So it’s on. Another election ‘coming soon’ to Australia, and once again refugees are on the front pages. In the last week, nearly every Australian TV, radio and television network has visited Indonesia looking for a story. To their surprise, they found something that didn’t fit their pre-conceived narrative. Instead of depressed and isolated refugees, they found a strong, connected and educated community. Instead of refugees pooling at the borders, they found a community determined to wait for an official chance to resettle. To get to this point it took five years of hard work by the refugee community in Indonesia, but when I read the media’s stories, it was my turn to be surprised. In an effort to find something, anything, that suited their Australian-centric narrative, the Australian media had looked straight past the many remarkable and unprecedented refugee-led initiatives in Indonesia.
In 2013, when Australia reinstated its offshore detention policy, around 15,000 refugees were stuck in Indonesia. I was living in Jakarta and decided to find out more. I wanted to know who they were, where they came from, and what they were going to do now? What I found was desperate people. With no way forward or back, their mental, financial and social stress was acute. They were isolated and didn't even know each other. One refugee would not look at another when they crossed the street and smugglers had spread many rumours and untruths. The refugees thought that Indonesians carried knives under their clothes and would slit their throats at night.
It was a dark time, but when a small group of refugees started a learning centre, it represented a glimmer of hope and they flocked to the school. That school is called the Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre (CRLC) and it has inspired a refugee-led education revolution in Indonesia. CRLC has 20 volunteer refugee teachers and nearly 300 students. The older women and men, many illiterate even in their own language, come in the afternoon to learn English. The school provides much more than education. It is the space around which a community has formed. For children whose parents lost their childhoods to war, it is a safe place for them to enjoy their own childhoods. For parents, it represents everything they hoped for their children when they left their home countries. For the teachers, it a place to contribute, away from the nightmares and worries that they carry inside them. It has also become a space for the refugees to educate and connect with Australians. There are over 100 visitors to the Centre every year. Some stay for months and the CRLC community has built thousands of friendships around the world.
Other refugees heard about CRLC and started their own schools. There are now over 10 refugee-led schools and around 1,500 refugees receiving education in Indonesia. Other initiatives include: karate classes, handicrafts groups, scrabble and chess competitions, football tournaments and more. If the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) wants to share information with refugees, then the schools provide a space for them. The managers of the various schools get together each month to discuss issues. Over five years this has created a strong community, which our media looked straight past when they visited Indonesia.
The difficulties still remain. There is no possibility for resettlement in Indonesia, creating the constant mental pressure of never knowing if, or when, you will be resettled. They cannot work in Indonesia and their financial situation is dire. They survive with support from family and friends overseas. In the past five years the Australian Government has reduced the number of refugees it takes from Indonesia from 900 to under 50. In a particularly nasty twist, the UNHCR has been told that any refugee whose family arrived in Australia by boat, will never be resettled in Australia. The UNHCR recently visited the CRLC to tell the community that they should expect to be stuck for up to 25 years.
The Australian media has already moved on. Dodgy government contracts in Papua New Guinea are the story this week. The refugee community in Indonesia has helped us to remove a stain from our history and we owe them a debt of gratitude for making this a ‘non-story’. It won’t take much to thank them, we just need to accompanying them, be their friend and let them know that they are not forgotten. One day, Australia might introduce a refugee sponsorship policy, like Canada, and we can invite them in that way. Perhaps the Government will decide to increase resettlement spaces from Indonesia again. In the meantime, they are in the middle of a very long journey and there is plenty we can do.
Jolyon Hoff is the director of feature documentary The Staging Post. It follows the story of a small group of refugees who started a school and inspired a refugee-led education revolution in Indonesia. He is also the Project Director at Cisarua Learning, an Australian charity which supports refugee initiatives in Indonesia.
Tue, Oct 23, 2018 10:30AM at the Aga Khan Museum. As part of Hotdocs, Docs For Schools Program. More info here. The remarkable ex-manager of the CRLC, Tahira Razai will be there in person for a Q&A. Find out how the CRLC helped her resettle successfully in Canada.
As part of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network conference. 6:30PM Wed, Oct 24th at SEA Junction, Bangkok. Jolyon will be there in person for the Q&A.
