Diaspora Action Australia recently held its second Friends Event of 2015 in Melbourne.
The diaspora organisations we work with consist largely of refugees – people who have remarkable stories of survival. On this occasion, we had the privilege of hearing from Lensa Dinka, a leading member of the Oromo community in Melbourne, who spoke about her own story of escaping war and oppression in the Oromia region of Ethiopia.
Lensa is a courageous woman who was born within the Oromo ethnic group. The Oromo people, who make up 40 per cent of Ethiopia’s population, have lived with conflict in their region for more than 100 years.
Lensa and her family were forced to leave their home during the civil war in Ethiopia in the 1970s. Amid the turmoil and violence, Lensa, her six brothers and two sisters were separated from their parents; their grandmother took them into her home and Lensa took on the task of looking after her younger siblings.
In 1991 the government collapsed and renewed conflict between political and rebel groups broke out; this time Lensa escaped to Sudan as a refugee. Lensa sheltered in Sudan until she was forced to flee from that country’s own civil war, and she was granted a Humanitarian visa, allowing her to travel to and live in Australia.
Lensa was reunited with her father before she came to Australia, however her search for her mother was a lengthy process. Neither the Red Cross nor Lensa’s friends in Ethiopia could find her mother initially. After many failed attempts to locate her mother, Lensa finally decided to send a letter to Ethiopia addressed to her mother and patiently awaited a response. Lensa held out hope that her mother was still alive and that she would hear from her – she also understood that the letter might be returned to her unopened.
Her moving story ended with her finally reconnecting with her mother.
Lensa also spoke about the many contributions that refugees make to Australia. In her own case, after coming to Australia in 1999, she went on to study nursing and since then has nursed thousands of patients. She reminded us that refugees are “not just consumers,” but are valuable contributors to the community. She also spoke of the great strength of many people in her country of birth.
DAA would again like to thank Lensa for sharing her valuable and courageous story with all of the people present at our Friends Event.