Credit: Michael Rees-Lightfoot


On Unity: Refugees, Community and Connection

In an increasingly turbulent world, the need to stand united is greater than ever. In the face of the pandemic, climate change, and global conflict, unity is strength. Working together, we survive, thrive and progress.

Together with the Refugee Council of Australia, we’re hosting the official launch of Refugee Week 2021, celebrating the theme of Unity. We’ll explore the power of unity in action, and the connections between emerging communities in Australia.

A panel of community members and leaders will take a deep dive into the power that comes from diverse groups working together and explore the question: what does it take to evolve from ‘welcome’ to ‘unity’? Afterwards, the event will be rounded out by a special performance by Gordon Koang.

Presented in partnership with the Refugee Council of Australia

On Unity: Refugees, Community and Connection

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Portrait of Gordon Koang

Gordon Koang

Gordon Koang is a Nuer speaker and musician hailing from the Upper Nile region of what is now South Sudan. Accompanied by his cousin Paul Biel, Gordon performs a blend of traditional Nuer rhythms and original compositions in English, Arabic, and his native language, Nuer. 

Having recently arrived in Australia seeking refuge from a country torn by civil war, Gordon and Paul are hoping to raise funds and awareness in an attempt to rejoin the rest of their family and settle safely in Australia. Musicians of a world-class standard, Gordon and Paul have previously toured throughout Europe and North America, performing to sell-out crowds. In August 2019, Gordon and Paul’s Australian permanent residency was approved which will allow them to once again travel and perform around the world. 

2019 was an incredible year for Gordon Koang, seeing sold out Australian shows, performances at Meredith and Strawberry Fields, as well as taking out the Levi’s Music Prize at BIGSOUND!

Portrait of Asher Hirsch

Asher Hirsch

Asher is a Senior Policy Officer with the Refugee Council of Australia and lecturer at Monash University in public law, human rights, and refugee law. 

His expertise is in research, policy development and advocacy on national and international issues impacting refugee communities.

Portrait of Peter Doyle

Peter Doyle

Peter Doyle is a former global account director in the software industry, who after retiring in Anglesea in 2009 with his wife Desi, decided his decades of experience in high-level business strategy could be put to good use in community projects. This included an initiative to build Scottish-style coastal rowing boats with Geelong’s refugee and CALD communities in 2017. His goal was to bring together that city’s many cultures in a way that was highly visible to the broader community and showed the rich resource of skill and experience that refugee and CALD communities bring to Geelong’s commercial and cultural makeup. The result was also community ties that continue to endure.

Portrait of Shahad Bahnan

Shahad Bahnan

Shahad Bahnan is originally from Bakhdida, a small Assyrian city in northern Iraq. She fled to Amman in Jordan in 2013, when life in Iraq reached a dangerous peak particularly for minority groups. Shahad says she was given a second chance by resettling in Australia in June 2016 with her husband Rasen. They now call Geelong home and that’s where they have been highly engaged with the local community, which in 2017 found itself immersed in an ambitious refugee and CALD communities boat building project. Shahad works as an accounts payable officer at Deakin University and creates art in her free time as she did back in Iraq.

Portrait of Mukhles Habash

Mukhles Habash

Mukhles Habash is of Syriac ethnicity and came to Australia from Iraq as a refugee in 2016. A veterinarian back in Iraq, his passion for supporting refugee communities has seen him involved in Geelong’s Multicultural Action Plan Committee, volunteering for the Red Cross and Diversitat, and also finding himself building Scottish-style row boats as part of a refugee and CALD communities project, despite having never built a boat before. He lives with his wife, four children and his parents in Geelong, where he heads the local Socio-Cultural Syriac Association. He recently completed his Advanced Diploma of Interpreting and wants to influence change in the refugee resettlement system and multiculturalism in Australia.


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