Leaving on a jet plane

Nobody likes airplane food. There’s just something about it that doesn’t taste quite right. While this may not be top of mind when moving across the world, when Shammah Ntore boarded a plane for the first time with her family at six years old, to escape violence in their home country, she shared that same sentiment.

Each and every one of us has our own unique story to tell and as Refugee Week approaches, 19-15 June 2022, we recognise the importance for us to hear different stories from a variety of people, cultures and perspectives. 

Inspired by the book Donkeys Can’t Fly on Planes, which features a collection of 25 true stories of survival written and illustrated by refugee children, Aurora invited students from Catholic schools across the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle to share their experiences of arriving in Australia as a refugee.  A child’s perspective is not one often published but is one we could all learn from.

Reflecting on her story as an adult, Donkeys Can’t Fly on Planes co-author, Angeth Malual hopes that hearing the stories of young people and children can help us to recognise their resilience and to empathise with others, no matter where they come from.

“If we come to an understanding that we’ve all been through something and we all came from something, at the end of the day we can realise that we’re not that different from each other.” 

Their perspectives serve to remind us that while we all come from different walks of life, in many ways we’re not that different from one another.

Even in our dislike for airplane food. 


Rahaf Allawi, Year 9

I am from a place called Sednayah. It is a small town and there are a lot of Christian churches there. It has one of the oldest convents in the world. It is called Our Lady of Sednayah.  Sednayah is located in the mountains, 1500m above sea level. In the winter it snows a lot. The mountains are very beautiful. We used to climb the mountains for fun. Many of my relatives still live there.

I have four in my family, my father, my mother and little brother.  We arrived in Australia on 13 March 2019. It was weird and strange to be in such a different place. At the same time, we were also very relieved to have finally arrived here. Australia seemed very spread out, calm and full of people we couldn’t understand!

It wasn’t easy to move to Australia. Prior to arriving, we had to move to Iraq for one year. This was very difficult because we couldn’t go to school there, my parents couldn’t work and we had to rely on friends and organisations to help us. Every day we would hold onto the hope that we would hear from the Australian Government. It was difficult waiting and not knowing when the waiting would end.

While we are glad to be here, it’s difficult to live without your relatives around you. It’s also sad to miss out the culture you grew up with and it takes a long time to feel comfortable in a new culture.

Photo below: Rahaf's hometown and church, captured by Rahaf's Mum's cousin, Shehade Alahmar, who is a photographer.


Shammah Ntore, Year 4, 

I was born in Burundi in Africa. That’s where my grandma was before she came to Australia and my dad was born in Congo and me and my brother were born in Burundi. It’s pretty nice there. My family cooked a lot in Burundi. I like the food there. My favourite food is rice and soup and chicken.

I was six years old when I moved to Australia. I was kind of sad because I had to leave my grandma and my uncles, but now I am happy because I feel more safe here. In Burundi I would hear gun shots and I was really scared.

Before coming to Australia, I had never been on an aeroplane before. I was very nervous, and I was sitting with my mum and my dad was with my brother. I didn’t quite like the food. They spoke English in the aeroplane, and I couldn’t understand a word they said but my dad translated it for me.

I was actually pretty excited to come here [to Australia].  I wanted to make friends and talk to new and different people. Now that I live here, I have met many different people and made new friends. I really love it here. It is my home.

My grandma came over with my two uncles and one of my aunties this year. My aunty is the youngest; she’s 17 years old. I have an uncle that is turning 20 and my other uncle is 25. I felt happy when they came over because it’s nice to be with family.


Margerit Kuku, Year 5

My mum and dad are from Sudan. While they were living in the Nuba Mountains, there was a war. My parents ran away to Egypt with my brother and three sisters. I was born there. Then the UN helped them and sent us to Australia. I was 11 months old.

My mum and dad told me that when they first came to Australia, they were excited because me and my siblings could go to a good school and have a good house and good friends.

I sometimes speak Moro at home and when I speak to my grandparents on the phone, I speak Moro because they don’t know English.

My aunties and cousins have moved to Australia too. When we get invited to barbeques, we go all the way to Sydney because they live there, and we go to weddings in Melbourne.

I like how I have a big backyard to play in and a safe country.

I like to play soccer. I’m a defender. I like it because I don’t have to run a lot. I sometimes practice in the backyard with my brother and my dad because my dad likes to play soccer.


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