The Moderator, Rev. Simon Hansford and Deputy Premier John Barilaro were among the attendees who gathered to celebrate the positive impact of securing free access to TAFE for refugees and people seeking asylum this year.
The celebration took place at St Stephens Uniting Church on 16th November and is the culmination of the Sydney Alliance TAFE campaign.
The 90 celebration attendees heard from Iranian, Syrian and Pakistani students who were grateful for the opportunity to study at TAFE for free this year.
After hearing the students’ stories, Deputy Premier Barilaro was visibly moved and described himself as “lost for words” before addressing the crowd.
“The narrative around asylum seekers and refugees has spoilt our story… We are a rich country for everyone who comes here and we are richer for it,” said Deputy Premier Barilaro.
This campaign is part of a broader initiative to change the conversation around refugees and people seeking asylum through table talk events with faith communities, organisations, unions and schools.
A number of Uniting Church congregations across Sydney were involved in this campaign. Boronia Park and Abbotsbury Uniting Church congregations were among the hundreds of Sydney locals that showed their support the TAFE free access campaign, by sending bookmarks to the Minister. The Uniting Church Synod of NSW/ACT and Uniting are both members of Sydney Alliance and played an important role in this campaign.
Key drivers of the campaign included Rev John Jegasothy and Uniting Social Justice Forum team member, Alex Hogan.
In her address to those gathered in the church, Alex reflected on how by working together we can ensure access to education for all is not just a mere dream but a reality.
“Bringing people together from all faiths, ethnic groups, backgrounds and experiences together to advocate for justice is an incredible thing.
“But what’s even greater is being able to empower those who are directly impacted– such as our friends here to be a part of their own movement. This is real POWER,” said Alex.
Other speakers on the night included representatives from the Jewish Board of Deputies, Sydney Catholic Schools, Settlement Services International, Uniting and the Jesuit Refuge Service.
Sydney Alliance looks forward to continue talks in the New Year with Uniting Church communities and also establishing new campaigns to assist vulnerable people seeking asylum in Sydney.
First image: (Left) Rev. Ken Day of St Stephens Uniting Church, the Deputy Premier John Barilaro and the Moderator, Rev. Simon Hansford.
Second image: (Left) : Shane Fenwick, Church Engagement Team at Uniting, Stafford Sanders, Uniting Social Justice Forum, Rev Ken Day, Mr Barilaro, The Moderator & Alex Hogan, Uniting Social Justice Forum.