Currently, intense secrecy, coupled with frames of fear and division, have normalised a cruel and dehumanising discourse that masks the realities of Australia’s refugee policy.
Road to Refuge is preparing to launch a campaign this year to proactively shift the narrative to prioritise and respect the lived experiences of people seeking asylum and people from refugee backgrounds.
But we need your help! We’re hiring three new volunteers to join the communications team to help make this happen:
People from refugee backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.
If you’re interested please send a one page cover letter and brief CV to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm April 27. Please ensure the subject title of the email is the position that you’re most interested in applying for.
In 2018, Road to Refuge as an organisation will continue to prioritise and amplify the voices, perspectives and experiences of people from refugee backgrounds and people who are seeking or have sought asylum.
Why? Because Road to Refuge believes that when the people most affected are able to share their own stories and be leaders in the movement, change will happen.
With that in mind, here is our reading list for 2018. Importantly, Road to Refuge recognises that the refugee experience does not define their identities.
Let us know if there’s a book you think we missed! The Refugees, Viet Thanh Nguyen
A brilliantly moving collection of short stories, from a first-generation American taking care of her mother to a man confronted by culture shock when he learns he is moving to San Francisco with a gay couple, highlight the diversity of experience of Vietnamese refugees and the complex human emotions associated with it.
Stories About Hope, Renee Dixson
The stories represented in Renee’s book celebrate the courage and resilience of various people who have undertaken diverse journeys to Australia throughout different points in history. The book shines a light on the stories of strength not depicted in the media; they are more common than we think in the Australian community.
The Happiest Refugee, Anh Do
A memoir that captures the journey a young boy took with his family to reach the safe shores of Australia. However as Do indicates the journey for stability and safety did not stop when Australian shores were reached. He and his family still faced racism and poverty with the new life they were creating in Australia. The Happiest Refugee is about overcoming the many and constant struggles faced by refugees in their new homes.
Sudanese Refugee to International Model, Alek Wek
The story of young lady who fled Sudan, moving to the UK not knowing that the future she would have would put her in the spotlight. Where she is now an advocate for refugees and a voice for those who do not have one. Alek Wek is an outspoken individual that is proud to have had a refugee background.
A Resilient life, Mariam Issa
Fleeing civil war in Somalia while pregnant and with her two young sons, Mariam Issa’s road to refuge is nothing short of amazing. Traveling by boat to Kenya where her journey to safety and stability had only begun. She draws upon her lived experience of being a refugee and experiencing the devastating mental and physical effects of FGM. She is a resilient human with an empowering message of hope.
Black Rock White City, A.S Patric
The novel is not a personal reflection of Patric’s own migrant experience. However, since he does have a refugee background, he has used his knowledge and understanding of the struggles that come with assimilating into suburban life in Australia.
Dark Dreams: Australian Refugee Stories, Sonja Dechian, Heather Millar and Eva Sallis
A collection of stories from refugees that have experienced the challenges of traveling to Australia and settling in an environment that is in most cases not welcoming. The writers range from the ages of 11-20. Their lived experiences do not define them, but contribute to their resilient, hardworking and understanding attitude towards life.
New Humans of Australia: Includes stories from Those Who’ve Come Across Seas by Nicola Grey
A collection of stories from refugees and asylum seekers from diverse countries and cultures. who have lived through and survived remarkable situations.
At Road to Refuge, we were very fortunate to work with Tina & Renee Dixson to bring their project ‘Stories About Hope’ to Melbourne and Sydney. Through this project, we were able to share the stories that have long been silenced or ignored in the nationwide debate – and take a new frame to people from refugee backgrounds that recognises their inherit strength, courage and resilience.
With the help of those involved in this collaboration, we discovered some of the crucial ways to address this issue. Here are 9 ways that you can improve your messaging and ensure that it is ethical, representative and supportive.
Ensure that you are always providing a platform to share lived experience. At the heart of every successful social movement have been leaders directly affected leading the way. All of us in the refugee rights movement needs to do more in lifting the stories, voices and perspectives of people from refugee backgrounds.
Always ensure that your messaging focuses on the ‘person’/’people’ within your narrative. Do this through using language such as ‘people seeking asylum’, etc.
Lead with a values focus and approach conversations calmly.
Realise that no one is entitled to share their story just because Australians want to educate themselves. This requires a lot of emotional labour and bravery. Never force those of experience to share their trauma for the sake of your advocacy.
Use your individual platform/s to create awareness against the stigma that’s upheld in the mainstream discourse about people seeking asylum and refugees.
Ensure that your efforts are systemic and strategic with the bigger picture, and not focused on sole individuals, but beneficial for any and all who face discrimination at the hands of our government.
