Oscar-winning actress compelled to work with refugees
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett has told of how her work with refugees has left her “shaken and enriched”.
Melbourne-based actor and two-time Oscar winner Ms. Blanchett said she had been: “shaken by the scale of the ever-growing displacement crisis, from Syria to South Sudan, to Bangladesh… shaken by the moving individual stories of tragedy that lie behind the vast numbers.”
“But enriched too by the privilege of meeting refugee families who have shown the most incredible resilience, dignity and generosity in the face of unfathomable circumstances. Once you have borne witness, you cannot turn away,” she said.
“I’ve been shocked, and I’ve been profoundly moved by the stories of refugees that I’ve heard, and also, like you, been frustrated and angered by the lack of global momentum to permanently reverse the factors that contribute to the global displacement crisis,” she said.
“The numbers alone beggar belief,” Ms. Blanchett said, speaking to UNHCR staff in Geneva this week.
She became a UNHCR ambassador in 2014 and has praised the UN Refugee Agency for providing a vital “moral compass” amid the global displacement crisis.
Since 2014, the numbers of people forced from their homes by wars and persecution worldwide has climbed to a record 65.6 million, including more than 21 million refugees.
In her role the UNHCR, Ms. Blanchett has undertaken fact-finding missions to Lebanon and Jordan to meet refugees and stateless people who have been displaced by the Syrian conflict.
She has also visited refugee communities in Melbourne, including the Karen community in Werribee and the Afghans who have settled in Dandenong.
Ms Blanchett paid tribute to the “patience, passion and compassion” of humanitarian workers saying the vital work that they undertake has been “remarkable and energizing.”
“You talk of course about giving refugees hope, and that is absolutely vital. But for what it’s worth, you give me hope,” she said.
“You have seen it all. You navigate these difficult waters on a daily basis, and what I really want to say today is thank you.”
Ms. Blanchett also commented on Australia’s off shore processing policy.
“But bit by bit, and certainly over the last decade specifically, it’s become a fortress,” she said.
She said this compelled her to take up advocacy for refugees.
“I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Not just what was happening on my own home turf but around the world,” Ms. Blanchett said.
She said she saw hope in the new global compact on refugees which aims to find lasting effective and lasting solutions to the global crisis.
“We’re at the beginning of a potentially game-changing year. The convening role you are playing in forging a new blueprint for a more equitable and sustainable response to the refugee crisis is to be applauded,” Ms. Blanchett said.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist