Women of refugee backgrounds claim a seat at the table

Emerging refugee leaders in Melbourne make it clear just how important it is that people of refugee backgrounds are heard in the community.

Community lawyer and refugee campaign founder, Fadak Alfayadh, joined emerging activists at ASRC’s Advocacy and Power Program Graduation to emphasize their need to reclaim the asylum and refugee narrative.

“For far too long, others have spoken for us,” Fadak said.

“People like us aren’t given space in the media and as a consequence the Government is able to build a narrative around refugees that creates fear and robs people of their dignity and humanity.”

With recent racialisation of crime in the media making headlines, the impact of multicultural and refugee issues being narrated by politically powerful white men is brought to light.

“We’re often the most brave and resilient people in the world, and it’s time that we tell that story.

“After years of learning English and finally making Australia home, I’m now scared for my younger brother when he walks to the park.”

Akuol Garang is an Advocacy and Power Program Graduate who moved to Australia from a UNHCR refugee camp in 2001. She also feels that the media’s representation of newly migrated communities affects her family’s safety.

“My younger brother’s an A+ student who was born in Sunshine, Melbourne, and never been out of Australia. But he is six foot tall and finds himself being followed by security guards at Coles.”

“This fear of new migrants in our politics and media is more than rhetoric, it causes significant harm.”
Fadak further expressed the stigma around “refugee”.

While at one stage she wanted to distance herself from a refugee identity, she’s now to reclaiming and reframing the term.

“An esteemed colleague once said in a meeting that she didn’t want another refugee to come to Australia and live off the dole. I explained that as a community lawyer, I am also a refugee.”

“Stories are powerful. Multiple accounts of us as a pet owners, passionate gardeners, lawyers and teachers. We’re not one and the same.

“We’re often the most brave and resilient people in the world, and it’s time that we tell that story.

“All you have to do is move aside and you will hear how loud we become.”

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Please join the new digital space produced wholly by people of refugee backgrounds, “Voices for Freedom”, and let’s put people with lived and living experience at the front and centre.

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