We were also pleased to hear that The Staging Post screened at the FILM///gespräch@grätzgaleriein Austria recently. Photos below.
We love to hear from you anytime, email@example.com. We are always willing to hold school, community and fundraising screenings.
The Staging Post is screening as part of Documentary Australia Foundation’s, DOCSOCIAL initiative. At EVENT and Village cinemas in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide this November. This is just about the last chance to see the film on the big screen in Australia. DON’T MISS OUT. Tickets available below - special discounted price -
Sydney EVENT Cinemas, Bondi Junction, 6.30pm | BrisbaneVEVENT Cinemas, 6.30pm | Adelaide EVENT Cinemas, 6.30pm
Village Cinemas, Jam Factory South Yarra, 6.30pm
The refugee-led education revolution in Indonesia.
There are many wounds in the refugee community: lost parents, brothers, sisters, dreams and childhood’s abound. There is also a wound, strongly felt in the Australian community, around Australia’s refugee offshore detention policy. Grandmother’s for Refugees, Mums for Refugees, Rural Australian’s for Refugees are all refugee advocacy groups tens of thousands strong who, in an attempt to change Australia’s refugee policy, have spent years placarding, protesting and letter writing. It is a policy which has caused terrible suffering to some of the most vulnerable people on this Earth.
Most Australians have accepted ‘the policy’ as a necessary evil, but almost none are pleased about it and refugee policy is still an everyday major issue in newspapers, on TV and radio, and in politics. I believe this is because we feel the pain deeply. It is a wound against our Australian ideals of a fair go, a stain on our lucky country, and it challenges our belief that we value human rights more than most others. Our immigration ministers say that no-one wants to lock people up in offshore detention – but they are. So refugee policy remains on the Australian political agenda, and the advocates continue to placard and write letters.
There are wounds on both sides. Those felt by the refugees escaping war and instability and those felt by the quietly, and not-so quietly, horrified Australian public. But there is a light entering those wounds, and it is led by the refugees. A borderless community is being created, and it is helping to heal those wounds.
After Australia ‘stopped the boats’, about 15,000 refugees were stuck in Indonesia. Some were planning to take a boat to Christmas Island, while others planned to wait it out in the years-long UNHCR queue. However, with the new Australian policy, they found themselves stuck. UNHCR resettlement spots dwindled and, if the end result was detention on a remote island, the 50/50 risk presented by the boats wasn’t worth it.
A small group of refugees decided to take matters into their own hands and started their own school for refugees. One refugee, Muzafar Ali, had worked for the UN in Afghanistan helping to provide education for prisoners. He knew that if prisoners could have an education, so could the refugees. It was a human right and nobody could stop them. The first school was humble: two small rooms, a few books, and a few under-qualified volunteer refugee teachers. They started anyway and the school was an instant hit. There were 50 students on the waiting list within a week. Australian’s living in Jakarta (I was one of them) quickly became aware of the school and rallied to help rent a bigger space, the Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre (CRLC) was born.
The CRLC became a magnet for Australians bypassing their government’s policies. Every year between 200 to 300 Australians make the trip to Cisarua, about two hours outside of Jakarta, to meet the refugees. They reach out to connect with, and support, the refugees’ initiative. At the same time they are healing the wound they feel on Australia’s soul. They play football together, become interns and teachers, and have meals together. Some stay up to six months and live with the refugees. All the while they learn from, and about, refugees. They meet people dedicated to education, people who just want a safe place to contribute, and they make life-long friends. When they return, they carry this knowledge back to Australia.
In August 2018, the school celebrated its fourth anniversary. Many refugee kids went to school for the first time at the CRLC. The volunteer teachers received training from the New South Wales Teacher’s Federation, University of Technology in Sydney, Australian Education Union, Australian Intercultural School in Jakarta, and many others. The education levels are now comparable to any average Australian primary school. The wound is still there, but connection, community and education is bringing some light, and helping to sustain hope. Other refugees in Indonesia have watched the success of the CRLC and have started similar schools. As of August 2018, there are 14 refugee-led education centres, teaching over 1,500 refugees and managed by around 100 volunteer refugee teachers.
