Refugee Week 2017 was officially Australia’s biggest to date, with over 500 events celebrated across the country in every state and territory. Film screenings, art exhibitions, circus performances, public storytelling, music festivals, comedy galas, poetry slams, fashion shows, a smorgasbord of mouth-watering food and much, much more brought out tens of thousands of Australians to celebrate the courage and contribution that refugees bring to their adopted nation.
For the first time, Refugee Week 2017 included the new and exciting addition of Australia’s first ever Refugee Film Festival. The Festival enjoyed sold-out screenings and a magnificent line up of films and speakers in Sydney and Melbourne, with many others hosting their own screenings around the country.
The official Refugee Week Launch was held at the Paddington Town Hall in Sydney and featured inspiring voices of people from refugee backgrounds, live entertainment, a children’s workshop, a book reading of I’m Australian Too by award-winning Mem Fox and the 2017 Humanitarian Awards organised by STARTTS. The event was an incredible celebration of the diversity of Australia.
Throughout the week, every state and territory came out to show their support and appreciation for Australia’s refugee communities. Over 15000 Queenslanders attended Luminous, the annual Lantern Parade. In South Australia, a full week of events was held at Government House, including films, speeches and community dinners. Tasmanians celebrated with a community kitchen, a welcome tree and much more. In ACT, the Refugee soccer world cup brought together players of all stripes for a friendly competition, whilst those in the Northern Territory were treated to an incredible World Music Festival.
The official Refugee Week wrap party took the form of the Festival of Welcome in Melbourne, in conjunction with Federation Square’s Winter Solstice celebration. Thousands of Victorians flocked to the Square in spite of the wintry weather to dance to music from around the world, sample the delicious treats on offer and celebrate all that refugees bring to Australia. This was exemplified by the incredible musical talent of refugee artists such as King Bell, Ajak Kwai and the Burundian Drummers. They shared the stage with Australian artists who have raised their voices for refugee justice, including the Hard Aches, Robot Child and award-winning Melbourne artist Dan Sultan.
Refugee Council Director Tim O’Connor said that the incredible scale of this year’s Refugee Week was a clear testament to the community support for refugees and people seeking asylum: “The number of events hosted across the country has almost doubled in just one year. This just goes to show the incredible support Australians have for people seeking safety here. Our politicians have a real opportunity to harness this good will to make more of a contribution to global displacement and build positive settlement outcomes.”
The Refugee Council of Australia is the national coordinator of Refugee Week, which ran from 18- 24 June 2017.
Major sponsors of this year’s Refugee Week were the City of Sydney, Community Migrant Resource Centre, Settlement Services International (SSI) and the St Vincent de Paul Society. Other sponsors included Navitas English, Jesuit Social Services, NSW Teachers Federation, City of Melbourne, NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) and Core Community Services. Refugee Week partners are Amnesty International Australia, Australian Refugee Association, NSW Refugee Health Service and Overseas Services to Survivors of Torture and Trauma (OSSTT).
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