On Tuesday, 14th August, sixteen Year 10 students had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Schools Refugee Forum run by Bayside, Georges River and Sutherland Shire Council, Shopfront Arts Co-op, Gymea Community Aid, Advance Diversity Services,
Settlement Services International and Jesuit Refugee Services.
The full day event aimed to educate students from high schools from Southern Sydney about the refugee experience, as well as facilitate advocacy for refugees within their community. The day began by busting refugee myths and asking students to put themselves in the shoes of a refugee. The students engaged in group discussions with students from a number of other schools and heard the stories of refugees who fled to Australia.
Jemimah shared her family’s story from fleeing Congo to Tanzania to Malawi and her settlement story of being in Australia. Reivan shared his story of fleeing Iraq and completing his HSC twice in Jordan before finally making it to Australia and being accepted into a university. All 144 students attending eagerly participated in a drumming workshop run by Lucky from Africa which was fun for all.
We also heard from Neha Prasad, a highly skilled solicitor with a special interest in Refugee and Human Rights Law. She specialises in offshore protection matters, regularly travelling to Manus Island and Papua New Guinea where she serves as a Team Leader at the Regional Processing Centre. Carolina Gottardo was a member of an expert panel taking questions from the students. She has worked for twenty years with human rights issues in different countries and in different contexts. She works specifically with human rights issues and specialises in the rights of refugees and migrants. We also listened to a speech from a representative from the Georges River Council about Refugee Welcome Zones. Sutherland Shire is a Refugee Welcome Zone.
The day was highly interactive and engaging. The Year 10 students learnt a lot about refugees and their struggles throughout the day, as well as making new friends from other schools. At the end of the day, the students came up with a plan for action, one that will hopefully take place at Engadine High later in the year. The group of Year 10 students are hoping to apply for a grant to run activities within our school and at Beverly Hills Girls HS to promote awareness of refugees and start a new conversation that is led with compassion. Thank you to Ms Miller for organizing for us to attend such an important day and watch this space for further refugee action!!
By Lara Proctor and Casey Frater (Yr 10)