Philip Lako was born in a tiny village of Kerchomba, about 140 kilometres north of Juba, the capital of South Sudan. In 1990 at the age of 10, he was taken, under the pretext of education, by the Sudan People Liberation Movement rebels fighting the government of Sudan. This forceful removal resulted in prolonged suffering and torment from the rebel leaders. The man-made adversities which Philip endured included torture, forced labour, sleep and food deprivation which all resulted into great destitution. Philip slept in cold and wet squalid conditions with no blankets and only hessian bags to keep him warm. His ordeal continued until 2000 when he escaped to Kenya to seek refuge. Although there was shelter, rationed food and basic security in the camp, the eight-year-old Kakuma camp, located in north-western Kenya, presented unique challenges. Being a refugee was the defining movement of Philip’s life in that he finally felt that hope was something that could be possible for him. At first, he thought he had arrived in a place where dreaming was possible, hopefully for the last time, only to realise the hopelessness and despair invading his life again. This adversity lasted for another 4 years until hope, that was real and tangible, was afforded to Philip by being able to resettlement and Philip arrived in Perth, Western Australia, in 2004.
While in Australia, Philip sought employment in various sectors and volunteered for St Vincent de Paul and MercyCare. His service at MercyCare drew immediate media attention.
Many migrants remain grateful to the Australian government and its people. With this in mind, the desire to reciprocate the compassion afforded to them is insatiable. He wanted to express his appreciation through assisting newly arrived migrants (refugees and asylum seekers) to settle more easily in Australia through sharing his own life experience. This included but was not limited to knowing their expected responsibilities as newcomers to Australia and assisting to help them to understand the freedom and uniqueness of the Australian way of life.
Philip shared his story of resilience with anyone who he could assist in this way. This included youth such as year 10, 11 and 12 high school students. He also assisted migrants to understand their safety and wellbeing responsibilities and rights as employees. Even further, Philip assisted the newly arrived migrants to understand the challenges including social and cultural expectations. He mentored young, especially from CALD backgrounds, to embrace these new challenges with hope and optimism.
Philip also acted as a conduit between government agencies and other relevant services with communities. By sharing his own personal experience Philip was able to assist Centrelink appreciate issues affecting migrants from similar backgrounds as his own in Australia.
On the 23rd of April 2018 he was made a panel member who spoke for MercyCare about his experience on living a life on the mercy of others during the Catholic Youth Conference organised by Catholic Diocese of Perth Catholic Youth Conference at Santa Maria College, Attadale. On the 22nd of September 2016 he was honoured and awarded by MercyCare a Certificate of Recognition for living the values of the organisation.
More exposure was to come as in December 2016 Philip shared his life story with the Diocese of Perth Catholic Magazine, The Record.
On 3rd and 4th of December 2016 he participated and assisted in the foundation of Federation of Equatoria Community Association in Australia (FECAA) in Sydney.
On the 3rd of December 2016 Philip was interviewed by ABC News about his volunteering role with MercyCare settlement services; providing safety literacy to the newly arrived migrants and assistance with the conversational English language.
More occasions to share his extraordinary story followed as on the 3rd of February 2018 he was a guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Perth sharing his life experience and again on the 2nd of July 2018 he was a guest speaker at the Wellington Rotary Club. In October 2018 Philip spoke about integration into Australia at 3rd FECAA conference.
In 2019 Philip was given further opportunities to speak of his history and fortitude when on the 2nd of February 2019 he spoke about ‘Asylum Seekers’ at the Uniting Church, Nedlands. On the 6th of February 2019 he was invited to speak by the Department of Human Services Osborne Park to its employees on educating public servants on refugees stories.
On the 11th of February 2019 he was invited to be an inspirational speaker of MercyCare’s Australia Work Culture event for Skilled Migrants. On the 28th of February 2019 he was invited by the Department of Human Services (Child Support Division) to speak about educating public servants on refugees’ stories.
Philip’s invitations to be both an educational and inspirational speaker continued as on the 1st of March 2019 he was invited to be a guest speaker by the Uniting Church Nedlands for the Youth. In addition, on the 9th of March 2019 he assisted in organising the first-ever Equatoria Community Association in WA Cultural day, attended by government officials including the Australia Federal Government Attorney General, The Hon. Christian Porter.
On the 5th of April 2019 Philip was invited again by the Department of Human Services for Employees to assist in educating public servants on refugees’ stories.
Philip is currently working as a trainer and assessor delivering Certificate courses and related workshops on Disability and Ageing including employment opportunities, whilst he is completing his Bachelor of Health Science double major in Work Health and Safety and Health Promotion.
As the inaugural Adult Ambassador for ARTISTS 4 A CAUSE®, Philip’s personal statement summarises the very foundation of the ethos and tenets on which ARTISTS 4 A CAUSE® proudly stands when he says: “Whenever you get a chance to assist another person, do so without the fear of being judged by others because in life there are times when we need a helping hand”.