South Sudan former child soldier Philip Lako shares story to inspire other WA migrants
Storytelling is said to be the oldest form of education.
Throughout history, storytelling has bridged the gap between generations, often delivering both entertainment and a lesson.
Even when the subject matter is painful, communicating lived experience to others is something that people are drawn to; storytelling is healing for both the speaker and listener.
Public speaker, advocate and author Philip Lako has spent recent years sharing his story in the hope it will help people better understand the experience of migrants to Australia.
From child soldier to migrant advocate
Philip spent his early childhood living with his family in a small village in South Sudan.
At the age of 10, he was taken over by rebels under the guise of receiving an education.
Instead, he was kept and trained as a child soldier; for a decade, Philip was subjected to starvation and abuse at the hands of the adults who were supposed to be his caregivers.
Philip finally managed to escape to Kenya as a refugee, the beginning of what was to be an incredibly difficult four-year journey that eventually brought him to Australia.
In the years that followed, Philip went through a process many migrants to Australia are familiar with, and starting from scratch but motivated by hope, he set about building a life in a foreign country.
When asked why he now dedicates his energy to sharing such a difficult story, Philip says, “It’s definitely not easy … but of course we have to make some sacrifices.”
“[It’s] more about the people that are listening; the people that are going to hear this story.”
Philip explains that in sharing his story he hopes to bridge a gap between migrants and listeners who had not lived his experience.
“These are stories worth telling to remind those people, people that have never seen the other side of life … how other people live in those countries,” he says.
“Developed countries have [lived] comfortably for very long, and sometimes people easily get removed from the reality of life.”
Philip says he believes anyone who calls Australia home should make the effort to get to know people from other communities better.
“We are all human. We might look different, but every single person has the intent to have a good life, to have security, to be able to wake up and not have to worry about being bombarded,” he says.
Philip says compassion is key to making Australia a place people from all backgrounds can call home.
“This is the life circle, people go through these hurdles but the reality is everyone wants to get out of that, to get a better life,” he says.
“We need to give people a second chance.”
Despite being a society that outwardly prides itself on its multiculturalism, migrant stories have long been marginalized in Australia, but the push for migrant voices to be heard is gaining momentum.