paper was presented on 27 June 2006 at the International Consortium for
Intergenerational Programs Conference, hosted by Victoria University,
Melbourne, Australia - see
By Gatwech Puoch
Last year in January 9th, 2005, Sudan People’s Liberation
Movement and Army (SPLM/A) and the Governmnet of Sudan (GoS) concluded the 22
years old most protracted civil war in
the African continent by signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). As
result of war, Sudanese migrant refugees lifestyle has enormously changed because of internal and
external displacement and migration.
Sudanese globally underwent
three generational changes, accompanied by striking shifts in socio-economic
conditions. These changes are manifested in a generational split in social
relations, decision-making processes that were parallelled by the new and
extremely diverse cultures.
These changes are pivotal to the fundamental characteristic
of Sudanese family structure which is an integral, representing the unity of
norms and values, it is an “extended family” whereby everyone involved,
parents, uncle, cousin aunt, nephews and nieces. It is boundless intergenerational
social contract between different age cohorts, old, young and children.
Consequently, three generation groups emerged.
I will examine them in an attempt to reveal the today’s challenges confronting
every Sudanese family migrant, not only in Australia, but all over the world.
three generations are the older people of the community, in this instance the
parents; the second generation are young people and children aged between 12-
25 years old; and the third generation are the children that born during the
war time or in the second country of asylum or in the country of resettlement or
the ones to be born in the future up to age of 11 years old.
I decided to share with intergenerational conflict
facing every Sudanese family, the changes and resolutions within the Sudanese Community
As a refugee migrant from Horn of Africa, it is a golden opportunity to share my
experiences from an African perspective as well as my testimony as parent.
From my four years experience in Australia
working as a settlement worker with South Eastern Region Migrant Resource
Centre. I have had learnt and experienced these changes, I conducted
information’s to clients, and received ones, my role is designated to provide
support and assistance to the newly arrived refugee or migrant cross culturally
with their initial settlement requirements and to induct and link them to
access mainstream services to mention few for instance, Centrelink, Medicare …
etc. In addition, I frequently, provide group information session in different
topics, face-to-face casework, advice, advocacy and referral.
As a refugee myself and parent, I experienced and
demonstrated similar mixed feeling of distress like any other parent -- if I
step into their shoes, I have also the common sense of no longer sustains my
responsibility as the breadwinner in the home affairs. I am perplexed and
confused; my children become involved in my business and decision making. Young
people misinterpreted the western freedom.
The financial support and entitlements from social
security proved to be a centre of empowering children and snatching powers from
parents in slow motion of give-and-take, making parents vulnerable and weak, a
reciprocal sentiment of blameworthiness, guilt and self culpability.
To migrate or live in a foreign country is one of
the fresh adventures of the southern Sudanese pro-war era. No one from southern
Sudanese could envisage one day they will travel that far away from the
extended family, or dream to go faraway from ancestor home land, something I could
thoroughly screen all the way through the elders and parents role in Sudan, that is
embody by the first generation of migrants. They are characterised as the custodians
and “backbone” of the community; it is their role to sustain norms, values,
language and culture. They are the source for family oral history. Reconcile
conflicting parties, bless marriages and lead their communities.
On the other hand, as a sign of respect, elderly people are rarely called by their first names.
Men and Women are called “uncle”, “Aunt” + first name/nickname. Parents did not
permit their unmarried Young people (male
& female) under any circumstances to leave the family home until they are
Disciplining has eventually altered from generation
to generation, in the past it might involve beating (caning), smacking and skin
pinching (practiced by women only in most occasions). These are acceptable and
regarded as part of the child caring process.
Principally adults try to maintain knowledge and
values and community. They struggle to transmit this culture to the next
generation. This is the stage of intergenerational cultural transmission that
rigorously disturbed by two decades of war. These are the noble norms and tradition
that has shaped accordingly as a result of the excessive movement and
displacement of southern Sudanese migrants.
Second Generation (12 – 25 yrs old);
The two decades of war in
vehemently have changed everything, parents and their children fled their home
country of origin for security, food and shelter to the neighbour countries.
