Lismore refugee challenges Peter Dutton to a Scrabble match
IN RESPONSE to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's assertion that 'illiterate and innumerate refugees' could 'take Australian jobs', Lismore refugee and disability support worker Adeyemi Johnson would like to challenge Dutton to a Scrabble match.
"I think I can give him a run for his money," said the former accountant and journalist.
The youthful 54-year-old and his family fled war-torn Sierra Leone and relocated to Lismore in 2008 with the help of Sanctuary Northern Rivers under the Government's Humanitarian Settlement program.
Mr Johnson lives in Lismore CBD with his wife and three children aged between 17 and 24. He became an Australian citizen in 2013.
The devout Christian believes his decision to flee Sierra Leone as a refugee saved not only his life, but his entire family.
"I never lived in a refugee camp. I was a journalist. I was straight and was ready to expose corruption. So I was targeted by the then politicians in government.
"I was uncovering corruption and greed, the killing and maiming of people.
"As a journalist, if they try to silence you, then they try to silence your entire family. They were going to finish all of us," Mr Johnson said.
When he arrived in Lismore, Mr Johnson made the decision to give up on journalism and start work as an entry-level aged care worker. Even in the jobs-poor Northern Rivers region, it was a low-paid position begging for a hard-working and compassionate worker like Mr Johnson.
But Mr Johnson has not left his literacy levels wane. He is the President of the Lismore Scrabble Club, currently competing in an international online Scrabble competition, and in past years made NSW proud by beating the Queensland Scrabble champ.
"When I came here I wanted to go back to work as a journalist, but I said, okay, I want to change my future and serve humanity. So working in the health industry doing nursing, working with old people, people with disabilities, I am really happy because that is how I can serve humanity.
"As a Scrabbler, when I was working at a nursing home, I would pass the time with them playing Scrabble.
"Most of these old people, their families are not around, so I am happy to give back.
"They brighten my life and I want to put smiles on other people's faces. Let them know they belong. Because most of these people who are old, most of these people who are frail, they belong to society and we must show them empathy. Show them they belong.
"They are human beings. Whether refugees or non-refugee, we are all human beings," he said.
His challenge to Peter Dutton
"First of all I want to express my thanks to the government for allowing refugees to come to this country who are running from war. You opened your doors to us. I want to doff my hat to you guys for that.
"But it's unfortunate that a man like Peter Dutton is using a sentiment like that, that refugees are illiterate and take jobs. It's very unfortunate because I don't think he ever thought of the repercussions. It's really a slap to the face for all refugees coming here.
"If he wants a Scrabble match I will definitely give him a run for his money.
"Coming into a new country to work, one of the things is that you have to integrate and you have to give back. You don't want to sit on the money you get from Centrelink. You have to use your skills.
"90 per cent of people who are my family are all Aussies, because I am an Aussie. I belong here."