by Kim Shaddick
DVDs of the 2017 Australian documentary The Staging Post have been distributed to 30 high schools in the Hawkesbury, Nepean, Blue Mountains and Lithgow areas.
The film was purchased by the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group using money donated by the Nancy Shelley Bequest Fund and the Blue Mountains Quakers. The Staging Post follows a small group of Afghan Hazara refugees stranded in Cisarua, Indonesia, since Australia instigated boat turn backs under Operation Sovereign Borders in 2013. Cisarua, a village just south of Jakarta, is knows as the staging post for boats embarking for Christmas Island in Australia. The Staging Post was directed by Australian documentary filmmaker, Jolyon Hoff and filmed by 17-year old Afghan Hazara refugee, Khadim Dai. When Hoff first met the refugees in Cisarua he found a group of photographers, musicians, artists, teachers and families living in limbo with minimal support. The Staging Post tells the story of these refugees, the community and friendships they built and the schools they started. The film shows how refugees and asylum seekers in Cisarua developed education in Indonesia, to the point that there are now over 100 volunteer teachers educating 1500 students at 10 refugee led schools. Around 14 000 refugees and asylum seekers are stranded in Indonesia waiting for their refugee status to be recognised, which would allow them to resettle in another country. This process can take up ten years and during this time refugees are denied the right to employment and education in Indonesia with very limited access to financial and social support services. Most of the refugees in Indonesia are Afghan Hazaras. This education aspect of the film means that Guy Power from the BMRSG sees the film ‘as a great opportunity to involved schools and young people in the broad issues surrounding refugees’. ‘The response from schools has been heartening’ he said. Deputy Chairperson for BMRSG Kathie Herbert called the Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre ‘an inspiration’ and hopes that ‘in donating the film to schools it will give students a better understanding of the lives of refugees and the benefits of a more compassionate, inclusive society’. Jolyon Hoff and Muzafar Ali, a refugee featured in the film, will travel to the Blue Mountains as guests of the BMRSG in refugee week (June 16 to Jume 22) and will be talking at some of the schools that received DVDs.
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