Festival to highlight contribution of refugees

Festival to highlight contribution of refugees

The Festival of Refugees in St Kilda, Melbourne, on Sunday August 21 will celebrate the positive and creative contributions made by refugees and asylum seekers to Australian society.

The festival is the largest annual celebration of its kind in Victoria. This year, attendees will include refugees from Sudan, South Sudan, Burma, West Papua, Sri Lanka, Congo, Tibet, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe.

The festival will feature cultural performances from members of Melbourne’s refugee population, including guest artist Red Horse, a Native American dancer, and Uyghur and Kurdish dancers.

This year’s Festival of Refugees is a joint initiative of Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia, and the Victorian Council of Churches, in partnership with the City of Port Phillip.

Act for Peace Executive Director, Alistair Gee, said, “This annual festival is a wonderful and much-needed opportunity for refugees in Australia to share their stories and their gifts. So much of the public refugee debate in Australia does not include the voices and perspectives of refugees themselves, and features language that dehumanises and even demonises people who flee persecution for a better life.

“Events which give refugees a face and a voice, and help the wider public to understand better what they have been through before arriving in Australia, are vital. This is particularly the case at a time when Australia is seeking to send even children and unaccompanied minors to Malaysia.”

Act for Peace works with refugees and asylum seekers around the world. In Australia, one of its programs involves Healing Trails, which connect refugees to church communities for support and community-building.

Said Ehsanullah Dileri, who arrived in Australia in 2009 after fleeing Afghanistan, participated in the Healing Trail program. He has since become active in his local community, and received the 2011 Victorian Refugee Recognition Record Award. He will share his story at the Festival of Refugees.

“Events like the Healing Trail and Refugee Festival are important for me as a refugee, because they provide a forum to let the public know that refugees add more colour and diversity to Australian society, and at the same time contribute to social, political and economical aspects of life in here,” he said.

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