Queer Displacements Conference: Refugees and Ongoing Hardship in Australia

Catching up on the world. There is a lot going on – and here is a start:

The Queer Displacements: Sexuality, Migration and Exile 2019 conference (Queer Displacements) was organised by two queer refugee women, emerging academics and activists Renee Dixson and Tina Dixson. Queer Displacements took place on the Traditional lands of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people whose sovereignty was never ceded. The conference was hosted by the ANU Humanities Research Centre that provided financial and administration support.

The Queer Displacements conference was organised in 7 months but the work on it has begun much earlier. When Renee and Tina, sought asylum in Australia, experiences of exclusion, silencing and erasure did not vanish. They continued to exist, sometimes in more disguised (or well-meaning) ways.

To be a queer refugee is about resistance. You, as a queer refugee, resist racism, homophobia and systemic erasure of your experiences as too uncomfortable or too exotic. But you are also resisted to, by those for whom your resistance threatens their comforts and privileges. In our short time in Australia, we experienced both types of resistance, and both have fuelled our responsibility towards justice for all LGBTIQ+ forcibly displaced people even more. Thus, Queer Displacements is not a product of passion. Queer Displacements is about solidarity, professionalism and responsibility. It is not only about words. It is and must remain about actions.

Living in Australia, we have also met many great supporters, without whom Queer Displacements would not have happened the same way it did. We would like to express our gratitude to the following sponsors who made this event possible:

  • the ACT Government Office for LGBTIQ+ Affairs;
  • the ANU Research School of Humanities;
  • the ANU Gender Institute;
  • UNHCR Regional Representation in Canberra;
  • AIDS Action Council and Canberra Inclusive Partnership;
  • the Herbert and Valmae Freilich Project for the Study of Bigotry;
  • Asylum Seekers Centre;
  • Settlement Services International; and
  • Miles of Love by Planet All.

    The conference discussion on social media can be found using the hashtag #QueerDisplacements. Videos from keynote plenaries were published at https://www.facebook.com/queersisterhood/. This report, the repository of conference materials and the Canberra Statement can be found at http://bit. ly/queer-displacements.

    This report has been prepared by Tina Dixson and Renee Dixson. Cover photo: (c) Renee Dixson 2018.

4 keynote addresses discussing the plight of LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers and refugees in the USA, Germany, South Africa and New Zealand with a specific focus on detention, trans and intersex asylum seekers and refugees as well as refugee-led organising. Keynote speakers were Professor Eithne Luibheid (University of Arizona, USA), Lilith Raza (Queer Refugees Deutschland Project, Germany), Dr B Camminga (Wits University, South Africa), and Eliana Rubashkyn (Rainbow Path, Aoteroa New Zealand).

2. There were 10 parallel sessions with over 50 speakers covering the following 9 themes:

o International Policy and LGBTIQA+ Refugees (discussions reflected on the role of UNHCR in LGBTIQ+ refugee protection, LGBTIQ+ people in the Global Compact on Migration and Global Compact on Refugees and The Yogyakarta Principles Plus 10);

o Documenting Experiences: Art, History and Ethics of Storytelling (this theme included a presentation of the world’s first digital archive of oral histories about LGBTIQ+ forced migration, historical research on homosexuality and Australian borders, ethics of representation of LGBTIQ+ forced migration within and from the African continent and an artwork (short film) reflecting on the ethics of storytelling);

o Colonial Impositions: Ideal, Deserving and Vulnerable Subjects (discussions touched on decolonisation and connections with the First Nations People, imposition of western cultural understanding of queer identity, queer persecution in formerly colonised nations and the politics of vulnerability and deservingness);

o Queer Forced Displacement and The Law (this theme included discussions on protection claims based on gender identity and sexual orientation, how to ask LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers correct questions for a better articulation of protection claims, review of Australian refugee decisions on the basis of LGBTI status, transnormativity in refugee determinations and queerness and crimmigration);

o SOGIE4 Pacific Perspectives on Climate Displacement, Climate Migration and Current Refugee Law and Climate Change Policies;

o Inclusive Service Provision (discussions provided reflections on running peer-led support services, pastoral care, leveraging resources for empowerment of LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers and refugees and a discussion on inclusive social support, housing and employment. In addition there was an interactive workshop on inclusive service provision run by Settlement Services International);

o Policy, Advocacy and Activism (discussions reflected immigration detention, protests against involuntary deportations, the role of philanthropy and questioned an imposed need for integration and patriotism);

o Intersectional Identities and Experiences (discussions focused on intersectionality, disability in refugee determination and trans women’s experiences in Australia and Central America);

o Health, Sexuality and Forced Displacement (discussions included topics of substance abuse, documenting social consequences of discrimination among LGBTIQ refugees in Kenya, migrants’ experiences with HIV and resources and referrals for health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers and refugees);



Advocacy: African Human Rights Coalition
Speaker: Melnathan
Mediation: Private Courts
Follow me on Twitter – @MelanieNathan1
Instagram: @commissionermelnathan

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