By Ku Shwe 



Image: JJGP


I am a girl who is growing up between two cultures. I was born in a Karen refugee camp, which was really hard and had no freedom at all, and then I came to Australia where I can live in freedom and do whatever I want.  The life that I have been through was all real, so at this moment I feel like I want to share my story with everyone. The title of my story is 24 Hours Of A Day I Got Through In My Life.

First of all my name is Ku Shwe, my parents are Karen who lived in Burma in Pi Taka village, Pa An district. My mother is Christian; my father was Buddhist but became Christian and a Minister. I have a brother and a sister and I am the youngest, I was born in Ka Maw Lay Kho Karen refugee camp, which is located on the Thailand and Burma border in the jungle, on the 12th of July 1993.

As my father had some notes of everything that happened, therefore I knew what happened on the 26 of April 1995 when I was only one and a half years old. Burmese troops sent the D.K.B.A (Democratic Karen Buddhist Army) to destroy our Village with RPJ/AR-16/AK/G-3/KB and burned down every house, if they caught the men and boys they would beat them to death or stab them. On the other hand if they caught the girls and the women they would rape them then cut them in pieces.

It was almost midnight, around 11 to 12 pm, mum and my sister had to run away and carry me from the fire, the flames, the smoke, the bullets and the bombs – it was a nightmare. Mum said if we ran up to the riverside, we would survive because when the army threw the bombs they would go past us, otherwise we were all going to die. On that night, dad wasn’t with us because he was a KNU soldier so he had to stay in the other place and do his job.

Mum and I and my sister and other villagers had to sleep in the jungle until sunrise. When we came back to see what had happened to our homes and our belongings, everything had been burnt down and was full of ashes, there was nothing left, no food, no clean water for us and we were starving. At that time I remember that mum was breastfeeding me and while I was drinking, I could see the smoke that covered up the blue sky and the embers of the village.

Mum and other villagers had lots of pressure, difficulties and worries, they didn’t know how they were going to get food and they didn’t know what was going to happen or how they were going to live in the future.

From the rising of the sun on the 27 of April 1995, mum, my sister and I came up to Mae La refugee camp and we had a connection with my father. After a few days staying on the side of the road, we finally met my father and my brother so mum felt less pressure.

After we moved to Mae La camp in 1995-96 to 1997, almost every night we heard the news that the D.K.B.A were going to come and destroy the camp so we had to sleep in the forest on the mountain and even in the caves. Most of people who got bitten by mosquitoes became sick with high fever, and then died because the mosquitoes were full of poison; others drank dirty water so they got diarrhoea, others got bitten by the snakes, and the young children especially got sick and died. We couldn’t help because we had no medicine or anything. There were lots of dead bodies lying beside us.

Sometimes the D.K.B.A came in and stabbed people and burnt down houses, and sometimes they threw bombs and shot people, they thought that it was fun to kill people.

The camp was small, and it had a wire fence all around it. The front gate was guarded by Thai soldiers, so if anyone went outside of the camp, it meant they broke the rule and they would get a really bad punishment for it. Sometimes at night we couldn’t even light up candles, we had to live in darkness, it made everything really hard for the students to do their homework and study.

I started going to school in NO.2 Primary School, the Principal was Pi Ler Go, then, when I finished grade 4, I moved to EVA high school where the Principal was Helen Hon, she was an Australian.

While I was studying there, the Australian Government gave the Karen refugee people the chance to become free so my father tried to find a way to come to Australia in September 2003. Then we just waited and went through the interview, then a medical check but at the first time I failed because when I was a baby I had slept in the jungle and sometime got high fever. For that reason the doctor told me that I had a lung disease so I had to go through my medical check many times. Finally when I was studying in T-2, which means Year 7, the doctor told me that my lungs were better and he gave me permission to come to Australia. On the 7th of September 2005 my family and I arrived in Australia, in Ringwood East in Victoria.

I arrived in Australia in September; at that time I was 12 years old. I started going to school in October to Blackburn English Language School (BELS), which Robyn organised for me, she worked in MIC (Migrant Information Centre). She took me there and helped me with everything. My coordinator was Mrs Carse. At that time, I was the only Karen student so it made things worse for me because I didn’t understand English or have any Karen friends.

The transport and travel to my school was also difficult for me because I lived in Croydon and I had to go all the way to Blackburn, which meant I had to catch two buses and a train. Sometimes the weather made it worse so I was sick and tired.

One time when my father took me to school while we were waiting for the bus in Box Hill, he said ‘My youngest daughter, you have been through the fire, the flames, the bombs and the darkness, but you survived because God is with you and he will always be watching over you’. I stared at him and nodded. He continued, ‘so, this time I believe that there will be no problem and no difficulty you will have. I believe that God will guide you and lead your way through every single thing. Next time daddy will not come with you here again, God will be with you. Just be strong like the meaning of your name KuTerLay and trust in God’. After that day he never came with me to my school again. I believed in God as my father told me to, and God did help me with my life for sure.

