Ngun (aged 10) is from Myanmar (formerly Burma) and she and her family are of Hakha Chin background, an ethnic minority in Myanmar. With her mother, father and two siblings, Ngun moved regularly in the first few years of her life, hiding in the jungle in fear of a government military attack.
When Ngun was four, her family reached a refugee camp on the Thai–Myanmar border, but they still lived in constant fear of attack. She attended school for a while in the camp and, although there were few teachers, she learnt some letters of the English alphabet. She also went to church with her family, did chores for her mother, played with her younger cousins, and spent a lot of time with her grandmother, who told her stories.
Ngun’s father left the camp for Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. After a period of separation, the rest of the family joined him there and they lived in a cramped flat with two other families.
Ngun didn’t go to school in Malaysia because her mother kept her home permanently. The family were not Malaysian citizens, so they were under constant threat of government raids. Food was scarce and her younger sister was often very ill. Although her father didn’t have work rights, he was still employed long hours daily on a construction site. Men in uniforms sometimes came to the district where Ngun’s family lived and took people away. Ngun was worried these men would also take her father.
When Ngun came to Australia with her family, the cars and lights amazed her at first. People from a church took them to a house in outer west Melbourne in which everything smelt different and looked strange. The house appeared to her very large, with many rooms and limited furniture. Ngun and her family slept together in the same bed, but sometimes she couldn’t sleep because she heard frightening noises. She also lay awake missing her cousins and worrying about her elderly grandmother.
Ngun now helps her mother with many chores, especially caring for her younger sister, who has ongoing health problems. She knows her mother worries about the family, particularly Ngun’s hard-working father. Six days a week, he leaves early in the morning to work at a poultry farm. He doesn’t get back until late at night, so Ngun rarely sees him.
Ngun is in Grade 4 at primary school, where she has learnt to count and write her name. Other students don’t talk to her much, so she hasn’t made many friends, though she does play with another girl at lunchtime.
At her former school, boys and girls sat separately, but in Australia everyone sits together, which makes Ngun uncomfortable. She is fearful the teacher will ask her a question in front of the class, but she likes it when the teacher reads aloud to the class. Ngun also likes to play with school toys, even though her parents have told her school is for learning, not play.