Project to address identity crisis
THE issues faced by Sudanese refugees making a new life in Australia will be the focus of a University of Southern Queensland research project.
It is the first time the community from the war- torn African nation has been studied to see how its experiences and culture are affecting its integration into Australian life.
The three- year project will be led by senior USQ faculty of education lecturer Aniko Hatoss and will concentrate on the Sudanese community in the southern Queensland town of Toowoomba.
The research, which is being funded with a $ 187,000 grant from the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Project, will cover social and language factors in the group’s adjustment to life in Australia.
Hatoss hopes the research will help Sudanese families better integrate into Australian society and may contribute to future refugee policies.
‘‘ I have been working on this for the past three years in response to the apparent need in this very complex cross- cultural situation,’’ Hatoss says.
She hopes the project will help the refugees integrate into the greater community without losing their identities.
‘‘ Being bilingual and multilingual is a strong aspect of Sudanese culture,’’ Hatoss says. ‘‘ This project aims to find out what motivates a community to keep its language and cultural heritage.’’
Of the 1000 Sudanese families living in Toowoomba, 100 will be involved in Hatoss’s research.
Sudanese migrant Moses Ali, president of the Toowoomba African Councils Association, welcomes the research project and says the disociation of Sudanese youth from their cultural heritage is apparent. ‘‘ They are forgetting their culture, they can’t speak their language and they fear they cannot learn English properly if they are speaking their own language,’’ he says.
‘‘ The comments by ( Immigration Minis- ter Kevin) Andrews on Sudanese and African refugees has damaged our reputation. We encourage people to be committed to Australian values, but they should not discard their cultural background.
‘‘ It is part of their identity.’’
Southern Queensland’s Aniko Hatoss with Sudanese community leader Moses Ali