The Eastern Karen Community Association of Victoria Incorporated (EKCAV) is a non-profit organisation based in Eastern Melbourne metropolitan area mainly in Maroondah, Yarra Ranges and Knox council’s area.
Local Karen refugee members who have resettled in Australia founded EKCAV and formally registered as an independent Incorporated Association since 22nd March 2007.
We work in close association with Croydon Hills Baptist Church to provide assistance to local Karen refugees and promote awareness of the Karen people’s plight. Current projects include the establishment of a women’s weaving and craft group to make and sell traditional handicrafts, organising soccer and volley ball teams and a community Karen language school.
Every refugee family has a story to tell of family members killed, tortured or raped, villages burned down, work slave labour for the Burmese Army and the constant fear of landmines.
Burma has suffered more than 50 years of civil war and military dictatorship. Some of the most intense fighting and the greatest oppression has been in the Karen State. More than 150,000 ethnic Karen have escaped to refugee camps in Thailand. At least another 500,000 have been forced to flee their villages because of constant military campaigns and are trapped in the jungles of Burma as internally displaced people. These families have very little food, shelter or medical assistance and their situation is dire.
When Bu Thaw was five years old her mother died giving birth to her younger brother in the midst of bombs falling on her village. Bu Thaw’s father died when she was 10 years old when he was forced by the Burmese military into slave labour as a porter. She was then forced to survive on her own while looking after her siblings. Bu Thaw and her husband spent almost 20 years in the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand on the border with Burma. She was trained as a health worker by a NGO and worked in the refugee camp. As with all refugees in the camp Bu Thaw And her husband were not permitted to travel outside the camp. They were threatened by the Burmese military and other pro-Burmese military organisations. The living conditions were very difficult with little food to survive on.
Now Bu Thaw is happily settled in Australia with her family. Bu Thaw Po Tae Pe and Ku Lay Thaw Wah with their three daughters, were sponsored to come to Australia as refugees. She has the opportunity to study and live without fear. Most important for her now is that she doesn’t need to worry that her children will suffer the same hardships she had to endure.
EKCAV has helped many Karen refugees like Bu Thaw settle into Australia and see their lives of fear transformed into hope for the future.
Karen refugees who are registered with the United Nations, who are living in refugee camps and who have an Australian sponsor can apply to come to Australia. When they arrive in Australia they receive government assistance to find accommodation and learn English.