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'Refugee Camp In My Neighbourhood' Launches In Sydney

Creative People

Refugee Camp In My Neighbourhood is a new series of events by Cumberland Council, conceived in collaboration with over 100 local community members from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds, offering a unique personal insight into the realities refugees face.

From tomorrow, July 30th, until August 10th, event-goers are invited to follow the journey of a refugee, in a simulated, interactive tour at Sydney’s Auburn Centre for Community.

A highlight of this brilliant program will be the family day on Saturday, August 4th, including free workshops, spanning art, craft, dance, music and more!

29th July, 2018

Refugee Camp In My Neighbourhood brings together local community members from refugee asylum seeker backgrounds, who act as ‘tour guides’ in a simulated refugee camp. Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

Some of the key guides for the simulated refugee camp tour, from left to right: Ashour (originally from Syria), Zeinah (Iraq), Mohammed (Afghanistan), Zahraa (Iraq), Sayeed (Afghanistan) and Zahra (Afghanistan). Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

 

A traditional Somali hut at ‘Refugee Camp In My Neighbourhood’.  Sitting outside the tent is a family’s food ration for one week. Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

Adama, Acting Manager Community Development and Planning, Cumberland City Council, is one of the event’s key organisers. Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

This tent simulates a classroom in a refugee camp, where classes take place in the local language – as a refugee you may or may not know the language. Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

Refugee Camp In My Neighbourhood aims to offer visitors a sense of the immense challenges refugee experience. Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

Tour guide Zahraa (originally from Iraq). Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

Refugee Camp In My Neighbourhood simulated refugee camp. Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

Misconceptions and expectations of refugees and asylum seekers prior to arriving in Australia. Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

Tour guide Sayeed (originally from Afghanistan). Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

Refugee Camp In My Neighbourhood  simulated refugee camp. Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

Toys from a real refugee camp in Uganda – cars made from tin cans and balls created from tape and rubbish. Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

Samih (Sam) Mousa, was born in Syria, arrived in Australia in 2016, he is pictured here with Rahila, Cumberland Council Project Officer. Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

Apajok, Cumberland Council Youth Participation Officer. Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

An immersive installation by Khaled Sabsabi, provided courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane. The blue illuminated walls simulate being on a boat, and is accompanied by real footage of a refugee boat in transit. Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

Tour guide Zahraa (originally from Iraq). Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

Sahra Tohow worked on content creation, including the One Good Thing exhibition, and promotion for the event. Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

Refugee Camp In My Neighbourhood  organisers and tour guides. From left to right: tour guide Sayeed (Afghanistan), tour guide Ashour (Syria), tour guide Mohammed (Afghanistan), Community Participation Coordinator at Cumberland Council Mia Cox, tour guide Hooreih (Afghanistan), tour guide Hanan (Syria),  tour guide Zahra (Afghanistan), Apajok Cumberland Council Youth Participation Officer, tour guide Zahraa (Iraq), tour guide and subject featured in the One Good Thing exhibition Nihada (Bosnia), tour guide Zeinah (Iraq), tour guide and One Good Thing subject Samih (Syria), tour guide Shukria (Afghanistan), and Cumberland Council Project Officer Rahila. Photo – Katherine Millard for The Design Files.

Elle Murrell
Sunday 29th July 2018

We aim to educate people while celebrating the important contributions made by refugees in our neighbourhood.’ – Cumberland Mayor Greg Cummings.

We’ve all become desensitised. The incessant rate at which we witness coverage of humanitarian crises has heartbreakingly made many people glaze over at any new mention. This can lead people to close off, remain uninformed or misinformed, and even develop empathy fatigue. Bear with us, then, for just one short paragraph, while we share a few cold, hard facts.

Every day, just like this very Sunday, 440,400 people worldwide are forced to flee their homes. 2016 saw the highest levels of displacement on record in recent years, with more than 65 million people forcibly displaced worldwide due to conflict and persecution – that’s two-and-a-half times Australia’s ENTIRE population.

The challenge is to cut through that ’empathy fatigue’, sharing refugee stories in a meaningful, accessible way. As well as to ensure the optimistic stories are shared, alongside those of the horrors that have occurred.

One particularly genius response to this challenge comes from Sydney’s Cumberland Council, who have created the immersive, 12-day event, Refugee Camp In My Neighbourhood.  Bringing together interactive installations, guided tours, and exhibitions taking visitors beyond the brain-numbing statistics, this initiative aims to connect Sydneysiders from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds with the rest of the community.

‘In its fifth year, Refugee Camp In My Neighbourhood continues to shed a personal light on the realities that refugees face when having to make the difficult decision to flee for reasons outside of their control,’ said Cumberland Mayor Greg Cummings. ‘Refugees are a vital part of our community. Through this project, we aim to educate people while celebrating the important contributions made by refugees in our neighbourhood and continuing to warmly welcome all.’

The initiative came about after a long process of consultation with members from refugee and asylum seeker groups. ‘They proposed the “journey simulation” idea, focusing on their shared, lived experience of coming to Australia – although these are quite different among people of diverse backgrounds, and span across a long history of many waves,’ explained Mia Cox, Community Participation Coordinator at Cumberland Council. ‘They wanted the opportunity to share their own stories on their terms, partly, I think, because refugees and asylum seekers can sometimes be represented in a way where the real, personal stories are missing.’

Event-goers can experience an immersive ‘refugee journey’ with simulations of fleeing home, crossing borders, living in a refugee camp, a boat journey, and ultimately resettlement in Australia.

The exhibition One Good Thing, featuring incredible portraits by Nikki To and text by writer Sophie McComas, will also be on display. This project shares seven diverse community members’ unique stories, following their arrival in Australia, focussing on ‘one good thing’ that has had a monumental impact on their new life here.

‘The most interesting thing about me now is that I go to yoga. I wait every week for this lesson,’ said Samih (Sam) Mousa, who features in the exhibition and was also helping prepare on-site when we visited. Born in Syria, he arrived in Australia in 2016. ‘When I call my friends and they ask “What are you doing in Australia, Samih?” and I tell them “I’m going to yoga!” they laugh and laugh… Some people my age who come from Iran or Syria or Lebanon, they really feel a shock and some of them have psychological problems, but meditation and yoga, or working in a team or a group really helps you feel better.’

In addition to the 12 days of tours, on Saturday, August 4th the Auburn Centre for Community will transform into a festival ground for Celebration in Our Neighbourhood. There will be vibrant market stalls, free workshops (Afghan tapestry, kite-making, rangoli design, mural painting and more),  plus delicious food and entertainment reflecting the diverse community.

‘I think most of us hear a lot about refugees, and often have an opinion when it comes to the topic,’ added Mia Cox from Cumberland Council, ‘but the beautiful thing about this project is that it gives you the opportunity to make a connection with another person, a human being that has been through something that you have not experienced, helping you to build a deeper understanding of their story.’

Sydney residents, we hope you can make it, and tell your friends!


Celebration In Our Neighbourhood

Refugee Camp In My Neighbourhood tours and exhibitions (including One Good Thing) in addition to markets, workshops, food and entertainment.
Saturday, August 4th, 10am-4pm
The Auburn Centre for Community
44A Macquarie Road Auburn
Free, book here
*family-friendly tours run every 20 minutes. Auslan tours are also available.

Refugee Camp In Our Neighbourhood
Interactive journey tours and exhibitions
Monday, July 30th to Friday, August 10th
Group bookings only

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net