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Workshops build compassionate response to people seeking asylum

Uniting’s Advocacy team has been working alongside the Asylum Seek Resource Centre (ASRC) to help create a more compassionate community response to people seeking asylum across Sydney and beyond.

Last year, ASRC’s #RightTrack Campaign (at https://action.asrc.org.au/righttrack) began running Community Action Workshops with Uniting to help change the conversation about refugees and people seeking asylum.

Since then, seven workshops have been held in Uniting and Uniting Church communities – from Sydney’s north shore and southwest, to the Blue Mountains, Hunter, Illawarra and Hawkesbury regions – as well as Wagga Wagga in the Riverina NSW. The team wants to extend the workshops to every Sydney suburb.

The ASRC also partners with other organisations to run workshops. Those with Uniting have generated positive feedback and drawn participants into further action on the issue – such as meeting and writing to MPs, hosting further workshops and getting involved in local advocacy groups.

The Advocacy team sees the workshops as a positive and practical way for staff and members to take action on core Uniting Church values and to confront the injustices being experienced by people seeking asylum. The sessions are also an opportunity for supportive people to learn essential practical skills – to help them have more effective, positive and values-based conversations with others about refuge and asylum. Participants can also apply these learnings to discussions on other issues.

The workshops teach tools and strategies to avoid reinforcing views and frames of language that contribute to negative perceptions around refugees – one of the big challenges faced in public debate. The grassroots approach aims to bring sustainable, long-term change in community attitudes and public policy.

The Uniting Advocacy team believes that it is now as important as ever for supporters of people seeking asylum to learn how to speak more effectively about this issue. We know that policy is influenced by public opinion – and we want to show that many in our community know we can do better for people seeking asylum.

Public debate on this issue is too often grounded in negative frames of language and dominated by issues of border security and fear, rather than by values of fairness and humanity.

Churches, community groups, advocacy groups, organisations and interested individuals are encouraged to take part in the #RightTrack campaign – and consider hosting a workshop for their own members and staff as a practical way to help them build skills and contribute to social justice for people seeking asylum.

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For more information or to get involved, contact the team via Facebook – “Give Hope campaign” or email Alex Hogan of the Uniting Advocacy team at ahogan@uniting.org

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