'The freedom to choose' - celebrating human rights this Refugee Week

Published on 18 June 2023

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Every day, often without even realising it, people all over Hume City are benefitting from the experiences multiculturalism brings to our community. 

Hume’s identity is built on the richness of its diverse group of people – the stories, the friendships, the food, the music. Much of it was brought here through our refugees and asylum seekers. 

Every year Hume City council celebrates this richness of diversity and cultures that refugees bring to the Hume community during Refugee Week, which is happening this year from 18-24 June. 

Events throughout the week are proudly organised by people from refugee backgrounds, one of whom is Larsa Al-Sanjiqly.  

Larsa meets regularly with other refugees to improve the experience of people that come to Australia who are in search of a better life than what was offered to them in their home country. 

Orginally from Iraq and arriving in Australia in March 2022, she says from the time she arrived here she was given plenty of opportunity. 

“When I left Iraq I was in Lebanon for five and a half years. Then when I came to Australia I was cut off from those supports. 

“When I arrived in Australia I was supported in my education and everything I needed to help me with re-settlement.” 

One thing Larsa says she was missing was one simple thing many of us cannot live without – human connection and friends. This is where Hume enters the conversation. 

“I didn’t have many friends here before I arrived. I wanted to socialise,” Larsa says. 

Larsa became involved in the Hume City Council Refugee Week Working Group through a friend at Spectrum Youth Service, a group that encourages community engagement and relationship building. She is now trying to provide the same for people wanting to make a connection in our community. 

“We're all refugee young people working to manage things in Hume City. There are weekly meetings so we can learn more about Hume and discuss opportunities to connect with people.” 

Hume City Council sees this group as a critical part of creating opportunities for people to be happy and live their best life in our community. Education, work and healthcare are all basic human rights people would expect from their government, but people that live in a community that is familiar to them forget how damaging it is to feel alone and out of place. 

Larsa says that the refugee experience is getting better over time, but there are still ways we can make it better for people in Hume to reduce disadvantage. 

“I think that because more people are coming to Australia as refugees there is more support being provided. 

“The biggest things we need to work on are engaging youth and breaking down the language barrier. If we can give people the opportunity to depend on themselves they will feel part of the community, and we need to do that from a young age.” 

What it comes down to, Larsa says, is making sure everybody has access to the rights people born in Australia have access to. This is supported by the message she finds in this year’s Refugee Week theme of ‘Finding Freedom’. 

“Freedom to me means I have the choice to choose – I can choose the way I want to live by respecting others.” 

“These are the basic rights of a human person that we had a lack of in our own country.” 

To become involved with the Refugee Working Group email Celia chang at communitydevelopment@hume.vic.gov.au. 

Find out more about Refugee Week 2023