Murdoch professor helps launch Refugee Week

June 20, 2012

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Murdoch University is assisting Rwandans who experienced the 1994 genocide with the reconciliation process through a number of multimedia initiatives.

Associate Professor Mick Broderick helped open Refugee Week 2012 at the State Library of WA on Monday June 18 with a talk about Sustaining Reconciliation in Rwanda, a project helping Rwandans remember and heal trauma from the genocide which saw over 800,000 civilians murdered as the international community stood by.

“I spoke about how Murdoch University is assisting partners in Rwanda forge pathways out of the trauma,” Dr Broderick said.

“This includes a website featuring short videos of survivors sharing stories of perseverance and hope as well as a future initiative with the Young and Well Cooperative Reseach Centre to have young Australians produce video messages in solidarity and in response to the Rwandan messages.”

Dr Broderick said the Sustaining Reconciliation group was pursuing Federal Government funding for a wellness centre to support counsellors and survivors at the Kigali Memorial Centre. This would complement the work of specialists such as Dr Angela Ebert from Murdoch School of Psychology who are working with Rwandan universities to train people in trauma counselling.

Dr Broderick said he became involved with the issue through his work in Murdoch’s School of Media Communication & Culture.

“I really started thinking about how the genocide was being represented after its 10th anniversary in 2004. Hotel Rwanda had come out, and like many Hollywood-style films, it was an uplifting, feel-good movie about a heroic person who intervened,” he said.

“But I was concerned people were going away with a sense they knew about Rwanda and felt relieved there was a happy ending, which was far from true. This made me wonder how Rwandans were representing their own experiences through film and other narrative forms outside of these Western stereotypes.”

Along with Tanzanian filmmaker and Murdoch colleague Dr Martin Mhando, Dr Broderick travelled to Rwanda in early 2007 to meet with NGOs working with survivors. This visit led to Murdoch’s broader involvement in supporting the healing process.

“It’s deeply humbling and uplifting to meet and hear of people who have lost their families and still move forward, despite hardship, yet don’t advocate further violence or seek retribution. There’s a great hunger in Rwanda for things to get better, and to date the national reconciliation process is a remarkable story that we can all learn from,” Dr Broderick said.

Refugee Week and the United Nation’s exhibition Lessons from Rwanda were officially launched by His Excellency, Malcolm McCusker, Governor of Western Australia. Information can be found at refugeeweek.org.au.

Information on Murdoch’s next Sustaining Reconciliation in Rwanda project can be found here.

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