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Students' messages offer hope to refugees

St Ita’s students Alice Kelly, Owen Anand and Chiara Devetak pass on
messages of hope through refugee advocate Sr Rita Malavisi

REFUGEE advocate, Josephite Sr Rita Malavisi shared some insights into what it meant to be a refugee in Australia in 2017 with Year 6 students at St Ita’s Primary School, Dutton Park.   

Sr Rita, who works at the Refugee Centre in Melbourne, talked to the students about the reasons why people fled their country.

She also spoke in detail about the emotional suffering people in the detention centre she visited weekly were experiencing each day.

Sr Rita explained to the students that by sharing her story with others, communities would gain a better understanding of what refugees experienced.

Also, the presentations allowed Sr Rita to take messages of hope and love from her audiences back to the people in the centre to help them not lose heart as some of them are there for up to two years.

The students were asked to put these messages of hope in writing so they could be delivered personally by Sr Rita on her return to Melbourne.

Students commented afterwards about how they found it hard to understand why these people who had escaped life threatening environments were locked up in prison-like conditions with small spaces, plastic cutlery etc.

Student Anand Owen said he did not realise these refugees had not actually done anything wrong to then be locked away in a detention centre.

Fellow student Alice Kelly said was saddened by the prison-like environment the refugees were kept in especially after the horrific conditions they had fled from.

St Ita’s Assistant Principal for Religious Education Paula McConnon said the first-hand information was a wonderful resource to support the students’ classroom learning around ‘works of mercy’ and refugees, including their contributions to Australia and the many challenges they faced.

Paula said the students also commented on the unfair treatment of these people and that escaping life-threatening environments should not result with them being locked up and detained.

“I think the students gained a better understanding of the hardships refugees have experienced in their homeland and then in detention centres through Sr Rita sharing first-hand experiences with them,” Paula said.

“They also couldn’t believe that it could sometimes take up to two years to grant refugee status,” she said.

Brisbane Catholic Education Office

243 Gladstone Road, Dutton Park Q 4102

GPO Box 1201 Brisbane 4001 Australia

Phone: (07) 3033 7000

Fax: (07) 3844 5101