Migrant successes to showcase state

‘‘We drove into Port Pirie just to have a look around and there in the main street we saw the Pakistani flag with other flags of the world flying,’’ Irfan said. ‘‘We were amazed and the local people told us a mayor had started flying the flag to celebrate some other health professionals, and we decided to stay.’’ The couple, who have an outlet in Port Pirie as well as Blakeview in Adelaide, have won awards for their services to the industry. Irfan said affordability and a lifestyle suited to young families were also reasons to settle in SA rather than Melbourne or Sydney. At the time there was a large shortage of regional pharmacists in SA and both were studying for registration and postgraduate qualifications. Irfan said there were difficult times along the way but he has had many posi- tive experiences with South Australian people. When Sobia applied to the pharmacy board to open their first pharmacy in Port Pirie, Irfan’s employer sacked him and the couple struggled for months with no income. R ACISM against the couple in regional areas has been iso- lated. Once when Irfan was get- ting petrol in Melrose and was about to open a pharmacy in Orroroo, a woman asked whether he was a boat person and told him to go back to Pakistan. Before they opened their pharmacies in the smaller towns, people relied on the post for their drugs. Kuol Baak will also feature in the series. He was one of the so-called ‘‘lost boys’’ of South Sudan before moving to South Australia, and now lives in Port Pirie with his wife Mel. Kuol was 11 when civil war broke out in his homeland and a year later he became a child soldier, abducted from his rural village by rebel fighters. He didn’t see his family for another 20 years. Until they were old enough to hold guns the boys were educated, which was an opportunity Kuol says he would never have had in his village. But when the United States began financial aid to the rebels, it did so on condition that the boy soldiers be disarmed, leaving tens of thousands of them to fend for themselves. They were called ‘‘The Lost Boys’’ and thousands died of starvation, predation and execution. After being taken to a Kenyan refugee camp, Kuol completed school and took an interest in urban geography and town planning. He settled in Adelaide where he worked as a brick- layer and helped South Sudanese refugees. He met Mel who was studying medicine in Adelaide, and he completed a degree in town planning. In Port Pirie the council had been looking for a town planner for 12 months, and after six months the only other planner quit. Kuol and Mel travelled back to his village for the first time in 20 years. The Baaks’ charity, Timpir, raises funds for 700 children to be educated in the villages of Kuol’s homeland and provides bore water and health aid. ‘‘When I started in town planning I hoped to be able to make better towns in Africa, but now I think I am doing that in Port Pirie,’’ Kuol said. ‘‘I have had some people angry over the years, but it is always with the planning process, not me personally, but in development you can’t always do what you want.’’

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