Maria was born in the Congo and ran away from the war in 1999. After 12 years in a refugee camp in Zambia she migrated to Australia in 2011.
Her biggest challenge was to learn the English language but once she was able to communicate confidently she began helping other refugees and migrants settle into a new life in Australia. Maria encourages people in her community to study and take any opportunity to learn. As a single mother she encourages other migrant women to be strong and not intimidated by their new environment.
In Congolese culture men are given more respect and as Maria adjusts to Australian life understands that women can be given equal respect. She finds that young children of refugee and migrant families tend to understand Australian culture and laws much quicker than adults do and this can create a challenge when teaching discipline to her child. At the moment her child can be quite disrespectful towards her and difficult to discipline as a result of both Congolese and Australian culture and law. She believes having a man in her life may help discipline the child.
Maria is happy to be in Australia as it is a safe place and people are helpful, all you need to to is ask. She remembers making a mistake as she didn’t understand the law at the time but instead of the police locking her up (as she expected them to do when you make a mistake) they gave her advice and helped her to do the right thing. She learned that any problem can be resolved and overcome, all you need to do is keep going and each problem you overcome leads you to a better life.
Even though she has a gentle smile Maria is seen as a strong woman, inspiring other migrant and refugee women in her community to be confident in their new home.
Thank you to Michael Bromage for helping us tell Maria’s story, this story was made in collaboration with ABC Open: read these stories and more on ABC Open.
Photo by Michael Bromage.