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Competition To Build Understanding Of Refugees

MEDIA RELEASE 18 April 2006

National Competition Aims To Build Understanding Of Refugee Experiences.

The Petone Settlers Museum in Lower Hutt is launching a nationwide competition for intermediate and secondary school students. Refugees: Telling Their Stories, invites students to write and submit a short article about refugees’ experiences.

“We are keen to build greater knowledge and understanding of refugee issues amongst students”, says Denise Williams, PSM Director.

Entries can take the form of: 1. An article or story based on an interview with a former refugee. 2. An article or essay on the 2006 theme for World Refugee Day: ‘Hope’ or 3. A personal story by a refugee. This may be done in collaboration.

The competition, is to co-incide with a major new exhibition – Walk with Me, at the museum. “We’re aiming to give people a chance to put themselves in the shoes of a refugee. Visitors will get a graphic sense of the extraordinary challenges and decisions refugees often face”, says Williams. The exhibition will open on World Refugee Day (20 June 2006).

“The Refugees: Telling Their Stories programme has been successfully run in high schools in Australia for three years now and working in association with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, (The UN Refugee Agency) and sponsored by the Department of Labour, we thought it was a great initiative to bring to New Zealand.”

The competition’s three categories encourages a variety of ways to understand the experience of former refugees – through personal conversation, empathising and writing some one else’s story or helping them to write their own or by researching publicly available resources on the lives of refugees and the issues. Entries will be assessed for their descriptive, explanative and persuasive style of writing and capacity to present a compelling story.

The deadlines for entries for the essay competition is the last day of Term Three, 22 September 2006 and the judging panel will include Mr Neill Wright, UNHCR Regional Representative for Australia, New Zealand and the S. Pacific, Judi Altinkaya, Director Settlement Division, Department of Labour and the museum’s Director Denise Williams.

The museum is hoping publish the winning entries and to incorporate them in its exhibition which will run through to 19 November.

For full competition details and registration forms see the Petone Settlers Museum’s website

Background information

Some facts about refugees: (source UNHCR, UNICEF, New Zealand Herald and RMS Refugee Resettlement Services New Zealand)

At the start of 2005, the number of people worldwide ‘of concern’ to the UNHCR numbered 19.2 million. 60-70% of these are children. New Zealand is one of the nine countries who host the bulk of refugees annually resettled in new countries. Between 1980 and 2002 New Zealand took in 16, 556 refugees as part of the quota system. The top five source countries for quota refugees to New Zealand in recent years has been Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Burma/Myanmar. The average number of refugees entering the country annually is 1050, including 300 people under family reunification

See also for more background information on refugees, World Refugee Day and real life stories.


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