Students and teachers from schools all over Sydney were inspired to get creative at the Edmund Rice Centre’s Justice Literary Event at Santa Sabina College Strathfield on 14 March.
The event, sponsored by the IEUA NSW/ACT Branch, invites artists of all kinds to explain how they use creativity to highlight injustice, particularly as it relates to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and refugees and people seeking asylum, and people in the Pacific fighting for climate justice.
In his introduction Edmund Rice Centre Director and Refugee Council of Australia President Phil Glendenning AM explained how he was about to visit Afghanistan to hear every day people’s stories.
“When you think of Afghanistan the first thing you think of is war,” Phil said.
“There’s a tendency to dehumanise refugees and asylum seekers. The Australian Government gives people that come here by boat a number, and they are referred to by that number rather than a name. It makes them less human.”
Phil said the arts could bring people’s stories to life and foster more understanding.
Keynote speaker Associate Professor Munjed Al Muderis arrived in Australia by boat.
A doctor, he fled his native Iraq after he refused to follow orders and remove the ears of army deserters as a punishment.
As soon as he entered detention in Australia he was given a number not a name, and during his time at Curtin Detention Centre he was often kept in ‘the box’ — a small windowless solitary confinement cell, because he was using his English skills to speak up on behalf of detainees.
Munjed is now one of the world’s leading orthopaedic surgeons, doing voluntary work to assist war veterans walk again.
Australia’s best selling author Mem Fox AM also spoke at the event. Mem allowed her stories to do the talking, reading three of her books which address issues of inclusion: Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes; I’m Australian Too and Feathers and Fools.
The stories, aimed at preschoolers, none the less have a powerful and poignant message for readers of all ages.
Other speakers, such as Looking for Alibrandi author Melina Marchetta, tackled similar themes.
The Justice Literary Writing Competition was also launched at this event. It is open to students from Years 8-11. Details can be found at: www.erc.org.au/justice_writing_competition
Look out for the June issue of IE magazine, which will include interviews with Mem Fox AM and Associate Professor Munjed Al Muderis.