Jesuit Refugee Service Australia Director Carolina Gottardo was a guest speaker at the Refugee Alternatives Conference in Melbourne last month.
The conference on 13-14 February highlighted the leadership and agency of people with lived experience as refugees.
Ms Gottardo participated in the opening and closing addresses and engaged in discussions.
There were around 64 speakers at the conference, from diverse backgrounds, more than 60 per cent with lived experience as a refugee, and more than 60 per cent women. Together the panellists examined current and potential solutions for refugees in Australia, the Asia-Pacific region, and internationally.
‘Together conference participants worked towards an Australian Plan of Action, examining Australia in the context of global refugee policy and in the Asia Pacific region’, said Ms Gottardo.
‘I was honoured to be part of such an inspiring conference and to hear firsthand about the initiatives and projects – in Australia, in the Asia-Pacific region and globally – that are being led by refugees and people seeking asylum and are making a difference.’
Ms Gottardo said the conference ‘turned upside down the dynamics of power, with refugees and people seeking asylum at centre stage and leading the agenda on the policies that affect their lives.’
Carolina highlighted in her address the importance of avoiding divisive rhetoric on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ refugees, migrants and people seeking asylum.
She addressed the conference on the Global Compact on Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees, noting the importance of coordinating local, national, regional and global work and of ensuring that the Global Compacts do more than just addressing high-level issues.
‘We need to ensure that the compacts have a real impact on the lives of refugees, people seeking asylum and migrants.’
Carolina brought to her participation in the conference her significant experience in advocacy for refugees and people seeking asylum and migrants. She has been National Policy and Research Director of the Refugee Council of Australia, and is currently the co-chair of the executive committee of the End Child Detention Coalition Australia. She chairs the women’s and girls’ group and is the focal point on the Global Compact on Migration at the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network; on the global stage, she has advocacy experience at UN level, and is a member of the UN Women expert group on gender and migration.
For more on JRS’ work with refugees in Australia, go to www.jrs.org.au.