Refugee Week (20 – 26 June) was launched with an inspirational event held at the Uniting Church in the City, Wesley Perth on Monday 21 June.
The free, collaborative event, which was co-hosted by the Uniting Church WA Social Justice Unit, included speakers from various refugee backgrounds, music, art and an all-important food truck.
People were invited to grab lunch from the Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees (CARAD) Fare Go Food Truck, a social enterprise staffed by refugees and asylum seekers, and to engage with informative stalls from organisations such as Red Cross, CARAD, Save the Children, MercyCare, MYAN, and Circle Green Community Legal.
Formal proceedings began with a Welcome to Country by Len Yarran and Uniting Church in the City, Wesley Perth minister Rev Hollis Wilson acted as the event’s MC.
Twenty-one-year-old Zahra Mohammedi, an Afghan woman who was born in Iran, was our first speaker. Zahra shared her experiences as an immigrant in Iran, where her family’s rights were severely restricted due to their status as immigrants. Zahra came to Australia in 2019 and is now studying at university.
Then the crowd heard from the Honourable Ayor Makur Chuot MLC, WA’s first state MP of African Ancestry. Ayor came to Australia as a South Sudanese refugee in 2005, after living in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp for 10 years.
Hazara man Asad Alizada wowed the crowd with his performance of traditional Hazara music, where he sang and played the dambora.
Salem Askari, also a Hazara man from Afghanistan, then passionately shared his story and experience living on temporary visas in Australia for eight years. Salem is currently on a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa and is a researcher at Curtin University. He illuminated the audience on the affects of living on temporary visas, especially on people’s mental health, and explained how difficult it is to obtain permanent residency after being on these visas.
Salem compared living on temporary visas and being unable to see family to being in a COVID-19 lockdown, calling some refugee’s experience “a 10-year lockdown”.
Lastly, we heard from Joanna Josephs, General Manager at CARAD. Joanna echoed Salem’s statements on temporary visas and permanent residency for refugees and asylum seekers. She also introduced the audience to Fatima, a refugee who works in the Fare Go Food Truck. Fatima became emotional when sharing how it difficult it is to be in limbo living on a temporary visa, and how she feels Australia is her home, despite not having permanent residency.
“It was an inspiring afternoon. Through word and music, we have been lifted up, challenged and ready to go forward – with hope – into this year’s Refugee Week,” said Rev Hollis Wilson.
The 2021 theme for Refugee Week is Unity, recognising the need to work together to thrive and progress.
Find out more at refugeeweek.org.au
If you’d like to take action, consider participating in the Social Justice Unit’s letter writing campaign on permanency for refugees: https://unitingforhumanrightswa.org/take-action/