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A refugee family’s resettlement story in regional Australia

"Constance on the Edge" is an Australian documentary focused on the regional settlement experience of a Sudanese refugee family in Wagga Wagga.

To celebrate Refugee Week 2017 this June, the Constance team have recently launched an ambitious national screening program, in conjunction with their partners at the Refugee Council of Australia. 

About the film

Filmed over 10 years, the film features charismatic Constance, mother of six, as she confronts her painful past in war torn Sudan, and risks everything in Australia so her family can thrive.

Constance on the Edge is an unflinchingly honest portrayal of one refugee family’s resettlement story in Australia, that gets to the heart of a contemporary untold story about the courage and resilience it takes to build new lives.

Constance battles with the impact of recurring trauma. Her niece Mary finds it impossible to find a job in Wagga. Vicky, her daughter, studies from 4am every morning, hoping to get into university. And her son Charles, 23, struggles with alienation and depression.

By putting a human face on the refugee experience Constance on the Edge helps Australian communities better understand the experiences of refugee women like Constance and her family and friends: the dangerous environments they fled; the years spent in refugee camps waiting for a settlement place; the trauma they have experienced – in their countries of origin, in the camps, and recurring in Australia – and the challenges of their settlement experiences in a regional area.

In Africa I was fighting for survival; in the refugee camp I was fighting for human rights, and here in Australia, I'm fighting for belonging.
Constance

Featuring local policewoman Sandy Green, STARTTS counsellor Jeanette Ninnis, the local CWA ladies and many others, the film also highlights the critical role that regional communities can play in encouraging a sense of belonging for new arrivals. We see how the simple acts of welcome and assistance from community members can make all the difference to how refugees settle in regional Australia.

Completed in April 2016, Constance on the Edge premiered to a sold out audience at the Sydney Film Festival in June 2016 where it was voted second favourite documentary by the audience. Since then, the film has had more than 80 screenings across Australia, with community groups, at film festivals and with federal and state government departments and agencies.

The Constance team is thrilled that the film is helping to raise awareness, giving audiences a way in, beyond news and media reports that so often dehumanise refugees and make their experience ‘other’. Overwhelmingly, audiences have reported that the film changed their thinking about the experiences of refugees living in Australia.

Makes me realise the challenges refugees face here – and how we can all play a part in welcoming them and creating change in our community.
Film audience response

In November 2016 Constance on the Edge launched the Refugee Council of Australia’s first ever Refugee Film Festival in Melbourne, and it was recently a finalist in Australian Migration and Settlement Awards, in the category of excellence in journalism.

Refugee Week screening program

To celebrate Refugee Week 2017 this June, the Constance team have recently launched an ambitious national screening program, in conjunction with their partners at the Refugee Council of Australia.  

Refugee Week – held to coincide with World Refugee Day each year – raises awareness about the issues affecting refugees and celebrates the positive contributions made by more than 875,000 refugees to Australian society.

The Constance team are aiming for hundreds of screenings across Australia, hosted by community and church groups, local councils, libraries and schools. All screenings will be supported by promotional materials, a Screening Kit and Discussion Guide, as well as an Action Toolkit – equipping audiences with ways to promote the film’s welcoming and belonging themes in their families, workplaces and communities. The school screening program will be supported by curriculum resources, including a digital education toolkit currently under development.

The Constance team are offering specially discounted rates for single DVD screenings between Sunday 11 June and Saturday 1 July 2017. If you’re interested in hosting a Refugee Week screening please click below:

Constance - “In Africa I was fighting for survival; in the refugee camp I was fighting for human rights, and here in Australia, I'm fighting for belonging.“

Constance on the Edge impact strategy

Constance on the Edge was one of seven documentary films selected for the 2014 philanthropic Good Pitch2 Australia initiative. Good Pitch brings together filmmakers with foundations, not-for-profits, campaigners, philanthropists, policy-makers, brands, educators, broadcasters and media to forge powerful alliances around ground breaking films that will have a significant impact in relation to issues of social importance – and benefit the partners, the development of the films and society as a whole.

With stakeholder coalitions developed and resources raised through Good Pitch, the Constance team has developed an impact strategy to accompany the film’s release.

The Constance team is working with partners to ensure a broad national audience sees the film, helping to foster more welcoming communities for people from refugee backgrounds.

Educational resources are being created for schools, and the team is working with police, torture and trauma services, local government and community services to build greater awareness amongst “first responders” – people who regularly interact with refugees and humanitarian entrants in their work, but do not necessarily understand refugee trauma and how it manifests.

Another key feature of the impact strategy is to promote the provision of better support services and job opportunities for people with refugee backgrounds.

It is widely acknowledged that employment is a critical way for new arrivals to establish themselves in a new place. However, as highlighted in Constance on the Edge, recently arrived migrants can face a myriad of challenges in gaining employment, including limited English language proficiency; a lack of knowledge of the local employment context; a lack of Australian qualifications, work experience or references; few networks to draw on in seeking out and securing a job; and experiences of discrimination, prejudice or racism.

For refugee and humanitarian entrants there can be additional specific barriers to employment – as portrayed in the film, the ongoing impact of interrupted education resulting from extended periods living in refugee camps is profound. The Constance team is keen to partner with organisations seeking to address these issues.

Further information

Email:  admin@constanceontheedge.com
Website: http://constanceontheedge.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/constanceontheedge/
Twitter hashtags: #Constanceontheedge and #RefugeeWeek2017

Allison Henry is the Founding Director of Millwood Consulting and Impact Producer for "Constance on the Edge"

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