Refugees and asylum seekers often have compelling stories to tell but for many reasons remain silent. At a special Refugee Week Speakers’ Series event hosted by Settlement Services International (SSI), a panel of writers with refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds and experience will discuss the role storytelling plays in giving voice to this marginalised sector of society.
SSI is a leading not-for-profit organisation that provides a range of services in humanitarian settlement, accommodation, asylum seeker assistance, foster care and disability support in NSW. SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said the reasons why refugees and asylum seekers chose not to tell their stories were a challenge.
“Sometimes their stories are misappropriated or simply ignored,” she said, “and they often have reasons to fear that speaking out will further endanger them or their loved ones.
“With most media now published online, comments by refugees and asylum seekers are easily found by their persecutors in their countries of origin. This can have dire consequences for them if they are returned, or for their family members who remain there.
“But it is important that we explore ways to make refugees and asylum seekers feel safe, understood and respected in telling their stories. Sharing life stories should foster empathy and help society better understand the circumstances people have endured.”
The SSI Refugee Week Speakers’ Series event on Tuesday, June 17, will feature talks from three writers.
Dhananjaya Karunarathne is a published playwright, director and designer working in Sri Lanka and Australia as an independent artist. After moving to Australia, he completed his Master of Creative Arts, Theatre, at the University of Wollongong in 2004. He is currently undertaking a Master of Creative Arts- Research, at the university and is developing a play called A Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seeker's story as performed by Australian actors under the guidance of a Sinhalese director as part of his studies.
Iranian-born Saleh Khani is an IT engineer and emerging writer. Saleh’s father worked on ships and he grew up absorbing experiences that fostered understanding of other cultures and traditions. Saleh was accepted to study an Advanced Diploma of Applied Science (Nautical Science) at the University of Tasmania. While working in Iran to pay for his studies he received news his visa application to Australia was denied. Around this time Saleh had to leave his country and his journey as an asylum seeker began. He arrived on Christmas Island in April 2013 and is writing a book in Farsi called I Am An Asylum Seeker.
Rosie Scott is an award-winning writer who has published six novels, and a collection each of short stories, poems and essays. Her award-winning play Say Thank You To The Lady was the basis for a film which won several international awards. Her novel Faith Singer was on the list of 50 Essential Reads by Contemporary Authors compiled by the Orange Prize committee, the Guardian and the Hay Festival. She and Thomas Keneally co-edited a PEN anthology of writers in detention, Another Country, which earned them a nomination for the Human Rights Medal and helped to gain PEN the Community Human Rights Award. The pair also co-edited the anthology A Country Too Far.
The Settlement Services International’s Speakers’ Series events are talks and panel discussions on current refugee and asylum seeker issues and related topics.
Date: Tuesday June 17
Location: SSI Head Office, Level 2, 158 Liverpool Rd, Ashfield NSW
Admission by gold coin donation (monies collected will support SSI’s Arts & Culture program)
RSVP essential: http://speakerseriesstorytelling.eventbrite.com.au
SSI Online Communications Coordinator, Callan Lawrence, 0478 156 491, or, 02 8799 6746
SSI Marketing and Communications Manager, Angela Calabrese 0401 284 828