A black banner with the words 'The City of Onkaparinga welcomes refugees'.

Published on 14 June 2024

Finding Freedom

Stories tinted with both sorrow and joy will offer glimpses into the refugee experience at a Noarlunga Library event during Refugee Week (16–22 June).

Three local refugees will share their refugee stories at the free Speaker Sessions event on Friday 21 June (2–3:30pm), followed by an art therapy demonstration and afternoon tea.

Qamar Chohan will speak of his experiences after being jailed in Pakistan as a 16-year- old due to his Ahmadiyya faith. He’s now thankful for the freedom to freely practice his faith in Australia.

Safi Sekandar will then share his story of both sorrow and joy after leaving Afghanistan to seek refuge across different countries, and his ongoing struggles of family separation.

Safi told Onkaparinga Now that while his family’s journey from Afghanistan to Onkaparinga was difficult, it was made easier by the local community.

“Leaving our homeland was very difficult for me and my family,” he said.

“It was a very sad and long story, so I’ll be telling a part of this story in Refugee Week.

“The first day I entered Onkaparinga I felt good. It was very challenging for my family, but the people of Onkaparinga treated us very friendly. We appreciate it and I want to live here forever.

“Because we don’t have any family members in Australia, the Australian Government introduced me to a community group by the name of Everyday Church in Onkaparinga.

“The church helps us to find our way and how to live in South Australia – I really appreciate them.”

The final speaker Jesus Capriles will share his presentation, "Your story – my story. We are all migrants", with the professional art therapist detailing his story as a migrant and refugee after leaving Venezuela due to its humanitarian crisis. Jesus will finish the speaker session by demonstrating art therapy.

Book your free spot today, and note the content and themes of these talks will include refugee experiences, asylum seeking, and other mature themes, which may be distressing for some. Attendee discretion is advised – suitable for adults.

This event is a collaboration between Onkaparinga Libraries, TAFE SA and the City of Onkaparinga Community Connections team.

Refugee Week is Australia’s peak annual activity to promote greater awareness of refugees, the issues they face and the contributions refugees are making to the Australian community.

The 2024 theme is Finding Freedom: Family, with its aim to shed light on the transformative power of familial bonds as well as chosen bonds in the face of adversity, and emphasise the crucial role families play in providing solace, support, and a sense of belonging to those forced to flee their homelands.

Refugee Week includes World Refugee Day (20 June) an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. It’s also an occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognise their resilience in rebuilding their lives.

The City of Onkaparinga signed the Refugee Council of Australia’s declaration to become a Refugee Welcome Zone in 2015. The declaration was and remains a commitment to welcoming refugees into the community.

The council also provides a range of services and information to new arrivals via a New residents webpage and welcome brochure.