Summer Think List

Whether you have days to spend on the beach getting stuck into a book, or just an hour to while-away in air conditioning, Summer is a good time to catch up on reading, watching, and listening to some of the great resources out there. That’s why we’ve created our very own Think List: a resource for you of relevant and engaging pieces to read/watch/listen which we’ve done the hard work of digging up.

Read

This article on The Conversation, about people seeking asylum as Australia’s next wave of entrepreneurs, is the perfect short positive read to get you started and discusses the long term contributions people seeking asylum can make to society.

One of our favourite projects, Behind the Wire, documents the stories of people who have experienced mandatory detention in Australia. All the narratives – of varying lengths – are available to read through the website. One of Road to Refuge’s favourites is Donna’s Story – we’ve also featured Donna in our #WCW series on our Instagram account.  Donna came to Australia in 2000 as a 13 year old  with her family by boat from Kurdistan and is now a lawyer living in Melbourne studying a Masters of International Relations at Melbourne University.

Donna from Behind the Wire
Donna from Behind the Wire

For subscribers of the Saturday Paper, there are a host of relevant articles to delve through in the archives. If you don’t subscribe (yet) but want to dip a toe in, we recommend Children Behind Bars, or the harrowing account of The Death of Khodayar Amini, both detailing how the difficulties facing people seeking asylum rarely end upon reaching Australia.

New York Times Magazine’s The Dream Boat is an older read, but a visceral, lengthy account of a boat journey from Indonesia to Australia.

If you have some time and are looking for a book to get stuck into, we suggest Ben Rawlence’s newly released City of Thorns which follows the lives of nine people living in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, or Klaus Neumann’s Across the Seas: Australia’s Response To Refugees: A History.

For those who love poetry – Manal Younas’ collection, Reap, was released at the end of 2015. Some of Road to Refuge’s team were lucky enough to attend the launch and got shivers from Manal’s gutsy powerful performances of her spoken word and the book does well to capture this spirit.

Cover of Manal Younus' book, Reap
Cover of Manal Younus’ book, Reap

Watch

If you’ve only got a moment, we recommend using it to watch a short film – both Nora Niasari’s The Phoenix and Lukas Schrank’s Nowhere Line played at our Film for Thought event in 2015, and we’ve been thinking about them both since.

Mary Meets Mohammed and Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea are two of our go-to documentaries, both of which are available on DVD, and we can’t overlook an old favourite feature film, Bahman Ghobadi’s Turtles Can Fly, from 2005.

In Television, the SBS series Go Back to where you Came From takes Australian families on a reverse journey of a person seeking refuge, season three is available to watch online now.

Clouds Over Sidra
Clouds Over Sidra

Virtual Reality film Clouds Over Sidra follows twelve-year-old Sidra living in the Za’atari camp in Jordan. While the experience is designed to be in 3D, it’s available to watch online, and is a moving piece as a short film alone.

Listen

As a 40 minute jumping in point, Devil’s Avocado: Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Boat People is a great overview of the politics surrounding people seeking refuge in Australia.

For a little more detail – this episode of The Conversation’s Speaking With podcast talks to Shanthi Robertson and Ien Ang on migrants, refugees and Australia’s place in Asia.

For a story to get swept up in, listen to This American Life’s episode 560: Abdi and the Golden Ticket – although centered around Abdi’s journey to the USA not to Australia, this podcast is well worth listening to nonetheless.

This American Life: Abdi and the Golden Ticket
This American Life: Abdi and the Golden Ticket

Happy reading/watching/listening! We’d love to hear what you think in the comments box and if you want to share your favourites, that’d be great too.

Road to Refuge’s Think List will be a seasonal series released in Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring and is aimed a tool and guide for you to engage with the best writing, films and podcasts on people seeking asylum and refugee issues. 

Summer Think List

Road to Refuge goes to Horsham!

At the beginning of December 2015, the Schools Team took a trip to the city of Horsham, a four-hour train ride from Melbourne. We were invited by Horsham College to spend two days at their school conducting workshops with their students and those from the nearby Dimboola Memorial Secondary College.

The Road to Refuge Schools Team works with metropolitan and regional schools to run workshops across Victoria. We aim to build empathy and understanding of the issues faced by people seeking safety in Australia by engaging students and giving them the tools to have informed discussions with people in their communities about those issues.

In Horsham, we ran eight workshops with classes from Horsham and Dimboola Colleges, reaching a total of 300 students across two days!

Road to Refugee at Horsham College
Julia running a workshop

Our interactive workshop started off with an introduction to the key words and definitions used when talking about refugees and people seeking asylum.

We then ran a choose-your-own-adventure activity based on one of Road to Refuge’s character: a young Iranian girl called Layla who travels to Australia with her family to escape persecution in her home.

Along the way, Layla and her family make decisions such as:

  • whether to stay in Iran or flee to Indonesia,
  • whether to apply for refugee status with the UNHCR in Jakarta or to take a boat to Australia,
  • what items to bring with them, and
  • what to leave behind.

We encouraged students to step into Layla’s shoes and make those decisions themselves. Our role as facilitators was to give further insights into the consequences of each decision and unpack how students felt when faced with those choices.

A challenge throughout the workshops was balancing the delivery of occasionally heavier and more serious content throughout a (hopefully) fun and engaging session.

One of the activities we ran required students to draw a backpack and list four things they would take with them when fleeing their homes indefinitely. Most students chose very practical items, such as food, water, weapons, travel documents, and birth certificates. Some were more sentimental, and chose to take photos, their teddies, even their pets.

We had a laugh when one student earnestly shared his backpack, which included ‘that thing in the Hunger Games that you stick in a tree and water comes out and Allen’s snakes.’

The Horsham tour was an incredible learning opportunity for the entire team, especially Annie and I as first time facilitators. It was hugely rewarding to have students actively engaging with our sessions, asking questions and wanting to learn more about the topic.

Annie and I as successful first-time facilitators.
Annie and I as successful first-time facilitators.

We were able to have frank discussions about Australia’s policies and it was encouraging seeing them realise the complexities of the issues and asking for ways to respond to the situation, which brought on a great sense of achievement for the whole team.

Road to Refuge goes to Horsham!

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

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!