Sophie Weldon
UNHCR Special Youth Representative for Australia, 2008.
© UNHCR/ S.Hopper



Your role as an individual will be different depending on whether or not you are in contact with people from refugee backgrounds.

Some examples of people who have made a difference to refugee lives include:

David Corlette - Writer/ researcher

David has worked with refugees and asylum seekers for many years as a caseworker, researcher and academic. In 2011 and 2012 he hosted the controversial and highly acclaimed documentary series Go Back To Where You Came From (SBS Australia).

In 2003, he completed a doctoral thesis on Australia's response to asylum seekers. He has authored two books, Following Them Home: The Fate of the Returned Asylum Seekers and Stormy Weather: The challenge of climate change and displacement.

His writing has also appeared in the UNSW Law Journal, The Monthly, The Age and the Canberra Times.

Anne Bunde-Birouste - Founding Director and CEO, Football United ©

Anne Bunde-Birouste founded the Football United program through the University of NSW, using the world game (football or soccer) to help refugee children integrate into Australian society, thereby offering them a passport to a brighter future.

Catherine Maguire - Donvito & Ruth Hartcher-O'Brien - Founding Directors, Treehouse Theatre

Catherine Maguire-Donvito became the School Counsellor at Evans Intensive English Centre (IEC) after working on a Refugee Resettlement Project with the NSW Department of Education and Communities. Ruth Hartcher-O'Brien has taught English as a Second Language (ESL) at Miller IEC for over twenty years.

The two began working together in 2005 at Miller IEC during the production of dramatic performances, Lifelines and Heartlines. Both had come from creative and performing arts backgrounds, and both realized that drama was incredibly effective for trauma recovery, particularly among students from refugee backgrounds.

The Tree of Life performing group was established in 2010 and incorporated as Treehouse Theatre Inc. in January 2011 as a permanent framework for sharing and performing the true-life stories of survivors of trauma.

Dramatic performances provide assistance in the trauma recovery and resettlement of young refugees, whilst simultaneously educating the public (especially other students) about the plight of refugees.

Dorothy Hoddinott - Principal, Holroyd High School and Founder, Friends of Zainab Scholarship

Dorothy Hoddinott founded the Friends of Zainab scholarship fund after finding that one of the refugee students at Holroyd High was no longer eligible for government funding to complete school once she turned 18. Dorothy established a trust fund in the school accounts to contribute towards Zainab's uniform and textbooks. The Scholarship Fund has since been extended to other students in the same situation.

Other inspirational individuals


If you have refugee students at your school, you could try the following:

  • offer to show new students around the school
  • help refugee students to feel welcome by talking to them
  • include new students in your group of friends/ sports/ social events
  • ask them to sit with you in class or at lunchtime
  • listen to what new students have to say.

If you do not have refugee students at your school, you could:

  • talk to your own friends about the issues you have learnt about
  • learn more about the cultural backgrounds of refugee communities and families in Australia
  • start letter writing as form of advocacy. Amnesty International regularly conducts letter-writing campaigns and petitions in support of issues affecting refugees. For examples of letter styles refer to Get Up!
  • learn more about refugee settlement programs at Roads to Refuge ยป Refugees in Australia
  • encourage your school to set up a Cultural Exchange program with a school or an Intensive English Centre that does have refugee students.