Every year STARTTS in conjunction with partner organisations organises the launch of Refugee Week – the week surrounding World Refugee Day on 20 June. The event aims to highlight the importance of refugee issues and celebrate the resilience, talents and achievements of refugees in NSW. For more information about what’s on during Refugee Week: www.refugeeweek.org.au
Launching Refugee Week 2015: With courage let us all combine
Refugee Week celebrates the great contribution that refugees make to enrich Australian society. On Friday 12 June 2015, STARTTS launched Refugee Week 2015 together with the Refugee Council of Australia, Settlement Services International and Illawarra Multicultural Services, with Janice Petersen from SBS as the MC. For the first time ever, the launch event was held in the Illawarra, a major population centre of NSW.
This year’s event which was entitled, with courage let us all combine, a lyric from Australia’s national anthem. It was a line that resonated throughout the entire community event held at Warrawong High School, demonstrating the power of just what happens when Australian society does come together and ‘combine’.
There were performances from students hailing from war torn parts of the world who now call Australia home, supported by their excellent and dedicated teachers. The multicultural choir, the Keira High Diamonds, sang Amazing Grace, which they dedicated to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. There were also several musical performances from some of the talented students of Warrawong High, who also introduced some of their own musical heritage with a spirited African drumming performance. A bit of Sri Lanka was also infused into the event, with The Break Out Boys taking over the stage and wowing the crowd with their moves.
Former refugees extended a welcoming hand to more recent refugees, as well as generously sharing their experiences with the audience, which included many students from Warrawong High. A panel discussion included three former refugees who all spoke movingly of their experiences before coming to Australia and their lives since then: Hani Aden who left Somalia and ended up in detention on Christmas Island; Priscilla Bul from South Sudan, who spent the first part of her life growing up in a refugee camp; and Teresa Tran who fled Vietnam by boat and eventually settled in the Wollongong area where she now leads an accounting practice. The discussion also included the Mayor of Wollongong, Gordon Bradbery, who spoke from the heart about what a great asset a truly multicultural community is and his advice to those who were afraid of new arrivals was to “take a chill pill”!
The stories of the three women, and the moving performances from the students, showed the resilience and courage that so many of refugees have, and the incredible internal resources that people draw on to not only survive, but to thrive in their new home of Australia.
STARTTS Humanitarian Awards
Each year, as part of Refugee Week, the Humanitarian Awards are held to acknowledge those who have made an outstanding positive contribution to supporting refugees in NSW.
The Humanitarian Awards also provide a chance to promote the hard work and achievements of both individuals and organisations in various fields that play a substantial role in improving the lives of refugees.
At the launch of Refugee Week 2015 we presented awards to 9 exceptional people who are making the most outstanding contributions to refugee issues in NSW.
Awards were presented to the following winners:
Media – Rosie Scott
Government/Legal – Shane Prince
Rural and Regional – Mohammed Yarob Haddad
Business – Ravi Prasad and ‘The International Shift’ at Parliament on King
Best project – Healing through Evan Yako’s Drumming
Refugee community worker – Antoinette Abdelseed, Angels of Mercy Welfare Services
Refugee supporter – Ngareta Rossell
Youth – Shabeera Zia, Settlement Services International
Education – Anette Bremer
For more info about Refugee Week and World Refugee Day visit the Refugee Week website (run by the Refugee Council of Australia)