Refugee Week is Australia’s peak annual activity to raise awareness about the issues affecting refugees and celebrate the positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society. Originally celebrated in 1986, Refugee Week coincides with World Refugee Day (20 June). In 2017, Refugee Week will be held from Sunday 18 June to Saturday 24 June.
The theme for Refugee Week for 2015 to 2017 will be “With courage let us all combine”. Taken from the second verse of the national anthem, the theme celebrates the courage of refugees and of people who speak out against persecution and injustice. It serves as a call for unity and for positive action, encouraging Australians to improve our nation’s welcome for refugees and to acknowledge the skills and energy refugees bring to their new home.
It takes courage to be a refugee: As people who have faced persecution because of who they are (their race, nationality or membership of a persecuted group) or what they believe (their religion or political opinion), refugees need courage:
- The courage not to deny identity or beliefs in the face of persecution.
- The courage to leave all that is familiar and step into the unknown in search of peace.
- The courage to keep going in the face of devastating loss, difficulty and despair.
- The courage to begin again, to work hard and to maintain hope in an unfamiliar land.
It takes courage to speak out against injustice: In a world where refugees experience persecution in their countries of origin and often face discrimination, difficulty and rejection in places where they seek refuge, speaking out often requires courage. In Refugee Week, we acknowledge and celebrate the dedication and bravery of refugee leaders, advocates and citizens who draw attention to violations of human rights, support people at their time of greatest need and challenge callous indifference to the suffering of others.
A call for unity and action for a fairer society: The Refugee Week theme encourages Australians to celebrate the best aspects of our nation’s welcome of refugees, frankly acknowledge unjust treatment of asylum seekers and refugees and commit to working together to ensure that we do better. In doing this, we celebrate the positive contributions to Australian society made over the past 70 years by the 800,000 Australians who once were refugees, taking inspiration from the second verse of Advance Australia Fair:
Beneath our radiant Southern Cross,
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas,
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.