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Refugees share stories on the need to belong

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June 13, 2018


A passionate advocate for Muslim and non-Muslim women in Australia, and a refugee who is helping fellow asylum seekers access micro-financing are some of the influential speakers at this year’s Refugee Week celebrations.

The City of Sydney is partnering with the Asylum Seekers Centre to host an important Refugee Week event at Lower Town Hall on Wednesday 20 June.

The theme of this year’s event, ‘The Need to Belong’, recognises the universal emotion that is found across all cultures and backgrounds.

“We all feel the need to belong in our communities and this is especially the case for refugees making their new home in Australia,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Sydney has been a Refugee Welcome Zone for more than a decade and we are committed to ensuring people seeking asylum are offered safety and support, and are warmly welcomed into our community.

“We are proud to once again partner with the Asylum Seekers Centre to present this special event where we will learn from the lived experiences of refugees and find out what we as a community can do to support them.”
Keynote speakers include:

Maha Abdo, CEO of the Muslim Women’s Association. A passionate advocate for social justice, Maha is a government adviser on policy, services and strategies to create a harmonious community for Muslim and non-Muslim women. She was a 2015 finalist for the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights Medal and NSW Human Rights Ambassador for 2014-15.

Edward Santow, Human Rights Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission. The Commissioner leads the Commission’s work on detention and implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, refugees and migration, human rights issues affecting LGBTI people, counter-terrorism and national security, modern slavery, freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

Mahir Momand, CEO of Thrive Refugee Enterprise. Having spent over half his life as a refugee, Mahir now helps people seeking asylum and refugees start their own businesses. His work shows that when asylum seekers and refugees become economically active, it leads not only to economic integration and financial independence but also faster social integration.

“We all yearn for acceptance, but it is only when we sincerely respect difference, while upholding the dignity of humanity, that a true sense of belonging is revived. This is the Australia that I grew up in, and the one I hope for in the future,” Maha Abdo said.

The speakers will be joined by Lord Mayor Clover Moore and Frances Rush, CEO of the Asylum Seekers Centre.

“There is something inherently human in feeling that we belong, that we are part of something, that we are recognised as a person and that we are welcome,” Frances Rush said.

Refugee Week runs from Sunday 17 June to Saturday 23 June 2018.

The Need to Belong
When:             6.30pm to 8pm, Wednesday 20 June
Where:            Lower Town Hall, Sydney Town Hall, 483 George Street, Sydney
What:              The need to belong is a universal emotion that crosses all cultures and borders. The Asylum Seekers Centre and the City of Sydney invite you to join us for a special celebration of Refugee Week, featuring Lord Mayor Clover Moore; Frances Rush, CEO Asylum Seekers Centre; Edward Santow, Human Rights Commissioner; Maha Abdo, CEO Muslim Women’s Association; and Mahir Momand, CEO Thrive Refugee Enterprises.
Cost:               Tickets $10. Bookings essential.

Refugee Week NSW launch
When:             10am, Friday 15 June
Where:            Barnet Long Room, Customs House, 31 Alfred Street, Circular Quay
What:              The Refugee Council of Australia will officially launch Refugee Week. This year’s theme is #WithRefugees and is an opportunity to celebrate refugees’ contributions and commitment to Australia. Orthopaedic surgeon, former refugee and Refugee Week Ambassador Munjed Al Muderis will give the key note address. The Refugee Council of Australia youth representative and former refugee Simon Shahin will MC on the day. The event also includes the STARTTS Humanitarian Awards.
Cost:               Free. RSVP required.

Multicultural futsal cup
When:             10am to 4pm (registration at 9.30am), Sunday 17 June
Where:            King George V (KGV) Recreation Centre, 15 Cumberland Street, The Rocks
What:              This one day futsal tournament gives people from a refugee background the chance to connect with players from the broader community. The competition is open to men aged 16 and over, while mixed and women’s teams can register for friendly matches. Kids’ activities, music and a barbecue will also take place. The event is organised by Welcome2Sydney, a joint project run by Settlement Services International and the City.
Cost:               Free. Bookings required.

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