Iraqi-born and award-winning filmmaker Ali Al Azeez.
Marking Refugee Week 2019, the Festival will form part of Open Inner West at the Community Refugee Welcome Centre (CRWC) in Callan Park, Lilyfield, on June 22, 2019.
It will showcase artworks produced at the Welcome Creative Hub — a series of cross-generational and cross-cultural public workshops facilitated by well-established artists and filmmakers from a refugee background — and to become a permanent art installation featured at the Centre.
Mr Al Azeez, an acclaimed filmmaker in Iraq whose film Link won an award at the Baghdad International Film Festival, said that running the workshops had been a valuable experience in skill sharing and had given him a platform to drive creative participation and social connection between inner west locals and newcomers.
“It’s been great to meet new people from the local community and see the workshop participants bring their creative vision to reality through film,” he said.
Arriving in Australia as a refugee in 2015, Mr Al Azeez continued to make films, including a short documentary called Without Borders, which celebrated multicultural Australia.
The inaugural screening of his second short film in Australia, LifeJacket, was held at the New Beginnings Festival in 2016. LifeJacket is a fictional story based on real-life experiences of people who arrive in Australia by boat and find themselves stuck in limbo due to personal traumas and cultural differences.
SSI Arts and Culture Producer Raphael Brasil said the success of the Welcome Creative Hub reflected SSI’s ongoing commitment to support established artists from a refugee and migrant background.
The Hub provided a platform for established artists of refugee background to transfer their skills and knowledge to a broader audience, he said.
“As newcomers adapt to a new social and cultural environment, the Hub provides opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue, highlighting the concept of ‘place’ and connection to Sydney’s inner west.
“The initiative also allows local communities to learn something new, all while making a social impact.”
The project is run by CRWC in close collaboration with Settlement Services International (SSI) and Inner West Council (IWC) and uses a fresh and innovative approach to creative engagement.
Established artists and filmmakers that are driving the workshops include Majid Rabet, Ali Al Azeez, Mohammed Alanezi and Elham Marvi.
Officially held on Sunday 26 May, Sorry Day was an important moment during Reconciliation Week to remember our country’s dark history of forced removals of First Nation children.
At the Colyton Community Hub, the community was able to reflect on the painful history of the Stolen Generations, and recognise moments of resilience, healing, forgiveness and the power of saying “sorry”.
To begin the day’s events, visitors were welcomed onto Darug land by Indigenous staff members with okra paint and the affirmation, “I see you”.
After being welcomed as brothers and sisters, Lisa, the school’s Community Hub Leader and a strong Darkingung woman, held a traditional smoking ceremony which was carried out by Nicole, SSI’s Project Officer – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Specialist, and Gomeroi Woman.
While embracing the smoke, individuals were encouraged to reflect on those who have been wounded by policies of past times, and how there are now hopes for healing.
Nicole, SSI’s Project Officer – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Specialist, and Gomeroi Woman, then spoke of the importance of not forgetting the past, while working towards a more equal future for Indigenous Australians.
“First Nation people do not wish to live in the past; however the past lives in us. With over 60 000 years of cultural knowledge, wisdom, protocols and customs, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities continue to provide diverse landscapes, deep strength, resilience and purpose,” said Nicole.
“Now it is time to forgive the past, the present and future wrongs of this country.”
The day continued with a reading of the ‘Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples’, the speech read in parliament by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2008. Afterwards, attendees were encouraged to reflect on what was said and write what they were sorry for on a piece of paper. The group then gathered, reading their apologies aloud before the pieces of paper were collectively thrown into a fire.
The day closed with the reveal of SSI’s official Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reconciliation Action Plan artwork by Indigenous staff member Julie.
The event brought together people of all backgrounds, and was a deeply moving, educational experience for all who attended.
Sara Hamka, SSI Arts and Culture Project Co-ordinator reflected, “Being here today, and walking alongside my Indigenous colleagues, has really opened my eyes to how important it is to keep having these conversations surrounding equity and opportunity in the Indigenous community. We still have a long way to go.”
Access CEO Gail Ker with SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis
While Access will come under the umbrella of SSI, it will continue to provide the same valuable local and state-wide services for clients in Queensland.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said, “This is a great alliance which will build on the already strong collaboration between our organisations and enable us to work together to deliver programs and services for clients and the community.
“Access has made a considerable contribution to the settlement and wellbeing of newly arrived Australians over the last three decades and we’re proud that we are joining forces, particularly as demands in the community grow.”
Gail Ker, who will continue as Access’ CEO and lead the team in Queensland, said, “The partnership with SSI is the start of a new chapter for Access and we are excited to be part of a larger community organisation that develops and delivers a broad range of services and programs for vulnerable communities.”
Access Community Services has decades of experience in the provision of settlement, employment, training, youth support services, housing and social enterprise opportunities with a focus on support for migrants, refugees and Australian-born clients, with services delivered across Queensland.
In order to achieve SSI’s vision of a society that values the diversity of its people, while supporting social and economic inclusion, we will continue to seek engagement within the migration sector and beyond.
Today the world is celebrating the International Day of People with Disability (IDPWD). In many ways this day, through celebrating and recognising the achievements of resilient people in our community, aligns with SSI’s core goal of building an inclusive society.
SSI has long recognised the need to support new members in our communities living with a disability.
Through programs like SSI Ability Links and SSI IgniteAbility we have enabled not only newcomers, but also all members of our community living with disability, to chart their own course. We’ve now experienced the thrill of seeing people with disability start and successfully run their own businesses, as well as seize opportunities to socialise and engage in inclusive activities within their community.
I’d also like to take the opportunity on this day of inclusion, hope and resilience to talk about some recent events of note.
On November 25, SSI reaffirmed its commitment to combating domestic violence through the United Nations campaign: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. We will be hosting morning teas and DV awareness training in November and December at our Sydney offices to learn about the impact of gender-based violence across all aspects of life, including in the workplace.
During the morning teas we will also launch the NSW Settlement Partnership Community of Practice on Domestic and Family Violence.
Since August this year, SSI has joined other progressive employers offering Domestic Violence Leave to our employees. This type of leave is a promise of financial security to those affected by domestic violence; those who may require time to resolve their situation without concern that it will affect their professional career.
I’d like to end by mentioning an overwhelmingly positive point in Australia’s journey towards social inclusion. On November 15 we celebrated the anniversary of the historical Same Sex Marriage vote, which resulted in legislation that affirms the right of every Australian to express their love and commitment through marriage. This resounding victory for social inclusion is, of course, in line with SSI’s own vision and mission.