When: Thursday, September 12, 7pm
Where: The Cube Wodonga
Tickets: $10 click here
Family and compassion mean everything to Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) founder and CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis.
The son of Greek parents had a simple vision when he started the ASRC back in 2001.
That vision was to create a place of hope and welcome where no one was turned away.
His journey to build the largest independent human rights organisation in Australia for refugees and people seeking asylum in our country is detailed in his memoir, The Power of Hope.
The author has achieved a lot in life – completing six degrees, founding the ASRC, working as a lawyer, social worker and a teacher ‑ to name a few.
But, in his mind, he is most proud of being a son and a brother.
“I’m proud of the son and brother that I am and the friend I am to people in my life,” Karapanagiotidis said.
“I work really hard to be someone of substance, principle and decency and be there for the people that I care about and that care about me. I just try to be a decent and good person.”
Born in Albury and raised in Mount Beauty by immigrant parents, his memoir covers how he prevailed over a childhood of racism, bullying and isolation to create one of Australia’s largest human rights organisations.
Despite a challenging childhood, Karapanagiotidis rose above it and chose compassion.
“The most important thing you can impart on a child is empathy, resilience, manners, kindness and perspective,” Karapanagiotidis said.
By the age of 18, Karapanagiotidis was volunteering at a centre for homeless men and his volunteer work only grew.
The Melbourne resident’s work is recognised with more than two dozen awards and honours, including an Order of Australia Medal, a Churchill Fellowship, finalist for Australian of The Year (Victoria) and the Human Rights Medal, as well as Citizen of the Year in his local community.
After almost two decades at the helm of the ASRC, the refugee activist hopes that one day he is not needed as it means his job is done.
“At the moment it’s really about helping as many refugees as possible,” he said.
“It’s about how we can change the national conversation to one that is compassionate about refugees, how to shift community attitude and how, as an organisation, we can help as many people seeking asylum as we can and help them to be able to stand on their own two feet.
“It’s about changing the hearts and minds of as many people as we can and one day, hopefully, not be needed because people seeking asylum are finally treated with compassion and dignity. That’s the dream.”
Karapanagiotidis penned his memoir for two reasons.
“It was a way for myself to deal with processing things and letting go of trauma, struggles, grief and issues and thought it could be cathartic for me,” he said.
“If I could be honest and vulnerable while writing this then maybe it could be something positive and give other people hope, inspiration and comfort at a time when we are really disillusioned by our political leaders and a lot of us are feeling isolated, disconnected and disempowered.”
Karapanagiotidis said he had been through his own adversity and challenges but was able to come out of it and do something positive.
“I wanted to write something that acknowledged the darkness but gave the light and gave people the hope,” he said.
There will be a book signing after the author talk and books will be available for purchase on the night.
For full Write Around the Murray program details please go to writearoundthemurray.org.au