Founder and Director
I have sought refuge three times in my life.
The first time I was escaping the Iran/Iraq war in 1980. I was one year old when my mother fled on foot with my five brothers and sister. The second was in 1996 after oil companies dried up the marshes where my family and ancestors had lived for over millennia. The third was when I was 22 and had organised a rally for fairer educational opportunities. After friends were executed for their involvement, I had to leave my family and friends to seek safety. After five years of waiting, I had news I was moving to Australia.
My vision of Australia was a fair and multicultural society where everyone was valued, but as a refugee from Iran, that was far from my experience. I approached organisations working on refugee issues to bring about more humane refugee policies. Instead of having meaningful input, I was tokenised and asked to tell my stories for fundraising events.
That’s when I realised there are not nearly enough people like me. People who have lived experience of seeking asylum and are now working to shape refugee policies, programs and campaigns. Refugee Voices is a new community organisation of refugee leaders of different backgrounds and expertise, and we are setting out to change that.
Emma May Lang