Nurse and mother of five, Medina Lamunu has been working with the South Sudanese community to promote respectful relationships and safe and peaceful communities.
“I was invited to the Together We Can Summit when I was working as a Graduate Nurse in Kooweerup,” Medina said.
“We wanted to do a project that would help embed ideas of a violence-free society into the local South Sudanese community.
“We decided to host a South Sudanese Community Celebration Day where we could get together for an evening of singing, dancing and sharing of traditional South Sudanese cuisines while having conversations about family violence.”
The inaugural event held on Saturday 20 January this year was the first of its kind for the shire and centred on preventing domestic violence to create peaceful communities and safe families through the celebration of culture.
“The event gave us a reason to come together as one and talk about these issues,” Medina said.
“The women were able to open up about their experiences while cooking, and hear more about what family violence actually is.
“Many of them were surprised to hear that violence can come in other forms, such as financial and emotional abuse.”
Medina said that while it was good to see discussion opened up between the women, more needs to be done in the men’s space.
“A lot of people are not willing to say what is happening in their family in case they are judged or the man will have his family taken away from him,” she said.
“I think there needs to be a South Sudanese men’s group where they can get together to talk. Talking is healthy, and it shouldn’t be up to the women to teach men what is right and wrong.
“A lot of men in our community have seen a lot of violence and think that violence is normal. If men get together more to talk about family violence then we can make real change.”
Medina is no stranger to violence: she herself spent 12 years in refugee camps in Uganda after fleeing violence in her village in South Sudan in 1994.
She and her siblings called a UNHCR refugee camp home for many years until Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) invaded their camp.
“We were forced to run; I had to leave all of my books behind – everything I had learned so far.
“We ended up in another camp, but we had nothing with us. We were given blank exercise books and had to copy about six years’ worth of notes from other children’s’ exercise books.
“We were living in a big tent and would often do our homework at night, but sometimes the moon wasn’t bright enough to be able to read.”
Medina then received a scholarship and completed her secondary school certificate, after which she moved to Australia and called Pakenham home in 2006.
Fast forward to 2018 and Medina is working as a nurse while her husband is a stay-at-home dad with their five children.
She and her husband have since founded a project in South Sudan, providing clean water and education to communities after her brother in law died water borne disease.
She said she was excited by the work of Together We Can.
“It makes me so happy to see a whole community working towards the same thing. It makes sense to do it together, rather than on our own.”