Everina Munyonge

I was born in small village called Baraka in the Democratic Republic of Congo. My first few years of my childhood were characterised by displacement between Congo and Tanzania, due to the war that was happening in the eastern part of the country. My family spent years running between Tanzania and Congo, but after a few years, my parents decided that they wanted a better life for their children.

We moved from Congo and eventually found our way into a refugee camp called Tongogara in Zimbabwe. After almost four years in the camp, we were accepted by the Australian Government under the UNHCR Visa and in 2009 we came to Australia. We first settled in Hobart, but moved to Adelaide in less than two months, due to the cold weather in Tasmania, which was totally different to what were used to.

The first few years in Australia involved me settling in and getting accustomed to my new environment. This was not easy, as I had to learn a completely different language and adjust to an education system that was different from what I was used to. Learning the English language was a big challenge; however, I was lucky enough to attend the Adelaide Secondary School of English (ASSOE) where I had a positive experience with students and teachers, which helped boost my confidence to learn. I spent two semesters and a term at ASSOE, then moved to the Australian mainstream school system. I attended Gepps Cross Girls High School, which later became part of Roma Mitchel Secondary College. My favourite subjects in school included Psychology, Biology, PE, Dance and English. My passion for these subjects, especially Biology and Psychology, was a determining factor in me deciding to pursue the Bachelor of Psychological Science (Cognitive Neuroscience) program. After two years in the program, I realised I had lost my passion for psychology and I somehow felt stuck because, on one hand I wanted to finish what I started, but I on the other hand, I needed to rediscover my true passion. While studying, I started working in the disability sector, as a support worker, and volunteering at Red Cross, in addition to working within my community (Congolese Community of SA). During this time, I realised that I enjoyed doing community work and I was interested in learning about the health issues people are facing in developing countries and within migrant and Indigenous communities in Australia. This discovery led me to study the Master of Public Health and International Development at Flinders University with the vision of working with vulnerable communities to improve health outcomes in Australia or overseas.

I focused on being involved in extra curriculum outside of my studies and work, and I started attending community meetings and volunteering my time whenever I was needed. This gave me the opportunity to work closely with the Congolese Youth, along with the committee members of the community, to improve youth engagement through the implementation of the Congolese Youth Committee. I also started working at UniSA as a Research Assistant exploring the experiences of Africans living in SA, in terms of employment seeking. While working within the community, I was informed about the Welcoming Futures Leadership Program and after researching about the program, I decided to apply for the 2019 cohort, and I was lucky to be accepted into the Program. 

Since then, I have completed my Masters program and I am now in the process of applying for jobs while I am still working in the disability sector. I have also been accepted as an Assistant Team Leader in the Operation Flinders Program; a hiking program that works with high school aged children with challenging behaviours. I am very excited to start this as I have a passion for hiking, and it would be great to see my hobby making an impact in children’s lives. In the long run, I see myself making meaningful impacts in the healthcare sector, especially around migrant communities. My goal is to work in public health policy and evaluation. 

Outside of work and volunteering activities, I enjoy visiting my family and playing my favourite full-time role: being a big sister. I enjoy picking my little brother from primary school and being around my family a lot. My favourite hobby is hiking. Through this, I developed a small hiking project that aims to promote health and well-being among Africans in SA. I run small hiking sessions every Saturday morning. I enjoy hiking and interacting with people who attend these sessions and I have formed some meaningful connections through this. 

I look forward to every Saturday morning; there’s just something about mingling with likeminded people that is so refreshing for the mind, body and soul.