People from refugee backgrounds achieve success and have positive narratives which are often hidden or taken away from them by the mainstream media. Let them shape the stories they wish to share. Ensure that the people presented are done so with dignity. Don’t force the stories to fit your own narrative or victimise people who have sought asylum.
Never talk over lived experience. Create a platform for those who wish to share their story, or those who respond to your narrative with experience.
Recognise the diversity in all narratives of experience. There is no one way to be a person from a refugee background or a person who has sought asylum.
We feel very privileged to have worked with such a distinguished crew and impart this knowledge through the beliefs held by people of experience. We’d like to thank you all for your participation and we are looking forward to putting this into action together. Thank you all, Road to Refuge Team x
Road to Refuge is a community organisation standing for the human rights of people seeking asylum. Our mission is to re-centre the refugee narrative towards lived experience with respect and dignity. And give a platform to the untold stories of the strength, resilience and hope, of Australia’s refugee community.
We’re looking for a new Treasurer to join our Committee and a Web Designer to help us out with an upcoming brand refresh.
Applications close September 20th at midnight, so get in quick!
P.s. If these roles don’t quite fit and you’re keen to get involved, drop us a line at email@example.com — we’re always on the lookout for more people to join the Road to Refuge community
Road to Refuge is partnering with cafes across Melbourne to encourage customers to consider the perspectives, voices and lived experiences of refugees when they purchase a coffee.
From the 19th June to 25th June, customers across Melbourne will find that their local café will be sharing Layla’s story of struggle and courage on their coffee cup for the Coffee Cup Project. While Layla is fictional, her story is more common than Australians think.
This year though, the cups are back with a different message.
“You never hear the stories about the dignity and strength of people seeking asylum in the refugee debate,” says Road to Refuge Director Sam Butcher.
“Our coffee cups are kickstarters for deeper engagement with Australia’s treatment of refugees, regardless of how you vote at the ballot box,” says Coffee Cup Project Co-ordinator Alexandra Chlebowski.
“We’re encouraging everyone who grabs our cups to come to our exhibition: Stories About Hope and see the untold stories of Australia’s refugee community from the people who live them.”
Stories About Hope will be held at the No Vacancy Project Space, the Atrium, Fed Square celebrating the dignity, identities, and strength in people from refugee backgrounds. The exhibition is on from June 20th to June 25th daily from 11am – 5pm. For more information visit storiesabouthope.com.au
Road to Refuge is proud to be partnering with some of Melbourne’s best cafes, including coffee powerhouses Seven Seeds and Market Lane Coffees. Visit your local cafe listed below and grab a #CoffeeWithLayla during Refugee Week.
About Road to Refuge:
Road to Refuge is a not-for-profit community organisation building a new conversation which supports and values the lived experience and dignity of people seeking asylum. Road to Refuge runs engaging and creative community events, educational initiatives and workshops alongside their interactive web-program.
As the horror of Trump’s Muslim Ban came into effect, we were reminded again of the dehumanising and toxic rhetoric that dominate Australia’s own refugee debate. While families were being torn apart overseas, our former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison proclaimed that Trump’s ban on refugees showed the world was ‘catching up’ to Australia’s policies — the same policies that turn away and lock up people seeking safety while silencing their perspective. There’s never been a more important time to shine on a light on the realities of Australia’s treatment of people seeking sanctuary and right now, Road To Refuge has some fantastic opportunities for you to get involved.
Road To Refuge was founded on a simple mission: to explore and untangle the complexities of seeking asylum by promoting the voices and stories of those who with lived experience. Our aim has been to create space for our community to interrogate Australia’s treatment of people seeking safety. In 2017 we’ll be working even harder to bring the realities of seeking asylum out from the shadows. To do this, we’ll be looking to expand our online advocacy with a Communications Manager and Social Media Coordinator, while also continuing to run unique community engagement events with an Operations Team Leader and Dinner With Layla Project Coordinator. We’re looking to have a huge planning weekend on the 25th and 26th of February, so if you want get involved get you applications in quick! Join our team and help change the refugee narrative in Australia for good.
Following last years success, Road to Refuge will be running our Coffee Cup Project again this year to celebrate Refugee Week from June 19.
During this week, cafes across Melbourne be swapping their usual coffee cups for ones stamped with an image of Layla, one of Road to Refuge’s journey characters, to encourage customers to consider the journeys of people seeking asylum and refugees who have shaped Australia. Layla’s story is one of struggle and courage. While Layla’s character is fictional, the journey of many others in her position is not.
Coffee drinkers are invited to share a #coffeewithlayla and place themselves in the position of a person seeking safety by taking an interactive journey on Road to Refuge’s website. By sharing images of their coffee cups with the hashtag #coffeewithlayla, Melburnians will be a part of a wider campaign to raise awareness and engagement about issues facing people seeking asylum and refugees.
