Working ethically and responsibly with refugees and asylum seekers

The following information is solely designed to be a guide for individuals and organisations planning an event, function or activity for Refugee Week. It is important that individuals and organisations planning any event which has the active participation of refugees, take account of the good practice measures outlined below.

How will refugees be involved?

You will need to consider how you will involve refugees in your event. You should make very clear the purpose of the refugees’ involvement, the way in which they will be involved, what you or your organisation’s role will be, and practical details of the event (such as dates, times, location, getting there and the contact person/s details). If you are involving speakers or groups with limited English, ensure bilingual workers from your organisation or external qualified interpreters are available to convey the information.

Refugee speakers

If you plan to have some refugee/asylum seekers speakers at your event, as well as the above factors, the following points need to be considered. For further information or advice on getting a speaker for your event, please contact us.

Full Preparation: Consider and discuss with speakers what they will be speaking about – how long, what you want them to cover, who and how many people will be in the audience. A run through beforehand can be very helpful as well as briefing notes to guide them. This will also help determine their confidence and ability to handle public speaking in English.

Reimbursement: Wherever possible, speakers should be paid for their participation. An appropriate amount would be between $50- $100. At the very least speakers should be reimbursed for any travel costs. It is important to make it clear whether or not this is the case from the beginning.

Providing Support: If the person is required to “tell their story” you should consider the potential for re-traumatisation. Discuss with them how happy they are to do this, what possible repercussions there are for them or their extended family (particularly those still overseas), the possibility of press coverage, whether this person has been asked to do similar events previously and how often, and whether there is potential to negatively impact on their visa process. Be sensitive to the fact that, as a worker or advocate for refugees, some refugees may be reluctant to say directly to you that they don’t want to participate. You may detect some reservations even though they say they are willing. If a speaker becomes upset during their presentation, be prepared to intervene and give them the option of whether or not to continue.

Follow Up: Following any event where refugees have spoken, make sure that the speaker receives some feedback, spend some time with them and give them the opportunity to discuss any issues that may have arisen for them. If they are distressed, make sure that they are aware of local support services and/or the state-based torture and trauma service. This follow-up is important to ensure that they have ongoing support if they have been re-traumatised by their involvement in the event. Be sure to give them a call after the event and thank them for their participation.

Media Involvement: If you plan to have press coverage of your event, and refugee speakers are presenting, make sure that they are aware of this and you obtain their consent (preferably in writing) to use photos, names or other details. It is possible to get anonymity agreements with press coverage and this option should be fully discussed with them before obtaining consent. Thoroughly discuss any potential risks related to press exposure beforehand. Speakers should be made aware of the editing process with most newspapers and the fact that the papers usually exercise editorial control on what goes to press. Some local press, however, are happy to show a copy before going to press. Wherever possible, ensure that this option is explored.

Advocacy

If your event involves advocacy for refugees, be sure of any facts presented by speakers. Media enjoys sensational news and the editorial control process may result in a negative media report if any speakers present incorrect material. If your speaker/s are to be interviewed by media, ensure there are ground rules beforehand and stipulate to the journalist the kinds of questions they will not answer. It is always best to have a support person there to intervene if necessary. Remember not all members of the public and media are sympathetic to refugee issues.