In their own words

Stories shared by people with a refugee background explain how displacement isn't just a matter of being out-of-place. It's also about a dislocation from every day occupations, life roles that shape our place within our community.

Here we want to highlight people's original insights, in their own words in the spirit of this following quote:

You and I...we meet as strangers, each carrying a mystery within us.

I cannot say who you are: I may never know you completely.

But I trust that you are a person in your own right, possessed of a beauty and value that are the earth's richest treasures. 

So I make this promise to you: I will impose no identities upon you, but will invite you to become yourself without shame or fear.

I will hold open a space for you in the world and defend your right to fill it with an authentic vocation.

For as long as your search takes, you have my loyalty. 

~ Theodore Roszak (1979) A Person Planet: The Creative Disintegration of Industrial Society.

These are ways the network can value people's stories

  • We read stories people have put into the public domain and listen to occupational implications of displacement
  • We invite people with displacement experiences to speak and share stories with us
  • We participate in ways that help stories about the occupational nature of displacement be recorded and heard
  • We document what we learn in discussion together with people with displacement background.
  • We partner with grassroots organisations run by displaced people for their interests 

A very first step might just be to read a novel, and highlight quotes from displaced people about thier every-day occupation, changes in life roles, and community participation. Share with us. Reading list ideas from Refugee Council UK, Refugee Council Australia, or Office of Refugee Resettlement USA. People with lived experience of resettlement can record and share stories once a member of the Worldwide Community of Resettled Refugees

What did you see

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored" ~ Aldous Huxley

Metaphorss, by Hassan Sabbach. A personal account of displacement.

For how much longer do I have to be a stranger?
I have no home,
I am tired of movement,
From area to area,
From excile to excile,
I came here to ask for a haven,
To secure my family,
To keep them from more tragedy,
I was ambushed,
Now who is going to rescue me?
My wife and children,
My chicks and their mother,
Lost in the dark hall.
I am 58,
My shoulders are getting very heavy,
Injustice comes from those in power,
I expected them to be honest and to protect,
But instead they are just the same as the others,
I told them my shirt is white,
I am innocent,
I wasn’t suspicious
I have not been unjust
I will never be that way,
It is my turn in the orbit,
Three and half years on the wheel
So who is responsible?
Now I am coming to the end of the line.
I am asking the creator of Moses to forgive me
And not to forget me,
The God who sent Jesus,
I am asking him to look after me,
Inspire in me the patience to go on. 

Keneally, T., Scott, R. (2007) Another Country; Writers in Detention. Halstead Press: Sydney.


D. Nguyen's account highlights an intentional use of occupation

"The woman gave the little girl some condensend milk from a can, then put the can aside and fell asleep holding her child. I could not take my eyes off the can of milk. I'd had nothing to eat for a couple of days, but I tried to fight my hunger. In the end it got the better of me: I gave in and took a big sip of milk from the can. Once I had a little bit of energy in my, I fully realised what I had done. I felt so ashamed: this woman had been kind to me and I stole milk from her little child. I left the tend quietly, disgusted with myself. 

I decided that I could take any job, do anything anyone asked so I would not have to steal or beg for food. I cut down trees and built huts: I fetched drinking water from the forest; I carried supplies from the ship to the warehouse; I helped build a public toilet, a helicopter pad, a jetty. . .And I burried dead bodies. At first, bodies were burried near the creek upstream from where we all drank - in shallow graves because we lacked tools. Eventually it became gruesomely evident that this had not been a wise decision, and it was necessary to move the graves. No one was willing to do it, so I took the job.

In such ways, I survived the expereience of refugee camps, and eventually I was accepted for resettlement in Australia." (D. Nguyen, pg39)

Hoang, C. (Ed) (2010) Boat People; Personal Stories from the Vietnamese Exodus 1975-1996. Carina Hoang Communications: Western Australia

Account of occupational deprivation in detention

De Crespigmy, R. (2012) The People Smuggler; The True Story of Ali Al Jenabi. Penguin: Australia.

“This is more terrible than jail. Criminals know exactly how long they are in for, they can count the days, but these people committed no crime and there is no limit to how long they will be locked up. They have come from backgrounds of persecution, torture and unimaginable trauma; they are separated from their families and are emasculated by not being able to help themselves. The only support that is on offer is antidepressants and sedatives” (page 327).
“With nothing to do during the day many of us spend our nights awake, staring into the dark, trying to hold at bay, memories too frightful to relive. Or we play cards hand after hand, smoking cigarettes until our heads ache and the sky turns red and another day beings. Then there is nothing to do and nowhere to go. And even if there was, we have lost the will” (page 328).
“There is nothing to fight against and the boredom is insufferable; they kill you not by torture or execution, but by hopelessness and despair” (page 347).

We Refugees

A poem by Benjamin Zephaniah.

I come from a musical place
Where they shoot me for my song
And my brother has been tortured
By my brother in my my land.
I come from a beautiful place
Where they hate my shade of skin
They don't like the way I pray
And they ban free poetry. 

I come from a beautiful place
Where girls cannot go to school
There you are told what to believe
And even young boys must grow beards. 

I come from a great old forest
I think it is now a field
And the people I once knew
Are not there now. 

We can all be refugees
Nobody is safe,
All it takes is a mad leader
Or no rain to bring forth food,
We can all be refugees
We can all be told to go,
We can be hated by someone
For being someone. 

I come from a beautiful place
Where the valley floods each year
And each year the hurricane tells us
That we must keep moving on. 

I come from an ancient place
All my family were born there
And I would like to go there
But I really want to live. 

I come from a sunny, sandy place
Where tourists go to darken skin
And dealers like to sell guns there
I just can't tell you what's the price. 

I am told I have no country now
I am told I am a lie
I am told that modern history books
May forget my name. 

We can all be refugees
Sometimes it only takes a day,
Sometimes it only takes a handshake
Or a paper that is signed.
We all came from refugees
Nobody simply just appeared,
Nobody's here without a struggle,
And why should we live in fear
Of the weather or the troubles?
We all came here from somewhere.


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