We loved every minute, but just like the refugee-led education revolution in Indonesia and the thousands of volunteer refugees who get up each day to make it happen, it didn’t happen without the support of a community. So a huge thanks to everyone who helped us over the past weeks.
The first stop was Wonthaggi and Felicia Di Stefano and the South Gippsland Rural Australians for Refugees arranged a beautiful evening. Thanks also goes to Leah Bellairs and Jacqui Francis from the Bass Coast Council for lending us the beautiful Wonthaggi Union Community Cinema, to Jordan Crugnale MP who spoke before the screening, and to Richard and Helen who hosted us around their pot belly stove and indoor ping pong table.
After meeting some old friends at the Abbotsford Convent, we headed to Maryborough Paramount Theatre, where we spent the afternoon with the deeply committed Rural Australians for Refugees, Maryborough, and shared stories in the local cafe afterwards. Thanks to Jeanne Hart for all her hard work setting up the event. We then took over Jeanne’s house and enjoyed a lovely lasagna.
It was an eight hour drive to met Marie and Sarah in Bowral, where we enjoyed another full house and fierce audience at our favourite cinema, The New Empire Cinema. Thanks to Sarah for putting us up in her ‘Shed’ and, after too much road food, providing a much appreciated fresh veggie soup. The next day we stayed in Bowral for one of the best days ever. 450 school students filled every seat at every one of the four cinemas at The New Empire Cinemas. The owner had never seen anything like it and said we were doing ‘Avenger’s numbers at the box office’! Muzafar, Nagina and myself bounced in and out of each cinema for the introductions and Q&As. We loved the direct, honest and straightforward questions from the kids. They left energised and enthusiastic and I’m sure we’ll be back in Bowral before too long.
The next morning Muzafar spoke to the Penrith High School assembly, before a full house that evening at Mt Vics Flicks in the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains Rural Australians for Refugees are a powerful, organised and committed group and our thanks goes to Kathie, Susan and Peter for some warm beds for the night and for helping to arrange the events. The next day we spoke to 300 students at Blaxland High School. Nagina, our quiet hero, held the kids silent for over 45 minutes. She is going to be a great teacher when she finishes her degree, a school should pick her up early! The kids again asked question after question, they know there’s more to the story than what they are told.
There was a quiet meet-up at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School and a quick tourist stop at the Opera House, before we headed north to Coffs Harbour and another lovely audience. Thanks to Kellie Lee and the Coffs Harbour Council for hosting us on the night.
We didn’t stay in Coffs long, as there were three screenings in and around Brisbane to get to. We had an afternoon screening and some tasty snacks at the Caboolture Library, Thanks to Nooreen Harris, Multicultural Association of Caboolture and Surrounds Inc., and The Caboolture Library for arranging. That night we were with old friends at the Sunshine Coast University. There was music, snacks, and even raffle prizes. Thanks to Gillian Duffy for all her work, and to all the groups that make up the Sunshine Coast Refugee Action Network. There’s a strong refugee supporting community on the Sunshine Coast. The next morning we screened at the Brisbane City Library and our thanks go to long time supporters Fernanda Torresi and QPAAST.
Muzafar recently received the John Gibson Refugee Community Leadership Grant and left us in Brisbane to fly to Geneva to represent refugees and Cisarua Learning at the 25th Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR), and at the Annual UNHCR-NGO Consultations in Geneva. We are very proud of him and know that he will be a powerful voice for refugees in that forum.
The rest of us turned south for a huge 13.5 hour drive to Griffith. We took it in two bites and weren’t disappointed when we arrived. Firstly, 523 students packed into the Griffith Community Theatre for our biggest screening, and then a large Rural Australians for Refugee, Griffith crowd turned up that evening. Thanks to the unstoppable Will Mead for putting so much work into making it happen. Will also hosted us in her home, and then sent us away with some delicious passionfruit slice to top it off.
Finally we headed back to Melbourne, all needing a good rest. Thanks to all our old and new friends, and a special thanks to the Rural Australians for Refugee groups around Australia. Your committed and generous communities around the country bring us warm-hearts, hope and energy. Can’t wait to see you again soon!