River is an uplifting gift offering healing and hope

“All these rivers we must cross. Together we will get to the other side. . . . We’ll be forced to grow.” This is the theme of River, a haunting new video by the Sydney World Music Chamber Orchestra. It is an inspiring sound and visual experience of the Australia we are becoming, all woven together by the movement and grace of Gambirra Illume, Yolngu performer and cultural educator from Australia’s north east Arnhem Land. River is a song of sadness and despair uplifted by the hope and optimism that emerges from sharing the journey towards resolution. Look at the warmth and laughter of the participants as they near the end of their street performance.  Watch the video River. It is now available from all digital retailers.

In January this year, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that at least half of Australia’s special intake of 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees would be settled in Fairfield in western Sydney, within 12 months. In the previous year, Fairfield City Council had already welcomed 3000 humanitarian arrivals from the two war-torn countries. It was the continuation of a pattern of accepting migrants and refugees displaced by war and economic upheaval, which had grown since World War I. This concentration of cultural diversity gave Fairfield a special relevance as the setting for River, Sydney World Music Chamber Orchestra‘s first single released last month. The photo below records the warmth and excitement that surrounded the orchestra following their inaugural concert at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, in November 2014, when they performed the remarkable three stages of love and death. The words and music of River are developed from an extract of this work. Please take the time to click on all the links and listen to the music recorded.

It would be true to say that years of preparation have gone into the launch of River. Some of the first threads were drawn together long before Richard Petkovic created the Cultural Arts Collective in 2007 with Maria Mitar. Even so, they say it took three years of working with fellow musicians to create, record and release River. Through Cultural Arts Collective they showcase the future of Australian music by combining Australia’s many cultures into music that “touches the spirit”. It is a generous vision that has driven Richard for a very long time – unearthing the musical talents and mastery that have remained unrecognised outside the bounds of individual cultural communities and gathering them into making music that draws on tradition to create inspirational contemporary work – anything from driving rock rhythms to hypnotic spiritual chants.

Through Cultural Arts Collective, Richard launched the first Sydney Sacred Music Festival in 2011 after working with migrant and refugee communities in western Sydney for more than 10 years. After operating on a shoestring, it is now an established non-profit organisation, with a measure of government and private financial support. The program extends right across metropolitan Sydney, linking together a whole range of music organisations.

Death and personal loss were the immediate inspiration behind the creation of River. It offers a message of hope for those struggling with grief and profound loss. Eleven musicians performed in the streets of Fairfield, where they were filmed with the willing support of locals. They were world renowned Uyghur bard Shohrat Tursun – vocals, dutar (two string lute), Yaw Derkyi – African percussion and vocals, Richard Petkovic – guitar and vocals, Maria Mitar and Gambirra Illume – vocals, Nicholas Ng – urhu (Chinese two stringed fiddle),  Bukhu Ganburged – Mongolian horse fiddle, Salar Hs – violin, Rudi Upright Valdez – double bass, Victor Valdes – Mexican harp, and Ngoc-Tuan Hoang – guitar.

Many of these artists have been playing together for several years now and it shows in their ease of improvisation and collaboration and their quiet mutual respect. Cultural Arts Collective produces and composes music, and creates ensembles to support artists previously hidden from the mainstream. Already firmly established is the Shohrat Tursun Trio, comprising Shohrat himself, in right of photo, Yaw Derkyi, centre, and Richard Petkovic. CAC manages artists, produces festivals and events and distributes new music.

Richard’s perseverance in changing the focus of Australian music making and performance has led to contracts with Musica Viva to re-imagine their regional touring program and Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority to work with several community festivals to improve their artistic direction. They are great steps forward on a deeply enriching path.

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Creative artists present nuanced views of conflict, causes and consequences

ntop-qanonAward wining film director George Miller says, “. . . art is at its best when it allows catharsis through story telling and a nation is at its best when it provides a refuge for humanity to heal and flourish.” It seems that this observation is relevant to three arts events due to launch across western Sydney, where negotiating multiculturalism and difference is a daily  experience.

