The pandemic has changed how communities come together, and 2020 presented a challenge that required Settlement Services International (SSI) and Refugee Week partners to readapt usual modes of engagement for events and celebrations.
To mark ‘The Year of Welcome’, SSI and the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, launched new research during a virtual event on June 18. The research challenges narrow economic definitions of successful refugee settlement and, instead, suggests social and civic dimensions are equally valid markers of refugee integration.
Foundations for Belonging: A snapshot of newly arrived refugees, reveals that refugees are building mixed social networks, which helps them to trust Australian institutions and fulfil social responsibilities. It points to a series of actions that governments, policymakers, service providers and civil society can pursue to strengthen their contribution to settlement and integration.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said, "It is fitting that, in a Refugee Week with the theme ‘Celebrating the Year of Welcome’, this study shows that refugees have a strong sense of welcome and belonging in their everyday lives.
"They feel part of the Australian community, regularly seek to get to know people from cultural backgrounds other than their own, demonstrate high levels of trust in their neighbours and neighbourhoods, and, despite language barriers, are developing social bridges grounded in the sense of welcome and support offered by the broader Australian community.
"This research will provide a solid foundation for community engagement initiatives that facilitate meeting and exchange between receiving communities and refugees."
The launch featured a panel discussion moderated by ABC News reporter Lydia Feng, with research co-author and Western Sydney University Senior Research Fellow Shanthi Robertson, SSI Settlement Services Manager Dor Achiek and Refugee Council of Australia Policy Officer Shufuka Tahiri. The discussion was preceded by a presentation of the research findings by the paper’s co-authors Tadgh McMahon, SSI Research and Policy Manager, and Shanthi Robertson, and included Q&A.
Click here to tune into the recording of the virtual event. As the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA)’s event partner, SSI contributed to the ‘Year of Welcome’ campaign to educate the Australian public about refugees and to celebrate the contribution that refugees make to community.
Due to the current climate, SSI and RCOA engaged communities and the wider public by virtual means, and developed a suite of online resources, webinar-style events, and mini interactive online activities and campaigns across SSI’s and RCOA’s websites and social media channels. Refugee community champions and ambassadors were identified to lead creative activities.
RCOA and SSI co-hosted a forum focused on refugee and asylum-seeking women and leaders of frontline services to share their experiences of life during the COVID-19 pandemic.
SSI curated a virtual exhibition, Connecting through Welcome, showcasing submissions from the community about what welcome means to them.
Here are some of SSI’s key media highlights for Refugee Week 2020: