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Refugee week

The 2023 Refugee Week theme is Finding Freedom. The theme aims to highlight aspects of the refugee experience and help the broader community to understand what it is like to be a refugee. The theme unites individuals, communities and organisations from many different backgrounds behind a common cause. The common theme is a reminder that, regardless of our differences, we all share a common humanity.

Community stories and Road to Freedom

Winnie Ly is my name. I was born in South Vietnam in 1956. My parents are from China, so I speak Chinese and Vietnamese. I left my country when I was only 19 years old, when North Vietnam took over South Vietnam with a communist rule. Our freedoms were taken away. I left Vietnam, by boat. We were called ‘boat people’.

The road to freedom—what freedom means to me

Australia has been so kind to me and has given me freedom and brought me much happiness. For me if you feel free in the heart that is most important.   

Freedom is to be able to be yourself, to not have your life controlled by a system, to feel safe in your country, to be with people and share stories and to live in a country with good policies.

Imagine living in a place with war? How could you feel free or safe? I was brought up in the war, but here in Australia there is peace and it gives me freedom. This gives us a lot of opportunity even with the next generation.

My name is Fatima and I came here with my father Abdul. We were affected by the Syrian war and had to uproot our lives due to this devastating crisis. Living in Syria was a war zone and every day we feared for our lives.

The road to freedom—what freedom means to me

We found freedom here in Australia. Here we feel safe. Especially as a woman, I am able to go out at any time of the day, including at night time. My kids can go to school safely and get an education without bombs dropping around them. Here, men and women can do the same jobs. We feel welcomed, connected, and free here. Australia has been very good to us.

My name is Anwar. I came to Australia from Iraq, from Mosul City. I was forced to leave my home country because ISIS entered our home country. They stripped us of everything we owned and they kicked us out of our homes.

The road to freedom—What freedom means to me

Freedom to me means, when I have the right to live where I like, wear what I like, do what I want and go where I want. I can come and go and no one interferes with what I do as long as I comply with the law, so having what I need and even walking in the street wearing my custom clothing that I want to wear without being judged. I have this freedom in Australia. These are the things that we didn't have in my home country.

My name is Sam Smith. I was born in Liberia. I left Liberia because of the civil war in May 1996. It was a terrible civil war. When we left and made it to Sierra Leone to escape the war, then there was another civil war that started in Sierra Leone. I had the experience of going from war to war. I arrived in Australia in 2005 as a refugee.

The road to freedom—what freedom means to me

Finding freedom means, I can eat anytime I like, 3 times a day I can eat breakfast, lunch, dinner. I have my car; I have my house and it is something I have never experienced before, and I never thought I would own all of this. I never thought about it! No more running, no more seeing dead bodies around, no more wondering about food. I am safe. I have peace in my life and no more worries. I am a different man. Today I am an Australian. From the very first day that I entered this land I knew that somebody cares for me. For me to be alive today, there is a living God. The position I was in was not easy, but God, he protected us, directed us until we came here. 18 years I have been in Australia. I am free. Me and my children we feel someone cares for us.

My name is Dawood Samour. I was born in Palestine. When I was around 2 years old, my family had to flee Palestine. Israel occupied around 50% of the Palestinian land and announced the State of Israel on the occupied part in 1948. My family had to move and leave Palestine. Sadly, for many Palestinians, they were forced to seek refuge in refugee camps where conditions were horrendous, and many lived there for years after.

The road to freedom—what freedom means to me

I arrived in Australia in 2004 after leaving Kuwait to be with my family. Here in Australia, people are more equal. You have equality here, and you are equal in all aspects of life. The other thing you are living peacefully, with yourself, with your family, with your government. There is no stress. Compared to our country, here you are more relaxed. We don’t even have to think of tomorrow. There you have to think about the days after tomorrow for your children. Here you don’t need to do that. As I reflect on my own children who have been raised here and they study here, I don’t have to think about their future or even my grandchildren’s future. Why do I need to think? Here in Australia there is so much support even if you are struggling. We are supported, not like my country.

Refugee Week Events (18-24 June)

Each year, City of Whittlesea celebrates the Refugee week and welcomes people of diverse backgrounds who have come from far and wide.

We invite the community to come celebrate Refugee week with us across the municipality. Check out the events below and get involved.


Celebrate Refugee Women 

When: 15 June 2023, 10:00am - 12:30pm
Where: Thomastown Recreation and Aquatic Centre, 52-54 Main St, Thomastown


We invite women from refugee background to come and join us in celebrating Refugee Week: Finding Freedom.

The event includes:

  • Free Zumba class
  • Tour of Trac, Thomastown Library and Thomastown Neighbourhood house
  • Includes lunch

 *No bookings required



Finding Freedom 

When: Thursday 22 June 2023, 10:30 am - 2:30 pm
Where: Plenty Ranges Art and Convection Centre
           (Eucalyptus Room) 25 Ferres Boulevard,
           South Morang VIC 3752


Come and join us in celebrating Refugee Week: Finding Freedom.
Enjoy cultural art, music, dance, traditional clothing and food.

Registration: Book here



The Road to Freedom: Community stories 

When: Stories on display from 19-24 June 2023

Where: Mill Park Library, 394 Plenty Rd, Mill Park


You are invited to the Refugee Week - Finding Freedom event at Mill Park Library to read about personal stories from our local refugee community members and discover their road to freedom and what being free means to them.

Come along and share a delicious morning tea to support and celebrate the participants who so bravely shared their stories.

Stories will be on display from the 19th to the 24th of June.

Morning tea: Friday 23rd of June, 11am-1pm, Mill Park Library

 *No bookings required



Refugee Conversations 

When: Saturday 24 June 2023, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Where: Lalor Library, 2A May Street, Lalor


Come and join us in celebrating Refugee Week: Finding Freedom.
This is a free community event where you will get to hear refugee stories of finding freedom. There will be music, fun and dance.

Afternoon tea will also be provided.

 *No bookings required