Student leaders at Kirrawee High School are preparing to simulate an interactive refugee camp on school grounds as part of Refugee Week later this month.

Conceived and administered by Gymea Community Aid, the Refugee Challenge aims to encourage high school students to understand and empathise with the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. The community centre has worked in collaboration with Kirrawee High’s student-formed Social Justice Council to train year 10 and 11 students to play refugee roles in the mock camp.

The mock refugee camp will include refugee food and water supplies, and medical facilities. Organisers claim students \will be immersed in the refugee experience.

Menai High School's prior participation in the Refugee Challenge was a great success.

Menai High School’s prior participation in the Refugee Challenge was a great success.


Gymea Community Aid’s Migrant and Settlement Service Manager Jenny Grey said she hoped to see students escalate their knowledge of refugee issues, and inspire them to take action.

“We’re hoping to upscale the confidence of young leaders, and work with them to see the ways they can enact real social change in their school and community,” she said.

Narmeen Shereif, a member of Kirrawee’s Social Justice Council, claimed the school curriculum did not inform students about the issues surrounding refugees until Year 10. Consequently, a students’ understanding relies on independent research, or second-hand information. She noticed the negative misconceptions her peers held towards refugees through conversations and social media.

“It really urged me to try and make a change and bring a light to the reality of what refugees face by becoming involved in the Refugee Challenge,” she said.

“The huge amount of knowledge I gained just on the first training day has deeply effected me. It amazes me that the negative stigma surrounding refugees overpowers some peoples’ ability to empathise, but I think the school will have a positive reaction to the program.”

The newly-formed student representative group, the Social Justice Council, lobbied to be a part of the Refugee Challenge. The council aims to resolve and advocate solutions for wider societal injustices in the context of the school.

“Although we already pride ourselves in our cultural diversity and participation in Harmony Day, we felt we could do more,” Narmeen said.

The camp will run from 27-31 June.