They cross the borders, walking considerable distances to settle in the new
country of asylum in the refugees’ camps, Kakuma camp in northern Kenya, Dimu and
Panyadum in Ethiopia
are the best examples, Uganda,
Young people from war torn
have little to share and carry on in reverence to traditional and norms; the methods
of transmission are indistinct. Young people adopted and incorporated the
culture of violence were the power of guns replaced the contemporary conflict
However, viewing the
impact of war from another perspective, the full ramifications of war on young
people is grown of deepening the “culture of Violence”, the tangible
example exactly translate by One
of the Nuer of southern Sudan.
Wutnyang Gatakek pointed remarkably in one of
his public speeches stated that “the smoke and sound of the guns has caused the
youth to become crazy and to behave very badly towards you elders”.
However, it is not only
Nuer elders or senior men, the issue is the ethical and social powers directly
threatened by convergence of gun, but all women and girls of all ages. It is
now a worried issue among many Sudanese when this culture of gun relinquishes
and be rightfully forgotten.
On this score it is
disturbing to be known as substantial fact during SPLA era in the early 80’s
and formally through out the SPLA 22 years old war. In the graduation ceremony
of a new battalion, recruits are taught the “graduation song”. The song
is completely confirming how the war dramatised and orientated young people to
the culture of violence, killing legalising this attitude to any freedom
The graduation Song in
Arabic narrates, usually sung by the successful trainees upon the formal
bestowal or conferral of their guns runs as follow:
“Even your mother, give her a bullet!
your father, give him a bullet!
gun is your food; your gun is your wife”
Blatantly, this naked type
of violence culture exposed to young people, for instance among those, the
widely known as “Lost boys of Sudan” or “child soldier” and other
characteristics breeding of the war. Eventually, everything has changed, values
and norms, no transmission of inheritance of the precious traditions to sustain
its existence and pass them on to the next generation.
Therefore, when young
people fled or deserted the combatant zone to neighbour country of asylum or
being camped in one of the refugee encampment, this behaviour doesn’t change.
Young people integrated
into all those sorts of cultures, either as a result of conscription and
forceful recruitment in the SPLA as a child soldiers or forced by circumstances
to voluntarily join the movement for the sake of liberty and freedom.
In the country of asylum:
Unlike the first
generation, Young people and children, encounter some difficulties to adjust
themselves, either in the refugee camps or elsewhere. They try to pick every
pity-tiny or pities without appropriate calculation – this is completely
different from the original culture. They try to learn the language to ease the
process of socialisation, making friends, embracing the “new culture” and
abandoning the culture of the country of origin. In the new country there is a
hybrid culture that incorporates aspects of both old and new. Here the process
of immigration and resettlement began to divulge.
As many migrants have had
highly disruptive lifestyle, pre-arrival experiences will severely influence
the way people perceive the resettlement process. Its send mixed messages and
feeling, fears of taking away children is well profound and eminent common
amongst migrants, thinking of improving or lean the language skills of
respective country of resettlement, which might enhance the integration process
in the new community, from my experience its proved to be the challenging
factor hindering the smooth communiqué for mingling to become an effective
member of this society. The pre-arrival influences to settle in Australia are
strain; frustrating waiting period of application outcome, making a conscious
decision to come to Australia, started to solicit and collect data about
Australia or any country all over the globe, history of violence, loss and
grieve, trauma and torture, separation from family members and friends,
ingredients of physical and nutrition needs.
In Australia; (Country of resettlement):
Prior refugee initial
arrival in Australia,
many families manage to overcome the rigidity and
hardship experiences they went through over the decades of war. People quickly develop
incredible resilience from their experiences. However, for many, resettlement
is a “cultural shock”, and therefore
the following key issues and changes are confronted by migrants, physical change,
different climate and environment, perplexity and bewilderment, predicament of not
knowing anyone, lack of effective communication with the new language that
affects the ability to socialise, form friendships, and develop social
connectedness, limited space for young people and children to go to school for
study and socialising.
Challenges and change of roles:
newly arrived young people came with high levels of expectation and dreams, and
they quickly want to fulfil these imaginations and expectations in short period
as soon as possible. Migrants and refugees families instantly parents, face
many challenges and complex alliance environments.
