Building a united Wollongong

Although the global pandemic has seen migration pause across Australia, we have many refugees in our community who arrived as recently as 18 months ago. They join many others who are in different stages of settling into Wollongong after being forced to flee from their homelands.

This week we marked Refugee Week by celebrating the strengths, talents and resilience of the people in our community of refugee background.

“The theme for this year’s Refugee Week is ‘Unity – The way forward’. This speaks to our recent experiences that have shown how important it is for us to all work together to survive, thrive and progress as a community, despite adversity,” Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM said.

“We value and welcome the refugee communities and individuals who now call Wollongong home.

“It takes many different people to make a community, and people of refugee backgrounds bring vibrancy to our city through their cultural diversity and wealth of knowledge, experience and skills.”

Refugee Week is a national celebration that runs from Sunday 20 June to Saturday 26 June 2021.

Last week, Council delivered a program that saw three former refugees — Burhan Zangana, Teklemariam Mengistu and Ola Altinawi — present to more than 100 Figtree High School Year 10 students. Each presenter spoke about the realities of being forced to leave their homes during war, as well as the challenges and joy of finding a new home in Wollongong.

“This event was an opportunity for some of our young people to meet and hear from people who have lived lives very different to their own,” Cr Bradbery said.

“I want to thank Burhan, Teklemariam and Ola, for volunteering their time and sharing their stories.”

Students who participated in the program shared their thoughts on what they had learnt from the classroom discussion. These were some of their thoughts:

“The thought of families splitting up. Although I knew that it happened, I never quite processed the concept of it and how much it impacts people.”

“I feel grateful for my English skills and the ability to speak and have my voice heard.”

“People still feel like they are caught between two cultures, even if they have been living here for a long time.”

“Living in Australia is an absolute privilege.”

“We learn this stuff in class, however, the experience is very different when a person who has experienced it, comes to speak.”

See the Refugee Communities

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