Get involved with Road To Refuge!

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.

Position Descriptions

Email info@roadtorefuge.com to express interest in any of the roles, applications close on Monday 27th of February.

Get involved with Road To Refuge!

A Roundtable on Chasing Asylum

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.

Photograph: Joel van Houdt/Chasing Asylum

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.

Photograph: Chasing Asylum

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. 

A Roundtable on Chasing Asylum

Bree McKilligan on running Yoga classes for women with a refugee background

Bree McKilligan takes free weekly classes at Fitzroy studio The Dance of Life for Women with a Refugee background. Her project is aimed at using yoga as a tool to provide support and create an inclusive, safe space for people with refugee backgrounds to explore, inquire and play.

Annie Belcher of our Schools Team caught up with Bree recently to speak about her connection to yoga, and how she became involved in the people seeking asylum and refugee advocacy space.

What brought you to yoga?

My mother practiced yoga in the days when yoga practitioners in Australia were mainly middle class women and wore daggy leotards! So as a young teenager I would go along to classes with her. I feel like I have been always doing yoga!

What is yoga to you?

It is meditation in motion and offers an opportunity to experience a feeling of oneness with all things.

How did you get involved in the refugee and people seeking asylum space?

Working as a creative producer in the fields of community arts and community media, I have been engaged with people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds for a number of years. I also have friends and ex-partners who are from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.

What led you to start the class?

The class started early in 2013 after I had finished my first lot of yoga teaching training and Johannes Mochayedi , director of my favourite studio, the Dance of Life Centre of Yoga and Healing, talked to me about offering a class to women from refugee and migrant backgrounds. As a new teacher I was keen to teach a free class to both start my teaching by offering karma yoga and also to practice my teaching.

Yoga classes have become quite expensive so I was interested in there being free classes. In addition, yoga in the West has gained a reputation for being mainly for very able bodied, white people.  

I believe all people, regardless of able-bodiedness, ethnicity, class or financial status, should have the opportunity to experience and benefit from yoga should they be interested. 

Yoga teacher Becky Fleming was also approached by Johannes to teach and she and I alternate each class. When we can’t teach, long-term yoga teachers Felicity Steel and Elizabeth Bell kindly step in to teach. None of the yoga teachers are paid for the class and Johannes donates the studio time.

Who are the classes for?

All people who identify as women. For me this includes trans women as well as cis-gendered women. Our flyer rather awkwardly says ‘Free yoga class, All women welcome: encouraging women from migrant and refugee backgrounds’ as we want women to feel welcome and not ghetto-ized as being ‘migrant and refugee’.

It’s been a lovely mix of people to date – people whose country of birth has included Vietnam, Malaysia, India and China as well as Australia – and students have melded well together. We also have students at all levels of practice – as a teacher that can be challenging as some students progress with regular attendance and others come in so new to yoga that lying down in a group class with a straight spine and relaxing with eyes closed is a new challenge to them! We also have some students bring children during school holidays which is great as it means the mothers can keep coming during the holidays. We aim to be flexible and inclusive.

Phuong, one of Bree's longest attending students, in practice!
Phuong, one of Bree’s longest attending students, in practice!

Why specifically for women?

It is women only so that women who may not feel comfortable doing exercise with men feel free to attend.

What do you hope people get out of the class?

I think we all hope to share the great benefits of yoga – which include greater peace of mind, self-nurturing, greater physical well being, camaraderie and happiness as well as, for the seeker, spiritual awareness. Yoga can be many different things to many different people.

I hope that any women who are feeling socially isolated may experience a sense of having a warm community and caring teachers.

If people would like to go or get involved what is the best way for them to do so?

We would love more students! People can get in touch via our Om Yoga Facebook page at Om Yoga Women Facebook page or they can call Becky on 0411 960 772 and myself on 0413 895 527. The classes are 1-2pm at the Dance of Life Centre of Yoga and Healing, 250 George Street, Fitzroy (which can be found here Dance Of Life Yoga Studio or on our Facebook page Dance of Life Facebook page)

New students are welcome to call and ask a lot of questions first if they like!

Other places to find community yoga classes and projects which might interest you:

Bree McKilligan on running Yoga classes for women with a refugee background

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

Screen shot 2016-01-21 at 9.59.34 AM

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

What have we been doing in 2015?

It’s been a massive year for Road to Refuge – in less than twelve months, we have rapidly expanded to a team of 30 volunteers – and this is indicative of our growth as a whole.

For those new to Road to Refuge, and for those wanting to look back on our best year yet, here is a quick glimpse of what we’ve been up to in 2015!

Our Schools team ran 22 school workshops at 13 different schools across Melbourne’s inner and outer suburbs, as well as regional areas of Victoria. We presented workshops to almost 1000 students and presentations to 50 staff.

Horsham Schools Tour

The Road to Refuge Schools team ran two regional school tours:

  • The first tour went to Shepparton, Echuca and Mooroopna, reached almost 500 students and 40 teachers in four days over July, and concluded with a screening of Mary Meets Mohammad.
  • Our second tour went to Horsham in December and spoke to over 300 Year 7-9 students from Horsham College and Dimboola Memorial Secondary College.

The Community Education Team ran workshops for a total of 170 attendees, some run by Road to Refuge and others in partnership with not for profit organisations.

A highlight of 2015 was The Fence comedy debateJudith Lucy, Julian Burnside, First Dog on the Moon, Cal Wilson, Lehmo, Jessie Taylor and Akmal Saleh in front of a sold out crowd of 700. If you missed the event you can catch a glimpse and have a chuckle here.

The Fence Comedy Debate

The Events Team put on the third Read Between the Wines event on A Country Too Far, with a panel including writers Arnold Zable and Judith Rodriguez. We ran Women Who Seek Safety, a sold out event at the Wheeler Center, focused on the issues specifically faced by women seeking refuge. Finally our Film for Thought short film evening this month was so popular, people were using standing room just so they didn’t miss out!

The Coffee Cart team had a presence at many events throughout the year, including the Palm Sunday Walk for Justice, Amnesty International’s Candle Day and Amnesty Refugee Network’s Festival of Hope on Refugee Day, as well as several community festivals.

In 2015, we debuted our Coffee Cup Project for Refugee Week. Over 37,000 cups were distributed to customers by 29 cafes across Melbourne, all stamped with Road to Refuge branding and website to bring refugees and their journeys into the days of the coffee-drinking public.

Road to Refuge Coffee Cup Project

Looking ahead, 2016 is going to be even better. Keep updated here on the blog and sign up to our newsletter to receive regular invites and news of the exciting projects we already have in the works for next year!

// RTR Team

What have we been doing in 2015?

Welcome to the Road to Refuge Blog!

The Road to Refuge Team

We’re excited to launch our Road to Refuge blog today! As some of you may know, Road to Refuge has been up and running for over two years now, and in that time, the organisation has grown and grown. We wanted to find a way to keep our supporters, our community, in touch with what we at Road to Refuge have been up to, and to share other great initiatives in the asylum seeker and refugee sector.

So, we thought, what better way to do this than by starting a blog!

We’ll be posting regular articles, interviews, wrap-ups and photos on our blog so that we can feature the many great and positive stories in the community. We also hope, through reading our blog, you’ll get to know the Road to Refuge team – our goals, loves and quirks.

Thanks for tuning in, subscribe to stay in the loop and happy reading!

\\ RTR Team

Welcome to the Road to Refuge Blog!