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Wen News June


									                                          Thursday 10 June 2010
                                  ‘Gumbaya’ downstairs conference room
 Victoria Zografos               ECCQ House, 253 Boundary Street, West End
 ECCQ Vice Chair                       to tie-in with World Refugee Day
   WEN member                         celebrated on 20 June each year

Apologies from WEN coordinator Irene Cayas who is currently overseas and thanks to ECCQ Vice
Chair and WEN member Victoria Zografos for chairing this meeting.

Victoria Zografos opened the meeting by acknowledging all present at WEN’s June meeting, to tie-in
with World Refugee Day celebrated on 20 June each Year. The global theme for World Refugee
Day in 2010 was ‘Home’. Through the simple statement, “They took my home but they can’t take my
future,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) highlighted the plight of
refugees worldwide and recognised their courage and resilience.
Attendance & Apologies:                                            As per attendance book
Minutes of previous meeting - Thursday 13 May                      As distributed
WEN’s guest speaker was Kaw Hser Tau, a refugee from Burma who spent 10 years at
the Thailand Refugee Camp Ban Don Yang, where she attended school but little else stimulation
especially for a growing child. So that was ten years out of her life and her family's as others spend
in an 'abyss' or worse waiting for placement where they can 'belong'.
Kaw Hser’s story …
“My name is Kaw Hser Paw Hlaing. I came from a small village in Burma and after fleeing Burma, I
entered the Thailand refugee camp, Ban Don Yang. I remained in this camp for 10 years before re-
settling in Australia in July 2006.
Ban Don Yang camp is located in North West Bangkok near Sangklaburi and is a relatively small
camp of 4,000 people. The camp had its own school where the children were taught the regular cur-
riculum, along with Karen, Burmese and basic English. I entered this camp when I was 11 years old
and attended school each day where I received an education level equivalent in Australia to grade
I lived in a one-room bamboo hut with my family - my father, mother and one sister but my extended
family stayed in another refugee camp. There was no running water in the camp, water was carried
from a well or stream to the house. We had no electricity to most of the houses but the central com-
munity buildings did have generators.
Life for me in the camp was hard - I had nowhere to go on school holidays and spent most of my lei-
sure time visiting friends, going to church and playing sport such as volley ball. And also it was hard
to develop skills in the camp because we were not allowed to work and all our food was supplied
from the Border Consortium Committee. The things that we got in the camp were rice, yellow bean,
chilli and fish paste. My family didn’t have enough to buy meats very often so we ate quite a lot of
In the past we lived very well in the community in the villages and we adapted to living in the camp
community very well. Extended families joined together on a regular basis and we had a very good
church community as well. Medical support was limited as was the availability of dentists provided by
ARC (America Refugee Committee). However we did have the River Kwai Hospital close by in Thai-
land in an emergency.
I had little idea of what the outside world was like and what it would be like if I left the camp in Thai-
land to come to another country. In 2005 Australia opened to immigration. So my family and other
families got opportunities to come to Australia in 2006.


Life in Australia is safer and more comfortable but it is very difficult to learn a new language. We
weren’t used to city life and didn’t even know how to use electricity.
Last year I became a citizen and went back to Thailand to visit the Ban Don Yang refugee camp”.

We were also delighted to welcome students from Milpera State High School, together with teacher
Julie Romaniuk.
The students introduced themselves and spoke of their experiences before coming to Australia and
what a delight they were … filling the room with youthful exuberance and although they may have
only been here for a short time, their language skills were very good.
Several ladies in attendance felt inspired by the experiences related by the students and they too
spoke on their own 'journeys' and how and what brought them to Australia and Brisbane.

Sugee Kannangara, Manager of Settlement Services at Inala Community House, spoke very well.
She thanked the students and specifically mentioned that they are now residents and citizens of Aus-
tralia - no longer refugees if that was the initial case. (good point).

Victoria thanked the speaker, and in fact all those who spoke, the various representatives from
whichever group that attended and the students and teacher Julie Romaniuk of Milpera for their
attendance and participation, and all present.

We all ended a pleasant session with refreshments and snacks, and exchanges amongst all present.

                  WEN’S World Refugee Day celebration - June 2010

                          Above left: ECCQ’s Vice Chair Victoria Zografos with
                           Milpera State High School teacher Julie Romaniuk
                                Above right: WEN members and guests

                               Above : Milpera State High School students

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