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A discovery of connections

  • 11 February 2020


I’ve often wondered what it means to belong to a religion. I’m a Muslim and Islam is defined as either meaning ‘peace’ or ‘submission’. Although it is both of these things, for me it represents renewal and the ability to make a brand new start at each point in the day. We pray five daily prayers, a tenet of my faith, and in each prayer there is a new beginning where old and new intentions meet, passing each other by just enough to say hello.

My family and I came to Australia in December 1998. We arrived at Launceston Airport, greeted by a motley group of Tasmanians who were excited and I suspect nervous about becoming a support group to a single mother, her five young children and my dear uncle who at 16 years old — despite his best efforts — was a child himself.  The group had come together by the chance enquiry from one churchgoer who asked another if they could dedicate time to this — to us. So, we clambered into a mini van with our meagre possessions, and the myths and half-truths we knew about Australia followed suit.

Since being displaced by the Somali Civil War in 1991, we’d been living in Dadab refugee camp — one of the largest in the world. I was born there a few years later. As night fell, the stories we had heard of the Western world, far from the plains of Kenya would come to life. ‘Money falls from the skies’, one dweller would proclaim. He would be met with, ‘And don’t forget, you never go hungry. Food is everywhere!’

They said we were headed to a utopia. And, they weren’t far off.

As we drove through the green Tasmanian landscape, our eyes darted in excitement at nature and infrastructure easily co-existing. Somalia or Kenya had nothing like this: buildings there were often clumsy and didn’t quite belong, but here they got it right. We arrived at a quaint red brick house in an inner city suburb, our first home outside a refugee camp. My mum and uncle were in animated conversation about how we had made it, us kids heads popping up like meerkats trying to get a closer look.

A few years passed and life was good in Launceston. But, it was quiet and amongst a micro Somali community, another place, Melbourne, was often discussed at great lengths. Slowly families began to move and finally so