How he got to Australia:
Pierre was born in Kananga in the Lulua Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC is the fourth largest country in Africa (by population), with a population of more than 68 million, yet its citizens are currently amongst the poorest in the world. For over 150 years they have not been able to enjoy the economic benefits of their vast natural resources. The country has around 250 ethic groups and languages, with French, Kikongo, Lingala, Tshiluba and Swahili recognised as the national languages.
Pierre’s family moved to the political capital Kinshasa, after his father Clovis, was elected as an MP (Deputy) to the National Parliament. Clovis was a member of a nationalist political party, which formed the major opposition to the dictatorship of Mobutu and later Kabila. The party’s platform was to improve living standards and implement human rights and justice for ordinary Congolese. However despite its success in winning the national election, the party was prohibited from taking office and Pierre’s family and many in his community were arrested and kidnapped because they opposed the dictatorship.
How he got to Australia:
Due to persecution related to their political views, it became too dangerous for Pierre’s family to stay in the DRC. In 2000, they fled to the neighbouring Congo Brazzaville where they spent six years living as refugees, in poor conditions and with very limited work opportunities. During this time they lobbied the UNHCR on behalf of Congolese political refugees who were neglected and dying through lack of adequate assistance. Finally in 2006, Australia accepted them under its humanitarian program and the whole family, including Pierre’s wife, parents, 2 sisters and 3 brothers began their new life here.
Coming to Australia and knowing that he would be able to start a new life gave Pierre many moments of joy. He met many kind people who were interested in helping him. He experienced some racism, but nothing in comparison to the kindness that was extended to him and his family. The biggest challenge in the beginning was learning English and Pierre tackled this by attending a course at AMES. His family also got much support from their church community, which landed Pierre his current job.
Pierre would love to go back to the DRC and work in community development.
Pierre completed a Certificate IV in English at AMES and is currently completing International Community Development at Victoria University, while also working part time to feed his young family.
Pierre is employed as a Project Officer in the Office for Justice & Peace of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne. Wanting to give back to the community that helped him, Pierre also volunteers with the St Vincent de Paul Society.
Pierre and his wife have three children – two boys and one girl. The six-year-old was born in Congo Brazaville and now attends primary school. The others are 2.5 and 1.5 years old and were born in Australia. His wife is studying English at AMES and finding life a bit complicated as her side of the family remains in Africa.
Pierre’s family love to play music, especially the drums, and often turn this into public performances in Catholic schools, local councils and other cultural events. On a sunny afternoon, the whole family likes to get together for a BBQ and a beer.
What he likes about Australia the most:
As a political refugee, Pierre is impressed by Australia’s respect for human rights, its stable democracy and the rule of law. He also appreciates the multiculturalism, opportunities for advancement and the egalitarianism - a welcome relief from the oppressive dictatorship and unnecessary poverty experienced in DRC.
What he misses about the DRC the most:
Pierre most misses the chance of enjoying life where he was born.
Hopes and dreams:
Pierre would love to go back to the DRC and work in community development when it is safe to do so. Once he finishes his studies, Pierre would like to start up his own NGO (Non Government Organisation) to deliver humanitarian aid and social justice assistance to communities in need around the world.
Hope is very important in life. As long as we have hope – we have life. It is through hope that we have the ability to make a change and help our communities. Justice always has positive outcomes.