For Sydney-based high school teacher Peter Murphy, humanitarian issues are a vital part of education. He encourages his students to engage with refugee issues and volunteer for Australia for UNHCR.

Peter became a donor in 2010 and hasn’t missed a month since. Here he explains why it’s important for Australian students to consider the challenges their classmates in conflict zones face.

Why do you think it’s important to support refugees around the world?

I feel it’s good to encourage my students to have compassion for those in need, and there is no greater humanitarian cause right now than the plight of refugees.

What motivated you to support Australia for UNHCR?

I’m impressed by the work that I see Australia for UNHCR doing to help provide protection and support for refugees rebuilding their lives.

How have you included humanitarian issues in your teaching?

With Year 7s, we look at topics like humanitarian welfare and the work of charitable organisations.  With Year 8s, we look into these issues more deeply, studying human rights and the practical aspects of our responsibility to care for our neighbours as we care for ourselves.

Teacher Peter Murphy (top, center) with his students at Australia for UNHCR's Mother's Day event in 2013.

How do your students relate to the issues that refugee students face?

One of the simplest ways we look at refugee issues is to ask ourselves what we need to live a safe and happy life, and the first thing we need is safety. We live in a country where there’s no war or civil unrest, and we live in a society based on the rule of law. Then there’s other things we need – shelter, clothing, food, water, healthcare and education. For my students, their parents provide all of those things.

A refugee is a person who has had to flee because they don’t have that safety, so it’s thinking about, “how would I feel if that was my situation?”

What opportunities do your students have to get involved?

Students explore their interest in their own way and find personal meaning. Those doing legal studies, for instance, may think about legal challenges to protection. We are also overwhelmed with students offering to volunteer to support Australia for UNHCR. Our students are culturally and religiously diverse, and as a result, have a greater awareness of global issues. All I do is give a glimpse of what they can do or be involved with after they leave school.

As families prepare for their children’s return to school in Australia, what would you say to anyone considering becoming a supporter of Australia for UNHCR?

Education is paramount for children’s growth; not just academically, but emotionally. It’s an enormously stabilising thing for children, giving them security and hope for the future. The work that Australia for UNHCR does in providing educational opportunities for children who have been displaced is incredible.

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