One of the key events organised to coincide with SA Refugee Week was the In Our Own Voices Forum held at the Adelaide Town Hall, a special project telling the stories of individuals from countries in the Middle East, including their migration journey, settlement, challenges, accomplishments and contribution to our South Australian society.
The project was initiated and supported by the Middle Eastern Communities Council of SA (MECCSA) and the Australian Migrant Resource Centre (AMRC), and is directed by Adjunct Associate Professor Mr Andrew Hill AM from the School of Art, Architecture and Design UniSA. The forum was attended by an audience of over 200 people. The forum was introduced by The Right Honourable The Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Martin Haese, the Lady Mayoress of Adelaide, Genevieve Theseira-Haese and the Honourbale Zoe Bettison MP, Minister for Multicultural Affairs representing the Honourbale Jay Weatherill MP, Premier of South Australia.
A spectacular performance was delivered by the In Our Own Voices Music And Dance Ensemble, followed by six story tellers sharing their diverse personal accounts. This included Mr Hanif Rahami and Mr Fahim Hashimy of Afghani background, Mr Arash Rezaei of Iranian background, Ms Marta Chorbajian of Armenian-Syrian background and Ms Rania Zakhour of Lebanese background. Projected slides of the project workshops were displayed on the screen whilst the storytellers took their seats.
Mr Rahami operates a successful taxi business, employing 80 plus drivers, and runs a tyre business and supermarket, selling Middle Eastern goods. Mr Hashimy owned a photography shop in Afghanistan and after arriving in Australia in 2008, he started working on the ‘Afghan Cameleers in Australia’ documentary film, focusing on the Afghan camel drivers who first journeyed to Australia in the 1880s. The film featured on NITV and BBC Persian, in addition to other Afghani TV channels. Mr Arash Rezaei was a champion swimmer, who represented Iran in the Asian Games where he won a gold medal. Since arriving, he has gained a qualification in lifesaving and is currently a lifesaver at West Beach, and intends to commence a police course next year. Ms Chorbajian is a dance teacher for the Armenian Cultural Association, who would like to pursue a career as a professional musician and study medicine. Ms Zakhour was 11-years-old when she first arrived in Australia and has been teaching Lebanese dancing for 25 years, with music playing a big part of her life. Five years ago, she started a dance group to carry on the Lebanese tradition through weddings.
Mr Christopher Naylor from the Adelaide Festival Centre said “congratulations to all the individuals, communities, musicians and speakers who told their astounding stories of tragedy, turmoil, trauma, loss, relocation and migration to Australia at the In Our Own Voices Forum. It was truly brave, powerful, honest, enlightening, disturbing, diverse, surprising, funny, sad, moving, universal and very human. Those stories, simply told by those who lived them have the power to change the minds of men and women, and from there, change the world we live in for the better. Thank you. I am very proud to work with you all.”