College Conference Day at Sienna College

On Monday 22 April the class captains of Year 9 attended a conference held at Siena College. This conference was held to promote social justice and give us an idea about what social justice is and how can we contribute to it. The first activity we did was a challenge where we must imagine that we are a group of asylum seekers in search of a country. We were given various index cards, each with a different complicated situation. The aim was to leave the least amount of people behind and to arrive to our destination as soon as possible. This activity gave us realistic insight into how these group leaders make complicated decisions. Our group performed well, finishing second place. Following this activity, we listened to various speeches on St Vincent and charity work they do and discussed social justice. One worker told us an inspirational story on how she had visited Fiji and described the country as filthy, dirty land. She was moved when a young Fijian boy was asked where would you like to visit anywhere in the world and this boy responded to the capital of Fiji, so he could earn money for his family.

We watched video clips that taught us that first world countries like Australia spend money on things like cosmetics, alcohols and cigarettes – collectively, this money would add up to a total up to $156 billion dollars – the similar amount would save world hunger. Providing education and medical help to the world would cost 40 billion dollars and one of the most moving facts is that a child will die every 3 seconds due to poverty.

Following these clips we went to the main hall to listen to a man named Manda, who was a refugee. He had lived on a farm for many years but when the war came he had to flee to Syria. He spent six years in a refugee camp in Syria and was told to migrate to Australia. Losing his family during this time, he continued on to study a degree in Medicine. Manda’s story was truly captivating.

During lunch we experienced first-hand what it was like to gather and eat food in a refugee camp. We were told to stay outside in the cold and only when the teacher picks you, then can you only collect your food. This gave a feeling of hunger, when having to wait was what these refugees experience constantly.

This experience was inspiring, captivating and moving. Having to hear stories and see what these people are going through has changed us student leaders and we as the class captains will do the best we can to promote social justice in our school.

Ashen Gunaratne
9E Class Captain

During the College Conference Day, we students had the opportunity to speak with people who were asylum seekers before they attained their citizenship here in Australia. We listened to their inspiring stories, of what they went through before their life in Australia and how they struggled everyday just to survive and get an education that would benefit them. These stories have influenced me to think about asylum seekers more passionately and recognise how they are not “cue jumpers” but humans trying to live a better life and give their kids a better future.”

Jeremy Seneviratne
9B Class Captain

On Monday the year 9 leaders travelled to Sienna College, Camberwell for College Conference Day. The topic of the day was “Welcome the Stranger” which discussed asylum seekers in Australia.

We were split into groups and participated in different activities. Bruno and I representing 9D were placed in a fake Detention Centre. The purpose of this was to replicate the frustration that refugees feel. We were given forms to fill out before we could continue to be processed. Unfortunately the forms were in Italian and Chinese. This lead to many of us accidentally selling our teeth or our medical privileges as we had difficulty obtaining access to translators.

We also had reflection workshops that made us think about how we would feel in the refugees’ place. Many special guests spoke to us about the facts of asylum seekers and that they are not all unlawful. Many people legitimately need to be in Australia as they are in great danger in other countries. A man named Manda also told us about his journey to Australia from war-torn Iraq.

This is an important issue for the Australian government because it spends over $10 million each year on detention centres.

We learnt some of the problems facing asylum seekers, that they have legitimate reasons for wanting to come to Australia and that the Australian system of dealing with refugees is very inefficient.”

James Roberts
9D Class Captain