Refugee Week is an incredible opportunity for the whole nation to celebrate the contribution refugees make to our society, while raising awareness, remembering and honouring the often perilous journey that refugees have taken to reach Australia. For many Australians, Refugee Week provides an opportunity to meet a refugee for the first time. Through storytelling we have the chance to educate the Australian community to better understand the courage and contribution that refugees make in our society. The need to draw attention to the challenges facing refugees is incredibly urgent. Let's consider the courageous steps refugees have taken to be where they are today, as well as the valuable contributions they have made since coming here. Each refugee seeking safety in Australia brings their own story of their journey to Australia and through sharing these stories, are able to show students the various hardships they may have experienced coming here.
Celebrating Refugee Week is a unique opportunity for us all to experience the rich diversity of Australia’s refugee communities, especially at Cecil Hills High School as we have a high population of students coming from a wide range of non-English speaking backgrounds. This year's theme, "A World of Stories", allowed us to consider the courageous steps refugees have taken to be where they are today, as well as the valuable contributions they have made since coming here. Each refugee seeking safety in Australia brings their own story of their journey to Australia and through sharing these stories, are able to show students the various hardships they may have experienced coming here.
Written by Lorisya Qaqoz, Year 10 Cecil Hills High School:
I’m Lorisya Qaqoz, I was born in Iraq and lived there for 11 years. In 2014, ISIS came to Mosul, Iraq. We heard they were killing children, hurting women and taking men to work with them.
It was April and it was summer when I had my First Holy Communion. After two months, ISIS was getting closer to us. I lived in a Christian village where the soldiers were strong enough to stop ISIS from coming to our village. One day I was sharing lunch with my family; my dad said to mum “I’m going to Dohuk for 2-3 hours and I will come back”. Then he just left.
My mum was washing the dishes when her phone suddenly rang. It was my auntie and she said to quickly take all our things and go to her house, ISIS are coming. Mum tried to call dad but he wasn’t answering. She was scared. She went to get everything we needed and she called him again and again and again. Finally, he answered and said, “Be ready, we’re going.”
Dad came and took us and went. We stayed in Dohuk for 10 days and then we went to Turkey. It was hard for us to live in Turkey, we didn’t speak Turkish and we didn’t understand it either.
We lived in Turkey for three and a half years. Finally after all that time, we got a visa for Australia. In December 2017, we arrived in Australia. It was the best day for me and my family. Now that we live in Australia, we feel very safe and comfortable.
I miss Iraq but I love living here. This is me and my story.
At Cecil Hills High School, we started off Refugee Week with an introduction to our whole school about the myths and facts of being a refugee through our morning Connect lesson. This powerpoint presentation was put together by SRC (Student Representative Council) members. Stories of successful celebrity AFL player - Aliir Aliir and Refugee Week Ambassador - Rnita Dacho were also being shared with our students. In our own S.T.A.R.S Connect lessons during the week, students were invited to experience some of the unique foods Australia has to offer including Anzac biscuits, fairy bread, Tim Tams and Vegemite. To end the week, we presented “The Bilingual Dictionary for ESL Beginners” to the new members of S.T.A.R.S students for use to support their language acquisition.
As Refugee Transition Coordinators, our aim is to work collaboratively with all staff to enrich the wellbeing of our refugee students and to support their progress towards meeting curriculum outcomes. We both truly enjoy the challenges of this enormously rewarding profession and will continue to work together towards making our refugees from being surviving to thriving refugees.
Mrs Marilyn Rattos, Refugee Transition Coordinator / English EALD (English as additional Language/Dialect Teacher)
Mrs Hong Pham, Refugee Transition Coordinator / Mathematics Teacher / WHS committee member