June 23 2016
Refugee Week Bulletin
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Refugee Week 2016: Off to a Flying Start!

Wow - what a start to the biggest Refugee Week that Australia has ever seen! We at the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) headquarters have been inspired and humbled by your response and support.

The Sydney and Melbourne Launches were hugely successful, with political leaders from across the spectrum coming together for refugees on Friday at Sydney's new Inner West Refugee Hub, and many, many thousands turning out for an incredible show at Melbourne's inaugural Festival of Welcome in Federation Square on Sunday.  Below, we share the full lowdown with you.

In the first two days alone, an incredible variety of concerts, exhibitions, festivals, film screenings and more have been held across the country, with hundreds yet to come.   Read on for more info. 

ABOVE: The Burundian Drummers
CREDIT: Saintsister

Find an event near you
Refugee Week Sydney Launch

Refugees took centre stage for the launch of #RefugeeWeek in Sydney's Inner West Refugee Welcome Centre, recognising the courage and contribution of refugees. Hundreds of people turned out to share the refugee experience with our very own Shukufa Tahiri and SBS's Roza Germain sharing their own stories of coming to Australia. Politicians of every stripe came together to show their support, including NSW Premier Mike Baird, who said that 'the current refugee debate, if you can call it that, breaks my heart'.

Ania Kebabjian shared her story of fleeing Syria and now working in the public service. Priscilla Bul, Ruqayah Abed and Arif Mosavi inspired us with an insight into young peoples perspective on the refugee experience. Yarie Bangoura shared one of her powerful poems, Lachlan Murdoch from STARTTS presented the 2016 humanitarian awards to worthy recipients (more on this in an upcoming bulletin) and Yamamah Agha from SSI delivered a vote of thanks.

See some photos from the action here and a news story from media partners SBS here
ABOVE:  Roza Germain (l) and Shukufa Tahiri thank the 2016 STARTTS and Refugee Council Humanitarian award winners.
CREDIT: Dean Sewell/2016

Festival of Welcome: Thousands turn out in Melbourne to celebrate and welcome refugees 

The wintry weather was no match for Victorians, who turned out in their thousands on Sunday to celebrate the first ever Festival of Welcome, which kicked off Refugee Week Melbourne-style. 

The Festival got off to a spectacular start, with The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra bringing the audience to their feet within minutes of taking the stage, leaving them no option but to dance to the sound of the infectious Afrobeat rhythms. Throughout the afternoon, crowds were treated to the spectacular drumbeats of Burundi; spoken word, storytelling and soulful rhythms from South Sudan, choral melodies from around the world, and speeches from Arweet Carolyn Briggs, who extended the welcome from the oldest to the newest Australians; people with refugee backgrounds and many other inspiring individuals dedicating their time and energy to refugee justice. MCs Osamah Sami and Santilla Chingaipe compered the event, interspersing the performances with snippets of Sami's excellent poetry and comedy. 

As the evening drew in, a number of high-profile performers took to the stage, including The Cat Empire's Felix Riebl, Robot Child (featuring none other than the one and only Waleed Aly), Tripod and the Smith Street Band. A truly unique musical moment was witnessed as Felix Riebl invited Waleed Aly to jam with him on stage. As the irresistible smells of Afghan, Burmese and Sri Lankan delicacies wafted through the crowd, and children with brightly painted faces danced along, balloons tightly clutched in hands, one thing was very clear- there is incredible community support for refugees and all that they bring to Australia, regardless of age, nationality or background. 

If you attended on Sunday, we'd love your feedback to help us make 2017 better than ever.  Click here to complete this very short survey. 
ABOVE:  Crowds gather at the Festival of Welcome.
CREDIT: Gary Lee
See more photos
Watch trailer by clicking the image above
Freedom Stories: inspiring tales of resilience and courage
Freedom Stories is screening in schools, community halls, libraries, cinemas, theatres and even in backyards this Refugee Week. 