The first is Diaspora-Making Machines opening at Blacktown Arts Centre, on Thursday, September 29. The second is a public dialogue between writers Ellen van Neerven and Michael Mohammed Ahmad under the provocative title Black and Lebo. The third is The Cartographer’s Curse, a new production created by National Theatre of Parramatta, which explores the complexities of political and social divisions within the Middle East. Above is an image of the qanun, a Middle Eastern instrument featured in The Cartographer’s Curse. Director Paula Abood explains qanun is the origin of the English word canon, encompassing the lore and law of a society.

In Diaspora-Making Machines eight artists of diverse cultural backgrounds explore some of “the systemic devices (the machines) that generate movement and the dispersal of communities (the diaspora).” From the earliest days of the colony, Blacktown has been a scene of continuous waves of migration. Some were forced, like the Aboriginal and Maori children sent to be “reformed” at the 1823 Blacktown Native Institution, and others like migrants and refugees who made new homes there by choice.

1-blak-douglas-bac-for-diaspora-making-machinesOffering an Aboriginal perspective on the exhibition’s theme of Blacktown’s historic place as a centre of migration, attitudes to newcomers, and notions of belonging and assimilation is Blak Douglas, who grew up in the area. His work, left, Pipe Dreams (Part A), suggests a challenge to the role of the church as a systemic device in the dispersal of Aboriginal communities. Another of the artists is Mehwish Iqbal, who grew up in a small town in Pakistan where art wasn’t even taught in the local school. Nonetheless, she defied traditional expectations to complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the National College of Arts and then moved to Dubai. In 2006, she moved to Australia with her family where she completed a Masters degree at the College of Fine Arts UNSW. Mehwish has undertaken international artists residencies and has a keen interest in themes of integration, assimilation and separation experienced by migrants living in Australia and issues faced by under privileged children in developing countries.

The other artists are Jumaadi, Nerine Martini, Susannah Williams and Warren Armstrong, Luping Zeng and his son Cheng Zeng. Diaspora Making Machines will continue at Blacktown until Saturday, November 5.

ellen-van-nervanBlack and Lebo promises a lively discussion between two award winning young writers, Aboriginal author Ellen van Neerven, right, and Michael Mohammed Ahmad, below, left. Ellen won the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Indigenous Writers Prize, among other awards, and has just published a new book Comfort Food, a collection of poetry. Michael is the director of Sweatshop – Western Sydney Literacy Movement, a talented actor, and a doctoral candidate at the Western Sydney University Writing and Society Research Centre. He has won several awards for his work and for his debut novel The Tribe. His second novel The Lebs will be published early next year.

Ellen and Michael Mohammed.AhmadMichael will discuss the intersections between race, faith, class, gender and sexuality in contemporary Australian literature, give performances from their latest works and take questions and comments from their audience. Black and Lebo takes place on Friday, September 30, at Western Sydney University, Bankstown campus, Building 3, Room G 55. The event is free with lunch provided and everyone is welcome, but RSVP is essential.

Prof Ghassan HageFrench and British colonialism of the early 20th century in the Middle East is the starting point for The Cartographer’s Curse. Invasion, colonialism and conflict have been common experiences for centuries among people in this region, where borders have undergone frequent change, according to who holds the power. A century ago, it was the British and French who drew lines on a map to divide the area according to their own interests. The consequences continue to reverberate and have led many people to seek refuge elsewhere in the world. Under the guidance of Paula Abood, history is imagined through spoken word poetry and prose, parkour movements and qanunic music. Among the characters are the cartographer, the wandering professor, the poet, the resistance, the merchant and the master of the qanun. The professor is played by Ghassan Hage, above right, an actual Future Generation Professor of global stature.

1-ntop-cartog-curse-thistle“This ensemble captures the very best of Arab Australian artistry in all its different expression,” Paula says. “Each performer in The Cartographer’s Curse brings a particular prowess and this makes for an exciting performance.” The coupling of the melodic quality of the qanun with the edginess of Parkour movement, she describes as “artistically very exhilarating.” The thistle, left, grows throughout the landscape of the Middle East and could easily be perceived as a metaphor for resilience and survival. The Cartographer’s Curse opens at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, on Thursday, October 5 and continues only until October 8.

Flight from despair to hope, opportunity and creative engagement

UNHCR - RefugeesAccording to a report released by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) last month, wars and persecution have driven more people from their homes than at any time since UNHCR records began more than 65 years ago. The report, entitled Global Trends, found a total 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, compared to 59.5 million just 12 months earlier.

