Diversity event to raise refugee awareness

November 11, 2016

Diversity event to raise refugee awareness

AUT's diversity manager, Lian-Hong Brebner, hopes the event will raise awareness and understanding about refugees. Photo: Mandy Te

A forum to silence some New Zealanders' misconceptions about refugees is being held by AUT University.

Initiated by AUT's Immigration and Inclusion Research Group, the event called 'Don't fence me in! The refugee experience' will feature a panel discussion on refugees in the workforce and takes place before World Refugee Day on June 20.

Organisations such as Amnesty International and WISE Collective will help with storytelling refugee experiences through visual displays.

AUT's professor of diversity and leader of the research group, Edwina Pio, said she tries to create forums on issues that are provocative and sensitive.

Ms Pio said she wanted to embrace issues with "robust research" and a "balanced point of view".

"There are very few people who want to pick up these issues and lay them out to the public from a number of different angles. That's what I'm trying to do, have the research-practice nexus."

Lian-Hong Brebner, AUT's Diversity Manager, said the event was important as the school has "an increasing number of refugee-background students".

"As part of our diversity strategy as a university, we want to be able to promote diversity and to celebrate the diversity of our cohorts of students including those with refugee backgrounds."

Ms Brebner said this event would also give refugee-background students "opportunities to participate and engage effectively with campus life" as this is an important to their feelings of belonging and inclusion.

AUT's manager of the Refugee Centre of Education Maria Hayward is a panelist, who will speak about some of the the misconceptions people have.

"My role is to give a more general perspective on refugee resettlement."

Ms Hayward said most New Zealanders were aware of the political and social unrest in some countries, and how it badly affects lots of people.

But because lots of New Zealanders have nothing to do with the situation, more awareness needs to be raised, said Ms Hayward.

Ms Hayward said being knowledgeable about this issue helps people understand and "think about what they can do [to help]".

Ms Brebner hopes the event will give people "a more accurate understanding of the experiences of people from refugee backgrounds".

'Don't fence me in! The refugee experience' will take place at 10am on Wednesday, June 1 at AUT's Sir Paul Reeves Building.

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