The City of Sydney, the Asylum Seekers Centre and Amnesty International Australia are coming together to host ‘Band Together’, an evening of music and conversation marking Refugee Week 2021.
Speakers include Craig Foster, Rosemary Kariuki and people who have recently received protection in Australia Roaa Ahmed and Mithat Unlu.
Refugees and artists Farhad Bandesh and Moz Azimi, recently released after almost eight years in detention, will also perform live with rock legends from Midnight Oil, as well as Youth Group, Celibate Rifles, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and more.
The event is a celebration but also a chance to share the stories of the many people seeking asylum whose lives are still in limbo; offshore and onshore in detention, as well as living in the community with no support from the government.
Farhad and Moz were detained in Papua New Guinea under Australia’s offshore detention regime. Eventually transferred to Australia for medical treatment, both have been released into community detention recently. Because they originally fled to Australia by boat in 2013, the Government will not allow them to settle permanently here.
Farhad, who has campaigned relentlessly for the rights of refugees in Australia, said: “My songs are protest songs – they are about our human rights and who has the power. When I hear or see what is happening I feel really heartbroken and I thought I had to write songs about this. All we ask for is humanity, for human rights, for decency and kindness.”
Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, said: “The City supports Refugee Week each year and we encourage everyone to get involved in the many events taking place across Sydney. It is a great opportunity for communities to learn more about and celebrate the talents, skills, contributions, and cultural diversity of people from refugee backgrounds and people seeking asylum.”
Frances Rush OAM, Chief Executive Officer at the Asylum Seekers Centre, said: “People thrive when they are given the appropriate support while they look for work and find their place in our community. In Refugee Week we are going to celebrate the fantastic contribution of refugees and people seeking asylum.”
“However, the ongoing withdrawal of support from the government and long periods of waiting on temporary visas push people to impossible limits. The Sydney community is very generous, but it should not be up to charities to be people’s only option for their basic needs. Our government must provide sufficient support for vulnerable people seeking asylum living in our community including thousands of children.”
Roaa Ahmed and Mithat Unlu are both people who were supported by the Asylum Seekers Centre and now have refugee protection in Australia. Mithat is a business owner and now employs people seeking asylum in his business. Roaa is doing her HSC and has a bright future in media and psychology ahead of her. Roaa and Mithat will be in conversation with Cr Jess Scully. Their stories will highlight the challenges of seeking asylum and the joys of finding a new home.
Amnesty International Australia’s refugee coordinator, Dr Graham Thom, said: “Refugee week offers us the opportunity to celebrate the amazing diversity and talent that refugees bring to the Australian community, but it’s also a time to reflect on our treatment of people who have sought safety and protection.
“After eight years, refugees like Farhad and Moz have no certainty regarding their futures. With a new Home Affairs Minister, we now have the chance to turn a new page and redeem refugee policy in Australia. The first step to this is officially accepting New Zealand’s resettlement offer to take 150 refugees trapped as a result of Australia’s offshore detention policy each year.”
‘Band Together’ will commence at 6.30pm AEST on Wednesday 23 June at the Sydney Town Hall. Media passes are available upon request.