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26 Apr 2017


Youth forum at Callan Park Refugee Welcome Centre gives young refugees a head start


E3 Youth Forum keynote speaker Harpreet Dhillon delivers her address at the opening of the forum in the Callan Park Refugee Welcome Centre.

Taking place as part of Youth Week festivities, the group of 15 to 25-year-olds included refugees and people seeking asylum from countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, most of whom had arrived in Australia within the past six months. A big part of the day was also the young people having a chance to get to know each other and have fun in a safe, friendly environment.

The forum program was built around the three key areas of employment, education and English language, which form a core part of the support SSI offers to refugees under its Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) program and Settlement Support Program (SSP).

The E3 Youth Conference was spearheaded by the Youth Collective, an initiative established by SSI and its member MRCs to involve multicultural young people in improving outcomes for their peers. 

Youth Collective Steering Committee member and high-school student Rooan Al Kalmashi, who co-emceed the forum, said it had inspired her to enhance her knowledge to support other young people in her network.

“As a youth advocate, my vision is to encourage active citizenship and to give a voice to youth. Events like this one equip youth with the knowledge and skills required to ensure that their settlement process is easier and to assist them in reaching their full potential,” she said.

Rooan’s co-emcee was Simon Shahin, a Syrian refugee who arrived in Australia less than two years ago.

“I really enjoyed attending this E3 Youth Conference as it gave me a chance to help youth from multicultural backgrounds who are settling in Australia and preparing them for later career opportunities,” said Simon.

The forum’s keynote address was delivered by 17-year-old Harpreet Dhillon, a young Sydney woman who was recently sponsored by SSI to become the youngest Australian delegate at the 61st session of the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women at UN headquarters in New York.

Harpreet spoke about her incredible experiences in New York, getting to share her story with young people from around the world.

She also told the story of her own journey to self-acceptance, becoming the first woman in her family to finish high school. Harpreet said learning to understand the importance of diversity was what led her towards dedicating her time to help other young people from multicultural backgrounds.

SSI Youth Projects Coordinator Dor Akech Achiek said the E3 Youth Forum wasn’t just a chance for young people to improve their understanding of employment, English language and education in Australia; it was also an opportunity to have fun.

“One of my favourite parts of the day was seeing attendees come together for a range of activities of their choice such as a friendly soccer match and a game of tag on the lawns outside the Refugee Welcome Centre,” he said.

“An important outcome from the forum has also been the chance to collect feedback from these newly arrived young refugees on the challenges they face when it comes to employment, education and English. We’ve learned a lot from them as well.”

For more information about the Youth Collective, visit its website.

Over 200 young refugees have spent a day developing the fundamental skills to successfully settle in Australia at SSI’s E3 Youth Forum, a day of workshops and activities held at the Refugee Welcome Centre in Callan Park earlier this month.

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