Small screen snapshots in land of refuge

Mehdi Jaghuri in Dandenong's Connection Gallery. 154023 Picture: GARY SISSONS


Refugees reveal their challenges, successes and everyday lives in short films with help from AMES.
Dandenong’s Sarmad Rubaye and Berwick resident Mehdi Jaghuri shared their passions, hopes, dreams and journeys in short films for the Heartlands 2016 Arts Project: Stories from Refugee Youth.
The 10 clips, together 23 minutes long, provide an insight into some of the communities that have found a safe haven in Australia in recent years.
Mr Rubaye fled war-torn Iraq with his family when he was 12 years old and took refuge in neighbouring Jordan.
The 25-year-old said his passion for soccer was his saviour.
“I fell in love with the game and I said to myself ‘this is what I’m going to do in life’,” he said.
“Soccer is a game for everyone – the poor people, the rich people, and it’s inspiration for the kids everywhere on earth.”
Mr Rubaye played the sport professionally during his time in Jordan, where he also studied sports science at university.
“The first game as a professional I was shaking, but after that, it’s come to be a great feeling,” he said.
He came to Australia with his family in August last year, is studying English and hopes to make a career out of the round ball game.
“The first coach for me, he’s the best coach ever, and he advised me ‘whatever you do, you have to take the soccer ball with us’,” he laughed.
“So even in bed the soccer ball has to be with us. Sleep with the soccer ball!
“My dream is playing in the big stadiums like AAMI Park.”
Mr Jaghuri’s father arrived in Australia by boat in 1998, the rest of the family following in 2005.
The 23-year-old was 12 then, couldn’t speak English, had gone from candlelight to electricity, and had never seen a bathroom or shower.
Art gave him a voice that transcended language barriers.
Mr Jaghuri is now giving others the same opportunity through Connection Gallery in Dandenong, with classmates and colleagues from Monash University’s art, design and architecture (MADA) faculty.
Other participants hail from Somalia, Burma, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Egypt and Pakistan.
The films feature vastly different stories that are emotionally connected and reveal the communal nature of humanity.
AMES Australia helps more than 40,000 people each year through humanitarian settlement, education, training and employment services for refugees and newly-arrived migrants.
The organisation works with the community, business and government to develop sustainable and effective settlement solutions for everyone involved.
AMES launched Heartlands at Federation Square during Refugee Week, from Sunday 19 to Saturday 25 June.
It will also screen at Footscray Community Arts Centre and Wyndham Art Gallery in Werribee.
Audiences can experience Heartlands at Walker Street Gallery and Arts Centre, corner Walker and Robinson streets, Dandenong, at 11am, noon and 1pm on Monday 25, Tuesday 26 and Thursday 28 July.

Watch Sarmad Rubaye share his story:


Mehdi Jaghuri’s film juxtaposes his daily work life with segments from his video art: