Refugees, support workers and advocates met today at Synod offices to learn more about the daunting challenges facing displaced people but also to swap ideas, strategies and stories of hope.
Around 50 people attended the all-day Refugee Council of Australia Annual Consultation Workshop held at 130 Lt Collins St in central Melbourne.
Refugee Council Deputy Director of Policy and Research Rebecca Eckard said the workshop was one of a number held around Australia that gathered feedback on the issues and policies affecting refugees and asylum seekers.
“Refugee policy changes quite frequently so it’s great for everyone to be able to keep updated as well,” Rebecca said.
“And they also get to hear about good initiatives that are happening around the country and be able to share that nationally with other places.”
The workshop opened with a session that gave an overview of the challenges facing those helping displaced people both internationally and in Australia.
“I think it is one of the most difficult times to be working both globally in terms of the sheer number of people who have been forced from their homes and within the Australian context there are unfortunately a lot of negative things happening and impacting some of the most vulnerable people,” Rebecca said.
“But at the same time there’s a lot of hope because we see extraordinary resilience in people who have faced forced migration being able to represent issues both internationally and in Australia and being able to rebound their lives.”
Afternoon sessions looked at the ways asylum seekers in Australia who have lost government funding are being supported.
Rebecca said announced moves to remove asylum seeker children and others out of offshore detention were very welcome and needed to be built upon.
“At the Refugee Council we’re excited to see the groundswell of support from everyday Australians that have said enough is enough and that what is happening on Nauru and Manus is unacceptable,” she said.
“We hope that means the tide is turning and people will support policies that are more humane for people seeking asylum and for people from a refugee background.”
Rebecca thanked the Uniting Church for hosting the workshop and its long-held advocacy for asylum seekers and refugees.
She said religious and secular organisations had shown they could work well together in helping the vulnerable.
“It’s one of the greatest examples of how it doesn’t matter about the backgrounds of the organisations, people are coming together with a common goal or common objectives,” she said.
“It’s just about using each organisation’s or group’s strengths and then finding ways to work cooperatively and coordinate it.”
Annual Consultation Workshop