Beckenham resident’s journey from Kenya to Youth Parliament Premier

Dickson Wamukoya-Garbutt has been selected as Premier in the YMCA’s Youth Parliament conference. Picture: Jon Hewson.
Dickson Wamukoya-Garbutt has been selected as Premier in the YMCA’s Youth Parliament conference. Picture: Jon Hewson.

SIX years ago, Dickson Wamukoya-Garbutt was getting to grips with his new life in Perth, having moved with his family from Kenya.

Now, he has found himself in the role of Premier at the upcoming YMCA Youth Parliament.

After initially moving around Perth when his family settled in WA, he briefly headed back to his native Kenya before returning to live in Beckenham.

The former John Curtin College student admitted he received a culture shock when he first moved from Kenya, but said he thrived in the calmer school environment.

“Back at home, we had English-speaking days and if at any point in time you were heard speaking Swahili, you would be beaten,” he said.

“It was a big difference, it’s far more relaxed and involves more mediation between the teacher and student to get dialogue going, compared to ‘you did wrong, bang, bang, bang.’”

“I’d come from a school full of Africans, yet here I was an African boy from Kenya, and here I am tolerated by all these fine people.

“I think about where I came from and were I’m going and that informs my actions.”

While his political science studies at the University of Western Australia keep him busy, Mr Wamukoya-Garbutt is also an up-and-coming football umpire in the Perth Demons District. However, he said it took two years to convince his parents to let him umpire.

“As a parent, it’s always conscious in the back of their mind, here I was at 15, an immigrant child being thrust into a position where you’re likely to be abused,” he said.

“I was saying ‘Why are you doing this, why don’t you want me to umpire’ but in hindsight, they were trying to shield me like that.”

Despite the extra responsibility of being Premier, Mr Wamukoya-Garbutt said he was looking forward to the conference, where participants would take the role of MPs and develop and debate legislation.

“I’m in the indigenous and social affairs committee, our bill idea is to have a communities development fund for indigenous and multicultural people from a grassroots level,” he said.

“Right now, we’re amending the women’s interest bill from the women’s committee and will tweak that a bit.

“The support I’ve received from East Metropolitan Region MLC Matthew Swinbourn has been absolutely remarkable, he invited me to parliament and paid my fees for youth parliament as well.”