roof in Macgregor, Queensland.
It might sound like a crowded house but Emmanuel said he still enjoys living so closely to his family after all these years.
‘In our community in Burundi, the family stays together until someone gets married, and then they can leave and start a new family,’ he said. ‘It's important to be together.’
Emmanuel is currently in his second year of a Bachelor of Science and Information Technology with a major in Applied Mathematics at Griffith University. He hopes to become a teacher in mathematics.
For more stories like Emmanuel’s visit the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s website.
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