Last year, GLPer Karina participated in the GLP Symposium to Canberra, a four day study tour to explore the ideas and debates that shape the country’s national and international agendas. Considering applying for this Session’s Symposium? Keep reading for the lowdown on what we get up to in Australia’s capital.
In short, we had briefings with journalists, diplomats, attachés, activists and a lion. We visited places which are of great importance to Australian history, culture, and society. The Symposium to Canberra was all about how to be a leader within your community and do good. Here, I do not necessarily refer to any stereotypical political or economic leader of some sort. It is not about that; you do not need to reinvent the wheel, nor be the world’s saviour. It is the small things that make the impact.
Human rights in Australia
My strong interest in human rights was reflected in the questions I posed to the experts we met: Are Aboriginal people allowed to use their native languages when voicing their opinion or putting forward their argument on a political stage? Is there any interpreting service for the Aboriginal languages? What is the situation for refugees like in Australia? Which measures should be taken by the Australian government so that refugees can still live a life of dignity? How do US-Australian relations contribute to tackling climate change and the consequences caused by it?
The discussion with Kathy Ragless from Companion House shed some light on these questions. Companion House is dedicated to helping asylum seekers and refugees who come to Australia. It provides counselling on legal, medical and psychological matters for children, young people and adults, who have recently arrived and for longer term foreign residents.
Kathy explained to us; a group of domestic, international and exchange students; what the current situation for refugees looks like in Australia. There is an onshore protection program for people who have already arrived in Australia and an offshore resettlement program for people who are persecuted in or outside their home countries. Currently, most visas are granted to Iraqi and Syrian refugees (more here) and the Australian government prefers refugees not to arrive in Australia by boats. There is little transparency regarding the latter; even Kathy, who has been working with refugees for years, could not exactly shed light on the process for refugees who come by boat.
My European background and the topicality of this issue in Europe made this discussion especially interesting for me. What impressed me most, however, was the passion and enthusiasm with which Kathy talked about her work. Even though the staff at Companion House deal with extremely difficult and often heart-breaking matters, she presented solutions and told us how fulfilling her work was. She focused on the bright side of her work, on her and Companion House’s successes and on how she, her colleagues and all of us can contribute to society.
I have just provided you with one of many insights we gained on the Symposium. I want to leave you with a couple of the messages we learnt from the briefings and discussions;
- Volunteering is one of many ways to make a difference;
- Politics might be prejudiced against young people, but getting politically involved, especially if you want to contribute towards solutions, is critical;
- Be passionate about what you do;
- Take opportunities;
- Know your strengths and use them;
- Know your weaknesses and limits and accept them and;
- Challenge yourself.
Last but not least I would like to thank the GLP team for their efforts. The Canberra Symposium was for me an outstanding and unforgettable experience and helped me to make my short stay in Australia as meaningfully as possible.
Written by Karina Ghilea, a postgraduate student here last year on a short-term exchange program. Karina is studying a Masters of Interpreting back in her home country.
Applications for the Canberra Symposium are open now (23 -26 March) and will close 9am Monday 27 February. Applications are open to all Macquarie students.