After learning English in BELS, I started my High School at Maroondah Secondary College. I was in Year 7 and my Coordinator was Mr Dewar, at that time I was the only Karen student. But this time, I was confident because I could understand English much more. I started this school in 2006 and every year while I have been studying, I can see that the teachers have been very nice, hard working, full of understanding and they have helped me with my study and homework. The Australian government has helped me with my school fees and has given me money once a month like many other students. I am so happy that I have had the chance to study as much as I liked.

My story is like this, everyone knows the days and dates and the years. Our day starts with 24 hours, seven days is a week, four weeks is a month and twelve months is a year. For the life that I have already been through, it has felt like 24 hours in one day. In the future if I want to live year to year I will have to go through it week by week and month by month, in that time I don’t know what is going to happen to me, but the 24 hours in a day I’ve already been through was not easy.

A day has twelve hours of daytime and 12 hours of nighttime. For this reason I feel like while I was in the Karen refugee camp it was like night-time, but my life in Australia is like daytime.

At night you couldn’t see anything, it was all dark so you couldn’t even see the tips of your fingers or the tips of your toes. You could not see who or what was in front of you, and no one could see you either. In the jungle, you would hear the scary sounds of the birds, and the lions and the tigers roar not far from you, they were starving and they wanted eat you. You were scared; you were worried so you couldn’t sleep at all. While you were in the thick jungle, sitting and wondering, above you was a moon, which shines its light down from the sky at night, but the moon could not shine every single night. Even though it shines you could not see thing clearly and you could not see anything from far away. Someone wanted to come to you but he/she doesn’t know the way, between you and him/her there were snakes, lions and tigers that waited to eat someone. Then you got scared and that someone felt the same thing too. After that you felt hungry and miserable but there was nothing for you to eat, you were starving and you cried, hoping someone could hear you from the heart of the deep jungle.

In daytime you can see yourselves clearly, you can see things from far away and you can see everything that you wanted to see and love to see. You know what is big and what is small, you can see someone from far away, and that person can see you as well. Someone from far away could come to you and you could go to him/her. There is a sun that gives the strong sunshine and lights up the dark, so night birds, lions, tigers and the poisonous snakes are scared of the sunlight and they wouldn’t come outside or roar. And when the sun gives too much heat you can find lots of trees that you can sit underneath for shade and to relax. Your life is not in danger therefore you don’t need to worry about anything, and when you feel hungry you can find anything that you want to eat and you would not be starving.

For me the Australian government are like my guardians who took me out of the darkness and put me into a brighter place, which had compassion. If this hadn’t happened, I would have died by now, so I feel that Australia is full of goodness and it is an amazing country. For everything that Australia has done for me, I really want to thank Australians and their government, I wanted to say more but I could not even mention it. When I thought of how to say thanks to Australia, I remembered my dad when he came to Australia. He has a talent for writing songs, and on the night he left the camp, he wrote a song (called ‘I am a person who puts trust in God’). When he arrived in Australia on the 7th of September 2005, he wrote another song in the Karen language called ‘I Thank Australia’, then my brother and his teacher translated it into English. Dad always sings this song when he feels happy and healthy. So I put my dad’s song with my story to show that I appreciate Australia, otherwise if I didn’t include the song, my appreciation would be a failure.


Australian country your concern and your love
Relieved us from our trouble
For your goodness and all your concern
Today I say thank you

Australian government and all the citizens
You all accepted us and helped us
You show your love to us more than other countries
Today I say thank you

A blessed country specially comes from God
It’s full of flowers, mountains, forests and the fields
Sea and the rivers, the good fertile places
Where plants can grow
It’s the richest creation of God

Australia the goodness you’ve done for me
Is never lost and will stay in my heart
All of my life, I’ll never forget
I pray to God to bless Australia

Ku Shwe was born in a Karen refugee camp in Thailand in 1993. After many difficult years she and her family came to Melbourne, Australia. Now she is a Year 10 at Maroondah Secondary College. Her dream is to become an orthopaedic surgeon and help others with special needs.





By Cung Kheng Lawt

Image: Malaysia Vintage Board

We arrived in Malaysia at midnight, and in the morning we went outside with my uncle and with other friends. There were lots of cars parked near the houses, dementedly I slapped the car with my hand and suddenly I was really worried and ashamed because if something happened I didn’t know what to do but fortunately nothing happened. We lived in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. There were many different restaurants everywhere including about 10 Burmese restaurants. Actually, on the first day I didn’t think it could be Malaysia because it was disgusting. There were lots of dead rats, and lots of big rats were running around the restaurant, also the smell was very terrible.

