Written by Lauren Miles, Equity and Diversity Coordinator
The theme of Refugee Week 2015 is ‘With Courage Let us all Combine’. It is a good time to celebrate the contributions that refugees and asylum seekers make to our community locally and also to our society on a wider level.
Before joining the University this year I was working in refugee settlement and had the privilege of working with a great team of people, the majority of whom were from a refugee background. I can’t even begin to place value on the incredible knowledge that I gained from spending time with my colleagues and gaining insight into the refugee experience.
The challenges that people faced before getting to Australia often don’t end on arrival, but neither do individual’s resilience. It’s challenging to establish a new life here without all of your family and friends and the relationships formed at places like university are really valuable.
If you feel like you are accepted by those around you and that there is an exchange of knowledge taking place you can establish a sense of belonging. Having the opportunity to contribute to your society and the space you live in is essential to wellbeing. Feeling like you belong in the country you are seeking asylum and protection in is so important to someone’s recovery and success in their life. Insider knowledge such as understanding the driving license system or which Gum Tree ad is a scam can be really valuable to someone who wasn’t born locally. Sharing that knowledge can make a huge difference in the life of someone who is relatively new to the country. Sometimes it does take courage to talk to someone new or to do something different but it can make a real difference in someone’s day and experience in the community.
If you want to become more involved in supporting your local refugee community you could join one of the great student groups on campus like the UON Amnesty International group or get in touch with a support organisation like Northern Settlement Services.