It’s World Refugee Week and because this is an ace community I just know you are asking, “What can I possibly do from my little spot in Australia to make any kind of difference at all?”
Why should you want to?
Probably because you’re not an arsehole and doing kind things gives you a ‘helpers high’ which has been scientifically proven to contribute to a longer life. Sure you can ignore me now and go for a run and get ‘runners high’ but here is an opportunity to extend your life without exercising. Nope, don’t thank me. Oh, okay, you’re welcome.
So – let’s get a bit serious here for a moment. Let’s just choose one country that we read about in the news a lot. Syria.
Syria’s population – at about 23 million – is almost identical to Australia’s.
But did you know that over 60 per cent of Syria’s population has been displaced during the last five years?
To give you that in relatable terms – in Australia that would be about equal to everybody in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Canberra and Newcastle having to find somewhere else to go.
Going global – there are an estimated 42.5 million people displaced by persecution and conflict in the world. This breaks down to 15.2 million refugees, 26.4 million internally displaced persons and 895,000 asylum seekers.
When you put it like that – it seems overwhelming doesn’t it?
But the good news is (insert drum roll), I’ve done some research for you so you don’t have to (I know right – I am just give give giving today – I’m totally going to live forever) and here are five ways you can be awesome you can do something AND help change the conversation to a more positive inclusive ‘fuck yes’ kind of vibe.
People Like Us
People Like Us is committed to changing the conversation about asylum seekers and refugees through creative storytelling, education and community engagement. They want to remind everyday Australians that asylum seekers and refugees are people like you, people like me – people like us.
They collaborate with other awesome projects – so go and check out their Facebook page and start sharing the videos there so you can educate your friends and family.
The Welcome Dinner Project
This is one of my favourites. The Welcome Dinner Project enables newly arrived people and established Australians to meet over dinner conversation in the comfort of their own home.
The aim of these dinners is to create a platform for people to connect, by putting real humans together, sparking friendships between people of diverse cultures who are living in close proximity to one another but have not had an opportunity to connect.
Human connection and friendship are the key elements of any kind of welcoming culture and this is a really practical and easy way to make new Australian’s feel welcome.
The Refugee Art Project
So a small collective of academics and artists were worried about the plight of refugees to Australia and the asylum seekers who wait in Australian detention centres. As a source of therapy, they organised art classes for asylum seekers in Sydney’s Villawood detention centre and for some who have recently been granted refugee visas and are settling into the community.
From there, they have staged a number of public exhibitions of refugee art. Their contributors are men, women and children from such places as Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Iran, the Kurdish regions of the Middle East, Nigeria and Indonesia.
The exhibitions are unified by the common themes of trauma, exile, hope, and endurance that have marked the lives of refugees.
They hope to throw a light on the trials and hardships faced by refugees in general, and within the detention environment in particular. All the proceeds from sales go back to helping asylum seekers and refugees.
Their website is amazingly informative and interesting so pour yourself a fresh cuppa before clicking through.
Okay I know – they used ‘4’ instead of ‘four’ and if you’re a bit anal about these things it might turn you off but this group of women is seriously kick arse. They are working towards an Australia that is fair, just and inclusive and that treats refugees and asylum seekers with dignity and compassion.
They are super big on caring and action. They do things like coordinate clothing, food, furniture to support new Australians and arrange sit-ins and protests in their local communities to ensure that the politicians remember that we are dealing with people – not just some random political point scoring. They connect people in detention with people that aren’t, help coordinate training and all sorts of things.
To join in– check out their Facebook page and find out what’s happening locally.
Welcome to Australia
Welcome to Australia exists to engage everyday Australians in the task of cultivating a culture of welcome in our nation. The Australia we love is known for its diversity, compassion, generosity and commitment to giving all people a fair go.
WTA like to find many different ways that individuals, families, businesses and other organisations can work together to continue to develop these values in our communities, work places, schools and institutions.
They run the annual ‘Walk Together’, which is a welcome walk bringing communities together, that takes place in over 20 cities and towns across Australia in addition to a variety of play meets, surfing programs, music sessions and more, to help new Australians integrate into their communities.
They can be found at www.welcometoaustralia.org.au and all over social media.
Also check out
http://www.awswn.org/ (Australian Women in Support of Women in Narau)
http://www.ruralaustraliansforrefugees.org.au/ (Appollo Bay, Armidale, Ballarat, Bega Valley, Bellingen and Nambucca Districts, Bendigo, Daylesford, Dunkeld, Hamilton, Macedon Ranges, Queanbeyan, South Eastern Tasmania, South Gippsland, Southern Highlands, Surf Coast, Warrnambool)
www.parliamentonking.com (Parliament on King – Sydney)