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Australia a sanctuary for Cambodian refugee

From a refugee camp, on the Thai-Cambodia border, to a riverside suburb in Perth, Chinda Proeung’s life journey has evolved from complex and challenging to fulfilling and rewarding.

Chinda (33) spent the first four years of his life in a refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodia border.

While Chinda and his family found sanctuary in Australia, many in the family, including Chinda, suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and they also grappled with learning English and a new way of life.

Chinda was later diagnosed with intellectual disability and, as he grew older, had mental health issues. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and placed in a mental health hostel.

Despite Chinda’s challenges, the 33-year-old is now living a well-rounded life in Ashfield, a river-side suburb in Perth.

“Chinda has some artistic flair and this can be seen in the artwork he has produced,” social trainer Ronald Dee said.

“He has been participating in ‘Artists by the River’ and is one of the star participants.

“He attends a friendship group on Wednesday nights and, now that he is used to it, and comfortable with his fellow attendees, he really looks forward to going there.”

Chinda can read and write and enjoys reading newspapers and magazines and takes a keen interest in television news.

He also enjoys regular walks, fishing and growing his own food.

“He assists staff with the vegetable garden maintenance and particularly enjoys eating the fresh produce, and adding fresh chopped chillies to his diet,” Ronald said.

Employment is important to Chinda and, after a period of unemployment which had negative outcomes for his self-worth and psychological stability, he is now employed at Qualipac Malaga, where he helps assemble fly traps, three days a week.

“He has made a positive impression with his contribution there, and has received a letter saying that with the good effort he is making and skills gained he is on track for a pay rise, something he’s very happy about,” Ronald said.

Chinda also attends the Central Institute of Technology, in Leederville, where he studies literacy and next year he hopes to enrol in a computer course.  

He enjoys living in Ashfield where he is able to access public transport, live near the Swan River and be part of the community.