My name is Fatma. I come from Sudan with my husband. We have eight kids, six boys and two girls.
Where did you come from in Sudan?
We come from Khartoum and then we are moving to Egypt and then we come here in Australia 2004. We are happy in Australia. Just I’m sad, I didn’t have anyone here, no sister, no brother, no anyone.
You left family?
Yeah, all there.
About your journey, how did you travel?
From Sudan to Australia, I live in Egypt four years, and then we do the process to Australia. From Egypt to Australia by plane.
And from Sudan to Egypt?
From Sudan to Egypt by boat.
Can you describe the journey?
It was difficult. Me alone with the kids, four boys, it’s very hard for me. And every day I pray, Oh God help me with my kids, until we get to my husband and I’m very happy about it.
Was it a dangerous journey?
Yes, very dangerous, very scary. Some people stealing some things, some people steal kids. I’m scared, I say, Oh my God, me alone – no-one to help me. Just me with four boys and all just small. Then we are coming very good, nothing happen to us until we get to Egypt.
And was it dangerous for you to leave your hometown?
Yes, it’s dangerous. It’s very dangerous. The people just kill people and everyone is scared. My Mum died and I didn’t see her and then my Dad died too.
What was happening in your hometown when you left?
Just rebels, they took people and there were some bad people.
Was there hunger then?
Yes. Until now, it’s not safe. Everybody’s scared.
When you first came to Australia, can you describe how you felt?
Yes. When I first come, it was very hard. In Sudan, I would just go to school with Arabic. English, it’s a bit harder. And then I know A,B,C….I know some stuff. And when I come here, I don’t know the money. My husband start work straight away, my husband good, he have full English.
I call him when we need to go shopping and ask what do we do? He say “ Just take the money and give to some person and then take the money back.” And then when I go to shop, every day I give fifty dollars. I was scared if I give small money, maybe they say, Ay, this lady steal.
One day I tell my husband, “See, a lot of money I put in the bin.”
He say, “Why put this change in the bin? “
I say, “ Nothing you can do with it, all this small.”
He say, “ No, no, no. This a lot of money.” And then we go to the bank, and they count the money and give us five hundred for (the coins). They say “ This is a lot of money Fatma, don’t do that.”
All my English, I get in the group (Wyndham Women of South Sudan English classes*). I didn’t study school when I come here. Always I have kids, I have kids, I have kids. Ah, I say when can I go to school? When my kids come home hungry nothing can eat, I don’t want to go to school. And then when I get the group like that, I start group until my English now is good. Yeah, I’m very happy.
You love coming to school?
Yes, yes. This time I have only one daughter, 3 years-old. I don’t want any child now for the moment. When I improve my English, I need to find a job.
What sort of job would you like?
A lot of people don’t know a lot about Sudanese women. What do you want to tell them about yourself?
We are Sudanese. We have full respect. We don’t like trouble. We don’t like someone just shouting like here. Some white people like shouting at people. We are Sudanese, we are scared. And then someone talk with you, you put your eyes down, and then the Australian, he doesn’t like that. When you put your eyes down, he say, “Ah those people, she didn’t have respect.” We have full respect.
We don’t know how to eat outside. Everything I do it at home – cooking, cleaning – everything. You do everything at home on time, and then when your husband coming, you respect your husband, give him food, eat the food, and then you take the dishes, do for him some tea. Everything we are doing at home. No-one go out, say I go eat out today. No, we don’t have that. We have full respect. Here some people just forgot the respect.
For the kids, not hard. When we’re come here, they all young. Now, all have full English. Sometimes, I want to speak my language, the little one, she didn’t understand and then I push them. I tell them don’t forget your culture, don’t forget your language. Yes, just like that, every day I tell them that.
Australia now is good. We are just scared about our kids when grow up – a lot of trouble. It’s very hard for us.
Now I understand everything, I know the rules, I’m driving the car. Everything is good.
*The Wyndham Women of South Sudan group was set up to provide English literacy skills and to build a community. The English class produced a 2017 calendar which features some traditional Sudanese recipes.