Producer Lisa Horler joined attendees for a post-show Q&A at Monday's screening at the Lido Cinema in Melbourne.The event was a great success, after tickets sold out, prompting organisers to upgrade to a bigger cinema.
Find out where Freedom Stories is screening

Featured Event


Exiled to Nowhere Exhibition

The Exiled To Nowhere Exhibition documents the plight of the #Rohingya people,  photographed by renowned photographer Greg Constantine

To celebrate #RefugeeWeek and as a friend of RCOA, we would like to invite you to the launch of this exciting exhibition in collaboration with the the City of Sydney, hosted by Customs House. 

EXILED TO NOWHERE: Burma’s Rohingya
Launch  - Thursday 23 June 7-9pm
Customs House, Circular Quay
Exhibition runs until October 2016.

We hope to see you there. The photographer, Greg Constantine is also doing an artist talk at 2pm on Saturday 25th June at Customs House.


More info

Featured Project

World Mosaic Project @ RAW Garden


RAW - Resilient Aspiring Women is a not for profit organisation celebrating the uniqueness & aspirations of multicultural women. Through gardening, storytelling, arts/crafts & cooking they nurture themselves & their community. This weekend, in line with Refugee Week, RAW unveil their Mosaic World, a collaborative project which represents the many original homelands of the women who created it. 

Mariam Issa, Refugee Week Ambassador and co-founder of RAW says that 'The World Map Mosaic project was initiated by one of our members, and we loved the idea but we had no clue as to how the project would come to fruition, because none of us had any mosaic skill or the budget to execute the project. The very foundation that the RAW Garden is built upon is TRUST - we make an intent for any project we desire and allow the right person or people to show up and they do.'

If you are interested in attending the celebration this weekend or in getting involved with RAW, contact 

More events
Add your name HERE
Refugee Week could not take place without the support of its generous sponsors.  The Pricnipal Sponsor Victorian Government's VMC, major sponsors for 2016 include AMES Australia, Core Community Services, Life Without Barriers, Settlement Services International (SSI) and the St Vincent de Paul Society. 

Thanks also to our other sponsors: Navitas English, Jesuit Social Services, NSW Teachers Federation, City of Melbourne, City of Sydney, Inner West Council, Multicultural NSW, Foundation House, and to our Refugee Week partners: Australian Refugee Association, Baptcare, Wyndham CEC, Amnesty International Australia, Caritas Australia and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

For more information about our sponsors and to sponsor Refugee Week, click here.

Refugee Week Ambassadors

Refugee Week Ambassadors are inspiring individuals or groups who are either from a refugee background or who have an interest in and understanding of refugee and migrant issues in Australia. Their role as Ambassador is to celebrate and humanise the contribution of refugees. For the full list of Refugee Week ambassadors see here. If you would like to contact any of the Refugee Week Ambassadors regarding a media inquiry or to speak at your event, please contact 

See the Guardian's coverage of the Refugee Week Ambassadors featured on this year's poster, the Butler Falcons, here

Meet the Ambassador: Samer Aljanabi

Samer has been living in Perth, Western Australia for 14 years. Samer fled her home country of Iraq as a refugee and sought asylum in Australia.  She now calls Perth home.

As a lawyer practising in resources and commercial law, Samer has been lucky to utilize her skills and languages for various human rights causes, from assisting people seeking refugee status in Australia and the settlement of refugees in Perth, to helping an Australian journalist to be released from an Egyptian prison to Australia.

Samer joins us as a Refugee Week Ambassador in 2016 and we are delighted to have her on board.

Meet the Ambassador: Hayatullah Rahimi

Hayatullah Rahimi is a passionate advocate for asylum seekers and refugees in Australia and overseas. Hayatullah arrived in Australia in 2007 having been a refugee for eight years in Pakistan after he escaped war and persecution in Afghanistan.

In 2010, as soon as Hayatullah was granted permanent residency, despite being a bookseller back home, his experience of being a refugee and facing difficult challenges inspired him to become a social worker in Australia. Now, Hayatullah is a case manager supporting new arrivals and refugees and is currently finishing his Honours in Social Work at RMIT. 

Download the Refugee Week Resource Pack
Host Freedom Stories screening
Remember Refugee Week 2015


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Copyright © 2016, Refugee Council of Australia, All rights reserved. Since 1986 Australia has celebrated Refugee Week recognising the contribution of refugees and people seeking asylum, and coordinated by the Refugee Council of Australia.