On Thursday 30th August a packed audience watched the finale of Go Back To Where You Came From at Bella Union. This month, the Social Action Film Night partnered with Amnesty International to present a public screening of the finale of series 2. Equipped with SBS reception, Bella Union provided the perfect space for hosting an event complete with special guest artists, an expert panel for the post screening Q & A and even a surprise appearance by Hamid Sultani who features in the documentary.
The evening started with a performance by award winning stand-up comedian Damian Callinan who gave his character, 9 year old Nathan Houlihan the task of assessing the audience’s understanding of the refugee debate. The only answer was B! (You had to be there). As an issue close to his heart, Damian was very generous in giving his time to support this event. We were very fortunate to have him open the night for us with his provocative and hilarious show. You can catch Damian performing “The Merger” 9th -13th October, a comedy that combines rural football and asylum seekers – The show “raises some poignant questions about social inclusion in Australia, the decline of rural communities, treatment of asylum seekers and the role of football in Australia’s social fabric.” Visit Damian’s website.
Our second performer was the wonderful Benjamin Solah, spoken word artist whose compassionate poetry focuses on the plight of refugees trying to seek asylum in Australia. His evocative words echo the languish of refugees here in detention. Watch a video of “They Kill Them” one of the poems he performed on the night. Benjamin is an artist and an activist. His is a very powerful form of poetry that represents the unheard voices of those suffering and acts to raise awareness, understanding and calls us to action. His latest suite of poetry ‘Broken Bodies’ draws on “true stories of refugees broken by the Australian government’s cruel policies.” Benjamin walks his talk by continuously speaking up and campaigning for the rights of refugees through his involvement with the Refugee Action Collective. Visit Benjamin’s website to see where else he is appearing and to check out his writing.
Desh Balasubramaniam – Founder/Director at Ondru Arts was up next to talk about the Voiceless Journeys Project and explained the significance of the word Ondru. “Ondru means `one’ in Tamil, so for us that means people coming together. We’re a rising movement of arts and literature. Our main aim is to evoke, challenge and inspire through honest expressions of arts and literature to create positive social change.” The Voiceless Journeys project raises awareness about the journey, struggle, survival and achievements of people from diverse backgrounds who had left their countries as a result of internal problems or conflicts to make their life in Australia. 21 stunning black and white portraits from The Voiceless Journey’s Project were played on the big screen in a slide show leading up to the start of the program. For more information, to support this project financially or to offer the use of a public space please contact Desh firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to read a full transcript of an in depth interview with Desh in The Age newspaper by Michael Short.
After the screening a panel of experts and leaders in support of protecting the rights of asylum seekers, answered audience questions. Thank you to the extraordinary panel including, Liz Walsh (Refugee Action Collective) Sophie Dutertre (ASRC) Samantha Ratnam (Greens Candidate Moreland) and John Gulzari (Shamama Association of Australia representing Hazaras).
Many thanks to our surprise guest Hamid Sultani who was featured in the series. Read Hamid’s profile on the SBS website. It was an honour to listen to Hamid’s story and experience a reading of one of his poems. He had kindly allowed us to reproduce one of his poems. This one is for his family who is currently still seperated from.
To Keep You Happy, by Abdul Hamid Sultani
Stars are dancing in the sky
To make the world brighter in dark
Sooner call the moon out of horizon
To Make you feel happy
Clouds disappear silently
While trees give you gentle winds
Birds sing morning songs
To make you feel happy
I would walk half way around the world
To make the rolling sea stop
When you are asleep
To make you feel happy
There is nothing immortal in world, though
But i would go to the end of the earth
To hold you for a million years
To make you feel happy
We have regional distances between us
There is no distance in our love
Cause I kept you within my heart
To make you feel happy
Thought provoking questions from the audience and MC Tina Jensen lead to an engaging, moving and humanitarian discourse around the importance of continually campaigning for more robust and fair asylum seeker policies. Not a simple issue at best, Tina helped us reflect on ways each of us can personally “do something” however small. Tina messaged me the next day to say that a friend who had attended the screening the night before found herself having an intense conversation with her taxi driver from Kabul. She asked and listened and he thanked her for the gift of ears. As always Tina can be counted on to pull out some perfect gems with her important, straight from the heart action inspiring words!
Thank you to Amnesty International Victoria staff Matthew Harris and intern Kelly Bartholomeusz for their help in promoting the community screenings. Kelly came along on the night to take footage of the event and interviewed Benjamin Solah for an online campaign Amnesty is putting together.
Thank you once again to our photographer Richard Piscioneri who did a marvellous job capturing the highlights of the night. For more photos from the night visit the Arts in Action facebook album.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
To stay involved and campaign for more humane policies that protect refugees’ human rights, head on over to the SBS website for a list of take action resources and links.
You can add your comments to the question – What Can We Do? What can Australians do to help refugees find acceptance and a sense of belonging after they arrive? Australia currently accepts 20,000 refugees per year – making up a relatively small portion of the population. Have you ever met a refugee? What are some of the ways we can improve understanding between recently resettled refugees and Australians?
Amnesty Petition Within weeks our politicians will start sending asylum seekers – including children – to stay on the remote island of Nauru. Write to MP’s to demand answers.
Get Up Petition While watching the SBS program “Go back to where you came from” we got a unique glimpse to what it’s like to live as a refugee – to live a life defined by danger, violence and fear. This is our chance to call for a different approach to refugees in this country. We call on both parties to rethink their policies on refugees -to make sure that no child spends time in detention and that refugees who are sent to this country are given a fair go by being treated fairly and humanely.
Next Month: We Are Poets – 27th September @ Bella Union
Arts in Action Founder & Events Co-ordinator
m. 0417 391 055