Students from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds lead inaugural conference on higher education participation

The inaugural United Voices for Change Conference hosted by Western Sydney University from 18 to 20 November will bring students from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds together with sector leaders to increase access, retention and the transition to higher education.

The conference is a collaboration between Western Sydney University’s Widening Participation Engagement team and the United Voices Student club, together with the Refugee Education Special Interest Group.

Western Sydney University Chancellor and keynote speaker Professor Peter Shergold AC said the University was proud to host the conference at its Penrith campus (Kingswood).

“The conference will provide a platform for refugee and asylum seekers students to voice what they need to achieve their educational aspirations. It will also provide a forum for sector leaders to address challenges, develop real solutions, and empower more refugee and asylum seeker students to see tertiary study as a realistic and viable option,” said Professor Shergold.

“As a University with a large refugee and asylum seeker population with students born in more than 180 countries, hosting this conference reflects our commitment to assisting, supporting and encouraging refugee and asylum seeker students. This builds on the work we already do through our mentoring programs, scholarship support and active and engaged refugee student club.”

Day one of the conference invited students of refugee and asylum seekers backgrounds from different universities across Australia to share their stories, discuss challenges and learn from each other. Students from Western Sydney University’s United Voices Student club will lead the discussions.

Biruk Bogale, a second-year Bachelor of Health Science (Sport and Exercise Science) student at Western Sydney University and club member, said: “I want to see more refugee and asylum seeker background students achieve their educational aspirations and be involved in the university life. Bringing students from diverse backgrounds together makes us rich in perspective and challenges our own cultural perceptions.”

Day two and three will consist of engaging panels, presentations and reflections that aim to build collaboration among the different stakeholders working to increase access to higher education for students of refugee and asylum seekers backgrounds in Australia. Keynote speakers include:

  • Western Sydney University Chancellor Professor Peter Shergold AC
  • Refugee Council of Australia CEO Paul PowerMulticultural Youth Advocacy Network
  • Australia National Manager Nadine Liddy.

The conference follows the thematic areas developed in the Opening Universities for Refugees (‘Project Eucalyptus’ - Collaborate, Create and Change) event held at the University of New South Wales last year.


19 November 2019

Ali Sardyga, Senior Media Officer

Photo credit: Daniel Kukec