Wrestlers grapple for a cause in Sydney's west. Photo: George Voulgaropoulos/OCULI

Australia’s South Sudanese community wrestles for a cause after loss of three loved ones

James Bullen
The Sydney Morning Herald

Wrestlers grapple for a cause in Sydney's west. Photo: George Voulgaropoulos/OCULI
Wrestlers grapple for a cause in Sydney’s west. Photo: George Voulgaropoulos/OCULI

Wearing battered shorts and animal skin, the competitors – one from the NSW Blue Warriors, the other representing the Queensland Maroons – collide in a blur of muscle and energy.

Each wrestler is trying to put the other into the grass and take home glory for their state, much like the Origin teams they get their names from.

“This wrestling is one of the greatest and most popular sports for the South Sudanese community. People love it,” said John Manyang Arok, a wrestler who went to last Saturday’s South Sudanese wrestling and cultural showcase. The 27-year-old is part of the Warriors’ Youth Cultural Group, a growing collective of young men bringing traditional South Sudan wrestling to young people in Sydney.
While it’s a bit of fun for participants, events like the wrestling showcase also support those in the community who’ve lost loved ones.
Last month, three women from Sydney’s South Sudanese community were killed after a police chase in Sydney’s west.
At the showcase last Saturday, organisers asked for donations as part of an appeal to help the families of the three women who died.

“Not one, but three lives have been lost. It sends a shockwave across the community. You can see it in the faces of the community, it’s impacted us very much,” said event organiser Dor Akech Achiek.

The community will again met to sing, play music, and fundraise on Saturday. Their goal is to bring in $50,000 in total for the families.

Wrestling is the most popular sport in many parts of South Sudan. More than a physical competition, it helps connect young people to a culture some have lost, said Achiek.

“Back home, when young people grow up, they get initiated, and that has a responsibility to lead and be a representative of a community with it. What we wanted is to bring back that element of representation and identity,” he said.

Arok has seen some of those young people come into the Blue Warriors collective.

“Here in Australia there are South Sudanese people, young people, who are born here, they don’t know about wrestling. They hear about wrestling, they watch it on YouTube,” Arok said.

“Many people go and commit a lot of crime, but if they get connected with their culture they will be able to know their culture and change their behaviours, because our culture is one of the most respectful.”

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