Refugee Week
Refugee Week Launch Event 1

Refugee Week Launch Event: “On Unity: Refugees, Connection and Community”

This event has already passed. You can watch a livestream playback on The Wheeler Centre’s YouTube channel.

→ Watch Livestream Playback

When: Friday 18 June 2021, 12.30pm-1.30pm

Please note that due to COVID-19 this will now be an online event. This year’s Refugee Week Launch Event is presented in partnership with the Wheeler Centre.

When a group of Syriac refugees from a land-locked city in Iraq took on the task of building a boat in Geelong, the result was much more than beautiful boats – it built bridges between communities.

This is the subject matter of the official launch of Refugee Week 2021 which celebrates this year’s theme of ‘Unity’ with a panel discussion that will be streamed online, exploring the question: what does it take to evolve from ‘welcome’ to ‘unity’ in a community?


Peter Doyle

Peter Doyle is a former global account director in the software industry, who after retiring in Anglesea in 2009 with his wife Desi, decided his decades of experience in high-level business strategy could be put to good use in community projects.  

This included an initiative to build Scottish-style coastal rowing boats with Geelong’s refugee and CALD communities in 2017. His goal was to bring together that city’s many cultures in a way that was highly visible to the broader community and showed the rich resource of skill and experience that refugee and CALD communities bring to Geelong’s commercial and cultural makeup. The result was community ties that continue to endure.  


Mukhles Habash

Mukhles Habash is of Syriac ethnicity and came to Australia from Iraq as a refugee in 2016. A veterinarian back in Iraq, his passion for supporting refugee communities has seen him involved in Geelong’s Multicultural Action Plan Committee, volunteering for the Red Cross and Diversitat, and also finding himself building Scottish-style row boats as part of a refugee and CALD communities project, despite having never built a boat before.    

He lives with his wife, four children and his parents in Geelong, where he heads the local Socio-Cultural Syriac Association. He recently completed his Advanced Diploma of Interpreting and wants to influence positive change in the refugee resettlement system and multiculturalism in Australia.  


Shahad Bahnan

Shahad Bahnan is originally from Bakhdida, a small Assyrian city in northern Iraq. She fled to Amman in Jordan in 2013, when life in Iraq reached a dangerous peak particularly for minority groups, because of extremists.  

Shahad says she was given a second chance by resettling in Australia in June 2016 with her husband Rasen. They now call Geelong home and that’s where they have been highly engaged with the local community, which in 2017 found itself immersed in an ambitious refugee and CALD communities boat building project.    

Shahad works as an accounts payable officer at Deakin University and creates art in her free time as she did back in Iraq.  


Asher Hirsch

Asher Hirsch is a senior policy officer with the Refugee Council of Australia and lecturer at Monash University in public law, human rights, and refugee law.  

His expertise is in research, policy development and advocacy on national and international issues impacting refugee communities. 

Asher will be hosting the panel for this event.


Gordon Koang

A musical performance for the event will be given by Gordon Koang. Gordon is a Neur speaker and musician hailing from the Upper Nile region of what is now South Sudan. Accompanied by his cousin Paul Biel, Gordon performs a blend of traditional Neur rhythms and original compositions in English, Arabic, and his native language, Neur. 

Photo Banner credit: Okay Photo – Michael Rees-Lightfoot.

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