“Some of them never met us in real life and see what we do, they only see us through the media”: Lived experiences of three young West Australian South Sudanese men

Author Identifiers

Elizabeth Chiwawa


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Social Work Honours


School of Arts & Humanities

First Advisor

Dr Colleen Carlon


There is a paucity of phenomenological research about experiences of Australian South Sudanese young men in the Western Australian context. Building on previous research about South Sudanese refugee experiences in the Australian context, my phenomenological study explored the lived experiences of three young West Australians between the ages of 18 and 25, who were born in southern Sudan, by investigating what meanings they gave to their everyday experiences, the essence of that experience and how agency is enacted. Previous research involving young Australians of southern Sudanese ancestry, has often focussed on their victimhood, negating the inherent agency within individuals regardless of circumstances. These experiences were understood through a structuralist perspective. The primary purpose was to understand their lived realities and agency, and what may need to be addressed or maintained to ensure their wellbeing.

This project used two phases of semi-structured interviewing to collect data which was analysed using an

explorative thematic analytic framework. Upon analysing the data, the study found that young Australians born in southern Sudan are reflexive agents who face everyday barriers and significant structural constraints that limit opportunities for social mobility and their ability to access resources they need. Notwithstanding existing conceptual frameworks which present stigmatised and disaffected people as passive and unable to change their circumstances, the research reported in this thesis indicates that they are knowledgeable of their culture, can redefine their reality and have a capacity for self-determination. Their experiences are like those reported in the wider Australian context, except that they find racism in Western Australia, subtle.

This study concluded that the lives of young Australians of southern Sudanese descent, are influenced by the complex interweaving and interaction of contextual factors including societal structures of dominance and subordination which, have become normative and acceptable in contemporary society. This research adds to better understanding of the experiences of young Australians of southern Sudanese descent in the West Australian context. It adds to the body of knowledge about the challenges, needs and aspirations of emerging communities, at the same time, challenging systemic barriers, social structures and practices which maintain irrationality, inequalities and injustices. By asserting the voices of the oppressed, this study may potentially change societal attitudes towards refugees or ethnic minorities; and foster tolerance for diversity and substantive social inclusion.

Access Note

Access to this thesis is restricted to the exegesis and to current ECU staff and students. Email request to library@ecu.edu.au

Access to this thesis is restricted. Please see the Access Note below for access details.


Thesis Location