Have a #CoffeeWithLayla

Following last years success, Road to Refuge will be running our Coffee Cup Project  again this year to celebrate Refugee Week from June 19.

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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!

CBD

  • Brother Baba Budan, Little Bourke Street

  • Good 2 Go, Hosier Lane

  • Hortus, Docklands

  • Kinfolk Cafe, Bourke Street

  • Sun Moth Canteen & Bar, Niagara Lane

  • Traveller, Crossley Street

Inner North

  • Addict, Fitzroy

  • Arkwright & Co, Carlton North

  • Assembly Coffee, Carlton

  • Auction Rooms, North Melbourne

  • Burnside, Fitzroy

  • Cafe Bu, Carlton North
  • Counter, North Melbourne

  • Everyday, Collingwood

  • De Clieu, Fitzroy

  • Friends of the Earth, Collingwood

  • Green Park Dining, Carlton North

  • Long Street Coffee, Richmond

  • Lulu Cafe & Gallery, North Melbourne

  • Newtown Specialty Coffee, Fitzroy

  • North Cafeteria, North Carlton

  • Seven Seeds, North Melbourne

  • Sir Charles, Fitzroy

  • Slowpoke Espresso, Fitzroy

  • Stagger Lees, Fitzroy

  • Twenty and Six Espresso, North Melbourne

Northern Suburbs

  • East Elevation, Brunswick

  • Lux Foundry, Brunswick

  • Milkwood, Brunswick East

  • Mixed Business, Fitzroy North

  • Pachamama, Brunswick

  • Phat Milk, Travancore

  • So & So, Travancore

  • Uncle Drew, Clifton Hill

  • Wide Open Road, Brunswick

Southside

  • Brighton Schoolhouse, Brighton

  • Coffee on Kareela, Frankston

Regional

  • Friar’s Street Food Store, Shepparton

  • Black Sheep Cafe, Corryong

Have a #CoffeeWithLayla

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

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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