A letter to our listeners.
Hello, Pia and Adam here.
As the kind of person who is interested in listening to this podcast, we expect it might not have escaped your attention that we are two white, Australian-born people of privilege who have taken it upon themselves to share the stories of a minority group we are not a part of.
It hasn’t escaped our attention either. So we want to introduce ourselves and tell you a little bit about where we are coming from in making this podcast.
We met seven years ago working in refugee resettlement in Brisbane. Pia has a background in psychology and worked in Nauru for two years to December 2016, leading a team providing support to refugees held on the island for ‘offshore processing’. Adam is a social worker by trade and currently works in delivering training and capacity building programs around the world. He is co-founder of Moment of Inertia, a theatre production company that showcases local artists in Brisbane. We have both worked extensively in refugee resettlement in Australia, have strong networks within refugee communities and services nationally and internationally, and have completed Oxford University’s International Summer School in Forced Migration.
As you get nearer to something and see it up close, it becomes more detailed, more nuanced, and takes on a different quality. When we conceived of the idea to make this podcast, our motivation was simple. We felt frustrated with the narrow narrative about refugees and asylum seekers in the public dialogue. People seeking protection in Australia were depicted as queue jumpers or terrorists at worst; or as traumatised victims of war, conflict and cruel Australian government policy at best. We’ve met so many funny, brave, confused, struggling, hopeful, strong, angry, grateful, insightful, vulnerable, generous people in our work. An array of people and stories, with a lot of life behind them. We thought that for those people, their insights and perspectives, to be more broadly understood, could only be a good thing.
But as with any process of learning, we have had to continually check, and re-check ourselves. In the time of the Black Lives Matter movement, and ongoing protests for the rights of refugees held at Kangaroo Point Hotel, a mere kilometre from our houses, we’ve been compelled to examine ourselves. Are we glorifying the trauma of others? Are we adding to a stereotype? Are we representing people in a fair and balanced way? Are we actually just part of the problem? What are our motivations really? And do we even have a right to enter this conversation?
We don’t think there’s a definitive answer to that last question, but we believe there are ways and means to check ourselves. We started from the perspective that the stories shared in this podcast belong to the people who have told them. Our first step was to sit down with each person we interviewed, and find out what they would like to talk about, what was off limits, and what they considered to be ‘their story’: was it even about their ‘refugee’ experience? Or was it something else? After the interviews, we sent each episode to each guest to make sure we had the balance right, that they were comfortable with the representation.
On a less personal, more socio-political level, we reached out to some experts. Dr Aparna Hebbani and Mairead MacKinnon from the University of Queensland’s School of Communication and Arts specialise in refugee resettlement and media representation of minorities, and generously provided their critical feedback on some of our ethical questions. They pointed us in the direction of this powerful article by Syrian activist and PhD candidate, Rifaie Tammas. Rifaie also offered his critical feedback, and for that we couldn’t be more grateful.
Overwhelmingly, the feedback we received was encouraging and supportive. It left us more comfortable to step tentatively forward as allies: to acknowledge our ignorance and the fact that we would likely not get everything right; but with the conviction that we wanted to be ‘in the arena’ (as Teddy Roosevelt put it) and contribute something we believed in.
To our friends, neighbours, and passers-by in the street from refugee backgrounds, we hope this podcast connects with you, and that you feel it is adding something worthwhile to the conversation. To all our other friends and neighbours: we hope you find these stories as moving, fun, and insightful as we did.
Pia and Adam.