Refugee Week campaign aims for cohesion through conversation

Refugee agency had to pivot as COVID-19 restrictions shut venues, but found virtual events a broader platform to share stories for its annual campaign

Refugee and migrant settlement agency, AMES Australia, is sharing livestreamed conversations and inspiring stories to mark Refugee Week in 2020.

As COVID-19 has forced many physical get togethers to be turned into virtual events, AMES has found this has given it a broader, far reaching platform to promote its message.

“Ordinarily there would have been a whole range of face-to-face events we would have held this week. We had to pivot and think ‘how do we still celebrate refugees and still make sure we're using this time to promote stories of Australians welcoming refugees’,” AMES Australia CEO, Cath Scarth, explained to CMO.

“It's just a great opportunity to embrace the new medium and I don't think we'll go back entirely to the old ways of doing things. The online, livestreaming conversations we've had this week allow us to do something that even non-COVID we probably wouldn't have been able to achieve in the same way."

A conversation situated in a national park could be livestreamed and seen by many more people than could have attended in-person giving them far greater reach than a face-to-face event, Scarth pointed out. 

Refugee Week is an annual event to celebrate the contribution refugees have made, and continue to make, in communities around Australia – enriching our culture and demonstrating how they are integral to the fabric of our society. It is an opportunity to reflect, celebrate and welcome refugees who now call Australia home.

Australia has welcomed over 900,000 refugees since 1947 and continue to welcome, and provide safe haven to, people who have escaped persecution and unimaginable tragedy. Scarth said although the reason Australia accepts refugees is to afford them protection, refugees are making extraordinary contributions to the nation.

“We see everyday in our work welcoming refugees, the resilience and enterprise they bring with them. Many are now community leaders, doctors on the frontline during the COVID-19 or contributing in many other ways,” she commented. “Each refugee who arrives in Australia has a different story and each has taken a different path to get here. To flee, often with nothing more than the clothes on your back and make a new home in Australia, is no easy thing."

The agency, when planning its approach for promoting stories across the media, looks to ‘match’ the story with the channel. “What’s a particular angle that might match a particular outlet,” Scarth continued. “The strategy is to raise awareness and inform people who may not know that much about AMES.

“If it’s a particularly colourful or engaging story, it can play well on TV. For social media, it’s more about attention. We’re looking to be smart about using stories in lots of different ways. Instagram is a more photo-based way of telling stories and Facebook would be a slightly longer story. And LinkedIn will have an emphasis on the career and professional aspect to the refugee story. And radio is always looking for interesting stories and is a good medium for us.”

The choice of ‘conversations’ for the campaign is a deliberate decision to highlight that hearing stories about refugees is a shared experience. Scarth said it was about creating the idea of a two-way process having refugees from very different places with very different experiences converse and share their experiences, which can be revealing and enlightening.

“We want people to learn about the refugee story, but, equally, we want them to learn about us as well. And so we very much try to match people in the organised conversations so that it was free flowing in a conversation that wasn’t scripted,” she said. “There is something powerful about conversations, listening and sharing different perspectives, in a way that's the kind of thing we want people in the broader community to think about and experience.

By learning more about each other, it builds greater respect and greater cohesion.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia

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