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19 Jun 2018


SSI Celebrates Refugee Week 2018

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis

In celebrating Refugee Week 2018 and supporting the UNHCR’s #withrefugees movement, SSI renews its commitment to refugees settling in Australia, to enable education, provide safety and facilitate the learning of new skills to support independence and self-determination.

We’re incredibly proud of the achievements of our staff and volunteers, who work at the coalface of refugee settlement with newly arrived families, many of whom were part of the 12,000 additional refugees accepted by Australia under humanitarian visas due to the Syria/Iraq humanitarian crisis.

The latest region to accept refugees with the support of SSI’s Humanitarian Settlement Program team has been the regional centre of Armidale, and we’ve seen a truly incredible outpouring of support and welcoming from the community, some of whom have already joined SSI as volunteers and are assisting the newly arrived families.

In reflecting on this single project, I can see SSI’s work truly reaches the heart of the #withrefugees movement.

Australia can count itself among the most successful examples of multiculturalism in the world with 28% of Australians born overseas, who over generations have brought with them their traditions and cultures to enrich our society.

Everything we are seeing about refugees in Australia at the moment, the benefits, the challenges, the stories of sorrow and hope, are all part of the wonderful cycle of settlement and the transition to a place of safety and infinite prospects.

Every generation has experienced mass migration movements of some scale and, looking back in retrospect, we can clearly see the willingness of those migrants to contribute and build our society for the better.

Settling in a new part of the world has no common formula, but in countless examples throughout history there have been pockets in which migrant communities initially gathered for mutual support and familiarity. Over time, as confidence and independence grow, those communities become enabled to move on and spread out to seek new homes and prospects to build a successful future.

Education has always been one of the most powerful tools in developing independence and self-determination, and we’ve achieved some incredible goals in this area for refugees, in partnership with the NSW State Government, Allianz (refugee scholarships) and the patronage of Peter Shergold, Chancellor of Western Sydney University.

Education and refugee scholarships have seen thousands of individuals enabled to reach their full potential upon settling in Australia, and many of them have used their invaluable skills to give back to their communities and drive initiatives alongside SSI.

A prime example of this success is the Youth Collective. Under the guidance of SSI Youth Project Coordinator Dor Achiek, participants are encouraged to drive their own programs based on the needs and visions they see within their communities.

In a larger capacity, SSI uses this same philosophy of consulting client needs to inform our direction and strategies on a regular basis, for all our programs and initiatives. To assist in this we’ve created the Community Innovation Fund to provide the resources to enable change by the community, for the community.

Most recently we’ve taken this approach of stakeholder consultation in preparation for the upcoming UNHCR Annual Consultations with NGOs in Geneva, by coordinating directly with the Refugee Council of Australia, the peak body of refugee advocacy on Australia.

On June 27 SSI will once again take an active role in the consultations, with SSI’s Humanitarian Settlement Program Manager, Yamamah Agha, acting as official Rapporteur.

SSI is committed to maintaining an active voice in the area of migration and settlement services on a world stage. We’ve taken huge strides in recent years to establish ourselves as a thought leader through our partnerships and participation in global discussions, held at events like the UNHCR’s Geneva consultations and the highly anticipated Metropolis Conference 2018 hosted by SSI in Sydney in late October.

This Refugee Week we have an incredible program of refugee engagement across NSW. Just a few of the highlights include the New Beginnings Festival at the Community and Refugee Welcome Centre in Lilyfield, which will host a screening of acclaimed film The Staging Post, which will also be played at a special screening in Armidale for the whole community to enjoy.

Thirty refugees have also been invited to a special meeting with the Minister for Home Affairs and Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, on Wednesday June 20 in Canberra, where they will have the opportunity to tell their stories of successful settlement in Australia and their dreams for the future.

SSI has been proud to facilitate this visit in partnership with the Department of Home Affairs, and we thank our program participants for taking time out of their busy lives to attend.

Have a safe and happy Refugee Week 2018!

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