On a cold and rainy morning in Lilyfield, I sat down in a local cafe to chat to the inspiring Dulce (and her adorable daughter) about the amazing non-profit and activist organisation Mums 4 Refugees. Mums 4 Refugees is an organisation of mothers of all social and cultural backgrounds that aims to advocate for refugees in detention. The organisation has a multitude of aims and achievements, but most notably they encourage compassion, kindness and an openness to accept difference and devote your time to helping others. They provide practical assistance to those in detention and re-settling in the community through donation, aid and providing critical supplies to families on Nauru and Manus.
I was privileged enough to get to sit down with Dulce and discuss the ethos behind the organisation, and the ways in which people can get involved to help. We discussed the economic benefits of refugees, attitudes in society, and overall, the importance of compassion. Without further ado, the interview is attached in full below:
Can you explain briefly what Mum’s 4 Refugees does (as an organisation)?
So basically, we are a grassroots organisation made up of women from all backgrounds with a majority being citizens of Australia. We do advocacy (that means we work with refugees), we do visitations to detention centres, we do aid-dropping and we also bring support via play-groups and mum-visits. We do rallies and other political activism, and also support larger organisations, and we are a big advocate for media: we had a beautiful video made by some students from UTS, which just won a human rights award. It was made with us, so we provided the material and script, and they turned it into this amazing animation. So that’s basically what we do!
Why do you feel it’s important for refugees (particularly children) to be removed from detention facilities and resettled in Australia?
It’s basic human rights. I don’t think there’s ever been a successful argument that it’s good to have children locked up, and deprived of their human rights just to make a policy work. Another thing is that 98% of people in Nauru and Manus are actually refugees, so they’re trying to come here and be re-settled, and we want them to bring young independent confident boys and children here- and this is not the way to do this. There is a big gap of resentment that we are creating in those younger generations.
I think the stigma surrounding refugees is one of the biggest problems, and also politicians have been very successful in making this problem about politics and economics, when it’s not about this for Australia; it’s a humanitarian problem and we have to start looking at it that way. We are wasting tax payer money just to put a halt to these people living their lives without even noticing how important they are for our economy. That’s one of our main principles- we want to give refugees all the opportunities we possibly can so they can help build up Australia with us.
What first struck me about Mum’s 4 Refugees was how amazingly empathetic and warm your organisation is. You use your experiences as mothers and caregivers to lend your voices to those who have had theirs taken away from them. What is the hardest thing about knowing there are children in detention centres?
I think the frustration that we encounter day by day regarding this is really hard. And if you talk to case-workers or advocates you will find the same thing. For me it’s either a good day or a bad day, if I’m in charge of drop-offs and collection points and it’s an awful day in the news and something horrible has happened and we have calls from Nauru, and then I’ll open the door and there are beautiful things given to us from the community. And we have amazing stories linking real Australians, blue collar Australians to refugees. So for me, the main frustration is knowing that someone with the emotional and educational needs of my child is locked up.
What sort of protests do Mum’s 4 Refugees get involved in? And how can the public help your organisation?
Okay so, we are always asking for help! This is a mums for refugees organisation but this is also a friends of mums for refugees organisation. We are just a bridge between both of them, so we do rallies with Get Up and other organisations, we do playground sit-ins in politician’s offices (which are really fun to do!), but I think the main thing is, we want for people to get involved by listening to us. We want them to invite us to the RSL’s, and the schools so we can chat with them and we can share the message, and we can find a way to work together. So please like us on Facebook and Twitter, and follow us!
And if you can, just post a selfie with the message #BringThemHere, and we want to build that momentum. I think we are creating a positive and humane chat about refugees, it’s not just all the sad stories. I think people in Australia get very confused with the refugee situation in Europe and get overwhelmed with these images of people flooding the streets. So we want to make very sure that people have the right facts, and to make a choice made on correct information and values.
How do you feel having refugees welcomed into the community can help a city to flourish and develop?
That’s a very interesting question. We do have a lot of backlash with people who say they’re going to take our money & jobs, or abuse Centrelink but I think it’s not about seeing them as a burden we have to carry, it’s taking advantage of that.
There are amazing stories of success with refugees, for example this woman that made a bathing suit company out of Villawood and this man who came from the Congo, who is now a policeman in Victoria. So I think differences make us stronger, and it makes us see each other more humanely, and it also brings economic influences and business, I think it will be great.
- Don’t forget to check out Mums 4 Refugees via Facebook , Twitter, Youtube and of course, on their website!
At the end of our meeting, Dulce gifted me this beautiful #BringThemHere badge that I have been wearing with pride, which not only coordinates with all of my clothes, but also shows the general public that I care about helping refugees and promoting kindness.