‘With courage let us all combine’
The line is taken from Australia’s national anthem and was chosen not only to celebrate the Australian welcome of refugees but to acknowledge the ongoing unjust treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.
It takes courage to be a refugee: As people who have faced persecution because of who they are (their race, nationality or membership of a persecuted group) or what they believe (their religion or political opinion), refugees need courage:
- The courage not to deny identity or beliefs in the face of persecution.
- The courage to leave all that is familiar and step into the unknown in search of peace.
- The courage to keep going in the face of devastating loss, difficulty and despair.
- The courage to begin again, to work hard and to maintain hope in an unfamiliar land.
It takes courage to speak out against injustice: In a world where refugees experience persecution in their countries of origin and often face discrimination, difficulty and rejection in places where they seek refuge, speaking out often requires courage. In Refugee Week, we acknowledge and celebrate the dedication and bravery of refugee leaders, advocates and citizens who draw attention to violations of human rights, support people at their time of greatest need and challenge callous indifference to the suffering of others.
A call for unity and action for a fairer society: The Refugee Week theme encourages Australians to celebrate the best aspects of our nation’s welcome of refugees, frankly acknowledge unjust treatment of asylum seekers and refugees and commit to working together to ensure that we do better. In doing this, we celebrate the positive contributions to Australian society made over the past 70 years by the 800,000 Australians who once were refugees, taking inspiration from the second verse of Advance Australia Fair:
Beneath our radiant Southern Cross,
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas,
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
First celebrated in 1986, Refugee Week is an annual celebration held to inform the public about refugees and celebrate positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society.
Refugee Week coincides with World Refugee Day (20 June).
As part of the national Refugee Week celebrations here in Melbourne, a ‘Welcome to Country’ smoking ceremony will be conducted by Wurundjeri elders. The smoking ceremony was once used as a way of welcoming guests onto their land and will signify the welcome of all refugees to Australia.
Across the nation, events will be taking place daily so be sure to check out what events are happening in your community by clicking here.
Refugee Week provides a positive platform to further raise awareness and to encourage our nation to celebrate the contributions made by refugees and asylum seekers to Australian society.
It is also a time to become aware of the ongoing injustices and unfair treatment of refugees and to help people further understand the challenges they face in their search for a better life.
This Refugee Week we encourage everyone to rally behind our refugees and asylum seekers and to give them an opportunity to be listened to and valued.
Refugee Week 2015 will run from June 14 – 20 and the smoking ceremony will be held on Thursday June 18 outside the Multicultural Hub at 506 Elizabeth St from 10.30am. For more information about any of the events visit the official page.