A group of 80 students in Year 5 to 11 from four Catholic schools in Sydney’s south west took part in a surprise performance at Westfield Liverpool on Thursday, June 23 to celebrate Refugee Week.
St Francis Xavier Catholic Primary Lurnea, Holy Spirit Catholic Primary Carnes Hill, St Catherine of Siena Catholic Primary Prestons and Clancy Catholic College West Hoxton students performed a three-minute dance to Jump.
The song, performed by X Factor finalist Jacinta Guilisano, was written and launched in 2015 for the ‘Jump Up & Down 4 Kids’ social media awareness campaign to support an end to detention of children in Australian and off-shore immigration facilities.
Family educator at St Francis Xavier Catholic Primary Lurnea Nikki Beech said the three-minute performance also aimed to raise awareness of the plight of refugees and asylum seekers.
“There is a lot that goes on in our schools that is about social justice and outreach,” she said. “I just thought how can we bring about awareness in a warm way? We thought how amazing to do a flash mob. My hope is that someone will come up afterwards and say ‘What was that about?’”
Parents were invited to listen with their children to guest speakers from the Refugee Council of Australia and see a sneak-peek of the dance after a group rehearsal on June 16, a week before the public performance.
The speakers presented fact and figures to bust myths about asylum seekers and refugees and gave a personal account of living in a refugee camp.
Burmese refugee Daniel spent 11 years in a Thai refugee camp before making it to Australia, and told students and parents about his childhood spent in the camp which he left at age 18.
“He also talked about the things we take for granted like walking into Woolworths and being shocked by everything on the shelves,” Mrs Beech said. “He spoke too about his gratitude in being in Australia and how welcome he has felt and how nicely people have treated him.”
The students performed wearing T-shirts with the simple messages ‘Welcome’ and ‘Refugee Week – Educate yourself’ written on them.
“It is the first time we have done something to this scale and so publicly,” Mrs Beech said.
“I think it’s a really gentle, non-confronting way to look at the issue. My hope is that it promotes conversation. All teachers have been really vocal about how this is not just a flash mob, and that we need to understand why we’re doing it.
“The kids were so excited, so I’m hoping the conversations are also happening in the family homes. We did a couple of trials in the playground, just to get them used to performing it and working around a crowd of people that might not move.
“They’ve loved it and the other kids on the playground have asked ‘why are you doing this?’ It really does have a ripple, flow-on effect and it has been a really positive one.”