at Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute

Local Lens: Refugees in Regional Australia

In this panel discussion at the Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute, we’ll consider a global issue through a local lens.

Mass human displacement is one of the most complex ethical and legal global challenges of our time. Australia’s response to asylum seeker arrivals has attracted controversy over the years, including criticism from the United Nations. Last year, the federal government commissioned a report into integration, employment, and settlement outcomes for refugees and humanitarian entrants. We’re still awaiting the results of this report.

On a global and national scale, our humanitarian performance is under constant scrutiny. But how are we performing on a local level? Are asylum seekers who come to Australia getting adequate support and a real chance to thrive in their new communities? 

Ballarat is Victoria’s fastest growing regional city and a designated Refugee Welcome Zone. The city has a diverse and active migrant and refugee community, and a strong support from local leadership.

For this conversation, join human rights lawyer Julian Burnside, Ballarat refugee community mentor Deruka Dekuek, health worker Akua Ed Nignpense and ABC Ballarat and Southwest Victoria chief of staff Prue Bentley. We’ll ask: How does the tenor of debate in Canberra – and the nature of all policies affecting humanitarian immigrants – affect the daily lives of refugees in places like Ballarat? And how does it impact the capacity for local communities to provide the support refugees need?

Presented in partnership with Ballaarat Mechanics Institute.


Portrait of Julian Burnside

Julian Burnside

Julian Burnside is a Melbourne barrister. He joined the Bar in 1976 and took silk in 1989. He specialises in commercial litigation, and has acted in many very contentious cases - the MUA Waterfront dispute; the Cash-for-Comment enquiry; cases for Alan Bond and Rose Porteous - but has become known for his human rights work and has acted pro bono in many refugee cases. 

He is an outspoken opponent of the mistreatment of people who come to Australia seeking protection from persecution. His latest book is Watching Out: Reflections on Justice and Injustice (Scribe).

Portrait of Deruka Dekuek

Deruka Dekuek

Deruka Dekuek works within the local community of Ballarat, supporting the diverse refugee and migrant communities there. She embraces the different social and cultural experiences and diversity of her life in Australia and has been excited to work regionally. She currently works with the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council, where she assists refugees and migrants to connect with support providers and find work opportunities.

Deruka is also an ambassador for CARE Australia, an international humanitarian aid organisation fighting global poverty. She is the mother of five children and has completed a Masters in Development Studies at Victoria University. She knows that she will one day complete a PhD.

Portrait of Akua Ed Nignpense

Akua Ed Nignpense

Akua Ed Nignpense was born and raised in Ghana. She's a nurse/midwife with over 30 years of experience working in hospitals and with various levels of communities.

She later travelled to the UK, where she gained a Masters degree in Public Health. Akua migrated to Australia with her family and settled in Ballarat in 2008. Currently, she works in Aged Care at Ballarat Health Services, and in Ballarat Community Health, where she works with refugees and asylum seekers.

Portrait of Prue Bentley

Prue Bentley

Prue Bentley is the Chief of Staff for ABC Ballarat and Southwest Victoria, overseeing the development of broadcast and digital content for two regional Victorian bureaus.

As a content maker for over 15 years, Prue has produced and presented local radio programs across Australia and news programs syndicated to the Asia-Pacific.

She believes in the power of conversations to bring people together on the important issues, and the value of local communities to make meaningful change.

She joined the board of the Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute with the aim of showing more people this wonderful community resource.


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