Large numbers of people have fled Afghanistan and Somalia in recent decades and more recently, countries like Syria, South Sudan, Ukraine and Central America. Settlement solutions are becoming harder to find as countries close borders against an influx of distressed people and there is little sign of regional cooperation between countries that might receive refugees. Worldwide, Turkey is the biggest host country, with 2.5 million refugees. With nearly one refugee for every five citizens, Lebanon hosts more refugees compared to its population than any other country. In 2015 children made up 51 per cent of the world’s refugees. Many were separated from their parents or travelling alone.

Blog - PPM book coverAll too often fear is the constant companion of refugees until they find respite. Now, with increasing frequency, fear has taken hold of people in countries that might offer protection – fear of terrorism, fear of losing jobs to refugees, fear of strained health, housing and education resources, a loss of law and order. Australia swings between cycles of fear and cycles of generosity. Our constitution for the founding of Australia as a federation of states in 1901 was influenced by fear of foreigners and totally ignored Aboriginal people. It still has the racist statement that the Commonwealth has the power “to regulate the affairs of the people of coloured or inferior races . . .” Two years later, the White Australia Policy was a direct outcome. By contrast, multiculturalism as a concept was introduced during the years of the Whitlam Government in the early 1970s. Under the following government of Malcolm Fraser, Australia opened its doors to Vietnamese refugees and asylum seekers, including those who arrived by boat. Associated stories appear in my book Passion Purpose Meaning – Arts Activism in Western Sydney and in this blog. They demonstrate repeatedly just how many migrants and refugees have gone on to become outstanding arts practitioners and community leaders. Research also shows that the economic costs of accepting migrants and refugees is far outweighed by the value of their ultimate contribution to society.

Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre (CPAC) is conducting a two day forum on Friday and Saturday, August 19 and 20 to explore the relationship between refugees and the arts. “Open to artists, performers, art therapists, educators, researchers, art workers and creative producers, the Arts and Refugees Forum also welcomes humanitarian and community development workers to share their experiences and discuss various aspects of artistic practice by, with and about refugees.” It is a free event that will provide a platform for greater networking and development opportunities. The forum will take place against a background of photo-media and video works made by local Sydney-based artists who are former refugees, current asylum seekers and first generation Australians whose families fled war to settle here.

CPAC - refugees - curiousworksBeyond Refuge: Citizens has been assembled by CuriousWorks, which describes it as “an exhibition that asserts the beautiful and fundamental rights of every human being to freedom and peace. It is also a cry to those who have lost their freedom, through the structures and exertions of power.” Image above: Soheil Ettehadolhagh, “the earth is but one country and mankind its citizens”  –  Báha’u’lláh universal peace, 2016. Photograph.

Both the forum and the exhibition take place in the context of a major exhibition, Refugees which brings together works by 22 world-renowned artists who share a refugee background. Important works by these high profile artists have never before been seen in western Sydney. The artists are Khadim Ali, Frank Auerbach, Christian Boltanski, Yosl Bergner, Judy Cassab, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Lucian Freud, Mona Hatoum, Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack, Guo Jian, Anish Kapoor, Inge King, Dinh Q. Lê, Nalini Malani, Helmut Newton, Yoko Ono, Aida Tomescu, Danila Vassilieff, Ai Wei Wei, Ah Xian and Anne Zahalka.

CPAC is located in one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas in Australia, with 40% of the population born overseas and over 150 languages spoken. The arts centre sees the exhibition as an opportunity for advocacy and empowerment of refugees in the local area, as a key to creating social change.

In the meantime, a yoHelen Boris - shards-life-poems-ung woman who arrived as a displaced person from Ukraine in 1949 and later settled with her husband in Seven Hills, is about to launch her first commercially published book. Helen Boris had her university studies in Kiev interrupted by the Soviet occupation and the Second World War and was never able to complete them. Despite the upheavals of terror under dictatorship and the death of family and friends, Helen never lost her love for literature and writing and her interest in sharing it with others. From her earliest days in Australia, she wrote poetry in English and her native Ukrainian. She became active in local chapters of organisations like the Fellowship of Australian Writers, conducted workshops with others like Ann Stewart Galwey to support local writers and helped their community publication. Next Saturday, at the age of 96, in frail health, but of very clear mind and with the support of the Ukrainian ambassador, she will launch her book of poems Shards of Life. You are invited to join them at the Ukrainian Hall, 59 – 63 Joseph St, Lidcombe, at 1pm. Shards of Life is a selection of Helen’s English language verse, through which she shares some fragments of her story, the “shards of her life”.

