Settlement Services International’s (SSI) third Speakers’ Series event for 2014 will explore the theme: Perception is reality: How do we form our perceptions of refugees and asylum seekers? The live panel discussion will approach the complex question from different angles following a presentation by Professor Andrew Markus, who heads the Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion research program based at Monash University. The 2014 Mapping Social Cohesion report suggested that the majority of Australians support a humanitarian settlement program, which assesses refugees overseas but are negative towards asylum seekers arriving by boat. The predominant view is that asylum seekers are illegal economic migrants. Claims of persecution are often ignored as a push factor. These views have increased since 2011.
People born in a non-English speaking country have similar rates of disability as other Australians but are about half as likely to receive formal assistance.
Refugee Week is Australia’s peak annual activity to raise awareness about the issues affecting refugees and celebrate the positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society.
Sarah Yahya, 19, was born hearing impaired in Iraq in 1995, to a Mandaean family that lived in fear for their safety. The Mandaean ethnic-religious group has been increasingly persecuted since not long after Sarah arrived in the world. In the cover of night, aged six, Sarah, her sister and mother, were whisked from their home and driven 12 hours in to Jordan. Once there, they went immediately to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to seek protection. Their father had been arrested and was in prison, serving four years for his beliefs.
The Power of Storytelling is the second event of SSI’s Speaker Series Refugee Week 2014 event will discuss the role of storytelling in creating awareness about the refugee and asylum seeker experience. Speakers include award-winning writer Rosie Scott, Sri Lankan-born playwright and theatre director Dhananjaya Karunarathne and SSI client Saleh Khani. Many refugees and asylum seekers have compelling stories to tell and crave to be listened. However many have reasons for wanting to remain quiet, fearing further persecution to their families or in the case of asylum seekers, negative impact on their applications for refugee status.