THE Sunraysia community has, for many years, served as a new home for hundreds of people forced to flee their country in search of a safer life.

World Refugee Week (celebrated this week) highlights the remarkable journeys some individuals have undertaken to build a richer life in Australia.

Mallee District Aboriginal Service (MDAS) employee Tempest Alphonse, PICTURED, is not immune to the challenges that come with moving to a foreign country in search of greater opportunities.

One of seven children, Tempest was born in South Sudan – a war-torn country littered with violence – but was raised in Uganda, a far safer country.

In 2009, Tempest’s parents made the decision to move to Australia – a place where permanent employment and tertiary education were not merely dreams, but reality.

“Mum was so passionate about education, and in my culture there isn’t a lot of women empowered to study, it was more about getting married, having kids and raising your family, there’s nothing more to it,” Tempest said.

“My parents didn’t have the opportunity to study so they did everything they could so we could further our education, and that meant moving countries.”

Tempest’s family migrated to Melbourne, basing themselves in Nobel Park – a suburb with a strong South Sudanese community – but Tempest said even with a strong support network, the move to Australia didn’t come without challenges.

“At the start it was hard, we were just getting our heads around the country, it was cold – we came at the start of winter – life was very busy,” Tempest said.

Accommodation was hard to find for a family so large, so Tempest’s brothers and sisters had to separate and live in different suburbs around Melbourne. She said it proved an isolating experience for the tight-knit family.

“For me it was also really challenging in high school to make friends, there was no connection,” Tempest said.

She persevered with her studies, finishing high school in Melbourne before going to Deakin University where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Health Science.

Tempest worked in Melbourne for a time, then moved to Mildura last October to take a job as a Health Promotion officer at MDAS.

“Just learning more about the Indigenous community and their way of life has been interesting,” Tempest said. “Different communities have different needs, so learning that and being able to help is what drives me.”

With aspirations to eventually return to her birth country to work, Tempest said her job at MDAS has provided the skills to follow her dream.