South Sudanese diaspora network launched

Friday night, Parramatta: Around 50 women and men from Sydney’s South Sudanese diaspora gathered for the first public event hosted by the newly-formed New South Wales South Sudanese Diaspora Network (SSDN).

The network brings together passionate and dedicated individuals and groups from the South Sudanese community who are keen to advocate for South Sudan; network and support each other to implement projects in their country of origin. “We are a networking body – our main objectives are to link, to support, advocate – advocate for you,” said Mr Kenyi Momo, representative of the network, and participant in our training program. “We have got the skills, knowledge and we want to use that for implementation for South Sudan.”

The network emerged following the training program run by Humanitarian Crisis Hub and Oxfam Australia in Sydney earlier this year on program development and advocacy. Participants wanted to continue to explore ways to support projects and amplify the voice of the diaspora in policy dialogue on South Sudan – and so the network was born.

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Meeting of the newly-formed New South Wales South Sudanese Diaspora Network (SSDN)

Keynote speaker on the night was Dr Samson Baba, Director General of Community and Public Health within the Ministry of Health in the Government of South Sudan, who came to Australia with support of the University of Sydney, through funding from AusAID’s international seminars support scheme. Dr Samson, along with another visitor from South Sudan, Dr Aggrey Abate, Vice Chancellor of the University of Juba, had spoken the day before at a symposium on South Sudan at the University of Sydney, as well visiting Canberra, Melbourne and Darwin for speaking engagements.

It is a great credit to the SSDN that they brought together a public event which not only saw the attendance of visiting a high-ranking official from Juba, but also included Professor Robert Cumming from the University of Sydney and federal MP for Parramatta, Ms Julie Owens, along with representatives from agencies like Caritas Australia, Oxfam Australia and Anglicare.

With a question and answer session facilitated between Dr Baba and the attendees, the evening provided an opportunity for members of the South Sudanese diaspora to discuss their thoughts around health and development, hear the Government of South Sudan’s policies and plans for health, and also gain an insight into the challenges facing those working on the ground. Dr Baba stressed to attendees that in South Sudan, they are “starting from scratch”. “We are building, not rebuilding … there are so many, many priorities.”

Also speaking on the night was Julie Owens MP, who reminded attendees of the importance of talking to your MP on issues of importance: “Speak to your MP about what your first country needs,” she said, “this is very important work.”

The needs are certainly immense in South Sudan. But so too is the passion and commitment of the diaspora to provide support.

Written by Lisa Vettori

Community Coordinator at Humanitarian Crisis Hub