Melton South Sudanese community stepping up for peace

04/04/2017. Melton/Moorabool Star Weekly. Southsudanese. Issue Date 11/04. Melton, Woodgrove Shopping Centre. The Melton South Sudanese community will be patrolling the streets and shopping centres to engage with youth. Pictured are Rebecca, John, Banansio, John and Antipas. Picture Shawn Smits

Each time John Garang Kon scrolls through Facebook or turns on the TV, he feels like he’s bombarded with anti-South Sudanese sentiment.

When reports of youth crime and racist posts escalated, Mr Kon decided he needed to take action and he set up the Melton South Sudanese Community.

Since the group’s inception, Mr Kon has engaged with local youth, set up homework and sports clubs and hosted barbecues at local parks.

The group’s newest initiative is Harmony Walk – a group of 11 volunteers visit the Woodgrove Shopping Centre three days a week to engage with South Sudanese youth and encourage them to attend clubs and barbecues.

“We are all Australian and we need to exist together,” Mr Kon said of the group’s purpose. “We must work altogether … to create peace.”

Mr Kon said when the group started patrolling the shopping centre, they were met with indifference but there’s been a big shift in young people’s attitudes towards the volunteers.

“Sometimes with the young ones, if they’re disengaged or not knowing what to do, we try to give them hope and direction in terms of identifying their skills and trying to motivate them,” Mr Kon says.

To volunteer, call 0406 457 283.