The longest night

On Thursday 22 June, the night of the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, students and staff of Saint Ignatius' College, Athelstone spent a fund-raising night outdoors, behind a metal barrier on the school premises.


These insightful words by Saint Ignatius’ College Captain Eve Corso say so much: “We sometimes take for granted how lucky we are to receive an education, to be able to walk the streets without fear and have clothes to keep us warm. There are so many people right now who don’t have those same basic freedoms”.

Those sentiments were echoed by many of the students and staff who slept outdoors on Thursday 22 June to raise funds for Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).

College Rector Fr Peter Hosking SJ explained, “The Cage has been going for more than ten years and evolved from the former Winter Sleepout event. Nearly 70 of our Year 12s and several staff participated in The Cage. It was the longest night of the year and unseasonably wet and cold. Our tertian, Fr Michael Ochwo, spoke of the refugee scenario in Africa, including the recent massacre of schoolchildren in his home country of Uganda.

“Old Ignatian Besmellah Rezaee joined in the evening to talk about his lived experience as a refugee. Besmellah is a lawyer who shared about his work in detention centres at Curtin, Darwin, Adelaide, Christmas Island, Yongah Hill and Brisbane. We also heard from Darryl Bullen, Committee Chairperson from St Vincent De Paul Refugee and Asylum Seeker Service. This input on refugee experiences deepens our understanding and enables meaning to surface so our efforts are not tokenism.

The Cage

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Photo: Saint Ignatius' College, Athelstone.

“Over a 24-hour period, students and staff had an opportunity to learn more about the experience of people forced into detention camps. While it is only 24 hours, it is a reminder of what happens to many people every day in our offshore and onshore detention facilities. The Cage and similar experiences remind us that dispossessed and victimised people are at the heart of considerations related to refugees and forced migration.”

Head of Senior School Phil Donato described the sterling efforts by students and staff: “Refugee Week raises awareness of the issues affecting refugees and celebrates the positive contributions refugees make to Australian society. The theme for this year was Finding Freedom, which reminds us of what it means to be free, to live without war, to have basic human rights, and to live in equality and without fear of persecution.

“The Cage took place for 24 hours from lunchtime on Thursday 22 June and Year 12 volunteers spent the night in a ‘cage’, exposed to the elements and away from conveniences of device screens, food, and the like. It is a small reminder of what many refugees and asylum seekers face every day, often for many years.

“During the night, they reflected on personal experiences of refugees fleeing oppression, struggling to find protection, and rebuilding their lives. This uncomfortable and challenging experience helps our students deepen their understanding and connections with the reality of the marginalised in our community.”