News / Arts & Entertainment

Australian Drama Portrays Refugees' Journey

"I Am Here" is being staged at the Queensland Theatre Company in Brisbane, Australia."I Am Here" is being staged at the Queensland Theatre Company in Brisbane, Australia.
"I Am Here" is being staged at the Queensland Theatre Company in Brisbane, Australia.
"I Am Here" is being staged at the Queensland Theatre Company in Brisbane, Australia.
Phil Mercer
"I Am Here" follows the journey of six young refugees as they leave behind troubled lives in Africa and make a fresh start in Australia.  The play is based on true stories and premiered in the Australian city Brisbane.

The play explores the trauma they faced escaping violence as refugees from Rwanda, Congo and Ethiopia, and the stereotyping and discrimination they often endure in their adopted homeland.
One passage details the death of a refugee's mother from poisoning in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The actors wrote the drama as a way of thanking their adopted homeland, and also to express the dismay they feel when they are stereotyped or denied opportunities because they are refugees.
One of the play's stars, Senayt Mebrahtu, says her acting career in Australia has been hampered by her background.

"Whenever I want to audition for something there is a character description which does not fit me," said Mebrahtu.  "I can bleach my hair, put contact lenses in, you know, blue eyes, but nothing else, so it is that we need to move on from being typecast as refugee or just background action as an African people.  We are Australian."
Organizers say the production is aimed at building understanding between refugees and Australians.
The Queensland Theatre Company production is supported by Kerrin Benson, the head of the Multicultural Development Association, which helps refugees when they arrive in Australia.
"It is rare that I have ever met a refugee who hasn't lost a loved one or seen a loved one killed, or experienced some significant torture or trauma," said Benson.  "So that is typical of all of the stories of the people that we work with. It is very rare that people haven't had some kind of culture shock in coming to Australia, and so that is a very typical part of the story.  And the other typical part is how people actually transform from being defined as a refugee to just being defined as an Australian citizen with a refugee background, so all of those bits are typical in the story."    

Australia has resettled about three-quarters of a million refugees since the early 1900s.  Granting sanctuary to those in need has in recent years become a divisive political issue as the government in Canberra tries to stem a steady flow of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jane Monheit Christmas Speciali
December 22, 2014 8:15 PM
Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.

All About America


New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."