Refugees and other members of the community came together last month at the OneStep Walks festival in Sydney, commemorating World Refugee Day.
On Sunday 19 June, hundreds of people in Sydney came together to commemorate World Refugee Day by participating in OneStep Walks’ annual walk-and-talk festival.
The event was an opportunity to connect with people from refugee backgrounds and celebrate their resilience, courage and contribution to Australian life.
Abdul Habibi Samad, who fled Afghanistan ten months ago with his family, said the walk offered an opportunity to connect with locals.
“It is for me a special day,” said Abdul. “I’ve been faced with different people, different cultures, and the kids... are all happy and we are together to celebrate this important day.”
Dema Shaikhouni, OneStep Walks board member and secretary, said the walk-and-talk events help to reduce the isolation felt by many who are new to Australia.
“OneStep Walks is a not-for-profit organisation that brings together locals and people with refugee experience.”
“We’ve done some research, and noticed that people who have newly arrived suffer from isolation and not being included in society, so our walk and talk events are an opportunity for people to get together, build bridges of empathy and understanding, and welcome new arrivals to our beautiful country.”
"It made me feel like I belong with the community, and that’s something that is very important for us refugees to feel” - Asif Sultani
UNHCR’s Regional Representative Office has partnered with OneStep Walks for three years and is proud to support such an important event.
“Every year on 20th June we celebrate World Refugee Day,” said Nai Jit Lam, UNHCR Deputy Regional Representative. “It’s a way of celebrating the strength and resilience of refugees, the stories we hear from refugees about their plight and the way they have fled conflict or persecution, and the way they have to rebuild their lives again. It’s a story of resilience, a story of courage and a story of perseverance.”
The event commenced with a Welcome to Country, followed by the walk from Forestville Memorial Hall to a nearby park where refugee and local community members mixed together to chat and connect.
After the walk, the festival continued with African drumming, Tibetan dance performances, and music and food trucks.
Asif Sultani, UNHCR high profile supporter, said these events are important for refugees to feel a sense of belonging.
“My personal experience as a refugee [is that] a community event like this was very important because it made me feel like I belong with the community, and that’s something that is very important for us refugees to feel,” he said.
“If you don’t feel like you belong in a community or a country you will not be able to integrate.”
The majority of funds raised by Australia for UNHCR are directed to UNHCR’s emergency operations, providing the ready funds and resources to respond quickly and effectively in situations of crisis and disaster.