Get to know Road to Refuge’s volunteers: Jules and Judy

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The Scene: The two Road to Refuge Volunteers met in Judy’s lunch break to ask each other a few questions over chai lattes and sandwiches at Heart Attack and Vine on Lygon Street.

Why do you volunteer for Road to Refuge?

Jules: A few different reasons – initially it was broader and a general disdain for current policies and conversations about people seeking refuge and asylum, and a feeling that things need to change. Once I started, I found the organisation itself is fun and volunteers are like-minded people with a lot of passion and drive who share the vision as well, which makes it a very inspiring and exciting environment.

Judy: Yeah, I think you summed it up really well there Jules. I felt so disheartened and helpless and then realised that I could in fact start to do something about it. I saw the events position advertised and jumped at the opportunity, as I also wanted more experience with event planning and it al seemed too perfect. Oh, and if we are being honest, initially I also wanted to join R2R to become better friends with Dana (Mission accomplished by the way).

Judy: …and we should have asked, what is your role at Road to Refuge?

Jules: I am the Schools Coordinator, which means I organise and coordinate school workshops and events as well as facilitating and training other facilitators in running those.

Judy: I’m the Events Team Co-ordinator. The Events Team plan, organise and pull-off education-based events.

Jules: So what kind of events do you put on?

Judy: We do events that try to hit particular groups, which may not engage in refugee and people seeking asylum issues. My favourite event so far was Women Who Seek Safety, a panel held at the Wheeler Centre which addressed intersectionality; it looked at the fact that feminists in Melbourne had largely ignored the issues specifically faced by females who seek asylum, and that these are important feminist issues.

Jules: Why was it your favourite?

Judy: For me, gender and women is something I’m passionate about. I majored in this area at university and it gets me really angry. The event itself went so well too, we sold out the Wheeler Centre and there was a real buzz. The speakers were all fantastic and inspiring.

Where do you do most of your R2R work?

Judy: In bed at about 11 at night! Or Emily (who as of this year is our new director) and I  are known for Saturday morning power-working sessions in my kitchen.

Jules: Media Creatures, an amazing group of people working in media production let Road to Refuge use their office space in Collingwood, so I’ve been going in weekly and using their wonderful big office.

Outside of R2R, how do you spend your time?

Judy: I just graduated a Master of Public Health and landed a job at the Cancer Council in health education. Aside from that, I spend far too much time reading health food blogs, celebrity blogs and going to nightclubs!

Jules: I’m just into my second year of a Juris Doctor Law degree at Monash University and that takes up a lot of my time. Outside of that… I have been watching a lot of X-Files and Survivor and just started on the new season of The Bachelor. I also work at the Queen Victoria Market as a Tea and Coffee Merchant!

Judy: Oh oops, I also forgot to say I’ve started the new season of The Bachelor, so yeah that takes up quite some time.

Who do you live with?

Jules: I live with 3 friends who I’ve lived with for about 5 years. We live in a skinny single fronted terrace and we enjoy watching the aforementioned television programs together. We also generally read the paper together each morning; Sofia does the cryptic, Lily reads the quiz, I give my opinions and Annie frequently steals the paper.

Judy: Funnily enough, I also live with three friends that I’ve lived with for about five years. What do we do? Gosh, I guess if I’m being honest we pretty frequently stand around in our active wear and discuss food and exercise at length… We are currently living in Clifton Hill after living in North Fitzroy for about 3 years and I think we are all still secretly mourning the old house.

Jules: Why do you mourn the old house?

Judy: It was in the best location and had so much character and we had the best times there!

What are you excited about in the year to come for Road to Refuge?

Judy: I’m excited about continuing on the theme of intersectionality and hitting on a lot of issues currently not talked about enough in this sector.

Jules: I am excited about the regional tours this year in Warrnambool and Bendigo, very excited to meet with the students and to do some work with the events team and do some events in those areas as well!

Judy: Oh cool idea Jules! We should definitely talk events!

Get to know Road to Refuge’s volunteers: Jules and Judy

The Fence Comedy Debate – the story of an idea so absurd, it might just (in fact it did) work

‘What if we had a comedy debate … to discuss asylum seeker issues?’

The idea seemed so absurd, it might just work.

Dana Affleck, Road To Refuge’s founder, came to me with the beginnings of The Fence Comedy Debate in mid-2014 after we worked on a web promo together earlier that year. I was keen to direct the event and so away we went…

WHAT WE WANTED

The main game with holding The Fence was to engage an audience that would otherwise remain disengaged. Comedy’s accessibility made it an effective way of doing that. By dispelling the stigma surrounding the issue through light hearted satire, we hoped to comically illuminate the ridiculousness of how we deal with asylum seekers and educate the audience as to why the policies are inherently flawed.

That’s why we came up with the far-fetched debate topic of ‘Should we build a fence around the sea borders of Australia?’ – an asylum seeker policy so ridiculous and so unbelievably counter-productive, you might just believe it was being proposed by the Government.

The Fence Comedy Debate - Julian Burnside

HANG ON, ARE YOU STILL SURE ABOUT MIXING COMEDY AND ASYLUM SEEKERS?

I was always aware of the very real human cost at the core of the asylum seeker debate. This meant the comedic tone of the event had to be inch-perfect. The Fence was an evening to lampoon the lamentable state of affairs and draw humour from where there is very little. But the last thing we wanted was to make light of the issue.

Hence the parameters were set early. We made it absolutely clear from the start that The Fence’s debaters had to be unambiguously comedic. That left it up to the audience to use the energy from the night to begin talking and learning more about asylum seekers once they left the venue.

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DID WE PULL IT OFF?

Hell yeah we did. The night was a huge success. We had an extremely talented cast of comedians (the who’s who of the Australian Comedy business) and advocates who performed including Julian Burnside, Cal Wilson, Judith Lucy, Lehmo, First Dog on the Moon, Jessie Taylor and Akmal Saleh. Without their expertise and professionalism, the evening wouldn’t have been nearly as successful.

We had a sold out audience of 700 and the energy in the jam-packed RMIT Storey Hall helped to counter my (and maybe some of my co-organisers) nerves on the night.

The Fence Comedy Debate Audience

AND today for the first time ever, you get to see just how much of a success it was because just below this sentence is the full video of The Fence which we’ve just launched on Road to Refuge’s YouTube Channel!

I’m excited and you should be too.

THANK YOU NOTES

  • The event’s producer – Carolina Fonseca – who assembled the talent
  • Arthur Penn and The Funky Ten, who were recruited late in the piece to open the show and crashed through any nervous energy that was lingering in the audience and set the night off to the best of starts
  • Our art director, Roxanne Haley who whipped up an amazing set on very little notice including Judith Lucy’s throne which was a huge talking point on the night
  • And to you guys for coming on the night if you did and/or re-living The Fence with me by reading my blog post
The Fence Comedy Debate – the story of an idea so absurd, it might just (in fact it did) work