And thenSyd Sacred Music Fest 16 - Worlds Collide there’s Sydney Sacred Music Festival, now in its sixth year under the leadership of founder and director, Richard Petkovic. This year it begins on Friday, September 2 and continues across locations from Mona Vale to Campbelltown, Sydney CBD to the Blue Mountains, until Sunday, September 18. In the course of two decades, Richard has identified and come to know an extraordinary range of highly professional musicians, from many different cultures and faiths. Many were living in western Sydney following their escape from war torn countries. They have been working together with wonderfully enriching results.

This year, they will present a live multimedia performance of contemporary world and electronic dance music at Wentworth Street carpark in Parramatta’s CBD, on Saturday night, September 3 – Worlds Collide – Eight Storeys High, Seven Cultures, One Amazing New Sound. The rooftop, they say, “will be transformed into an artistic wonderland, featuring art installations by Khaled Sabasabi, Marian Abood and Ghasan Saaid, video projections, interactive dance workshops and the world premiere of the Arts NSW funded, Worlds Collide ensemble. Worlds Collide brings together the best world musicians in Sydney, photo above, and fuses the South Asian Underground beats of Coco Varma’s ‘Sitar Funk’, the acoustic world fusion of the Shohrat Tursun Trio; Latin music legend Victor Valdes; soaring vocals of Blue Mary’s Maria Mitar and the hip hop rhymes of Mt Druitt’s Esky the Emcee, all under the direction of music producer and composer Richard Petkovic (Cultural Arts Collective).”

Program details and bookings.

Sport for Jove and ICE celebrate success

1-SFJ dollshouse01Sport for Jove Theatre Company has achieved another milestone in its short but distinguished life. It is joining the Seymour Centre as a new resident theatre company alongside Critical Stages, SIMA and Shaun Parker & Company. The Seymour Centre is the performing arts centre for the University of Sydney and in its 35 year history has become an urban hub for cultural exploration, arts education and audience engagement. It hosts major festivals, large scale theatre, music and dance performances and partners small and emerging companies to develop and present innovative independent productions. Click here for more information.

SfJ - Damien RyanSport for Jove began with an outdoor Shakespeare Festival at Baulkham Hills and Leura in the Blue Mountains in 2009. The company was the brainchild of managing artistic director Damien Ryan, left, whose mother’s love of Shakespeare’s plays inspired him during his Mt Druitt childhood. A career in acting, directing and education, in both secondary and tertiary sectors, followed, in Australia and the UK. He taught at NIDA, worked with young artists in schools and authored Bell Shakespeare’s teacher kits. The partnership with the Seymour Centre began in June 2012, when Sport for Jove launched a major theatre education program for schools with a production of Hamlet. The photo above is from their critically acclaimed  2014 production of A Doll’s House at the Seymour Centre.

Damien says, “The exhaustive interrogation of thought and human behaviour in Shakespeare’s plays is honest, compassionate and it changes the way I think, the things I feel, and the way I see the world, and it does those things for all of us when that special connection comes in the theatre. His plays are fuelled by a faith that we like Prospero or like Cordelia have the capacity to change, to forgive and to tell the truth.”

SfJ - The Merchant of Ven 2015Clearly his vision has inspired others. Sport for Jove is a repertory theatre company, an actors’ company where everyone participates in creating the work and aspires to the highest standards. While their focus is on presenting unique and insightful productions of classical theatre, they are also dedicated to developing and producing new Australian plays. School students are clearly inspired by their experience of Sport for Jove productions and young people comprise a large and enthusiastic portion of all their audiences. In May this year, they will present a new production of The Merchant of Venice (see photo, left) at the Seymour Centre and Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, and then John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, at the Seymour Centre in July.

Champions of the West logoCelebrating their success in the recent Champions of the West awards conducted by The Daily Telegraph, is Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE), at Parramatta. ICE has been awarded $10,000 as winners of the Arts section for their Family Creative Hub.

