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Refugee Week: celebrate, participate and demonstrate
Refugee Week will occur this year from Sunday 17 June to Saturday 23 June, to coincide with World Refugee Day (June 20). It aims to inform people about refugees, to celebrate the positive contribution refugees make to Australian society, and to campaign for a more humane refugee and asylum seeker policy.
This year’s theme is Restoring Hope, recognising that refugees’ journeys begin with both danger and hope. As a signatory to the UN Convention for Refugees, Australia is obliged to protect refugees and provide opportunities to rebuild their lives free from persecution, violence and fear.
Yet Australia’s policy of mandatory detention—introduced 20 years ago—often adds to refugees’ trauma rather than fulfilling this promise. As of April 30, 4329 people were in detention facilities (including 463 children), with a further 1638 in community detention (556 children). Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka were the nationalities most represented in detention.
Kevin Rudd won the 2007 election promising that 90% of detainees would be released within 90 days. Yet currently, 66.5% have been incarcerated for more than 90 days, and 24.8% for more than a year. Moreover, hundreds of detainees have been found to be refugees but remain in detention while awaiting ASIO security assessments, and close to 60 others have received negative ASIO assessments and face indefinite detention.
How to participate?
- Plan and teach lessons that humanise the issue: Develop students’ knowledge of refugees and the world around them, and encourage empathy.
- Plan an event at you school or workplace: Schools, TAFE Colleges and other Federation workplaces are encouraged to host Refugee Week events. If you are doing so, Federation would love to know. Send details to firstname.lastname@example.org and pictures (with captions) after your event to: email@example.com A useful kit including background information, teaching resources and tips on organising an event can be found at http://www.refugeeweek.org.au/resources/kit.php
- Donate money or sponsor a refugee support group. For example members of The NSW Teachers Federation have already donated $315.25 to the Asylum Seeker Centre.
- Participate in other Refugee Week events: There are many forums, film screenings, exhibitions and protests occurring across NSW, from Blacktown to Bonnyrigg to Balmain, Liverpool, Granville, Parramatta, Villawood, Sydney city, Wollongong, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour and Albury. A full list is at http://www.refugeeweek.org.au/events/nsw.php Two events of note are:
- Refugee Week launch: Saturday 16 June, 2:00pm to 5:00pm, Pitt St Uniting Church (264 Pitt Street). It will feature a refugee art exhibition, presentation of 2011 Refugee Humanitarian Awards, a screening of the Australian Refugee Film Festival, speakers and entertainment.
Rally to end mandatory detention: "20 years too long!" Sunday 24 June, 1pm, Sydney Town Hall:
*Free the refugees! *No offshore processing! *No deportations! *No crime to seek asylum, no crime to bring the boats!
For information, visit www.refugeeaction.org.au , join the facebook event https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/237010809737159/
Confirmed speakers: Sarah Hanson Young (Greens Senator), Warren Smith (MUA Assistant national Secretary), Robin de Crespigny (author of The People Smuggler, about the life of Ali Al Jenabi)
Endorsements include: ChilOut!, Labor for Refugees (NSW), NSW Greens, Refugee Action Coalition, Balmain for Refugees, Bahraini Australian Youth Movement, Maritime Union of Australia, NTEU (Sydney Uni branch.