Project co-ordinator James Hickey, who has worked with social enterprises and cafes across Melbourne through his work with Scarf and Kinfolk, says the Refugee Week Coffee Cup Project will encourage members of the public, whether already passionate about these issues, non-committed or just wanting to engage more in a constructive dialogue; providing a chance to kickstart this engagement.
“Although the concept of the project is quite simple, encouraging people to educate themselves further on the realities of seeking asylum, and providing them with the means to do so, is an extremely powerful tool. Creating opportunities for more informed, dynamic discussions is immeasurable.”
Road to Refuge is proud to be partnering with some of Melbourne’s best cafes across both sides of the river, including coffee powerhouse Seven Seeds at all four of their cafes, with many cafes choosing to participate in the project for a second year. Visit your local cafe listed below and grab a #coffeewithlayla during Refugee Week.
We’d also love to to say a big thank you to BioPak, who jumped on board to support the project the minute they heard about it, offering a generous discount to help us get this project off teh ground and reach out to more people in the community through cafe participation.
And a special shout out to Lulu Cafe and Gallery in North Melbourne for hosting our launch party, and their generous support for the project!
Kamna, Sebastian, Brigid and Alice of the Road to Refuge Communications team went and saw Chasing Asylum, a documentary by Eva Orner, last night at Cinema Nova.
A review in the Herald Sun recently described Chasing Asylum like this:
In Chasing Asylum, we have one of the most important documentaries ever made in this country, addressing one of the most important issues to ever face this country.
The Communications team were all shaken, stirred, moved and awoken by the documentary and in the below roundtable share their thoughts on the documentary, and what they think should happen next.
Alice: Even watching the film with a group of other Road To Refuge volunteers, who were all pretty familiar with many of the issues facing refugees and people seeking asylum, watching Chasing Asylum felt like I was re-learning the facts all over again, with a renewed sense of urgency.
The wide breadth of people interviewed by Eva Orner gives insight into the huge scope and diversity of people affected by Australia’s policies – the thousands of people who are currently in or have been in detention, the people stranded in countries like Indonesia unable to work or seek medical attention, the families separated all over the world.
I was particularly distressed by the witnessed horrors listed off by people who had spent time working in detention centres, and even more disturbed by the corruption in the running of these government facilities, in enabling ongoing human rights abuse.
Sebastian: Shame is the only word that comes to mind after watching Eva Orner’s exposé into the inhumane treatment of people seeking asylum currently in offshore detention on Manus Island and Nauru.
Shame that our policies are geared towards deterrence at a horrific human toll to people in need. Shame that everyday broken people in detention are driven to self harm. Shame that successive governments have knowingly maintained and supported these conditions behind a galling facade of pseudo-humanitarianism. And shame that this footage had to be filmed in secret and that simply disclosing what happens within the detention centers is now punishable by up to 2 years in jail under the Border Protection Act 2015.
As someone engaged in this space, watching the film reminded me that everyday our government is torturing innocent people including children in our name and the lack of sharing of information, stories and the human cost of all of this is something that needs to be addressed.
Chasing Asylum is a must watch for anyone who cares, doesn’t care or doesn’t know about what your life is like if you are one of the unlucky ones whose lives is at the mercy of Australia’s refugee polices.
Kamna: Having met and spoken to people who have faced the torturous, cruel and inhumane experience of being a person seeking asylum in Australia, I’ve often thought what is needed to translate these complex and heartbreaking yet simple stories of suffering to people in the Australian public caring and effecting change.
Watching Chasing Asylum last night through anguish and tears, I came to the realisation that a film like this might be it.
The wide ranging impact of how Australia chooses to treat people who make life threatening journeys across seas to seek safety but only to end up living in insecurity and danger is explored comprehensively in Eva Orner’s film – in detention at Nauru and Manus Island, in limbo in Indonesia, by families who remain in countries of danger and learn of their loved ones’ demise in detention under Australian care and through Australians who work at detention centres.
But the message, stories and experiences are simple – with Eva Orner doing little except some brilliant film making and editing to bring this home.
How Australian governments have chosen to treat vulnerable people seeking asylum has cost the lives, futures and hopes of adults and children, and the fact that we have this on our hands is shameful and must stop.
Brigid: We’re all pretty familiar with the bleak, heartbreaking reality of Australia’s people seeking asylum and refugee policy. Offshore detention centres that are operating like prisons are somewhat staffed by untrained and unprepared workers, bouncers, security guards and military personnel. I went into Chasing Asylum knowing a bit about Nauru and Manus Island processing centres. Also doing social media for Road to Refuge means I get daily news alerts and read a fair bit about Australia’s offshore detention policies.
But watching this film was a real reminder that you can read about an issue all day and night and still not comprehend how bleak the reality is. I want to say that I walked away from the film feeling hopeful but really I was just left with a sense of urgency about how much and how quickly these policies need to change. I am definitely going to be doing more research in to this issue, getting friends and family to see the film and educating myself around how my vote will play in to these policies at the July 2nd election.
