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2021 conference program

You can read the 2021 conference program here.

Monday 5 July - Side Events


Culturally Responsive Teaching for Students from Refugee and Asylum-Seeking Backgrounds (SRABs): Showcasing Innovative Pedagogies of Reconnection

Refugee Education Special Interest Group (RESIG) and Western Sydney University. (Closed event for RESIG members)

Tuesday 6 July - Conference Day One

9:30am – 11:00am – Plenary Welcome & Panel

Kween G

Welcome to Country
Uncle Greg Simms

Welcome to ConferenceSpeakers
Paul Power Refugee Council of Australia
Leanne Smith Whitlam Institute within Western Sydney University
Peter Shergold AC Western Sydney University, NSW Coordinator-General for Refugee Resettlement

Opening Panel Topic: Rebuilding: Resilience and Innovation
This opening session for Refugee Alternatives 2021 provided a critical reflection on refugee and asylum seeker matters. It will explore themes of dignity and the importance and impact of language. The panel took a critical, disruptive and aspirational approach and explored opportunities for change in the sector.

Adama Kamara Refugee Council of Australia

Atem Atem Refugee Communities Advocacy Network (NSW)
Rahila Haidary Human Rights Advocate
Shukufa Tahiri The National Refugee Advocacy and Advisory Group (NRAAG)

11:30am – 1:00pm – Plenary Panel

Panel Topic: Centering Community Organising and Grassroots Work in the Refugee Sector
This session aimed to highlight and increase our awareness and understanding of migrant and refugee community organising and grassroots work in Australia as panelists share their knowledge and experience of how the deepest and most impactful social movement work is often voluntary, embedded in the daily activities of communities, and driven by the leadership of everyday people.

Mia-lia Boua Kiernan International Detention Coalition

Tina Dixson Forcibly Displaced People Network
Dominic Golding National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA)
Hava Rezaie Refugee’s Women Right Advocate
Idrissa Dumbuya People seeking asylum in the African community
Oliver Slewa Shayna Humanitarian, Advocate
Maria Tran Filmmaker/ Community & Cultural Practitioner

2:00pm – 3:30pm – Parallel Session One

Discussion Topic: Race, Power and Privilege in Human Rights Work
This session aimed to equip participants with practical awareness and skills to tackle everyday instances of racism and bias in their work. Using an intersectional, feminist framework, this presentation challenged participants on their own intrinsic biases as well as discussed empowerment, allyship and the importance of lived experience-driven leadership.

Elizabeth Lang Diversity Focus (co-facilitator)
Elizabeth Tekanyo Diversity Focus (co-facilitator)
Shabnam Safa National Refugee-led Advisory and Advocacy Group (NRAAG)

2:00pm – 3:30pm – Parallel Session Two

Panel Topic: Everyone’s business: Supporting mental health and inclusion of LGBTIQ+ people in refugee services
The session aimed to increase understanding about mental health considerations of LGBTIQ+ people seeking asylum and refugees with a particular attention to COVID impact and lessons learned from peer-led support groups. It aimed to provide attendees with tools for inclusion in their services. This session was fully run by people with lived experience of displacement.

Tina Dixson Forcibly Displaced People Network

Pola Taulafo NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS)
Renee Dixson Forcibly Displaced People Network
Oliver Zafar BridgeMeals VIC
Azlan Ehsani Forcibly Displaced People Network, National Refugee-led Advisory and Advocacy Group (NRAAG)
Francis Jimoh NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS)

3:45pm – 5:00pm – Plenary Closing Session

Panel Special Session: Finding solutions for refugees on TPVs and SHEVs
Refugees on Temporary Protection Visas and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas have been in Australia for at least 8 years, but remain on indefinite temporary visas. The SHEV visa was created to incentivise refugees to take up labour shortages in regional areas, but has failed to do so because of its complicated and unrealistic pathway to permanency.

This panel aimed to look at proposals from the community to reform SHEVs and TPVs to create realistic pathways to permanency for this group of people and help them settle successfully in the Australian community.

