BRIGHT Su Su could be finishing university by now. But there is catching up to do for the young woman whose entire childhood was spent in a refugee camp.
After 17 years confined to a camp on the Thailand-Burma border, 21-year-old Su today lives in a little Coniston cottage with her mum, dad, two brothers and two sisters.
Everyone takes their shoes off before they come inside and the floor is immaculately clean - something to take pride in.
"We [used to] have a bamboo house near the river," said Su, a year 11 student at Wollongong High School.
"If the floods came in, our home was lost. It happened twice."
The family, who fled Burma to escape military oppression, are among hundreds of refugees resettled in the Illawarra with the help of volunteers from SCARF (Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families).
Earlier this week the group was announced winner of the top award at the Building Inclusive Communities Awards run by the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW and Macquarie University.
The awards recognise people and groups whose work promotes harmony and understanding of others.
SCARF founder Sharyn McKenzie said the win reflected well on the group's 140 volunteers and the Wollongong community at large.
"An award like this says a lot about the people of Wollongong and their generosity, community spirit and their willingness to reach out to new Australians," she said.
"I'm quite proud of how lovely the Illawarra community is."
Since Su Su and her family arrived in Australia on June 24, 2009, SCARF volunteers have supplied them with clothes, shoes, a computer and a sewing machine.
Volunteers have led their English lessons, found them a home and have helped Su Su's father Bu Ree find casual work and get his licence.
Su Su says the family's new life is well on track.
"When we came here we were all skinny. Now we're all grown - especially my [youngest] brother," she said.