The refugee-led schools in Indonesia offer us, as Australians, an opportunity for learning, connection and friendship. While we continue to advocate for those stuck on Manus and Nauru, the refugees in Indonesia have presented us with an opportunity to show our government how we, the Australian People, believe we should act towards others in need.
I recently spent two weeks at the CRLC and was lucky enough to catch their 4th year anniversary performance.
It was an exciting day and, even though the performance was not until 3pm, the kids started arriving early in the morning to help prepare. The performance included traditional Afghan and Hazara dances and costumes, and Hazarghi songs about women in Afghanistan. In an reflection of their ‘in-between’ status they also performed ‘robot dances’, girls danced and sang along to American pop songs and there were ‘beatbox-ing’ demonstrations! One impressive mother, who could barely speak English 18 months ago, stood up and made a speech about human rights which she had written herself.
As I was filming I spent a lot of time thinking about the two small rooms where the refugee women started teaching 4 years ago. How little they knew, and the small pile of writing books and pens they had that first week. And the joy when Lucy Hamilton came with 50 kgs of books.
It’s hard to describe how far they have come in words. The images and video below capture it best. Make sure you click through to see all the photos.
Unfortunately the situation in Afghanistan is continuing to deteriorate with the Taliban nearly taking over Ghazni City two weeks ago (where many of our students and teachers come from) and also 48 Hazara students being killed while taking exams in Kabul. The symbolism of Hazara children being killed trying to get an education was a stark reminder for me, and the community, on why they have taken such a difficult journey with its unknown future.
Before the celebrations there was a one minute silence, and that evening a candlelight vigil was held on the school grounds.
Thank you, as always, for all your support for this special, special initiative.
CRLC 4th Anniversary.In memory of those who lost their lives in Ghazni and Kabul
On all sides of the world the stars of The Staging Post are raising the voices of refugees. In Santa Fe, Khadim Dai presented The Staging Post to a small but sold out screening at the (sorry to those turned away). In Adelaide this evening, Muzafar Ali opens an exhibition of his photos in Ginger's Coffee Studio on Goodwood Road. And I know Tahira Razai is working on a number of fronts in Toronto too....so stay tuned for some upcoming news from there. Congratulations to them all!
We have had the most incredible time screening The Staging Post around Australia. What a journey and what beautiful people and communities we met. We're now back with our families and taking a rest. Khadim is with his sister and brother, and his cousins who he hasn't seen since he was leading them astray in Quetta 12 years ago! And what bright girls they are, one is studying at university and the other is doing her VCE this year.
There's five days left for our fundraiser. Please share our fundraising video widely and if you can make a regular monthly donation you can find out more about our charity and do that here. All donations are tax-deductible.
Below are a selection of Muzafar's photos from the trip.
Muzafar, Khadim and I are nearing the end of our epic Refugee Week 2018 Staging Post Screening Tour. We have had the most incredible time traveling to Bega, Bairnsdale, Ballarat, Bedigo, Armidale, Warrawong and more. We have been energised and enthused by the warmth and love we have received. As an Australian, I am especially encouraged. We are sure that the #CRLCFamily has grown in the past two weeks.
Now it is the time to ask you to support our charity, Cisarua Learning. Please help us become a viable and long-term charity through our Chuffed fundraising campaign. We are a fully registered Public Benevolent Institution and all donations are tax deductible.
Please be generous as we have a lot of work to do in Indonesia. The UNHCR has told the refugees they will be there up to 25 years and we are determined to accompany the refugees for as long as they need, and to continue the support the incredible successes they have had so far.
Beow are some photos from the tour so far and also a fundraising video made by a trio of tired, dusty and croaky filmmakers.
Thanks to all our supporters, big and small, near and far. We love you and thanks for being a part of our journey so far. Please share this video as widely as you can!
This is just the beginning.
Jolyon, Muzafar and Khadim
Not by boat by plane. Mr California AKA Khadim Dai is on his way to Australia for The Staging Post's Refugee week 2018 screening tour! See you all at the screenings.
Make sure you get your tickets early. Some screenings are filling up already. You have been warned. :) thestagingpost.com.au for more
We are very excited to announce the latest list of screening dates for The Staging Post. More to be added soon.
