We can do more for refugees

Multicultural Matters: Education Quarterly, Issue 7 2023

When nearly half of all people forced to fl ee war, violence and persecution are children, public schools and their teachers play a vital role in providing hope for the future. With the world unable to fi nd lasting peace, nor able to fi nd adequate solutions for all who are forced to flee, offering hope, settlement and safety to those refugees living within our communities is paramount to improving outcomes for those who manage to make Australia their home.

As signatory to the UN’s Refugee Convention, Australia’s policies must recognise that people are refugees by circumstance, not choice, and understand that ongoing war, violence and persecution prevents refugees from safely returning to their country of origin. Resettlement must be prioritised, and our humanitarian intake numbers increased.

The Global Compact on Refugees, affi rmed by the UN General Assembly in 2018, presented a blueprint for “global solidarity and responsibility sharing” as the way forward. World leaders have been asked to do more “to ease the pressure on the host countries, enhance refugee self-reliance, expand access to third-country solutions, and support conditions in countries of origin for voluntary return in safety and dignity”. Presently, 76 per cent of the world’s refugees and people seeking protection are hosted by low- to middle-income countries, with 70 per cent hosted by neighbouring countries to those they are fleeing.

The 2023 Global Refugee Forum in December will provide an opportunity for Australia to demonstrate that under a Labor government, new and more generous commitments in support of refugees will be prioritised, and our international obligations will again be honoured.

With the world now witnessing more people under international protection today than at any other point in history since World War II, those of us privileged enough to live in freedom must do more in response.

Freedom is what allows people to live without war and conflict, to feel safe from persecution, to have their human rights respected. When circumstance takes away freedom, and resettlement is allowed to occur, the world’s displaced people then have the chance to feel like they “belong” again.

Including refugees in community, valuing their contributions, celebrating their resilience, and supporting them to rebuild their lives after fleeing confl ict and persecution, we are facilitating the most eff ective way to help people restart their lives. After fi nding safety and belonging, refugees can then fi nd their “freedom,” so critical to their settlement and so necessary for them to thrive. Schools, TAFE colleges and their teachers are best placed to foster and facilitate settlement, but it takes whole school communities to build inclusivity.

Overcoming barriers is essential to protecting human rights and essential to promoting access and equity – the very ethos of public education. Striving for social justice is and will always remain important union business.

Some refugee education resources to check out.