What better way to promote understanding of the refugee experience than to hear first hand the story of a person who arrived in Australia as a refugee, what drove them to leave their country, the challenges they faced on their journey and their reactions to life in Australia.
Under the Face-to-Face Program of the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), students in Sydney and Wollongong schools have just this opportunity. For some students, negative preconceptions are challenged, while for others who may belong to families who arrived as refugees, pride in their origins is reinforced.
Volunteer Community Educators contribute to the program and share in the rewards. The Community Educator delivers a presentation on who refugees are, where they come from, facts about refugees worldwide, conditions refugees face overseas and Australian refugee policies.
My experience over the past two years, seeing students engrossed by the inspirational stories, facilitating question-and-answer sessions and liaising with enthusiastic primary and secondary school teachers has been tremendously satisfying. Having the opportunity to mentor a speaker and knowing that you are contributing to better tolerance and understanding is a bonus.
The RCOA is seeking to train more volunteer Community Educators for the program. RCOA does not receive funding for this program so the engagement of Volunteer Community Educators provides opportunities for expansion.
The RCOA is the independent national community voice on refugee issues. Funded predominantly by public donations and membership fees, RCOA was formed in 1981 as the national umbrella body for organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers. With the support of more than 200 organisational and 1000 individual members, RCOA conducts research, raises awareness and advocates on national and international issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers.
The RCOA is very happy to take requests for presentations starting from Term 1 2018 in schools.
If you are interested in working as a Volunteer Community Educator, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call (02) 9211 9333 or visit the website www.refugeecouncil.org.au/our-work/schools-program.
Sue Simpson is a Life Member