11 April 2018: Monga Mukasa spent four years living in refugee camps in Africa, fostering a desire to support other young people and bring about positive change.
Born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr Mukasa fled the war-torn country in 2001, along with his parents and four siblings, one brother and three sisters, seeking refuge in bordering Tanzania. While fleeing, his mother, uncle and one of his sisters were separated.
Mr Mukasa and his family arrived in Australia in 2005 and settled down in Shepparton, country Victoria. His mother died as a result of the war, but he was reunited with his sister who he thought he had lost.
He said his personal experience was what prompted his interest in studying a Bachelor of Politics and International Relations and chose the University of Canberra after visiting the campus on Open Day in 2014. He received his degree on 10 April.
“I’m so thankful for the great work UN officials did for us when I was living in the refugee camp in Tanzania,” the 21-year-old, who is also a talented musician, said. “I’m lucky to have been given an opportunity to live in a country where there is education and protection and where children can be children. I wanted to give something back.
“I wanted a degree that would allow me to support young people and bring positive change and I felt a sense of belonging at UC. My degree has given me the contact and the experience with people from all walks of life and has enhanced my understanding of the world.”
In Mr Mukasa’s first year of study he was selected to be one of UNICEF Australia’s 2015/2016 Young Ambassadors.
In 2016 and 2017 he represented Australia at the Ship for World Youth Leaders exchange program where he travelled to Japan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India, New Zealand and Russia to discuss global issues and share cultures.
He also recently returned from Sri Lanka, having been chosen to take part in Yowun Puraya The City of Youth, a leadership program bringing together 70,000 Sri Lankans and 100 international participants from 15 countries.
He said it was “a great opportunity to learn about youth issues globally and bring them back to my local community in Shepparton”.
Mr Mukasa continues to do what he can to support young people – now in Shepparton. In January, he created the youth-driven non-for-profit organisation, Leaders of Youth Diversity and Action (L.Y.D.A).
L.Y.D.A provides a safe, secure environment for young people of all cultures where they can learn and share skills, build their confidence and participate in recreational and outreach activities and events.
“Our aim is to encourage young people to participate in the wider community while empowering them to be better citizens,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, young people can try and make a change for the better.”
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