Refugee Week 2015: How you can celebrate in Melbourne

REFUGEE Week will be celebrated across Australia throughout June and there are many events on around the city that aim to highlight the plight of refugees and welcome them to Australia. Stephen Clarke has more. 

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Image: Refugee Week 2015

First celebrated in 1986, Refugee Week is an annual celebration held to inform the public about refugees and celebrate positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society. It has since evolved into a global annual event which culminated in 2001 after the united Nations High Commissioner for Refugees coordinated the first World Refugee Day.

This year’s theme for the week is taken from a line in the Australian national anthem:”With courage let us all combine”. The theme was chosen not only to celebrate the Australian welcome of refugees but to acknowledge the ongoing unjust treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

As part of the national Refugee Week celebrations here in Melbourne, a ‘Welcome to Country’ smoking ceremony will be conducted by Wurundjeri elders – the native custodians of the land around Melbourne – as an opportunity to learn about local Aboriginal traditions, history and culture.

Refugee rights protest at Broadmeadows. Image: Takver via Flickr

Refugee rights protest at Broadmeadows. Image: Takver via Flickr

The ceremony is an ancient custom among Indigenous Australians that involves burning native plants to produce a smoke that is said to have cleansing properties and can ward off evil spirits. The smoking ceremony was once used as a way of welcoming guests onto their land and will signify the welcome of all refugees to Australia.

Other events around town that people can take part in include Sounds of Harmony, an array of musical styles from around the globe held at Federation Square. From traditional folk songs to Asian pop music to an asylum seeker choir, a variety of musical talents will be on show for the public to enjoy.

Additionally, Refugee Week will be launched with keynote speakers, live music, a fashion show and a range of delicious foods at the Visy Cares hub in Sunshine.

Refugee Week 2015 will run from June 14 – 20 and the smoking ceremony will be held on Thursday June 18 outside the Multicultural Hub at 506 Elizabeth St from 10.30am. For more information about any of the events visit the official page.

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