Just over an hour’s drive from the bustling metropolis of Brisbane, a city of about 150,000 is home to 2,000 South Sudanese refugees.
And while Melbourne is rife with violence largely linked to African youth gangs, the community is thriving in Toowoomba – with one Sudanese woman even winning Young Citizen of the Year.
Elders of the Sudanese community and local Mayor Paul Antonio told A Current Affair a drive to work hard and strong ties to both the Toowoomba community, and the South Sudanese community within it.
The South Sudanese community in Toowoomba, Queensland, is thriving as a result of local help and the refugee community’s desire to work hard
South Sudanese elders meet monthly to discuss any issues and come up with ways to rectify them
One woman in the group was named Toowoomba’s Citizen of the Year in January, and sang a moving rendition of ‘We Are Australian’ in her acceptance speech
Every month, South Sudanese elders meet to discuss issues within their community and what they can do to resolve them.
‘The local people are very welcoming, there’s a lot of activities happening here, and that’s made it very easy to integrate into society,’ one man said during a meeting.
Mayor Antonio told the program job opportunities and the incredible work ethic of the refugees was a key factor in how well the group had integrated into the local community.
But the responsibility to integrate without issue did not lie entirely on the South Sudanese community, he said.
‘We’ve got it going pretty well because of the kind of community we live in.
‘The good people in this community who are giving their time, giving their all to make sure these people have a chance of integrating.’
Teenagers whose parents fled from South Sudan are mostly employed and see value in working hard
Mayor Paul Antonio (pictured) said the community had a strong desire to thrive in their new home and were assisted by kind-hearted locals who wanted the best for them
Many of the refugees say they are seen by locals as neighbours, not South Sudanese refugees
Achol, a local mother-of-four, said she and her family felt included in the Toowoomba community, and that feeling inspired them to want to give back.
‘You work hard when you have hope, but you work less when you don’t care,’ she said.
‘We feel included in this Australian community, especially in Toowoomba. We don’t feel excluded, we don’t feel like we’re just Sudanese refugees.’
Meanwhile in Melbourne, where support, advocacy, accommodation and legal services are all readily available for refugees, residents are upping their security systems and living in fear.
Last month, a 14-year-old boy was robbed and brutally bashed by a gang of ten African youths in Frankston.
Meanwhile in Melbourne, youth crime is driving residents to spend thousands on increased home security and in some cases causing them to fear for their lives (pictured: The ‘reds’ gang in Melbourne, which is comprised of youths of different nationalities)
A 14-year-old boy was savagely beaten by 10 African youths in Frankston (pictured) last month as he and his friend walked through a park. His friend’s mother said one of the group had a box cutter with him
The boy suffered horrific injuries during the savage attack, which took place as he and a friend were walking through the park about 9.30 on a Saturday night.
His friend’s mother said the child was left with ‘two swollen black and blood filled eyes, a serious cut to his face that required stitches and a busted lip.
‘His whole face was swollen like a balloon. This boy does not have a mean bone in his body, yet was subjected to such violence,’ she wrote on Facebook.
Around the same time, an 18-year-old man with alleged connections to the Apex gang and a ‘serious’ child criminal history, was charged after allegedly bashing a disabled pensioner.
Four young men of African appearance allegedly stormed into the Collingwood home about 3am through an open back door while one repeatedly struck the man on the head and torso with a wooden plank.
The man was left with fractured ribs and said he wanted to move out of the area following the attack.
Four young men of African appearance stormed into a home in Collingwood around the same time and beat a disabled pensioner named Adam (pictured) in the torso and over the head with a wooden plank
A series of crimes believed to be linked to African gangs came to a head earlier this year, in January.
Some Sudanese youths are accused of stealing cars, invading homes and businesses, and theft.
The crime spree has even prompted some residents to fork out $10,000 on security systems for their homes.
The Menace To Society gang, whose presence emerged after the earlier exploits of the more prominent Apex gang, are believed to be linked to several crimes in the Tarneit area, 25km west of Melbourne.
One woman was reportedly hit across the face when 14 men ransacked her home in Hillside, in the city’s far north west.
Alleged Apex gang kingpin Mahmoud Taha, 21, was jailed last month for organising three armed heists.
Alleged Apex gang kingpin Mahmoud Taha (pictured), 21, was jailed last month for organising three armed heists