African refugees now studying at Lismore High School from left: Edwin Caulker, 13,  Augot Mayuen, 15, Nick Caulker, 14, Ajok Aguot, 16, Delcilia Johnson, 16, and Achol Mayuen, 13.
African refugees now studying at Lismore High School from left: Edwin Caulker, 13, Augot Mayuen, 15, Nick Caulker, 14, Ajok Aguot, 16, Delcilia Johnson, 16, and Achol Mayuen, 13. David Nielsen

Refugees realise dreams of better life in Lismore

UNTIL four months ago, young Decilia Johnson's dream of being a lawyer was completely out of reach.

With no education, little food and a lot less hope, Decilia left her home on Africa's west coast to come to Australia.

Now, the 16-year-old refugee has embraced a fresh start in Lismore and is studying hard to achieve her goal.

Decilia is one of a group of refugee teenagers who are successfully integrating with the students at Lismore High School and the wider community.

"I'm much happier now," Decilia said.

"I want to finish school, go to university and in the future become a lawyer."

Decilia knows she would not have been able to pursue her dream in Africa and is grateful for the new opportunities open to her in Lismore.

"I dreamt of being a lawyer as a kid but never thought my dream would come true," she said.

Decilia's mother and younger brother still live in Africa but her father is her support in Lismore.

"My dad brought me over here so I could fulfil my dreams and I hope to make him proud," she said.

"I've found it quite easy to settle in with friends and others but I don't know if everyone has the same experience as me."

Fellow student Nicolas Caulker, 14, arrived in Australia from Africa on the same day as Decilia and now finds himself at the same school.

Running around the basketball court with his mates, it is hard to imagine the difficult childhoods Nicholas and the other new arrivals have endured.

"Africa's not a good place to live - there's no food and a lack of education," Nicolas said.

"There is no such thing as free education - everyday you go to school, you get asked for money. It's much better here."

Nicolas said he had not encountered any discrimination in his new environment.

"On the first day the boys and girls just wanted to know my name and where I came from," he said.

"I have friends inside the school and outside."

Nicolas will have a chance to show off his soccer skills tomorrow, with a friendly match to celebrate Refugee Week.

A team from Lismore City Council will square off against a team of refugees for the social game at Crozier Field, Magellan Street, Lismore, from 4pm.


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