Refugees add to our rich tapestry - Op Ed, The Chronicle


The Chronicle, 22 January 2019

A decade ago, Pakao Sorn came close to dying as she took her first steps towards a new life. Fleeing Burma on foot, she endured crowded detention centres, rough terrain, and so much rainfall that she thought she might drown.

A few years later, she found out that she had been granted refugee status in Australia. Her first thought was ‘Oh my god, so far away. I never flew before.’

After arriving in Canberra, she saved for a sewing machine, and began making stuffed bunnies, owls and dogs using traditional Mon Burmese fabric (if you know a child with an upcoming birthday, you can buy one at

Sorn has also studied, created her own small business and found full time work in the early childhood sector. Now a citizen, she is helping provide free business education to refugee women through the organisation Global Sisters.

Her story reminds us of the adage that migrants are not just mouths to feed – they are muscles to build and minds to inspire.

Apart from Indigenous Australians, all of us are migrants or the descendants of migrants. Multiculturalism has made Australia not only richer, but more vibrant too.

Andrew Leigh is the Federal Member for Fenner, and his website is

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.


Showing 3 reactions

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  • Todd Unctious
    commented 2019-01-22 22:22:46 +1100
    “…migrants are not just mouths to feed – they are muscles to build and minds to inspire”?!? So is that what a future Labor government has in mind for the refugees illegally detained on Manus and Nauru? Body building and brain training?
  • Marie Ryan
    commented 2019-01-22 20:06:55 +1100
    I agree with all you say about refugees and migrants, Andrew. So why does your party agree with the government that some refugees be detained on Manus and Nausea in appalling conditions? The despair and hopelessness that besets these people shames us all. Have you nothing to say about the contribution to Australia these people could make?
  • Tim Liersch
    commented 2019-01-22 17:20:58 +1100
    So why support locking people up in prisons run by other countries?

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