Giving a voice to people seeking asylum through story-telling

THE Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has launched its first book capturing the bravery, resilience and hope of those who have sought asylum in Australia.

Seeking Asylum: Our Stories introduces 23 people who share their incredible journeys of seeking safety and their experiences rebuilding their lives in Australia.

The project platforms the often marginalised voices of people seeking asylum, allowing them the opportunity to tell their stories in their own words.

Director of fundraising and marketing Alan White said the book also marks the ASRC’s recent achievement of 20 years in service.

“There’s no better way to acknowledge our 20-year milestone than actually in a way, not really acknowledge it at all, but instead acknowledge people and their stories,” he said.

“We work with people seeking asylum, so let’s make everything we do about them.”

“It’s an opportunity to have their stories feature front and centre and to be the real premise of the book, coupled with a discussion around what it means to seek asylum in Australia,” said Mr White. Image by Sam Biddle, ASRC.

Kamal Ibrahim, one of the contributors, tells his story of finding belonging in Australia through sport.

At just 12 years old, Mr Ibrahim had to face racism and intimidation head on when he arrived in Port Melbourne from Ethiopia.

“The question I had was whether I am ever going to settle down, if I belong, because I was struggling to make friends with the language barrier as well,” he said.

All these questions weighed on him at such a young age, but a turning point came when he joined the local soccer club and blew everyone away with his incredible skills. 

“I started playing soccer in my neighbourhood and it just took off and I played all around the states, represented Australia, travelled many countries and played professionally,” he said.

“Soccer was the one that gave me that kind of hope and to feel a bit more connected.”

“I think at the end of the day, everybody wants to belong to something,” said Mr Ibrahim. Image by Sam Biddle, ASRC.

Now, Mr Ibrahim has dedicated his life to helping kids who are in a similar position as he once was to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.

He founded the community soccer program One Ball in 2018 and has already reached around 400 children.

“The aim is to help disadvantaged kids to play sports and feel more connected to the community and empower them teaching soccer skills but also life skills,” he said.

“A big part of our program is also with mental wellbeing and positive thinking so we have a holistic way of teaching kids things like positive affirmation and character strength.”

Mr Ibrahim’s story is one of resilience and strength, and he highlights the critical need for belonging and security among children of diverse backgrounds.

He shared his story to encourage understanding among the Australian public of what those seeking asylum endure to have basic freedoms.  

“The Australian people need to put themselves in other people’s shoes and see what they’ve gone through just to have a normal life like everybody’s having in Australia,” he said.

“I don’t think people know how hard it is for these families, so if they hear their stories then I think they can understand why people seek asylum,” said Mr Ibrahim. Image by Sam Biddle, ASRC.

Mr White said the collation of stories for the book was a “really dignified and respectful process”.

“While we’ve supported them with coaching, design and development of their story, they’ve all been remunerated equally for their contribution to the book,” he said.

“And its consent driven, so everyone’s always had the ability to make changes to their story.”

Proceeds from the book will help fund the ASRC’s Community Advocacy and Power Program (CAPP).

“CAPP is designed to provide people seeking asylum the ability to go through intensive leadership and community advocacy training,” said Mr White.

“They’re supported with skills development around media, storytelling, marketing and project design for a particular project they might want to implement in their community.”

Mr White encourages readers to “let this book be the springboard” onto further discussion and action around improving the experiences of refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia.

“Use the book as an impetus to be really brave and actually have those conversations,” he said.

“The best evidence base we have for the resilience, the strength and the contribution of refugees is in some of those pages.”

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Jessica Roberts

Jessica Roberts is a Masters of Journalism and International Relations student at Monash University. She is interested in advocating for women’s empowerment, amplifying the voices of marginalised communities and creating a society more inclusive and welcoming of minority groups. Jessica is passionate about writing stories that help make a difference.

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