This week (19th June – 25th June) is Refugee Week.

The aim of Refugee Week is to inform the public about refugees and to celebrate the positive contributions made by refugees to our society.

In the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (and its 1967 Protocol), a refugee is defined as:

Any person who owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country.

Appropriately, 2011’s theme for Refugee Week is FREEDOM FROM FEAR.

The 2011 Refugee Week events calendar is now online here under ‘Events’. You can use it to find Refugee Week events anywhere in Australia.

My kick-ass and all-around awesome Pacific Stories documentary project teacher Amie Batalibasi is a documentary maker and the Yarraville Community Centre(YCC) Artist in Residence (Melbourne). YCC is having a Refugee Day this Thursday to celebrate the week through art, stories, games, language, film, fun and food. Amie and her Young Media Makers Project(YMMP) youths (some of whom are refugees themselves) will be participating, as well as Adult Learners of YCC from CALD backgrounds, grade 5/6 students from Yarraville West Primary School, and local artist Stefan Gever. The idea is for the CALD learners to share stories orally and visually through creating art with the primary school students, which will be documented on film by the YMMP. VIVA COMMUNITY & COMMUNITY ARTS!

I’ve got stuff on tomorrow but I was going to attend the Refugee Week 2011 Public Forum tonight. Unfortunately it is being held in the fortyfive downstairs GALLERY, not the theatre, which is accessible (mofos). The Forum takes place at 6.30pm. You can RSVP here. Or check out one of the other events by organizations and community groups who do the actual work of supporting refugees trying to build new lives in Australia.  

I’ll be at home under a blanket waiting for 8.30pm…


P.S. Still reflecting on the views of the participants. It’s funny – I can really understand how each of them formed the opinions they have, and yet they are so drastically different from my own. The key question is WHY.

I think there are sociological, psychological and personal reasons why people hold certain political opinions, and have certain visceral responses.  Raye, for example, initially displays very extreme emotional responses that seemingly contradict each other: describing her putrid hatred of detention centre asylum seekers in her introduction (with visible contempt), then later crying genuine tears of sympathy and empathy for her African refugee hostess (with visible pain). Which, by the way, didn’t change her view on “boat people”, but, rather, strengthened her belief that these refugee camp asylum seekers are the people worthy of compassion and help. Anger seems to be an emotion she is very much in touch with at the beginning of her journey, but her desire to challenge herself is admirably sincere.

Contrast that to the personality of the country singer with the universal, “we are all brothers and sisters” mindset. No anger, no desire to punish or blame. Just a desire to assist someone in need of help, an open door, and a complete presumption of innocence. Also, in my opinion, admirable, though many might call her willingness to open her arms and home to strangers naïve or even irresponsible.

To what extent are their different points of view influenced by their upbringing? How much is influence by their life experiences? Their parents/background? Socioeconomic level? Their location/community? Gender/age? Their level of contact with other cultures? Their knowledge of the facts about Australia’s Humanitarian program or refugees worldwide? The media they consume? How much is influenced by their own, individual personalities? And to what extent are they wrong or right?

What I love about shows like this is that they show things aren’t black and white. Facts are facts, stats are stats, but the way people actually form their opinions is never completely objective. Which is why walking in someone else shoes is so effective – it can help us, if we are open to it, recognise the ways in which our own thinking might be prejudiced…. Our own blind spots. And that is an immensely valuable thing.

But you needn’t travel overseas to be challenged, or to learn or grow. Check out a Refugee Week event and you will see… the world is here

Learn about it.


One Comment on “REFUGEE WEEK | Events”

  1. vermeera says:

    thanks for posting this. Hopefully we will see some positive behaviour from Australians about the plight of the refugees. We are a huge country with plenty of money and space. It is quite shameful that we do not treat those fleeing tyranny and violence with more compassion. I live in hope that this will change

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