Refugee Week in Melbourne
Melbourne and the rest of the country last week saw a plethora of events celebrating positive contributions made by refugees.
From June 14-20, the city came alive with a range of concerts, workshops, and quirky ideas to celebrate and inform Melbournians about Refugee Week.
It was hard to choose just a few but we have compiled a list of some of the best:
Sounds of Harmony
A multicultural extravaganza kicked off the week on Monday, with international acts wowing a crowd of 400 at Federations Square.
Soulful traditional folk songs, upbeat Asian pop music and African drumming were just a few of the musical delights that entertained city workers and supporters of cultural diversity alike.
SBS RocKwiz Co-Host, Brian Nankervis compered the event that included the asylum seeker choir ‘Voices without Borders’ and acclaimed Sudanese singer and songwriter, Ajak Kwai.
The lunch time concert, staged by migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES, was aimed celebrating the musical talent of Melbourne’s culturally diverse communities.
Road to Refugee Coffee Cup
More than 30 cafes across Melbourne used Road to Refuge branded coffee cups to encourage latte-drinkers to consider the journey of asylum seekers and refugees.
On each cup a picture of ‘Layla’ was stamped with an invitation to follow her journey online through a chooseyour-own-adventure program.
Though her story is fictional, the interactive Road to Refuge website asks adults and children to consider the struggle that countless asylum seekers endure.
“We hope that this will encourage people to think about an issue they may not otherwise engage in, and we are proud and excited to be partnering with some of the best cafes in Melbourne to spread the word”, said Dana Affleck, the Road to Refuge founder.
Throughout the week over 30,000 customers were handed a cup by their local barista that did much more then provide a morning buzz.
‘Welcome to Country’ Smoking Ceremony at the Multicultural Hub
Members of the Wurundjeri people welcomed Australia’s newcomers with a traditional smoking ceremony on Thursday.
A branch of eucalyptus leaves was burned and smoke was blown across the crowd of newly arrived immigrants and refugees to cleanse and welcome them.
After the ceremony, the audience went inside the Multicultural Hub to learn about the Wurundjeri people through traditional song and dance.
Uncle Perry, a Wurundjeri elder, spoke about local Aboriginal traditions, history and culture.
“The smoking ceremony is a welcome to everybody, it doesn’t matter what country you’re from. They’ve got their hard stories and we’ve got ours,” Uncle Perry said.
The audience, many of whom have been in Australia for only a few months, were both excited and humbled to be involved in Indigenous Australian culture.
Festival of Hope
A huge day of festivities ended the week as the Amnesty Refugee Network of Victoria celebrated World Refugee Day on Saturday.
The Festival of Hope had exciting activities for the whole family that started at midday and finished well past sundown.
The day fiesta at Brunswick Town Hall included an arts hub, advocacy workshops, Persian dance classes and craft market.
While the night gala entertained and educated the crowd’s music, comedy and a discussion panel on asylum seeker issues.
Throughout the event the aim was to help change the conversation and campaign for refugee and asylum seeker rights in Australia.
AMES Staff Writer