Three Congolese families arrived in the area in March 2010 with the understanding that white people don’t like Africans, highlighting the dire circumstances that brought them here. The small group of 13 were prepared to live in a country where they might not be accepted rather than a place where they would be oppressed and persecuted.To their delight, the Byron Shire proved them wrong and nine years later the families still love Australia.
The largest of the families, Bertin Kabaamba, his wife Eudox and their seven children, moved to Western Australia for greater work opportunities, but they still say call Mullumbimby home.
Two of the couples who were part of the 2010 welcoming committee, Pam and John Morris and Gill and Barry Lomath, recently went to Perth to visit the Kabaambas and report back to their friends in Mullum.
‘What a joy,’ says Gill. ‘They have taken hold of every opportunity offered to them and are thriving.
Bertin is working as a FIFO in construction; Eudoxi has almost finished her nursing training and was also working nights in a spinal unit; Johnathon has joined the army; Bellange is at uni, Belone is in year 12 and wants a career in I.T.; Benedict in year 11, is already in the Airforce Cadets flying planes; and Bella is in year 10 and the two younger boys are still at school.
Gill says the family own their home and are absolutely thriving. They remain hugely indebted to the Mullum community for saving their lives and want to return here to live one day.
‘One of the other couples who were both doctors, are now both qualified nurses on the Tweed with three children, (two of them Aussies), and the other couple who were both lawyers are looking to go back to university to do some Law studies. What a success story.
A refugee family reunifaction meeting, to reunite families in Australia or families who still have members in their home country, will be held on Wednesday February 20, 5.30pm at the Uniting Hall in Mullumbimby.