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"I am grateful for what this country has given me, whatever chance I have to give back I will to this community," Monu Chamlagai, City of Salisbury's 2020 Young Citizen of the Year

Posted on March 31 2020


Pictured: Mayor Gillian Aldridge of the City of Salisbury with Monu Chamlagai, 2020 Young Citizen of the Year recipient.

The following is a guest post from Manu Chamlagai - City of Salisbury's 2020 Young Citizen of the Year read about Monu here -

Monu Chamlagai is an inspiring member of her local community who actively advocates for youth, refugees, women and girls and mental health awareness.  We are thrilled that Monu has generously shared her story and her wisdom with us.  Monu's positivity and hope for the future is nothing short of inspiring and uplifting. We need young, passionate community leaders such as Monu to support us all through these challenging times and beyond. Here are her words - 

"I was born in a Bhutanese Refugee Camp in Nepal. We didn’t have enough access to basic needs such as health, education, food and we lived in small huts which had holes in the ceiling that leaked in winter.  I was a happy child and enjoyed life while being disconnected from the internet, I was connected to people. However, as I got older, I understood what it meant to be a refugee and when I look back, I understand the struggles my parents had to go through everyday only to keep us alive.

Coming to Australia has changed my life completely and I am forever grateful for everything I have now. However, it was also a big transition with many difficulties faced as part of resettling in a new country.  We had left our families and friends and we came here not knowing what to expect. I couldn’t speak English and my parents are still struggling with the language barrier even after 8 years. Due to this, they found it difficult to get a job. It was hard to communicate and make friends and I always had insecurities about my English and I still do a lot of the time although I’m getting better.  However, it wasn’t only the language barrier, life in Australia is different to where we come from and it took time to adjust and learn and I am still learning every day.  I was always shy, quiet and did not have confidence.  However now, I have spoken in public on many occasions, I am volunteering in my community and I also recently received the City of Salisbury 2020 Young Citizen of the Year Award. 

Becoming a citizen of Australia gave me an identity and gave me a home. I understand we all go through adversities in life and we all have something which helps us fight our battles. For me, this was the Salisbury Youth Council.

The Youth Council is a sub-committee comprised of young people who are advocating for young people in Salisbury and to help Council create a youth friendly space and help them understand the issues that young people may be experiencing in Salisbury.  This year I’m the Chairperson of this sub-committee. When I first started I wouldn’t talk much but as opportunities arose, I grabbed them. I went to conferences such as NETFEST*, I volunteered in the Refugee Alternatives Conference where I had the opportunity to meet people who work for people like myself (refugees). I also participated in Youth Parliament, I worked on many projects, joined groups such as Every Life Matters, Salisbury Suicide Prevention Youth Focus Group and I spoke publicly with the Mayor and as a guest speaker at Council meetings and much more. Through all these experiences, I have learnt and developed many skills. I am now a confident person and I am not afraid to talk to people. I’m not insecure about my language barriers - I know that my message is more important than my English. I am also studying Psychology as I am passionate about mental health and well-being. Recently, I have been hired to become a Child and Youth Mentor with the Better Health Generation this is an international allied health organisation and working in collaboration with the Department Of Education.

I am grateful for what this country has given me and whatever chance I have to give back I will to this community. Previously, I have worked on anti-bullying, employment and life beyond 18 projects. I have also joined the Intercultural Alliance at Salisbury Council so that I can be part of creating more interculturally friendly spaces in the diverse community that is Salisbury. I love meeting new people and forming new friendships. I like to advocate for refugees - so that anyone else won’t have to go through what I have experienced. Therefore, I am planning to be part of a project that works towards helping new arrivals resettling in Australia. I am always looking for new opportunities to be involved so that I can genuinely be part of making a difference in the community and be proud to be a part of it.  I have realised and learnt that just because I have migrated to Australia does not stop me from making a difference in Australian community, Australia is my home now, I have a voice and I have people who listen to me. I hope everyone who is newly settled in Australia can understand this and I hope they will thrive as I did."

"NETFEST" is SA's largest dedicated professional development and networking event for the non-government youth sector.

Award RecipientMonu Chamlagai finding her voice in Youth Parliament.

To nominate someone who makes a real difference in your community visit www.citizenoftheyear.com.au

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