Helping young people and their families is a topic close to the heart of Tarneit man Dr Santino Atem Deng.

Dr Deng was born in Sudan and fled from the country’s civil war as a child. He ended up in an Ethiopian refugee camp, where he completed his schooling.

He went on to complete a bachelor of education and psychology and a master’s degree in education and counselling.

Dr  Deng then lived in New Zealand and worked several jobs helping refugees, youth and non-English speakers.

“In 2003, I started working as a behaviour support worker with the Ministry of Education in New Zealand, and I became more interested in helping young people,” Dr  Deng said.

“I realised you can’t work with young people without involving their parents and family.”

In 2012, Dr Deng obtained a scholarship to Victoria University.

Last year, he completed his PhD, which focused on changes and challenges in South Sudanese family dynamics and parenting practices in Australia.

Dr  Deng said that while researching his PhD, he had spoken to refugees who had experienced racism, discrimination and bullying.

Some reported they were discriminated against by employers, “denying them opportunities solely based on being different”.

Dr Deng said that despite the challenges, he had found South Sudanese parents wanted to learn more about the Australian culture and community, but were often not sure how to.

“That’s why I try to put as much knowledge as I can out there,” he said.

“When you know what the issues are, then you can address them.”