Refugee Week: Community to gather in show of support

By Nicole Hegarty

The plight of refugees has struck a chord with Sunshine Coast locals. Photo: Indi Samarajiva, Flickr

In an act of solidarity with asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island, Sunshine Coast community groups are holding a film and forum fundraiser.

Australian film Constance on the Edge will be screened at the Caloundra Cinemas on Monday, June 19, from 5pm.

Buddies Refugee Support Group (Buddies), Caloundra and Nambour Community Centres, and the Sunshine Coast Multicultural Networking Association are hosting the event as part of Refugee Week from June 18 to 24.

Buddies’ founding member, Bronwyn Bell, says money raised from the $12 tickets will help fund legal groups working with asylum seekers to complete applications.

“A current focus of Buddies is to help support some of the legal groups who are offering pro bono assistance to the seven thousand asylum seekers in the community who are yet to complete their applications for protection,” Ms Bell says.

“The government recently announced they have until October 1 and if they can’t meet this deadline they will be deported.

“They are being set up to fail and support groups around the country are scrambling to find the pro bono lawyers and interpreters needed to meet this impossible schedule.”

Ms Bell says the film allows interested parties to walk in the shoes of Constance Okot, a Sudanese refugee who now lives in Wagga Wagga.

“The film captures their [the Okot family’s] struggles and experiences over the ten years and reveals their courage and resilience as they strive to reconstruct their own lives and enrich others along the way,” Ms Bell says.

Former Save the Children teacher Gabby Sutherland worked on Nauru from October 2014 to November 2015 and says humans stuck on Nauru are used as political fodder to gain power.

“It is important to wind back the government’s war time strategy of dehumanisation and give those on Nauru, especially the children, a voice,” Ms Sutherland says.

Ms Sutherland will also be a guest speaker on June 19 and says events like this increase public awareness and show support to those in indefinite detention.

Ms Sutherland says she was a design technology teacher on Nauru before the school was closed.

“On a good day the children would be excited to learn and keen to participate in the practical project for the day which ranged from making wooden boxes to making cupcakes,” Ms Sutherland says.

“Nauru is one of the hottest places on earth and the school provided the only respite from the debilitating heat.

“The distress was constant and could impact one child or the whole cohort of students.”

Facts:

Where: Caloundra Cinema, Bulcock Street

When: Monday, June 19 from 5pm

Cost: $12 per person, 150 seats available

– Tickets to be purchased through the cinema

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