AT PEACE: Redbank Plains residents Leandre Nkuriza and Salama Mariam moved to Australia six years ago.
AT PEACE: Redbank Plains residents Leandre Nkuriza and Salama Mariam moved to Australia six years ago. Rob Williams

Family find peace, new home in 'multicultural hub'

LEANDRE Nkuriza sleeps much better at night since he moved to Ipswich.

In his native Democratic Republic of Congo, it was hard not to be woken by a gunshot or the sound of someone being killed.

"I don't hear any guns, only fireworks," he laughed.

"We have peace. We are really peaceful here."

The first few days after landing Down Under "with nothing" were a blur and he recalled everything looking uniform from streets to houses to faces.


At the end of the month, it will have been six years since he arrived in Australia with his wife Salama Mariam and their three children after time spent living in Nairobi, Kenya.

It was through the support from the local community and Multicultural Australia they settled and found their place, made friends and learnt English.

A year later, they were joined in Redbank Plains by other members of their family, who were also able to escape the horrific conflict in their home country.

The couple's two eldest children are working and studying, and their youngest is at Redbank Plains State High School.

Mr Nkuriza is the president of the Congolese United For Peace and Reconciliation in Australia group and Ms Mariam works in child care.

While not yet citizens, Mr Nkuriza said that would be a proud moment.

"Australia is my home now," he said.

"I cannot say that I miss (Congo)."

"Ipswich has the same climate as my home village. It's not very hot but not very cold. Just in the middle.

"There are people moving from other areas to be here. Some people from Toowoomba... others who are coming from Logan and Beenleigh.

"We have some families who have land, they are now cultivating and growing... we are eating fresh food from Riverview here."

The Redbank Plains Community Centre is managed by Multicultural Australia in partnership with Ipswich City Council.

Centre development manager Rose Dash said Redbank Plains, and Ipswich as a whole, was growing as a "multicultural hub".

About 49 per cent of visitors to the centre are born in Australia with about 80 other countries represented on a regular basis.

Ms Dash said the biggest things drawing immigrants to Ipswich were jobs, cheap housing and welcoming schools.

"That's a testament to Ipswich's sense of welcoming and belonging," she said.

She said a lack of recognition of skills and trades was a source of frustration for many new arrivals, who had to sometimes start all over if their degrees or years of experience in a field are ignored.

"It takes them much longer to get back on their feet because they're having to go through these processes that aren't set up to support them through that," she said.

"It is a very lengthy process. One of our volunteers she was actually a nurse back in the Congo and she's having to restudy all her nursing degree again but she's got 20 years experience.

"That's one of the biggest challenges... people come ready for working but that takes time."