The Hub is a family support program for recently arrived refugee and migrant mothers with preschool children living in Parramatta, Auburn and Holroyd. Families are supported in successful transition to life in western Sydney through mentorship and iPad-based creative learning that facilitates social inclusion, and builds their social, English and digital skills. ICE welcomes contact from female artists who speak more than one language, in particular Farsi and Hindi, and who are interested in working with families. Living in western Sydney is a plus. Please email eddie.abd@ice.org.au or call 9897 5744.

Powerhouse Youth Theatre launch turns migration complaint on its head

PYT 9 Lives 2015Powerhouse Youth Theatre launched its 2015 program at Fairfield School of Arts, on Monday, March 9, in an atmosphere of exuberant warmth and enthusiasm. Guests were welcomed with traditional Iraqi coffee, tea and sweets, the PYT Ensemble gave a taste of their performance range in languages including Arabic, Spanish, Pashto and English, and the Choir of Love presented a set of songs drawing on the musical heritage of Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac cultures.

Catering was provided by Parents’ Cafe Fairfield, a social enterprise established to explore pathways to training and employment in hPYT - Parent Cafe and Kaz 0315ospitality for newly arrived refugees. Parents’ Cafe is incorporated in partnership with Fairfield High School and Sydney South West Area Health Service. Above, artistic director Karen Therese introduces project 9Lives and right, stands proudly with the team from Parents’ Cafe. The atmosphere of good will and cooperation in support of young people was palpable.

More than 200 young people of diverse cultural backgrounds come into PYT’s home in Fairfield’s old School of Arts each week. They participate in a wide range of programs and wPYT 2015 Program Launch - Team 9 Livesork with some of Australia’s leading artists.  Among this year’s special projects is 9Lives, an urban choreographic portrait of the streets of Fairfield to be developed with Force Majeure for presentation in August. Team 9Lives is a local group  dedicated to the philosophies and movement practices of parkour. Wikipedia describes parkour as a holistic training discipline using movement that developed in France in the late 1980s. Only the human body and the surroundings are used for propulsion, with a focus on maintaining as much momentum as possible while still remaining safe. Team 9Lives has turned parkour into a dance form thrilling to watch, let alone participate in. See their Facebook page.

Team 9 Lives - SOH  2 0315Self-taught from the beginning, Team 9Lives is now western Sydney’s underground street-style champions. Ali Kadhim, Joseph Carbone, Justin Kilic, Jimmy James Pham, Johnny Do, Natalie Siri and Patrick Uy of Team 9Lives have already conducted workshops and performed at Sydney Opera House, right. There are plans for a full scale performance there next year. They share their skills with anyone willing to learn and conduct regular evening workshops with local young people in the RTA car park, almost opposite PYT’s home. For the core practitioners, there is a strongly spiritual base to their work, mental discipline and a commitment to overcome obstacles and disadvantage. A constant creative exploration has led them to filmmaking, sharing skills on YouTube and providing entertainment for public and private celebrations.

PYT - David Capra and Kate Blackmore 0315A series of projects will be developed throughout the year, where young people work with established artists and partners like Fairfield City Council and C3West (MCA Australia) to create new theatre and dance works, dinner parties, dance parties, exhibitions, a film festival and opportunities to become part of continuing PYT programs. Lifetime Fairfield resident and artist, David Capra and Kate Blackmore, above, will work with young artists and experimental filmmakers to present Motion Pictures – A Festival of New Cinema in Youth Week.

PYT 2015 Program Launch - Iraqui danceThe launch was the perfect antidote to a Facebook response to my recent blog post about Cat Thao Nguyen’s memoir We Are Here. The Facebook respondent said: Australia was a great and kind nation because we put Australia first and people who immigrated here wanted to assimilate. Today, we have to try and please the new immigrants to their way of life. It just doesn’t and won’t work. Immigration has gone too far and taken over the Australian way of life. Unfortunately, all the do-gooders out there have allowed this to happen.

The writer seemed unaware that immigration is government policy. The number to be accepted in 2014-2015 is 190,000, set at budget time. Governments want more workers and more taxpayers. Click here for detail. In addition, I understand a further 13,000 may be accepted as refugees. By any standards, Australia’s current treatment of refugees is far less humane than it was in the 1970s and 80s. Like Thao, who is now an international lawyer, many refugees make a great contribution to Australian society. In the photo above, young and old, Middle Eastern, Asian, European and Anglo Australian join a traditional social dance at PYT’s launch, with much whooping and excitement. For more launch photos, click here.

