Updated: Sep 25, 2020
In a challenging climate of recession and a pandemic, newly established refugee-led organisation, Refugee Voices, held its inaugural event to discuss what's most needed now to bring about refugee justice in Australia.
Joined by established and emerging refugee advocates, it became very clear that it was no longer an option to have people from refugee backgrounds on the sidelines of the movement.
"If we're to get the cut through and build the support that we need, authentic voices from those who have directly experienced the hardship and oppression is the only way forward," said Refugee Voices Co-Director Grace Williams.
"Our goal as an organisation is to help fill that gap in Australia's refugee movement," she said.
"After many years of working to bring about change, we've established Refugee Voices to stand behind those people experiencing oppression, and provide them and their community with a platform to have a voice."
Influential author and activist Behrouz Boochani said that amplifying authentic voices in Australia's refugee movement was critical to transforming the narrative surrounding people from refugee backgrounds.
"Too often people look at refugees only as a victim. We need to challenge this concept and provide a space to share our voices, our knowledge and understanding," Boochani said.
He said that while it was emotionally taxing to keep on going, it's what's needed most.
"My story is not a personal one. It is one of many that have happened in Australian detention."
Kurdish activist, Mostafa Azimitabar, amplified this point further, as he called on the audience to ask Senator Jacqui Lambie to vote against the bill that would allow security contractors to confiscate the mobile phones of people seeking asylum in detention.
"We are strong and resilient. I am not a victim, I am a freedom fighter and the Australian Government is systematically reducing the scope of our lives."
"The Government is currently legislating to confiscate our mobile phones, and I and others will be outspoken and we call on all of you to support our voices."
Long-standing refugee advocate and barrister Julian Burnside, emphasised the importance of Australians standing behind influential voices like that of Behrouz Boochani.
Advising that politicians had betrayed public trust and humanitarian values, Burnside said that getting people to listen was the hard part, but Boochani, like other refugee voices, had managed to do just that.
View the recorded event here.
Thank you to all speakers, Grace Williams, Behrouz Boochani, Mostafa Azimitabar and Julian Bunside QC. Alongside Refugees on Air Podcast producers, Maya and Sarah Ghassali.