At that time my father had been put into jail because he didn’t have a passport. Two days after his arrest, my uncle took us to the outskirts of the city to work where some other Chin people also worked. It was quite far from where we had been staying and took about four and half hours to get to. Fortunately, my uncle was there. He gave me 50 Ringgit, then the day afterwards, he told the boss that we wanted work so the boss said that we could start on Thursday. It was Monday, there were a lot of people from Indonesia, and we all lived in tents outside the factories. There were only three of us in the tent, my uncle, a friend, Phuu Lian and myself.  It was so boring that the three of us decided to go back to the city. We caught the bus with the same number as the one we had caught before. We didn’t know where the last stop was, so when everyone jumped off we did so too. The weather was hot and we didn’t know where to go so we walked around and round for about half hour. We didn’t even know the address, but we knew that Time Square was the shopping centre near where we lived. When we caught the taxi, we told the taxi driver to take us to Time Square but when he drove us there, we didn’t even know where to go so we told him to take us to where Burmese people lived so then he drove us to UNHCR. Fortunately, we met friends there and they took us to their home. When we arrived there, my uncle and everyone who was in the house were amazed and worried about us because at that time the police had caught many people. If the police had caught us, our friends wouldn’t know where to find us or how to contact us, also a lot of bad people were in the streets.

After four months, I went back to the city and I found another job that was better than the first. It was electrical working, joining cables inside the building and I earned more money and it was much easier. There were a lot of Chin refugees in Malaysia. Many people lost their lives or went to jail, because they had no visa or no passport. I was really lucky; I have never been in the jail or had any accidents. I was really happy and I liked to live in Malaysia. I spoke Malay there mostly and I worked with Chinese people, all my bosses were Chinese.

Finally my father was released from jail and he registered for a UNHCR card so we could go to another country. Then we called for my the rest of our family to join us. My mother, with my two brothers and sister, were still in Burma. They had stayed there in Hakha in Chin State because we couldn’t afford for us all to leave Burma together. Also it wouldn’t have been safe for us to leave in a large group, as it would have been too easy for the police to catch us.

Cung Kheng Lawt
was born in Hakha, the capital city of Chin state in Myanmar in 1990. He has three brothers and one sister. He moved to Malaysia in 2004 and came to Australia in November 2007. He likes music, guitar and soccer.




By Jessica Wu



Image: APOD

There was a free trip to the Moon. I took it. I wanted to see if it really was made out of cheese. I wanted to find out what no gravity felt like. I wanted to try lots of new things. I didn’t know what I was heading for. I was just impatient for the rocket ride and the thought of living on a white moon.

Surprisingly, the people there were humans, also, there was gravity! Everyone was very down to earth, not space jumping or space walking or anything fun like that. The food was the same as well, but the white earth was more fertile. I enjoyed planting my very own trees which were fun to play with and eat. People there spoke moon language. It was like English but a little different, still understandable though. It wasn’t hard to settle in on the moon thanks to my uncle who had come to escape the hay fever pandemic.

It seemed the moon chameleonised everyone, people had unusually white skin. It was scary when I started looking ghostly. The weather was always horrid too and I couldn’t stand the cold. I missed my home on earth; I missed the sunshine, my old favourite shops and my school. It was too cold for anything everyday and it was extremely annoying. I wanted everything to be back to normal. Because of technological difficulties, it took me three years to finally take a functional rocket home.

Back on earth, I easily fitted in with my old way of life. Although some old friends I never saw again, and I couldn’t live in my old house, I still have the feeling of being at home. This familiar feeling helps me resettle in very comfortably. The experience from the moon changed my life in the way that half my past is gone; people and memories that can’t be found again. I have happy memories from it but thanks to the moon, I’ve found where I truly belong and met people who I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world for.

Now when I look at the moon, I think of the small theme park with no gravity, the white and coldness and my fun playful fruit trees. I would enjoy another trip to the moon for a holiday, but no more.

Jessica Wu is a Year 10 student at Keysborough Secondary College.




By Kimlong Nem



Image: theag.com.au


I am a fifteen year old typical kiwi. I have two brothers, one mum and one dad. I recently moved into a mob of emus, it isn’t that much different from my squad of kiwis but we do twitter slightly differently. I still get pointed out as the kiwi once in awhile when I accidentally tweet something oddly.

The nests here are similar to the nests I used to live among except the surroundings are different, the nest with my kiwis had a giant beehive where the chief kiwis would debate about our squad. Why would I join a mob of emus you ask? Well this story has a happy ending but before we go forward we must go backwards. My parenting kiwis made a bet with the kiwi devil and with this bet came consequence, the bet was to keep their bond together forever and being over-confident as my parents are, they lost the bet and they got the consequence that followed. One brother, my mother and I were cursed with the ability of flight. It may seem like a blessing but it isn’t, we were separated from our immediate squad of kiwis. We were forced to fly and join another rank of birds and we felt that the mob of emus were the obvious choice.

I’ve been with this mob of emus for about five years now and I feel that it was my destiny to be here, like it was meant to be. I still hear the tweet of my brother and my father sometimes and I tweet back hoping they can hear me too.

Kimlong Nem is a Year 10 student at Keysborough Secondary College.