St George and Sutherland Shire youth refugee forums are a real life lesson for students

Rhythmic beats to the sound of drums was an ideal backdrop of inclusion at Cronulla this week, for a youth refugee forum that aimed to combine awareness and advocacy through action.

High school students were given the opportunity and creative outlet to learn about the challenges facing refugees and people seeking asylum.

Designed to create more welcoming communities, students experience interactive and immersive activities, to gain a little insight into the struggles many go through and they navigate the journey from uncertainty to security.

Activities were run by the students and will involve presentations from a panel of experts who work with refugees and human rights issues.

Participants also hears from young people who will be sharing their own stories of settlement, and engaged in fun activities including African drumming workshops led by Lucky African Dance Company.

The Sutherland Shire event was held at Gunnamatta Park, Cronulla. An event was also hosted by Project Youth Hurstville this week.

It was all part of a partnership between Sutherland Shire Council with Gymea Community Aid and Information Services, 3Bridges, Jesuit Refugee Services, Georges River Council, Settlement Services International and Shopfront Arts Co-op.

Sutherland mayor Carmelo Pesce says he is proud to help facilitate the youth forums which deliver on the council's commitment towards providing a culturally rich and vibrant community that anyone can call home.

"Sutherland Shire has been a Refugee Welcome Zone since 2004 and we are committed to creating a community where everyone feels they belong," he said.

"We value the opinions of our young people and these youth forums enable us to listen to their thoughts and ideas about how we can continue to foster an inclusive community.

Georges River Council mayor Kevin Greene says being part of the Refugee Welcome Zone is vital to helping advocate for the human rights of refugees.

"Through forums like these, our young people develop a stronger understanding of the issues faced by refugees and asylum seekers and provide a unique perspective which needs to be listened to," he said.

"This leads to greater compassion in our community, and enhances the cultural and religious diversity found within it.

Kalpna Patel, a community worker from Gymea Community Aid & Information Services, says this is the third year young people have organised youth forums for their peers.

"It's been inspiring to work with young people committed to raising awareness and advocating on creating welcoming communities for people from refugee and asylum seeking backgrounds," Ms Patel said.


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