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Lecture series for asylum seekers

14 October 20150 comments
Dr. Karen Block has organised lectures for asylum seekers.

Dr. Karen Block has organised lectures for asylum seekers.

Melbourne University is hosting a program of lectures for asylum seekers to help them settle in and become more knowledgeable about their new home.

The free lectures cover important modern and historical issues in Australia that include language, community development, human rights and Indigenous histories.

Each class has the potential to empower asylum seekers through a better understanding of where they now live and inform them of their rights.

The lectures, which started in late September, will continue to be held at the university’s city campus until the October 26th. There will be a celebration class on November 9th.

All adult asylum seekers and refugees, regardless of immigration status, are encouraged to attend the classes which are taught in English.

The course is designed to be an interesting introduction to Australian society, with time set aside in each class to discuss the topics with students and peers.

Each week covers a different topic, including ‘Human rights & equal opportunity’ and ‘History of immigration to Australia’.

Students are not required to enrol or attend each class, allowing them the freedom to pick and choose which sessions may interest them more.

The Melbourne University lectures have been reworked and improved since starting last year, where they had an attendance of 50-60 people.

Dr Karen Block, an organiser of the project, says the idea for the lectures originally came from Melbourne Free University where similar lectures were created.

“We wanted to build on and extend the idea of the lectures by taking advantage of the resources and range of knowledgeable people we have at Melbourne Uni,” said Karen.

Karen is a Research Fellow within the Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Team in the Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health.

After recently completing her doctoral project, Refugee Youth, Social Inclusion and Health, Karen continues to work on projects that focus on refugees and young people.

“There are 10,000 asylum seekers living in our community that don’t have employment and education options. We wanted to give those people an opportunity for intellectual and social engagement.”

“We definitely want to continue with the project because it’s really worthwhile and creates other opportunities. Many asylum seekers are experts but can’t work, so the lectures provide an opportunity for them to link up with professionals from the university and form long term relationships,” said Karen.

The lectures run for 45 minutes, after which they break for food, and then have small group discussions about the topic of the night.

Many postgraduate students come along to the lectures and are involved in the group discussions.

“The social engagement part of the lectures is as important as anything else. Not only for the asylum seekers who may have restricted contact with Australian culture, but also for the students who get to meet them and break down barriers.”

Information about the lectures is below;
Where: Room G08, Melbourne Law School, 185 Pelham St, Carlton
When: Monday evenings from 5.30 – 7.30pm.


Ruby Brown
AMES Australia Staff Writer