Refugee week - we are all just people wanting a happy life
16th Jun 2016
Imagine you are incredibly wealthy. You have a house that provides for more room than you need, and you have a support network that reaches far and wide. You have medical benefits, superannuation, savings and knowledge of how life works. Imagine life is good for you. Now, imagine you knew someone who was not so lucky. Imagine you knew of someone who was living in fear of their life. Imagine this person was trying to run from a place of violence and abuse. Someone without any benefits and no understanding of how to get these benefits.
The question I pose to you is this, would you help them? Would you open up your spacious, well-equipped home, and let them stay with you for as long as they needed? Would you then help them to eventually find work, a supportive community, and a home of their own, with benefits? Would you help them so that they can live free from violence? I’m sure most of us would think that this is exactly what we would do.
Now remember your answer and think about this –
When you think of life in Australia, I’m sure you don’t think of violent government crackdowns or war and conflict evident on your own soil. You wouldn’t think of a place where your mind is filled with fear of death at any minute, or a place where suffering abuse is normal. You don’t think of a place where opportunities are scarce. Instead, I’m sure you are more inclined to think of a country which, for the most part is filled with opportunities both for work and leisure, of a country where it is easy to access benefits such as medical, superannuation, savings and so on. You think of a country that is filled with an abundance of space, more than people need, and most importantly, I’m sure you think of a country that has better safety and protection than many others.
Unfortunately, this violence and fear is a reality for thousands of displaced people worldwide. The consequence is that a lot of these unfortunate people are having to uproot themselves from their homelands, and search for a place of prosperity and safety – which is what we enjoy here in Australia.
As someone who is lucky enough to have grown up here, I am a strong believer in every single one of us treating these displaced people as we would the person in the first scenario. Helping them to get back on their feet once they reach Australia, and providing them with the support and safety they need to start a better, safer, and more fulfilling life.
So, with this in mind, I want to talk to you about Refugee Week, which is running next week from the 19th-25th of June. Refugee Week aims to provide a positive stage for those lucky enough to become refugees in our country. It is all about letting them share their stories and providing them with support and reassurance as they start their new lives here. It aims to make and encourage successful integration for them into our society.
- To educate the Australian public about who refugees are and why they want to come to Australia;
- To help people understand the many challenges refugees face in coming to Australia;
- To celebrate the contribution refugees make to our community and to focus on how the community can provide a safe and welcoming environment for refugees;
- To encourage community groups and individuals to do something positive for refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people, within Australia but also around the world; and
- To encourage service-providers to reflect on whether they are providing the best possible services to refugees.
To support this week and get involved, go to Refugee Week’s website and read about what is happening in your local community.
I want you to think about your answer to the first question, and imagine that that person is a refugee – someone who has been displaced, is scared and is looking to start a new life. Think about what you can do, and how you can help to support and welcome these innocent people into our country, people who are just looking for a secure place to call home in our abundant and spacious land. So, with Refugee Week coming up next week, I urge you to make this one count.
Zoe Le Quesne was the Media and Policy Assistant at the Australian Lawyers Alliance until December 2016. She is passionate about human rights law and policy and has a huge heart for humanitarian issues. During her time studying at the University of New South Wales (Australia) and the University of Leeds (England), Zoe was particularly interested in War Zone and Political Violence Journalism, Human Rights Law and Policy and Criminology. In her spare time Zoe volunteers her time at an organisation called Stop the Traffik, which fights to eliminate the trafficking of people in production lines, (focussing specifically in the fashion industry).
The views and opinions expressed in these articles are the authors' and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).