Ugandan lawyer welcomed in Australia

I would say I have been welcomed [in Australia]. Of course there are times when you feel lonely, but of course you meet people who are welcoming, so I was welcomed.

Homosexuals in Uganda are ostracised: named and attacked in local newspapers, openly discriminated against and in many cases persecuted at the hands of a fearful and homophobic community. This is Simon’s* story.

I am 34 years old and I come from Kampala, in Uganda. I was a lawyer, I got my law degree from Makerere University. I was being persecuted for my sexuality by the community and the government. I left in May 2014. I got a visa from the Australian Embassy in Nairobi and I came here, transitioning through South Africa.

I left behind a very extended family, because, you know, African families are hugely extended. So I had sisters, brothers, I had a son.

I would say I have been welcomed [in Australia]. Of course there are times when you feel lonely, but of course you meet people who are welcoming, so I was welcomed.

There have been lots of ups and downs, lots of bad feeling, there are times when I feel so low because I miss practising law, I miss doing my professional work. I’m a totally different person here, I’m not the kind of person I was back there, so I miss home.

At first I didn’t have anywhere to stay, I nearly became destitute. I didn’t have food, shelter, I was on the verge of living on the street.

I haven’t heard from immigration. I was slated to have my first interview with immigration, but it was cancelled, and I don’t know why, so its coming to a year and I haven’t heard from them again, so I don’t know what’s going on. I’m just hoping that it’s alright and that they’ll think about it and call me when they are ready.

With work, I couldn’t find work for a long time, until recently [when] I got placed in an internship. I am working with one of the biggest advocacy organisations in Australia. It’s called Get Up Australia. I basically do research with the media team and the different campaign teams. I help the different campaign teams in doing research, writing, emails, reading emails, giving feedback to the teams and the members of Get Up.

JRS provided me with financial help, food, clothes and bedding, and the shelter over my head. So I feel it just makes you be a human, living the kind of life you should live. You don’t even feel sometimes that you are a refugee.

*Names have been changed to protect identity.

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