David Nyuol Vincent grew up in South Sudan but was forced to flee his village when he was just a boy. For the 17 years that followed, he lived in refugee camps, was separated from his family and trained as a boy soldier.

In 2004, he was granted refugee status and moved to Australia, where he now holds citizenship. David has immersed himself in the wider Australian community with his work extending to the creation of a soccer team for Sudanese-Australians, working with the Brotherhood of Saint Lawrence and organising the first Australian-Sudanese Youth Conference.

But David certainly had his challenges when he first arrived in the country. He said the greatest of these was overcoming the language barrier. “Not knowing English meant that I couldn’t even ask questions.” Lacking fundamental communication has devastating effects for resettled refugees including a lack of confidence.

Despite this, David claims one of his greatest accomplishments was “finding the courage to go out on the street” and beginning to involve himself in the community more. The more he involved himself in the Australian life, there more he came to realise just how amazing this country is. “Freedom of speech is an amazing thing… nowhere else in the world can you have the freedom you can here.”

In so many countries, freedom of speech is non-existent so David even appreciates that people like Pauline Hanson have a voice in our society. “It shows us just how great Australia is. She is only one view.”

Instead, David focuses more on the media and they’re role in shaping the views of the nation. “I don’t want people to dwell [on her point of view]. The media run around and give her a lot of noise and there’s too much attention on her.” His suggestion in combatting prejudice is to “have a meal with a refugee.” From this, it becomes apparent that so many asylum seekers and refugees have come to Australia for a better life.

Just like us, David has recognised that education is part of starting this better life. He explains, “without education my life would be nowhere.” He goes on to describe that education for many people means the “beginning of having a good life.” Education carries knowledge, and refugees, in particular, can understand more about the situations that they’ve come from with a broader understanding of the world.

Just as Australia has so much to offer to refugees, they too offer so much to the Australian community. As David suggests, refugees contribute to the multicultural society that Australian is so proud of. “There are so many contributions from refugees from lots of different cultures… They make the community what it is, they’re law abiding, they pay taxes.”

So while governments are fighting over the treatment and processing of refugees and asylum seekers, what can the everyday Australian do? David points out that there are so many people who care about this issue but “won’t do anything about it.” His suggestion is simple, “the wider Australia should get out there, meet a refugee, have a cup of coffee with them. The more [you] understand their story, where they come from and their ambitions, the more attitudes will change.”

Image sourced from The Sydney Morning Herald.