Doorways to the Future

By: Karin Mackay  

According to UNHCR, young refugees under eighteen make up half of all refugees worldwide and about thirty percent of Australian refugee entrants. Dominant narratives often present young refuges as a problem to be managed, dangerous, or ripe for radicalisation. In Australia, there has been an emphasis on funding social cohesion programs for greater integration. Such programs often encourage young refugees to aim for realistic educational and employment goals as high aspirations are deemed as almost impossible. In the year-long Navigating Resettlement Research Project, thirty young refugees were asked about their life aspirations and what they needed to navigate towards them. Using a participatory action research approach, this project designed an educational program around young refugee’s needs that explored their multiple and sometimes conflicting aspirations. The program incorporated three spaces: a study centre with mentoring sessions; Web site design workshops; and an informal space for creative expression. The research found that by giving young people opportunities to voice their hopes and dreams in a safe, supportive, and creative environment, they were able to reimagine possibilities for their future. This paper discusses the Tri-menu model that emerged through this research, which successfully engaged young refugees in authentic dialogue about their life aspirations and informed youth workers about how to better assist them in navigating their futures.

Young refugees, aspirations, informal education, creative expression, employability
2019 Special Focus—Border Crossing Narratives: Learning from the Refugee Experience
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Karin Mackay

Karin Mackay is a working artist and has considerable experience with local youth and women’s community groups using a stories and art approach to create a sense of community and raise awareness of important cultural and ecological issues. Karin founded The Women’s Room Centre for Women’s Wellbeing in The Blue Mountains which curated the popular Earthspirit Festival and women’s art exhibitions for 5 years. Karin now works with The School of Education in the areas of Education for Sustainability, Learning and Creativity and Diversity, Social Justice and Equity.