I discovered House of Welcome (HoW) following a discussion with a friend. I was talking to her about this class, telling her that I wanted to find an organisation that worked in the refugee space. One of the reasons for this is I strongly believe that refugees and people seeking asylum should be treated with respect when they come to Australia. I know that our government doesn’t always do this and it makes me very angry, especially as someone whose family was once in this situation. How we treat migrants, refugees and people seeking asylum eventually makes it into our history books. I don’t want to just sit back and see these experiences and injustices pass by.
In 2022, following the Novak Djokovic scandal, where he was held in an immigration detention facility, I became aware of the Park hotel in Melbourne where refugees were being held. After reading a newspaper article talking about the hotel; detailing the stories of people who were living there, how they worried about Covid, and that the health and living conditions were subpar, I was angry. I was angry and shocked that I did not know that this hotel existed. I was aware of the offshore detention process however I was not aware of the hotel in Melbourne. I was angry because neither the news nor newspapers were reporting on it.
I kept asking myself why a country as rich as Australia was putting people through experiences like that? People who had been deemed as refugees by the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation. In my mind, my Australia could not do that. After all, I believed that we were a fair dinkum country that celebrated egalitarianism. I was also angry because the migrant experience is integral to Australia, to its identity and historical narrative. We are a country of migrants, whether it be recent migrants or migrants from 1788. As of the 2021 census 27.6% of the population were born overseas. That is why when I was talking to my friend I was immediately drawn to House of Welcome because I realised that this was my opportunity to get involved and have a say.
House of Welcome is an organisation that welcomes, shelters and empowers people seeking asylum and refugees. It helps people of all ages, genders, sexualities, nationalities and religion. Their purpose is to ‘[t]o uphold the intrinsic dignity of each person by providing support and advocacy to empower the most disadvantaged and marginalised within our community.’ They achieve this through their activities and programs which address homelessness, destitution and social isolation among people seeking asylum.
For my project I am organising a Table Talk. A Table Talk is part of the listening component of the organising cycle. A listening session is a collection of table talks – where a small group of people discuss their experiences/stories in relation to an issue, or topic together around a table. It is a gathering of people where they share stories and hear the pressures that their community faces, usually on a particular topic and issue. These stories will decide on the pressures the majority of people face and what an organisation will first work on to solve.
My project will be the report that I write after the event, because that report will become a historical document. It will record the event, what happened, what was discussed, who attended and it will be of use to the organisation as it will guide their future actions.