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Syrian Sisters Raise Their Voice for Untold Stories

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

Refugees On Air podcast producers and refugee advocates, Sarah and Maya Ghassali, share the importance of raising the voice of other people from refugee backgrounds.

I was 10 years old when my family and I left Aleppo, Syria in 2012. We arrived in Melbourne in the middle of the night. Exhausted by the trip, my sisters and I wondered what laid ahead. We were too young to grasp the concept of war and why it occurred.

Months before we left, a bomb exploded near our school, and reality had set in. Soon after, my parents discussed the possibility of moving to Australia, it was so unimaginable to us. That night, we sobbed into our pillows at the thought of being separated from everyone and everything we knew.

My sisters and I had to start from the bottom and work our way upwards. My twin Maya and I enrolled in an English Language school, then began Grade 6 at a local primary school where our cultural and linguistic barriers led to us being bullied and not fitting in.

In high school, we started to find our voice and form our own identities. In 2017, I completed work experience at SYN Media, I was astounded by the opportunities presented to youth in radio. I always had the pressing idea to interview refugees, migrants and asylum seekers at the back of my mind.

I knew how marginalised our voices were, how we were painted with the same brush through media, or just not portrayed at all.

I desperately wanted more people to hear stories like mine.

Maya had also engrossed herself into the world of politics, attending UN Youth Camps and standing as a Youth Parliamentarian in the Victorian Youth Parliament program, while my older sister Joud had already graduated VCE with flying colours, and was studying Law and Global Studies at Monash University.

Three years and 16 interviews later, we are privileged to help provide a platform for refugees of all walks of life to reclaim their narrative. It isn’t about telling their stories for them, they are more than capable to tell it themselves.

It is about using whatever medium we have to amplify their voices further and help to change people’s narrow perspectives about refugees.

I was 16 when I started this podcast, now I’m 19, and my passion has only grown exponentially. As I continue to educate myself on Australia’s treatment of refugees, I am ashamed of it. It is a detrimental breach to basic human rights, and it’s something that should make every Australian angry.

I study a Bachelor of Film and Television at Swinburne University, and I hope to bring these issues to the big screen and educate people on the inhumane treatment that continues to occur for years. Maya is now a Youth Activist at Plan International and studies a Bachelor of Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Monash University.

The current pandemic has uncovered the deep cracks in the system that results in refugees being pushed aside on the current agenda, based on the myth that their freedom is seemingly less important than our own.

My family and I were lucky enough to arrive here safely on a plane, but this isn’t the case for all families, especially those stuck in limbo in detention centres for years on end. That is exactly why I do my part in storytelling and giving a platform to others, paying it forward to those yet to speak their truth.

I look forward to amplifying the voices of those from refugee backgrounds on September 10 as we MC Refugee Voice’s inaugural event, Moments for Change. And I have hope in pathing a new direction through the pandemic and recession that allows for justice and change to be made.

The exceptional refugee advocates and podcast hosts Sarah and Maya Ghassali will MC Moments for Change on 10 September. Book your ticket today to join us.

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