Atway is an alumnus of our highly successful African Australian Inclusion Program (AAIP) that we run in partnership with NAB. Here’s a snapshot of his experience.
Atway fled from war-torn Sudan with his family when he was nine. He lived in Egypt for a few years and then migrated to Australia in 2003. His mum inspired him along the way. “Growing up, I’ve watched her work up to three or four jobs at a time to support us,” he says. “And she’s always encouraged me to make full use of the great opportunities this country has to offer.”
When he arrived in Australia, Atway was thirteen and spoke no English. He ended up finishing high school and went from job to job, including at an abattoir, a chicken meat processing plant, and Coles Express. Regrettably, he was no stranger to racism. “Trust me I used to cop it a lot,” he says.
While his life experiences have given him a tough skin, he’s still frustrated by the media coverage of Sudanese youths that feeds a stereotype that can lead to misunderstanding. Atway says, “They always shine the light on the bad side, so now most people would think a lot of Sudanese are like that.” He wants to change this perception, and be a role model for his family and community.
While working at places such as Coles, he completed a Bachelor of Commerce with a triple major in Economics, Finance and Financial Planning. He also volunteered to help people who are facing similar challenges.
“I wanted to volunteer so that I can give back to my community, make new migrants feel welcomed, feel like they’ve got someone they can go and talk to if they re unsure about something,” he says.
While Atway has made his own luck, he knows that there are many who still fight against prejudice and struggle to get a break. “A lot of African-Australians struggle to get their foot in the door,” he says. “It could be even your name – a non Anglo-Saxon name – that could exclude you from a job.
“I’d love to just tell them that there are good support systems if you do the right thing. There are people out there that are actually willing to help you. As part of the AAIP, I have four support people at NAB that are willing to help me and very interested In me succeeding,” he says.
Atway has a three-year-old son of his own, Carter, and is keen to be the role model that his mother and elder brother were for him.
“I want to be successful so then I can provide my son a better life than what I had. I’m happy with my son doing whatever he wants to do, as long as he does the right thing. He can be a plumber, he can be a builder, he can be whatever he wants,” says Atway.
“If he wants to become a banker, just like his father, he can go ahead and do that too!”