Young people and their families lose ties, loss of self worth occurs
because of power shifts observed (income security), with parents losing dignity
and status , parents become dependent on children to access the services (due
to language barriers), children become involved in “Adult” business and decision making, misinterpretation of
western world freedom, young people want to leave home after the age of 16
years, unemployment, depression, anxiety, family violence, children’s taking on
power imbalances, has significant long-term consequences for family dynamics,
this leads to the present intergenerational conflict, parents Vs
Strain and anxiety resulting from contact with new
Feelings of lost and dreams are not accomplished;
Confusion results from loss of accustomed culture
Stages of culture shock
in clued feeling of euphoria about the
exciting new country and culture, Failure to succeed leads to extreme
dissatisfaction with the host culture. Period of psychological transition
from comparing new and previous experiences – home values to the host-home
values, individuals begin to understand the host culture and feel more
in touch with values of that country, They begin forming more balanced
views whereby the host culture is viewed as offering both positive and
At the end individuals return to their home country
and experience reverse culture shock
Ages from unborn child to
11 years old.
This generation includes children aged between 0-11
years old. They are either born overseas
or in the host country - Australia
or elsewhere. They have advantages and disadvantages compared to the other two
Easily transformation into new
Assimilate easily into the
society, “feeling at home”.
Full loyalty to their new home
Intimacy with and loyalty to
the country of origin is shallow.
Disadvantages (to parents or older generation)
Loss of language - the “mother
Not understanding the norms and
values that parents want them to transmit and inherit
Disconnection from the
This is the phase where a person from a different culture
group strives to incorporate the cultural values and life skills of their
country of origin into the lifestyle and values of the new country. The
incorporation may entail keeping old ways and rejecting the new or vice versa,
or amalgamating the two.
To conclude, allow me to
share my testimony as a father who underwent intergeneration conflict as a
practical illustration of this paper narration. Five years ago in year 2000, when
I first arrived in Australia
where spent 9 years as asylum seeker with my eight children. Prior our arrival
my older children in their early 20’s put a bundle of pressure on me and my
wife, insisting repeatedly to have their finances and move out from family
home, the notion that we strongly refused because of our conservative Christian
faith and cultural values that we want to sustain as we aforementioned in this
paper. It’s hard to capture, it took us two years struggle to take comprehend
with the idea, I felt utterly frustrated and depressed, its triggered unnecessary
disease hypertension (high blood pressure). One day we held a secret meeting
with my wife and our older daughter who is also a partaking in the – moving –
out- proposal! With the promise that I will provide the utmost support to
secure alternative accommodation for the to let privately, which I did using my
job networking skills. On the day, we surprise them, my expectation was that
they will rejoice and celebrate, in contrast they stunt, but I assure them that
I am series. They were trying to ignore the idea, but I again assured them that
they should move out as soon as possible, I am series… because I want to use
the room they occupied for computer and study.
Two years after
experiencing bitterness, struggling to meet their obligations, bills and other,
the shamelessly came through the back door approaching mum to initiate
apologetic meeting with me, we met it was a controversial and challenging
meeting for them, heads bow, shame and vulnerability were the cloud
overshadowing the meeting. I felt more confidence; I restore part of distorted
image within the community. So it was an opportunity to spelt out my
instructions likely military orders, no one should come home after ten night,
TV should switch off at ten, no movies of sexual immorality of that brand to be
watch in home tv!, soccer, footy ok!, ….. etc.
This is how difficult the
incorporation of a culture of origin with “new” ways of living in the host
country is all about; it is neither motionless nor fixed in time. These are the
pros and cons of the new life style in the country of settlement, because young
people struggle to accommodate the country of origin’s values and norms in the
context of the new values and norms of the host country. The cultural adjustment they undergo is complex
Conflict of cultures occurs between young people
and their parents or elderly people of the community who, with unreserved
persistence, are trying hard to impose the values and norms of the country of
origin. The confrontations eventually
lead to antagonism and rejection from young people, and community elders view
this as a rebellion that creates “intergenerational conflict”. Therefore, intergration
is required to manage and incorporate the intergenerational conflict.