1-PYT 2015 Program Launch - Bridget and AuntieWestern Sydney is “a frontier society . . . It tells us the way Australia is going . . . in western Sydney they’re working out the multicultural project day by day, in a way most Australians are not called upon to do,” says social researcher Hugh Mackay. This is the introduction to the About section of this blog and is the daily experience for most people living in the region. And it’s not always easy. The Fairfield area has experienced non-English speaking migration since the mid 19th century and for decades has had more than 130 different cultural groups and languages. For those who have lived in parts of the region, which have retained their Anglo-Australian composition for longer, change can seem comparatively hard to accommodate. Above, Sydney Opera House head of education and performance for young people, Bridgette Van Leuven, left, with Aboriginal elder Auntie Maggie Williams at the PYT launch.

Powerhouse Youth Theatre is now approaching 30 years since its establishment in 1987 at Casula Powerhouse. It seems it’s already embedded in an “Australian way of life”. For more PYT program information and how to get involved, click here.

Australia was once a kinder nation – Cat Thao Nguyen launches her book

Cat Thao Nguyen - Bankstown launchCat Thao Nguyen is an Australian citizen who fears for the future of the country. When her family arrived as refugees in 1980, after a long and harrowing journey from Vietnam, through Cambodia and Thailand, they were welcomed with kindness and compassion. There were many difficulties to confront, but they gradually found their feet with the help of government and community agencies, fellow refugee families, kindly neighbours and their own resourcefulness.

Then in 1996, Pauline Hanson was elected to federal parliament. As a teenager, Cat “watched in awe as she (Pauline Hanson) spoke of the ‘reverse racism’ suffered by white Australians as a result of Aboriginal assistance, of how the nation’s immigration policy had led to the imminent danger of Australia being swamped by Asians”. In the decades following, Cat has watched as the country has become increasingly “xenophobic, fearful and risk averse”. Leaders of both major political parties have done little to dispel this and Cat is thankful that her family, like so many other Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s and 80s are not trying to seek asylum in Australia now.

Cat Thao Nguyen was speaking Cat Thao Nguyen family - News Corpat the Sydney launch of her personal memoir We Are Here, on Wednesday, February 25, and reading extracts from her book, often through tears. I first met Cat in 2002, when she was a Sydney University law student and co-curator of VietPOP: Emergence at Liverpool Regional Museum, an exhibition of work by young Vietnamese-Australians. I wrote about this experience and her subsequent presentation at a 2009 conference Echoes of a War at Casula Powerhouse, in my book Passion Purpose Meaning – Arts Activism in Western Sydney. By this time, she was an international lawyer working in Vietnam. Her insights about the experiences of refugee families and her clarity in explaining them were impressive and deeply moving.

We Are Here took her seven years to write. Both her parents had suffered almost unbearable privations in Vietnam and on the journey to Australia. Cat knew she had to be very sensitive to their pain as she gathered more of their stories. She traces her own growing up with humour and honesty as her parents worked patiently in an atmosphere of constant struggle and humiliation to provide for their three children and assist family back in Vietnam. After a particularly difficult time for them, she wrote “That day I vowed I would do whatever I could to be worthy of being my parents’ daughter, a daughter of this family – Cat Thao Nguyen - Sydney Airporta family that was surviving.” And indeed she has. Inspired by their integrity and commitment to family, she attained a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Law, became a youth representative to the UN General Assembly and an advocate for children’s rights. She is now a director of Ernst & Young, Vietnam, where she lives with her Chinese Canadian husband.

A second event was held in Bankstown, where so much of Cat’s story takes place. April Pham wrote, “A Sunday well spent at my friend Thao’s book launch for friends and family in Bankstown. A moving launch. Am so proud of her and her book about her family’s journey and the importance of living ethically. It speaks to so many of us, not only as refugees, but as individuals trying to live a life with purpose. Highly recommend We Are Here by Thao Nguyen.” Cat Thao took the photo above at Sydney Airport, on her way to Adelaide Writers Festival, March 2. She wrote, “En route to Adelaide for Adelaide Writers Week and saw my book next to Obama’s in Sydney airport! Surreal and emotional.” Click here to order a copy.