The Post-Settlement Lives of South Sudanese Australian Women: Surviving and Belonging

The South Sudanese are the largest group of forced migrants to have settled in Australia in the 21st century.  The majority of this 30,000 strong, multi-ethnic community live in Melbourne and have an average residency of around 12 years. After working in the refugee settlement sector in Melbourne for many years, Sara Maher undertook a PhD with Monash to develop a better understanding of the post-settlement lives of South Sudanese diaspora women. Visits to Sudan and consultations with women Elders had indicated a largely unknown history of gendered and genocidal violence during Sudan’s second civil war. It seemed vital to understand how this interacted with their forced migration and settlement in Australia.

Through women’s narratives this research showed the strategies these women used to sustain survival during war and asylum, during settlement and now in post-settlement. Findings include the ways in which South Sudanese Australian women negotiated the expectations of their own culture and that of the Western culture that have settled in. Women have established a sense of security and safety in Australia and through this have developed a sense of belonging in this country. The agency and resilience of these former refugee women is clear.

This research provides a foundation for further work to address the key post-settlement themes for women living in the Australian diaspora. These include; addressing past trauma, mothering and intergenerational conflicts, transnational care-giving and contributing to peace-building in their homeland.

Having just submitted her PhD, Sara is now working as the Lead Researcher on the Rift Valley Institute, South Sudan Disapora Impacts Project. The project aims to fill a vital knowledge gap on the networks and systems of this diaspora. It focuses on the Australian South Sudanese community, and the mechanisms through which they may influence South Sudan’s current civil war.

For more information on these research projects contact Sara.maher@monash.edu