Campfire storytelling brings the community closer

Sitting around a flickering bush campfire telling yarns can bridge culture and generations.

Many first Australians recount their history to the next generation while using the soothing and entrancing beacon that campfires emit.

The recent multi-arts program Emerge capalitalised on the ability of a campfire to draw out stories from participants.

Emerge focused on the growing refugee population and multiculturalism which is thriving in the Yarra community.

The event, which finished earlier this month, was organised by Multicultural Arts Victoria, Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (ECCV) and Welcome to Australia.

Emerge’s Campfire Stories: Arise was an immersive experience featuring four storytellers who have experienced the hardships of being a refugee or migrant.

An objective of Campfire Stories was to use the power of storytelling to provide community education to those less aware of refugees and people seeking asylum and to create empathy and understanding towards Australia’s multicultural community.

The event was held in Fitzroy Town Hall where the building’s reading room was transformed into a cosy campfire circle. There was a marshmallow on every seat and the night was accompanied by chai.

Chairs were gathered around a projected campfire with crackling sound effects in the background as speakers told their stories, creating an immersive and welcoming ambiance.

Participants were encouraged to move in close as the storytelling began.

Abdi Aden, refugee and author of Shining: The Story of a Lucky Man, spoke about the lack of understanding the wider community has about the struggles of refugees and migrants.

He cited the community’s often negative assumptions about refugees as being based on fear.

An event organiser, Elizabeth Young, the Victorian manager of Welcome to Australia, agreed with the importance of community education on refugees and migrants.

The Fitzroy town hall proudly welcoming refugees and asylum seekers. Photo: April Shepherd

“Everything we (Welcome to Australia) do is through an educative lense … we are always role modelling good behavior.

“So, for example, we say ‘seeking asylum’ instead of ‘asylum seekers’ to show that people come first.

“We really try to show that we’re all people and that everyone is welcome. ‘We’re all people and we’re all equal’ that’s one of our slogans,” Ms Young said.

Ms Young believes that programs, such as Campfire Stories: Arise, help educate the community. “They’re part of what Welcome to Australia does.

“Nationally we try to cultivate a culture of welcome in our communities.”

The event was inclusive with organisers providing a safe place for stories to be told.

Stories left the audience in tears and others smiling at the lived experience of migrating, surviving and the journey many have made to the present.

The night concluded with audience members sharing their own stories of struggling to fit into a new environment.

Written by April Shepherd

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