On World Refugee Day on 19 June, two of WCHM’s staff members (Julia and Sandra) attended the Importance of Belonging Public Forum: Finding refuge and building a new life in Canberra event to mark World Refugee Day. It was organised by the Office of Multicultural Affairs in partnership with the ACT Hazara Community Inc.
Our staff heard from the ACT Human Rights Commissioner and three inspiring Hazara refugees. Their stories were incredibly compelling about the difficult decisions they had to make for themselves and their families, and the adversities they faced on seeking refuge and integrating in the ACT community. The speakers demonstrated that their experiences were not unique to themselves but resonated across the refugee community. They expressed gratefulness for being able to find a new sense of belonging in the ACT community and being the lucky few receiving education opportunities through scholarship schemes. However, they also described difficulties of establishing a stable livelihood whilst their asylum seeker status was being assessed and they were on a bridging visa which meant that they were not eligible for financial assistance from Centrelink and not eligible for public housing. Not only that, when approved for a temporary protection visa, they must reapply in 3 years to extend their visa or for another visa. This permanence of uncertainty is harsh as it causes further psychological distress to their refugee experience and into a cycle of poverty, disadvantage and isolation from family.
The forum was incredibly insightful to empathise with new and current asylum seekers to Australia and was an honest reminder about the human experience of those escaping extreme conflict for a new and safe place to call home.