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Refugee experiences shared at Blackfriars

Schools

Blackfriars Priory students and staff gained a deeper understanding of the experience of refugees during Refugee Week (June 14-20).

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As part of their weekly home group pastoral care sessions, the heads of house and student house captains organised interviews with students by their peers about their migration experience.

‘What I value about working with other students who have either been refugees or migrants (or whose family members were refugees or migrants) is that they seem to have a deeper and richer intercultural understanding, and acknowledgement of the cultural makeup that makes Australia the great country it is,” said Year 12 Prefect Armon Houshmand.

Ms Anthea Osborne, one of the house heads, said when it came to cultural diversity and refugee stories, she had learnt far more from her students than she ever anticipated.

“My depth of understanding, compassion and empathy have all been developed through the experiences shared by our students with a refugee and migrant background,” she said.

“I have come to realise how privileged a life I have lived purely by being born in Australia and I feel so fortunate that we have been able to share this with so many others who have not been so lucky.”

Kazim Sarwari, Year 12, was another student who shared his story with his house mates. Kazim was born in Iran but comes from an Afghan background, and has also lived in Turkey and Syria.

Kazim said while he now felt at home in Australia, he was also proud of his background.

‘Some of the things I’m most proud about in my culture is the food, the wedding ceremonies, the music… we are respectful, kind and supportive people,’ he added.

Armon, whose father was a refugee from Iran and whose mother has an Italian background, agrees that there is much to be proud of in his family’s culture, and what it can contribute to Australia’s rich diversity. He is also proud of his father for making the arduous journey to Australia via Pakistan, in order to flee religious persecution.

“The house my dad was living in with his family was burnt down to the ground just because they aligned with Bahai beliefs, and not the Islamic beliefs of the regime,” he explained.

“Many members of the Bahai community in Iran, during the revolution, were given prison sentences longer than murderers, kidnappers or drug dealers, just because of their religion.”

Despite the persecution and destruction both Armon and Kazim’s families have faced, they both said they would like to visit their homelands one day, to get a better understanding of their origins.

“Hopefully one day I get the chance to visit and explore, to look back at my country and be grateful for what I have here in Australia – and all the things I don’t have to worry about anymore,” said Kazim.

Ms Osborne said she had “enormous respect” and value for the contributions of the school’s refugee and migrant students – not just during refugee week, but each and every day.

“The many cultures which are represented at Blackfriars allow us all to be enriched with so many different traditions, values and customs and I love the opportunity to learn from the boys,” she said.

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