World Refugee Day is held every year on 20 June and is a time to recognize the resilience of forcibly displaced people throughout the world.
UNHCR World Refugee Day Reception in Canberra, 2015
On Monday 22 June 2015, the UNHCR Regional Office for Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific hosted a cocktail reception to mark World Refugee Day (WRD) to approximately 160 guests that included diplomats, government officials, and Canberra residents.
Three volunteer actors contributed to the WRD 2015 reception with a moving re-enacting of the condition of refugees in Australia. Rowan Muellner-Wong and Oliver Baudert enacted monologues of refugees who had been resettled in Australia across different periods in history, and Felicity Knott portrayed an asylum-seeker in modern times still in need of resettlement. The performance called on Australia’s past generosity in giving everyone a ‘fair go’.
Accompanying the dramatic performance was Anick Umubyeyi, a refugee from Rwanda who sang an emotional rendition of ‘Amazing grace,’ a song that kept her going in the absence of her father, with whom she was recently reunited in Australia. Etasa Vakacegu, Elijah Kaisuva, and Felicity Kaisuva also entertained attendees with a rendition of ‘We are the world.’
World Refugee Week around Australia
Sydney– Australia for UNHCR hosted a World Refugee Day Breakfast on 19 June 2015 to celebrate the courage and strength of refugees. The breakfast was opened by Australian journalist Sandra Sully, with special appearances from actress Marta Dusseldorp, and cricket legend and Special Representative of Australia for UNHCR Ian Chappell. The Special Guest Speaker was former Sudanese refugee and Adelaide United winger, Awer Mabil.
Victoria– Amnesty Internationals’ Festival of Hope was held on 20 June 2015 in Brunswick, Melbourne. The event was hosted by the Amnesty Refugee Network and Moreland City Council and featured a daytime fiesta of craft markets, ethnic dance workshops and music, and interactive advocacy workshops run by Amnesty, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Road2Refuge, and People Like Us.
An evening gala was also held that featured multicultural entertainment as well as a discussion panel on asylum seeker issues. Shek Flanagan, Amnesty Refugee Network Convenor, noted that “the Festival of Hope [aims] to showcase the awesome contributions of refugees living in our communities [as well as] elevate refugee voices in the debate for a more compassionate refugee policy.”
On 26 June 2015, the Communities’ Council on Ethnic Issues and Manningham City Council hosted a Refugee Welcome Celebration in Doncaster, Melbourne. The event featured UNHCR Regional Representative Thomas Albrecht, and was filled with refugee stories, multicultural music, dance and traditional crafts.
South Australia– Anglicare SA invited speakers from refugee communities to come and share their experiences at site based events.
World Refugee Day Festivities in Papua New Guinea
In Papua New Guinea, the first ever World Refugee Day was celebrated on Saturday, 20 June 2015 at Jack Pidik Park in Port Moresby. The event was organised by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Authority (ICSA). This year’s theme was: Refugees need our helping hand!
During the event, Deputy Chief Migration Officer Ms Esther Gaegaming declared that “World Refugee Day is more than an event for us. It is an opportunity to pay our tributes to the honour, strength, and resilience of refugees in PNG as well as those around the world.
This day is also an acknowledgment to renew our efforts to support them as they are ready to rebuild their lives and contribute to community welfare.”
During the festivities, Mr Anslom Nakikus, a well known international musician and singer, was officially appointed and inaugurated as PNG Refugee Ambassador by Ms Gaegaming.
World Refugee Day Celebration in New Zealand
Wellington– The event was held on Sunday 14 June 2015 and organised by Changemakers Refugee Forum in conjunction with New Zealand Red Cross, MCLaSS and Refugee Trauma Recovery.
To kick off the festivities, Changemakers Refugee Forum Board member, Chandra Binod Dahal noted that “the World Refugee Day event in Wellington in the past has been confined to refugees. We need to get local people to attend. We need to work towards exposing communities to each other.”
Former refugees from the Wellington region marked the occasion with a Celebration of Communities and Cultures. Groups from Porirua, Hutt and Wellington gathered at Rongotai College to play soccer, eat multi-ethnic food and watch cultural performances. The event was open to the public and provided attendees with an opportunity to sample a diverse array of food, dance and music from Somalia, Columbia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
On Wednesday 17 June 2015, a reception hosted by the Minister of Immigration and the Red Cross was held at the New Zealand Parliament. Thomas Albrecht, the Australia and New Zealand Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, was in attendance.
Nelson– A range of activities were held in Nelson throughout the week, including story telling at the Nelson Library, a Red Cross Refugee Services Open Day, and a screening of the documentary film Mary Meets Mohammad which follows the arrival of Tasmania’s first detention centre through the eyes of local Christian and Muslim residents. The film was the recipient of the 2014 Special Award from the United Nations Media Peace Prize. Nelson is one of 5 refugee resettlement regions in NZ.
Auckland– Auckland’s World Refugee Day event, organised by the Auckland Council, was held at the Western Springs Community Hall on Saturday 20 June 2015.
To close the week, Christian churches marked WRD with their annual Day of Prayer for Refugees and Migrants in parishes throughout New Zealand on Sunday 21 June.
World Refugee Day Commemoration in Nauru
On Saturday 20 June 2015, World Refugee Day was celebrated in Nauru with various activities and stalls set up by resettled refugees. Various nationalities of the refugee community were on full display on the island as participants set up stalls at the local market displaying their cultures through art works, clothing, henna hand painting, and food.
A public holiday was held on Monday 22 June to commemorate the occasion. This is the second year that World Refugee Day was celebrated in Nauru.