Tasmania | 2023 Australian of the Year
John Kamara escaped war-torn Sierra Leone and started a new life in Tasmania in 2004. He now works to assist migrants, refugees and people from culturally diverse communities. He highlights the disadvantages they face, such as racism and labour exploitation, and helps with their search for jobs and housing.
John co-founded the Culturally Diverse Alliance of Tasmania to promote social cohesion, and the African Communities Council of Tasmania. He and his wife, Mavis, also established Kamara’s Heart Foundation, a charity to support the education of children in Sierra Leone.
The opportunity to start a new life in Australia produced many feelings of hope and gratitude, but also of sadness and anxiety. I was faced with a world I knew nothing about. Everything about daily living had to be relearned.
I want to see migrant people of colour in the parliament, or in places where they can have bigger opportunity to negotiate laws and policy that impacts their daily life, because it’s very important.
Embracing the Human Struggles 2022 by Blessing Koroma
John’s niece created this artwork for him. It emphasises the difficult journey John made and the pain of leaving behind everything he loved to avoid being killed and survive a brutal war in Sierra Leone. While acknowledging past pain and the ongoing challenges of addressing hurt in the resettling community, it also highlights new opportunities, resilience and hope.
This exhibition was developed by the National Museum of Australia in collaboration with the National Australia Day Council. Portrait images supplied by the National Australia Day Council.