Helping to ‘Change the Conversation’ about people seeking asylum to our shores

| June 24, 2016

What can we do to make Australia a more welcoming place for people coming to our shores? Following Refugee Week Ciantal Bigornia explains how the Sydney Alliance Table Talk campaign helps shifting attitudes about asylum seekers.

If you had asked me two years ago about my thoughts on refugees and people seeking asylum I would have probably shrugged my shoulders and at most make some comment of indifference whilst trying to divert the conversation. This wasn’t because I was ashamed of my stance on these issues, but rather because it seemed so foreign to me. I didn’t know the facts and I didn’t know the gravity of this until I was able to hear these stories directly from refugees and asylum seekers themselves.

It was through the Sydney Alliance’s Changing the Conversation about people seeking asylum campaign that my mind, heart and hands began to be more open to wanting to continue changing this conversation across Sydney.

Since 2013, the Sydney Alliance Table Talk campaign has made big inroads into more than 4,000 people in the wider Sydney community, shifting attitudes about people seeking asylum. At community gatherings called table talk events, we learn about the Government’s processing procedures from a legal expert and are able to hear personal stories from asylum seekers. From this, guests are better informed about the real and personal experience of seeking asylum and, like me, are able to personally relate to what asylum seekers need to transition into the community in a humane and welcoming manner, according to our Australian values of a fair go.

Organisations, churches, schools and community groups across Sydney host and invite their members to a Table Talk to generate interest in and understanding of asylum seeker issues and find ways that they can take action to help asylum seekers feel welcomed and valued in our community.

These Table Talks are backed by Sydney Alliance, a diverse coalition of community organisations, religious organisations, unions and schools that use the tools of community organising to act for the common good and make our city a better place to live.

If your organisation, school or community group would like to host a Table Talk, OR if you would like to join the Sydney Alliance Table Talk team to help us shift attitudes to ensure Sydney is a welcoming place for people seeking asylum to our shores, please feel free to contact me by email on

Just a few ways one can take action are:

  • Volunteer with Settlement Services International (SSI). There are many ways to take action, e.g. attend the Community Kitchen at Auburn, help teach conversational English, help write Resumes, help prepare clients for job interviews, accompany groups on excursions. See their website.
  • Donate to SSI a not for profit organisation. The Community Engagement Team rely on outside donations to offer activities to their clients. They will gratefully receive monetary donations as well as Christmas hampers, gifts for clients, toys for the children, etc.
  • House of Welcome offers support to people seeking asylum in many ways. Among many other things, they appreciate donations of food, grocery items and toys, etc. Refer to their website.


  1. Craig Hackett

    Craig Hackett

    July 13, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Promoting a positive social agenda

    Hi Ciantal,

    Thank you for an interesting read and good luck with your worthy project. I think bringing people together just ticks so many boxes, on top of instilling evidence-based clarity to help people see through the fog of disinformation propagated by mainstream media, I also think sharing ideas this way leverages diversity and creates an atmosphere of creativity.

    You might also be interested in having a look at our research project which touches on some similar themes around social action, tolerance and inclusiveness. Our project looks at the role of bystanders who witness racism and prejudice in everyday situations. You can find our Facebook page at or check out my blog for a direct link to the survey.

    My research supervisor Dr Danielle Every is a Senior Research Fellow with an interest in issues of social inclusion, and has an extensive portfolio of published works, including papers on the plight of asylum seekers which you may find interesting. You can see Dr Every’s portfolio of published works on Researchgate at

    Best wishes,

    Craig Maxwell Hackett