Across the African divide

18 Sep 2012

In Inside Story, Ralph Johnstone meets the people at the sharp end of the complex challenges facing young refugees from Africa

TEN years ago, among the humanitarian community in East Africa, the term “lost boys” came to represent a special story of hope and redemption: thousands of orphans and former child soldiers who had successfully escaped the unimaginable brutality of Sudan’s civil war to find salvation in the arms of the West. Though their settlement was often protracted, and always ravaged by painful memories, most of them prevailed – among them 3600 young men who famously resettled in the United States, who went on to write, sing and rap to the world of the healing power of strangers’ kindness.

A decade on, in 2012 Melbourne, the phrase is once again being bandied about in local headlines, this time to describe a handful of largely Sudanese- and Somali-descended boys who have dropped out of school to spend their days immersed in a fog of cheap cask wine in the parks and open spaces of Footscray and St Albans…

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Photo: Ralph Johnstone

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