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Frayed Lives, Threads of Hope 

AFAA’s Flagship 2019 Community Engagement Initiative

In November 2019, AFAA hosted Frayed Lives, Threads of Hope, a series of events that aimed to increase Australian awareness about, and action on, the global refugee crisis. This project was a part of AFAA’s community engagement and social justice agenda.

“When the lives of people seeking asylum and refuge begin to fray, our whole society frays. The Australian Fulbright Alumni Association is committed to find ways for us all to support some of the world’s most vulnerable people to find threads of hope. Together, we can weave a stronger social fabric that supports and includes everybody. Doing what’s right means up holding people’s basic rights to safety and fairness. Throughout history, people have risked everything for the hope of a better life. We must ensure people’s basic right to live free from danger.” 

Dr. Iain Butterworth, former AFAA President and organiser of the events  

 For this project, AFAA brought Dr Mara Adelman - Fulbright alumna, communications professor, and expert in cross-cultural communication – to Australia to host three major public forums, coined ‘Salons’, in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Based on Dr Adelman’s Salon concept curated and led in the United States, each salon facilitated discussions on Australia’s current response to the global refugee crisis and identified opportunities to improve and strengthen local action. Across Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, the salons brought together people with lived experiences as asylum seekers, representatives from asylum seeker resource centres, performance, and Fulbright scholars and alumni.

“A salon is a gathering of minds to generate inspirational and important conversation. Salons are for the free exchange and growth of ideas. Salons began several hundred years ago in Europe but waned as communication technology changed and grew. However, salons have had a renaissance recently. I curated more than 200 when I lived in Seattle. I think it’s because people are hungry for face-to-face human contact in our digital age... My mission as a Salon curator is to bring people together 'in real life' to encourage debate, to stoke passion and to inspire action that creates supportive communities

Dr. Mara Adelman, curator and host of the events 

Refugees, Remembrance & Resilience Concert

As part of the program, AFAA joined forces with the Being Human Festival and the University of Melbourne and hosted the Refugees, Remembrance & Resilience Concert to celebrate the community resilience of asylum seekers. This was achieved by bringing together performing artists, associated charities, resources, and supporters of the global refugee crisis. This event served as a networking platform for Fulbright scholars and alumni as attendees were mad up of young people, asylum seekers, community organisations, universities, and policy makers.

Click the text to see the concert's Running Sheet.pdf

Next Steps

More than 200 people attended our Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney salons and were asked to identify their next steps and actions in regard to the global refugee crisis. The following actions listed are an amalgamation of their statements: 

  • Share the conversation on the refugee crisis, encourage critical dialogue, and handle disagreement with compassion
  • Search for and read refugee stories, relevant refugee policies, and current government actions currently circulating the media
  • Treat those seeking asylum with kindness, respect, understanding, and friendliness 
  • Seek out local initiatives and volunteering opportunities around refugees
  • Donate goods and services to refugee organisations, such as Foodbank, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, and Hands on Global
  • Compassionately educate oneself and others; learn about detention centres, refugee narratives, appropriate language, refugee problems and solutions
  • Attend seminars or workshops on the global refugee crisis and share your learning with others
  • Use your networking skills to promote appreciation for refugees; this can be colleagues, friends, radio and TV hosts, journalists
  • Promote participatory policymaking in attempt to better the communities of people seeking asylum
  • Shop ethically by buying goods and services from refugee supportive companies or directly from refugees
  • Organise a safe place for refugees and asylum speakers to freely speak about their experience and concerns, thus allowing them to thrive through enhanced belonging
  • Sign petitions on refugees and use social media to spread awareness and correct misunderstandings  
  • Teach English to refugees and asylum seekers and assist their transition into Australian society
  • Pursue campaigns on refugee rights, the refugee crisis and its implications, income security, lack of work, grassroots organisations
  • Forgo gifts by asking for donations to relevant organisation
  • Attend more events and increase one’s advocacy for the plight of refugees
  • Visit and support refugees – help them learn English, attend appointments with them for support, invite them to do something with you such as a simple walk or coffee catch up
  • Educate the younger generation on the global refugee crisis and its implications
  • Stop being passive on the issue of refugees, learn how to be responsible and understanding
  • Reduce biases around people seeking asylum and raise the positive side; how can these people contribute to our country’s development?
  • Write to, email, or call politicians and get energized instead of thinking it is hopeless! Consider employment in the refugee sector
  • Talk to more church networks about employment opportunities for people seeking asylum

 During the program, we built a dedicated       Facebook Page that reaches more than           32,000 people and saw over 600 post               engagements.

 We invite you to like our Facebook page           and we encourage you to post your next           step actions! 

Project Milestones 

The Frayed Lives, Threads of Hope program saw AFAA achieve the following milestones:

  • Raised US$3000 to pay directly towards medicine bills of those people seeking refuge on the islands of Lesbos and Samos
  • Engaged with more than 620 participants and with personal from at least 18 different organisations (ASRC; Sydney Asylum Seeker Centre; Sydney University; UNSW; Melbourne University; Monash University; Western Sydney Asylum Seeker Health Network; Inner West for Refugees; Western Sydney Area Health; QUT; 4ZZZ, 3RRR; SBS; Refugee Council of Australia; Australian College of Community Psychology; Lavalla Centre, Brisbane; Newtown Neighbourhood Centre; Queensland African Community Council Inc)
  • Hired a dedicated Publicist who secured 2 radio interviews with 4ZZZ; an interview with Brisbane community advocate, Faysel Ahmed on SBS Somali radio; and paid radio advertising on 3RRR and 4ZZZ
  • Held 11 significant events across 3 capital cities:
      • Held 3 salons (90 registrants in Sydney, 70 in Melbourne and 60 in Brisbane) which involved 12 salon speakers (including 3 Fulbright alumni and 4 former-refugees) and 5 salon musicians (all of whom were migrants)
      • Hosted the Refugees, Remembrance & Resilience Concert in Melbourne which featured 14 concert performers
      • Held a post-concert cocktail reception attended by 80 people and sponsored by the Vice Chancellor’s Office at the University of Melbourne (valued at $1800)
      • Hosted an art exhibition featured at the post-concert reception. Click here to see the works presented at our Arts Exhibition (pdf). Despite the different mediums and styles, the art came together to tell a remarkable story of creativity, beauty, and resilience.
      • Held 5 professional development seminars across Western Sydney (2 x 50 people), Melbourne (50 at Asylum Seeker Resource Centre) and Brisbane (18 at QUT; 3 at a mentoring session for Brisbane ASRC)
      • Held 2 cocktail receptions in Sydney (70 guests attended the US Consul General's residence in Woollahra; 18 attended Prof Iona Novak's home in Manly)

Connect. Support. Share. Inspire.

Australia Fulbright Alumni Association. ACT Registered No. A01934. ABN 99 730 723 674, PO Box 5037, University of TAS LPO, Sandy Bay, TAS 7005.

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