Opening Universities for Refugees (OUR) is an international initiative that brings together institutions that offer, and are willing to offer, higher education courses and/or diploma and certificate programs to people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds. OUR’s principal aim is to create an open and accessible knowledge network accessible by all to push for better educational opportunities and outcomes for people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.
The Australian 3C Forum—titled Project Eucalyptus—took place at UNSW over two days in November 2018 as a collaborative venture between OUR, 2016 Young People’s Human Rights Medal recipient Arash Bordbar, the Forced Migration Research Network, UNSW’s Grand Challenges on Refugees and Migrants, and the Refugee Council of Australia Education Special Interest Group. This free forum sought to build effective collaborations amongst participants leading to new initiatives to increase access to, participation in, and successful transitions out of higher education, not only for recently resettled refugees in Australia, but also for displaced communities in the region.
Our main goal was to involve as many interested parties and stakeholders as possible, from all levels of engagement and responsibility for refugee and asylum seeker education, to ensure the participation of the most representative group of people who have the energy and expertise to develop solutions to the challenges posed by the provision of higher education in Australia, and to examine Australia’s role in supporting higher education provision in transit countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia. Participants came from across the country, representing universities, institutions, schools, the NSW Department of Education, and Professor Peter Shergold, Coordinator General of Refugee Resettlement for NSW.
The ‘unconference’ format of the first day — a hallmark of the OUR ‘3C’ event series — yielded rich descriptions, observations and insights into the complexities of supporting students with higher education in the resettlement context of Australia, as well as possible ways for Australian institutions to support the opening of access to higher education in the Asia-Pacific region. These conversations from day one were distilled into four thematic working groups on the second day, which met with a mandate to action plan according to SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound) principles, over three timeframes: short-term (March 2019), medium-term (November 2019), and longer-term (November 2020).
These action plans were presented at the end of the second day, and were announced by Professor Peter Shergold. These plans will help to maintain the momentum for the future collective action and advocacy for the participants and the wider networks of the Forced Migration Research Network and the Refugee Education Special Interest Group for the next two years.
Dr Sally Baker, Steering Group Member, FMRN
Keren David, School of Social Sciences, UNSW
Arash Bordbar, OUR/ Western Sydney University
Gul Inanc, OUR