Muzafar and I will be traveling around the country and attending many of these screenings and we're looking forward to meeting old friends and making new ones. If we can't get there, the screenings will be presented by friends of Cisarua Learning, and we'll try to arrange Skype connections with the refugees in Indonesia.
There are many school screenings happening too. If you would like to hold a screening at your school please let us know. We'd love to make it happen and, time permitting, will try to arrange a Skype hookup with the students at the Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre in Indonesia.
A huge thanks to all the sponsoring and supporting groups, especially Rural Australians for Refugees and Settlement Services International who are supporting multiple screenings around the country.
If you know anyone in these towns and cities, please let them know.
Refugee Week 2018 Screenings June 16th - 30th
- Sat 16th, Maleny RSL 5pm (more info)
- Sun 17th, Adelaide Box Factory, Adelaide City Council. 6pm (Tickets)
- Mon 18th, Pivotonian Cinema, Geelong, Avail soon.
- Mon 18th, New Empire Cinema, Bowral. 7pm (Tickets)
- Tues 19th, Brunswick Picture House, Brunswick Heads (Tickets)
- Tues 19th, Gala Cinema, Warrawong (Tickets)
- Wed 20th, Belgrave Cinema, Armidale. Avail soon.
- Wed 20th, Shirley Bourke Theatre, Parkdale. (Tickets)
- Thurs 21st, Maritime Museum, Sydney. Avail soon.
- Fri 22nd, Lumen Christi, Pambula. 11.30am.
- Senior citizens welcome. RSVP @ school by 19th June 64958888
- Fri 22nd, Bega funhouse, Bega Valley. 6pm. Tickets at door.
- Sat 23rd, Cairns Esplanade, Cairns. 6:30pm. Free screening.
- Sat 23rd, Regent Cinema, Ballarat 4:30pm. Avail soon.
- Sat 23rd, Kerang, Nthn District Community Health, Kerang. 7:30pm. (more info)
- Sun 24th, Sun Cinema, Bairnsdale. 7pm. (Tickets)
- Mon 25th, Tambo Upper Primary. School
- Tues 26th, Nagle College, School.
- Wed 27th, State Theatre, Hobart 6:15pm. Tickets
- Thurs 28th, Armchair Cinema, Mansfield. 5pm. Avail soon
- Fri 29th, Catholic College, Ararat. (more info)
- Sat 30th, Star Cinema, Bendigo. 3:30pm (Tickets)
Join Adelaide, Bowral, Cairns, Parkdale, Warrawong, Townsville, Brunswick Heads, Armidale, Warwick, Sydney, Bega, Ballarat, Bairnsdale, Mansfield, Bendigo and many others!
If you think your community group, cinema or school might like to screen the film during Refugee Week please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All screening fees are negotiable during Refugee Week 2018 and we provide posters and press releases. We want everyone to see the film and connect with the refugees in Indonesia.
Find out what happened when 17 y.o. refugee, Khadim Dai, started filming on his mobile phone and started a refugee-led education revolution in Indonesia.
A truly moving piece of cinema. Nick Valentine
Uplifting and truly unforgettable. Philippa Byers
Full of wisdom and humour. Eileen O'Brien
Inspiring and moving. A must see for every Australian. Kathy King
About Refugee Week
Refugee Week is the flagship events of the Refugee Council of Australia and will be supported by a national public relations campaign that reaches an audience of 4.3 million Australians through TV, press, radio and online editorial.
Want to be a part of our community supported national cinema release during Refugee Week 2018? You can raise money for your community group and help bring the Australian and Refugee communities together by screening The Staging Post at your local cinema.
We do the arrangements and you bring the crowd. Contact Jolyon on email@example.com or read the brochure below for more information.
Four years ago the refugees in Indonesia had an idea to start their own school, and the positive effects of this decision are still rippling out around the world.
We are continuing to film their story in Episode 2. If you could help with a tax-deductible donation please go to Documentary Australia Foundation - http://bit.ly/2FJcRjX
Maybe you want to get a group together and sponsor a scene in the film? We need to send Khadim to meet Tahira and family. That is going to be special. We also have to find out how stand-out CRLC students, Amir and Matin, are doing in Novia Scotia, and I am heading to Indonesia to catch up with the refugees there. Each scene costs about 2-3 thousand dollars to film, and every donation helps us to keep moving forward. Little by little.
