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Awareness days

Youth and Aid on World Refugee Day

Edie Fahey is our Cambodian Partnerships Manager at Oaktree. She is also a fundraising and donor relations team member at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), and is spending today raising awareness for the 68.5 million displaced people worldwide. This World Refugee Day, Edie shared her thoughts on the role young people and aid programs play in the refugee crisis.

What does a typical day at the ASRC look like for you?

My work varies quite a bit because it’s a not-for-profit. Recently, I’ve been working for the telethon for World Refugee Day and getting in touch with our celebrity ambassadors (Courtney Barnett, Mark Seymour from Hunters and Collectors, Kourin Grant, Susan Carland) to get them on board and posting on social media.

World Refugee Day is a big day for the centre. In the media landscape it’s quite easy to be negative. You only hear stories of struggle and hardship, but we’re trying to celebrate the powerful contribution refugees make to the Australian community. The centre in Footscray is a massively vibrant community with people from lots of different refugee backgrounds. We’re celebrating how much strength these people show and how much they actually contribute to a really positive community.

According to UNHCR, 51% of the world’s refugee population is under 18. What barriers do youth in particular face when integrating into Australian society?  

So many young people are kept in offshore detention, which is really traumatic. It also has a big impact on young people’s opportunities, because if you’re in detention, how much education are you missing? Young people from a refugee background face issues like language barriers, integrating into a new society, and studying a new language. The government has recently made cuts to income support like Youth Allowance or Newstart.  Lots of refugees are young people because they’ll often be sent ahead of families to send money home, [so it] affects people waiting to find out if their refugee claims are approved or not.

What role do aid organisations and Australian Aid play in the refugee crisis?

Australia plays a pretty big role in dealing with situations that create refugees. We have a role to play in both treating the symptoms (the flow of refugees), and treating the root cause of the problem. The main issue is creating problems overseas, and then refusing to deal with the outcome.

Where does relief funding go?

The ASRC funding goes towards adding housing, meals, dinners and lunches for all their members everyday. As well as education programs, training, vocational skills and english language training, there’s a medical centre there for vaccinating kids, there’s a legal service, counselling services, social work. This is mostly volunteer run, so most of the fundraising goes there, into practical support measures. In Manus and Nauru we’re sending doctors.

What would you say to people who are tentative about supporting new Australians and supporting Australian Aid?

[Pause] I’ve thought about this one quite a bit. I don’t…. know how to put it… articulately, but I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t…. the contribution, not just that refugees but migrants make more broadly to Australia, it’s immeasurable. No one chooses to leave their home and give up everything they’ve had, no one chooses to flee and put their lives and put the lives of their families at risk unless staying is a better option. Real Australians say welcome, and why wouldn’t you?  

Oaktree is about youth supporting youth. What can young Australians do to support new young Australians?

There’s been a new focus [at the ASRC] on schools programs. There’s a youth coordinator to give them the skills and training to reach out to their local member of parliament or start a conversation with members of the public or using social media. Young people have been quite outspoken about this issue and we’re trying to harness that energy and give young people the skills to create change.