As nine people finished Sydney’s Advocacy and Power Program (APP), six presented their journey’s of seeking asylum and building their live as new Australians at a special evening on Tuesday night.
“I want to tell you the story of why I’m here.”
The evening kicked off with a story shared by two people fleeing conflict. Both had arrived in Sydney by boat; both shared significant experiences often reported as issues in the media but rarely told with the same humanity they now brought.
Within minutes, the stories quickly became calls for tangible changes to policy, and calls for programs that would have eased the pain and hardships they’d endured.
One young man had missed important schooling during his journey to safety, and imprisonment in Australia’s onshore detention. Another spoke of his journey and how his friend hadn’t seen his wife or daughter in over six years as he awaited for the Australian government to process his asylum application.
Now advocating for education and importance of family reunification, it became quite clear that these personal stories are the subjects of key policy and social issues debated in the media and parliament. We know these people’s circumstances.
As one of the graduates, Babra Mutanda, said “We’ve been in their shoes. We know we have the power.”
“Refugee women are the most vulnerable. Why? Some of them have run from their husbands. Some have left without the knowledge of their families. And now they’re in detention being abused by people they’ve never met.”
“We’ve been in their shoes. We know we have the power.”
Each APP graduate’s presentation came with guidance and an ask for what was needed for people just like them. Those seeking asylum and from refugee backgrounds to realise their rights and rebuild lives with permanent and safe new homes where they feel supported.
All of which draws from the foundations of family reunification, women’s rights, children and young people out of detention, and employment opportunities.
The six presenters were finishing ASRC’s Advocacy and Power Program, a course designed for advocates from refugee backgrounds. Run over four intensive weekends, the program is part of an interstate effort to strengthen diversity in Australia’s social movements, media and social commentary.
“This is the first time some of us had a platform to speak like this,” graduate and former Australian Greens Candidate, Sujan Selven said.
Sujan listed a number of challenges people from refugee backgrounds face in becoming leaders for change. “I had to learn the language and customs. Making eye contact was very disrespectful in Sri Lanka. But here if I don’t do so, I can appear untrustworthy or unsure.”
APP coordinator Ahmad Hakim said, “The participants often know exactly what they want to say. Most of the time it’s about building their skills, networks and confidence to do so as powerfully as possible.”
The evening demonstrated that people from refugee backgrounds know what their communities need and are the best spokespeople and change makers we could ever have in the movement. As Babra says, “We know we have the power. It’s through advocacy we’ll see the change.”
You can support these incredible emerging leaders and the Advocacy and Power Program by connecting them to speaking opportunities and networks via biographies and social media links.
Thanks to AESOP Foundation for funding this program in 2018.Leave a reply