Attached are still images from Khadim's last trip to Austin, Texas, to find out how Fery and Fatima are doing. Can't wait to share that story with you.
Thanks to all our supporters in the great big warm CRLC family.
The film, and our community, continues to grow and there’s screenings coming up on all four corners of the globe and many bookings are coming in for this Refugee Week.
Last week the Australian International School raised over $600 for the CRLC at a Jakarta screening at the Queenshead in Kemang. Some photos below. Thanks so much to Jackie, the AIS teachers and everyone at the AIS. They have been such great friends over the past four years.
Are you in Toronto, Canada? Tahira is presenting at a bunch of university and school screenings, but if you would like to meet her and see the film there is a public screening happening at the terrific Kate and Patrick’s house on Saturday, 17th March, 6pm. Register your interest here.
Are you in London? You lucky devil you. Unity, The Art Of Togetherness, are holding an exhibition at The Square Gallery on June 2nd and The Staging Post will be screened in the evening. Tickets available here.
Don’t worry Australia, we haven’t forgotten you. Kate and Indi are putting on a cinema screening at The Sun Theatre in Yarraville, Melbourne, on April 19th. Tickets are already selling quickly and this is sure to be a full cinema. For a full dose of inspiration and community spirit, there will be no other place to be that night. Muzafar will be there for the Q&A too.
More screenings are being posted on the website all the time. Want to hold a screening of The Staging Post for Refugee Week? Please contact Jolyon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DVD and Digital download are available from the website. The DVD comes with a 16 page booklet with the story behind the film and the school. Makes a inspiring present for that someone special and every sale helps us keep filming the second episode.
Thanks so much for all your support. Lots of love and inspiration to you all.
This is going to be a very special night. Some very old friends of the CRLC, Kate and Indi, are promoting an event at The Sun Theatre in Yarraville. Thurs 19th of April.
It's sure to be a special evening. An beautiful theatre, The Staging Post up on the big screen, and a cinema full of good people. There's no better way. Bring your friends and come again!
Muzafar will be there for the Q&A too.
Muzafar has just returned from another fantastic Refugee Alternatives Conference. Congratulations to the Refugee Council of Australia for once again putting on such a vibrant and engaging event. Below is Muzafar speaking on SBS.
At the conference, and due to popular demand, we launched a DVD version of The Staging Post. Seen here with the delightful Indi! The DVD includes a beautiful 16 page booklet with the story behind the school and the film. Please go to thestagingpost.com.au to purchase. You can buy it with or without a digital download.
(PS. Don’t be afraid of the digital! You can always email us and we’ll help you if you have any questions.)
There are a few other places you can now purchase the film too. On Amazon here, From The Education Shop here, and those with university affiliation can watch it for free on Kanopy.All proceeds go towards filming the second episode.
Filming has started
Khadim has just returned from Texas where he filmed the magnificent Fatima. Remember her? You can see a short clip below, but we can’t wait to share the whole story as part of our next film.
Want to help us along? You can make Tax-Deductible donations through the Documentary Australia Foundation.
Love to you all and thank you for being on this journey with us. This is just the beginning.
From the whole Cisarua Learning and Staging Post crew.
This makes me as proud as punch! Below is the 'Box Office Scorecard' for all Australian films in 2017. Here's the full article. The angle is that Australian films are not getting a share of the Box Office, but I see a different story.
On the first page of the list is a little film (35th and 14th out of documentaries) that had no distributor, PR, advertising budget, producer, broadcaster, film festival or screen agency support. For most of the year it didn't even have a trailer.
All it had was you! Your energy, enthusiasm, and word of mouth. And some grit and determination on our side.
I like to think of the parallels between the film and the CRLC.
We both wrote to everyone and when we didn't hear back for a year we went ahead anyway. Because we knew it was the right thing to do.
Thanks to you all, I am very grateful for your support. And thanks to the refugees in Indonesia for showing us how it's done.
Here's to the power of community! Thank you.