Sunday, April 8, 2018

South Sudanese women in Melbourne organized their own conference to discuss common concerns such as getting work, staying healthy, and maintaining strong family relationships. The one-day, 'women only' conference on Sunday 11 March brought together over 100 women who have agreed to meet again in the coming months and to continue conversations about employment, mental health and respectful relationships.

The conference, supported by a grant from the Victorian state government, took place following International Women’s Day on 8 March. Initiatives of Change Australia (IofC Australia) auspiced the conference project and provided event management training and volunteers to support the event. 

Temar John and Alek Nyok, two young women from the South Sudan community, worked together as co-organizers. “The event really gave us a chance to feel empowered and to take action on the things that matter to us. Women were able to share their thoughts and experiences together,” said Temar.

Feedback from the participants emphasized the power of coming together and hearing from inspiring African women, young and old. The conference participants were women are from groups traditionally divided by language, ethnicity and political affiliation, including the Dinka, Nuer, Equatorian and Shilluk communities.

“Women were keen to talk about how they can support social integration, have better access to employment pathways, maintain positive mental health, and promote good parenting and healthy relationships,” explained Kathryn Gor, Program Manager at IofC Australia. “An occasion like this also gives us a chance to highlight and celebrate the many ways that women of South Sudan are already contributing to the wider community in Australia.”

Participants at the South Sudan Women's Conference in Melbourne

On 12 March, the day after the conference, more than 100 people took part in a community celebration with traditional songs, dance and food at Collingwood Town Hall. Andrew Crisp, Deputy Commissioner of Regional Operations, Victoria Police, attended the event, where six women and one women’s group received awards in recognition of the significant contributions they have made to their community.

IofC Australia has a history of working with the South Sudan diaspora and has been involved in reconciliation work in South Sudan.

The 11 March conference was initially proposed by a diverse group of South Sudanese women during a grant-making process facilitated by the Department of Premier and Cabinet in Victoria in 2017. The RMIT School of Global, Urban and Social Studies hosted the conference at its premises in the Melbourne CBD.

  • For more information about IofC Australia’s work with the South Sudan diaspora community, contact Kathryn Gor, Program Manager, kathryn.gor@iofc.org