Chasing Asylum is screening at cinemas across Australia. Information about locations and times are found here. We encourage you all to see this film, with a friend, family member, colleague or relative stranger and share the message.
I go to the Human Rights and Arts Film Festival every year. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about human rights issues across the world and at home. It’s also a chance for me to reflect more deeply about human rights issues I think that I might already be across, like the way that refugees and people seeking asylum experience the world, in their struggle for safety.
This year HRAFF have really made an effort to highlight the experience of seeking asylum and what it means to be a refugee today in Australia and abroad.
So this year it’s your chance to get a new perspective about what it is to seek asylum or to deepen your understanding of it through the unique and moving lens of documentary film and the arts.
Make sure you get along to at least one of these:
Chasing Asylum is a disruptive and subversive documentary that cracks open the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru to shine the light in. With never before seen footage and heartbreaking and challenging interviews by whitsleblowers and refugees on those islands – this film will shock you. Highly recommended viewing for everyone – whether you work closely in this area or are a supporter of refugee rights from afar. Chasing Asylum is an important antidote to the government’s 1984 rhetoric and information black hole.
Chasing Asylum opened the festival to a sold-out crowd Thursday night, but screens again on May 8. Not to be missed.
Dreaming of Denmark
Dreaming of Denmark, showing on Saturday, follows Wasiullah, who fled Afghanistan at just 15 years old. This film investigates what happens to the many refugee children who disappear from asylum centres year after year, providing brutally honest depictions of the transience, isolation and frightening uncertainty they face.
They Will Have to Kill Us First
After taking control of Northern Mali in 2012, Islamist extremists implemented a law banning all forms of music, effectively cutting off the lifeblood of Malian culture. Radio stations were demolished, instruments were destroyed and musicians faced torture, exile or death. Grab a spot to the Monday screening.
Rituals of Belonging
Rituals Of Belonging exhibition, running from May 10 to May 15, showcases an immersive visual, sound and performance experience from Australian contemporary artists and refugee perspectives.
Stories from Detention
On May 11, at Longplay, Behind the Wire (behindthewire.org.au) will play three stories of detention told to you by Mohammad, Donna and ‘Peter’ about their experiences of detention. This is a space where the voices of people who have been detained by the government are amplified and the white noise of Parliament and the media is turned off. There are two limited sessions, don’t miss out.
HRAFF Goes West
HRAFF Goes West is an afternoon of entertainment and discussion, showcasing the stories of our newest Australians and celebrating their cultural and creative contribution. The event kicks off with a rhythmic, cross-cultural performance by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Music Group, followed by a selection of short films from the Festival’s 2016 line-up and a panel discussion. This is a free event but you have to RSVP!
A Walnut Tree
A Walnut Tree is a film set in a Pakistani refugee camp. The film allows us to witness life from through Baba’s eyes, and by proxy, the experiences of many other displaced people around the globe today. This film will show on Saturday May 14
Yesterday I was introduced to the truly special cookbook, A Taste From Home, whose recipes are shared by refugees living in Malaysia. It was written by Haris Coussidis in partnership with UNHCR Malaysia with the understanding that food is both a way in which people can come together and a way in which people can maintain a connection to their culture and identity.
The book’s recipes are organised by home countries of the 17 contributing refugees which are Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Palestine, Syria, Irag, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
What makes the cookbook most special is that before each recipe, readers learn the significance of the dish to its contributor which is sensitively and honestly intertwined with stories from their refugee experience.
For example, Helena Asefa, who discusses that learning to make doro wat (chicken stew) is a rite of passage dish in her home country Ethopia, and that she will soon share it with her family who she has not seen in four years when she is resettled with them in Australia.
Common to each story was the idea that food enabled them to feel close to home. These stories were also accompanied by poignant photographs by author and photographer Haris Coussidis , who says she aims to put human face to refugee issues in Malaysia.
I also found it so beautiful that Haris was able to produce the book by being welcomed into the kitchens of each of the refugees who feature in it. For me, their generosity and openness to others really contrasted with their descriptions of having felt unwelcome upon arriving in Malaysia, and what we can witness transpiring the world over.
It really highlighted the ways in which people come together over food to share experiences and listen.
Of course, on top of the beauty of the book itself, I haven’t even mentioned the incredible recipes including Ouzi (Syrian stuffed filo pockets with spiced mints and nut), Tennai sambol (Sri Lanan coconut sambal), and anjero (Somali flatbread), which themselves stand alone as an incredible reason to check out the book.
A Taste From Home is such an incredible way for people to hear the stories of refugees through relating to a shared passion for food. I am looking forward to eating, learning, and sharing with others from it