Are you passionate about social justice? Do you wish to learn more about the treatment of refugees? The UTS Law Students’ Society will be giving four students the opportunity to visit Villawood Detention Centre during the Autumn Semester and Spring Semester. You’ll have the chance to develop a rapport with the detainees and learn about the ways they are affected by Australian Asylum Seeker laws.
This opportunity offers an eye opening and inspiring opportunity that provides an insight into the rights of vulnerable people. Students are expected to behave in a way that is appropriate and respectful while still using and learning from this opportunity.
Due to capacity issues, only 4 people will be able to attend the event, thus the application process will be very competitive. Applicants must be able to commit to three visits to the centre over the course of the semester. Successful candidates will have the opportunity to converse with the inmates about their experiences at the detention centre and their perception of the Australian government and its people. Successful applicants will have adequately demonstrated why they would be a suitable candidate, previous and on-going engagements with equitable initiatives, particularly those pertaining to refugees rights and a noticeable passion for social justice matters.
Applications for the Villawood Detention Centre visits in the Autumn session are now open! Visits will take place on 7th May, 21st May, and 4th June. To apply, click here. Applications close on 6th April.
Past Student Experiences
“The group spent the majority of the time with a woman, called Bianca* and her family. We knocked on her door and told her we were from the community, with a hamper of food for her. She was very surprised and flustered and in future it would be great if we could have the contact details of the detainees and organise a time when they are prepared for us. I have given her my phone number, and I now have hers. She was however, very hospitable and happy to talk to us. While her English is very good in comparison with other asylum seekers in the Centre, Bianca doesn’t often have the opportunity to talk to people and she is also in a very isolated part of the Centre.
When we visited, she hadn’t left her house in 3 days, and nor had her family. For this reason, she was very pleased to see us, and open up to us about her experiences and opinions. We were very grateful, because of course, this is always contingent upon the individual. It is very uncertain in this regard so we were lucky that she had such good English, and was happy to talk.”
Sarah Avery, 2016. Read Sarah’s full report here.
“People get moved around frequently and they never know when they will get out; she was shocked that she did. Her main problem now is boredom – she isn’t allowed to work or volunteer; her young child get bored and can’t play. If he wanted to play with other children she would have to pay out of her own allowance which truly isn’t enough to get him childcare. She hopes to move to where her husband is abroad but visas there are expensive so she struggles to do that. She is over Australia – after two years in detention and community detention she just wants to leave.”
Raffaella Bianchino, 2016. Read Raffaella’s full report here.
“As we entered the premises, we were subjected to a security check where we were asked to produce our ID’s and leave all our belongings in a locker. We were not allowed to bring any phones or cameras, nor a pen or paper. The whole process was quite formal. We were issued with wristbands and the security guard then interrogated the reason for our visit, which we all repeatedly assured was for purely educational purposes. I understand why the process would be quite formal and serious, but I questioned whether this apparent priority of privacy was intended for the detainees, or rather, to cover up the Australian government.
Our group interacted with three detainees. Firstly, we spoke to the mother of the young child mentioned above. We were told that he was taken to and from school in a security vehicle and had to return home each day to take a medication. The boy experienced trauma as a result of the extreme conditions he faced when seeking asylum and while detained in Nauru. We also spoke to a detainee who had been in detention since 2010 and whose release remained indefinite. Lastly, we engaged with a father who fled his country with his daughter out of fear for his own safety. These unforgettable conversations have further inspired me to use my legal degree to help protect the rights of marginalised people.
In the current international context, it’s not hard to empathise with the plight of asylum seekers who flee persecution and who wish to build a better life for their families. The discovery of Aylan Kurdi’s body on a Turkish beach for example, demonstrates that more needs to be done in this field. I believe that the eye-opening experiences that the Brennan Program provides, accompanied by the teachings of our law school, that we are becoming strong leaders who are empowered and capable of making a difference.”
An account of Villawood Family Detention Centre from UTS Law Students, Michelle Zhang