Asher Hirsch Refugee Council of Australia
Ali Reza Yunespour Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative
Salem Askari Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University
Mary Anne Kenny Murdoch University

Wednesday 7 July - Conference Day Two

10:00am – 10:30am

Plenary Conversation and Welcome to Day Two

Kween G


Leanne Smith Whitlam Institute within Western Sydney University

Paul Power Refugee Council of Australia

10:30am – 12:00pm – Plenary Panel

Panel Topic: Re-Energising International Responses to Displacement
This session explored how different actors are re-energising responses to forced displacement in the current context and beyond, from rebuilding resettlement, to mobilising communities and following up the commitments made at the inaugural Global Refugee Forum.

Sitarah Mohammadi Melbourne-based human rights advocate

Danijel Malbasa National Refugee-led Advocacy and Advisory Group NRAAG
Adrian Edwards UNHCR
Robert Hakiza Young African Refugees for Integral Development, Uganda
Naomi Steinberg Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), USA

1:00pm – 2:30pm – Parallel Session One

Panel: Australia and the Asia-Pacific
This panel provided updates on refugees from Myanmar, West Papua and those in Indonesia, and provided information about what Australia should be doing to support refugees in our region.

Asher Hirsch Refugee Council of Australia

Hafsar Tamessedin Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)
Halima Akhlaqi Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre (CRLC)
Jason Siwat Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands (CBCPNGSI)

1:00pm – 2:30pm – Parallel Session Two

Panel Topic: Allies, Partnerships and Change
In a sector that is filled with professionals with lived experience, this session considered current examples of good practice of community led initiatives, as a platform to investigate how we embed these as standard and sustainable solutions; and what needs to change to get us there, including funding.

Deena Yako Refugee Council of Australia

Anna Robson Refugee Talent
Louna Ghawi Refugee Talent
Dr Meena Chevan Macquarie University
Simon Shahin Face to Face program, Refugee Council of Australia
Skye Trudgett The National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) Blak Impact

1:00pm – 2:30pm – Parallel Session Three

Panel Topic: Community Refugee Sponsorship in Australia – Paving the Road Ahead
This session discussed the practical elements of implementing a holistic community-led refugee sponsorship program in Australia.

Shabnam Safa Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI)

Shankar Kasynathan Amnesty International Australia
Lisa Button Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI)
Nicole Watkins Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI)
Jenny Collins-White End Child Detention Coalition
Michael Lam My New Neighbour

1:00pm – 2:40pm – Parallel Session Four

Youth Caucus: “Advocacy, Youth Voice and Shaping Policy in the Refugee Space.”
How can young people from refugee backgrounds shape the policies that most affect their lives? What role does storytelling play as an advocacy tool? And how can young people embed their voices in policy development processes?

The Whitlam Institute Youth Caucus brought together young advocates and young people to consider the diverse pathways to creating change.

Leanne Smith Whitlam Institute within Western Sydney University
Elsie Samano Western Sydney University
Nazanin Sharifi Youth and Refugee Advocate
Alfred Mupenzi Western Sydney University

2:45pm – 4:15pm – Plenary Closing Panel and Performance

Speakers shared their reflections from conference week, then collated and organised the session outcomes to inform our actions and next steps for 2021.

Kween G

Deng Thiak Adut Defence Lawyer and Refugee Advocate
Kelly Nicholls Refugee Council of Australia
Paul Power Refugee Council of Australia
Rebecca Eckard Refugee Council of Australia

Thursday 8 July - Side Events

9:00am – 5:00pm – Refugee Welcome Zone Forum

There are now 170 local councils from around the country that have declared themselves to be Refugee Welcome Zones.

This forum explored the key role local government plays in supporting refugee settlement and share examples of good practice, innovative solutions and ideas on how local government can work with local residents, community organisations and others to create more welcoming, inclusive, and cohesive communities.

5:00pm – 8:00pm – National Refugee Dialogue with National Refugee-Led Advisory and Advocacy Group (NRAAG)

NRAAG invited members and representatives of Australian refugee communities to help dissect the complexities and opportunities of creating spaces for outcomes-focused, refugee-led voices in key decision making across government and civil society.

Building on discussions from last year, the dialogue further explored effective models of participation, representation, and accountability needed to enable strategic and collaborative refugee-led advocacy in Australia.

This was a closed session for those with lived experience of seeking asylum or being a refugee. This session followed on from the inaugural dialogue held last year.