Youth for Refugees- Bellingen youth taking the lead

Our inspiring Bellingen youth have created a grassroots initiative 'Youth for Refugees' to raise money for recently settled refugee families in our region.

Our inspiring Bellingen youth have created a grassroots initiative ‘Youth for Refugees’ to raise money for recently settled refugee families in our region. This is a completely independent and Bello run initiative, relying almost entirely on youth,” says one of the group’s founding members Stella Rees.  Stella will be MC on Sunday at the ‘Youth for Refugees’ Concert to be staged at Bellingen Golf Club 2 pm-5 pm. Funds raised will support Education and Employment programs being run by Refugee Support Groups in our region.

“Fellow ‘Youth for Refugees’ founding members Rosie Stephens, Finn Lawson-John and Gemma Mcaulay are all fantastic musicians.  We decided to use our skills to our advantage and so that was the angle for our first fundraiser,” says Stella. “Hopefully this is the start of many events from Youth for Refugees.”

The line-up for Sunday is massive.  Many of you will recognise these talented performers as so many of us have watched and admired these musical youths grow.

Our inspiring Bellingen youth have created a grassroots initiative 'Youth for Refugees' to raise money for recently settled refugee families in our region.

Some very familiar local faces- Youth for Refugees

We have seen their extraordinary performances with the Bellingen Youth Orchestra, appearances with David Helfgott, solos at the recent James Morrison concert at Bellingen High School and multiple performances at the Camp Creative Celebrity Concerts.  The afternoon will feature performances of original compositions and creative arrangements with various ensembles, the clarion tones of Rosie and Finn duo, the sultry sounds of singer-songwriter Gemma McAulay, the superb Bellingen High School String Quartet and a joyful appearance by the local Gumbaynggirr Choir, Gungunbuwala. There will be special guest appearances throughout.

With support from the Bellingen Youth Hub, the Bellingen Golf Club, Purple Carrot and Mums and Dads, this gig is hosted in the spirit of IT TAKES A VILLAGE. It’s what Bello does best!

Stella Rees has become a spokesperson in our Shire for the causes about which she cares so deeply.  And all of this while studying for her year 12 exams. We just had to meet this future leader.

How did ‘Youth for Refugees’ come about?

My younger sister Lola Rees is currently doing a reading program with young resettled refugees in Coffs Harbour. I was inspired and started talking to other youths.  We realised we could do something meaningful.

How many refugee families are resettling in our region? What do you see as their major struggles or obstacles to overcome?

Coffs has resettled over 1000 refugees since 2005 which is quite amazing.  But there’s still a lot more that needs to be done. It’s my understanding that the main issue with resettlement and integration into Australia is education, communication and trauma. These three factors are the root for most other problems. Issues like housing and job seeking are nearly impossible without communication skills and education. Trauma from past experiences also creates a huge toll on the individual’s well-being and mental health.

What are ‘Youth for Refugees’ primary goals?

Our ultimate goal is to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for families and individuals resettling in Australia.  Through education programs (reading programs for youth), building english and communication skills and welcoming all with open arms, the move here for refugees will be easier.

How do you feel personally about the current refugee situation in Australia?

I believe the current refugee situation in Australia is quite devastating.  Although there are some incredible initiatives in place, our current government is not doing enough. The current situation on Nauru and Manus is nothing short of appalling- living conditions that are barely that and trauma that is ingrained into families for life. Our current government’s policy of turning back asylum seekers and taking very minimal people off Nauru and Manus, is now being exacerbated by our government declining New Zealand’s offer to adopt large numbers into their own country.  The topic of refugees and asylum seekers shouldn’t have to be an issue-  it should be a given that we accept refugees with open arms.

You have been described as an eco warrior.  I know you were very involved with the recent Climate Strike in Bellingen. Do you have hope for a change in governmental policy on climate action?

I think the climate strike was an absolute success.  Yes we received some hate but it was only scarce. The youth from everywhere were so involved and engaged. It had an amazingly positive impact on the youth, not just around the climate crisis but also giving them a voice, passion and a sense of community. It’s hard to say how effective the strikes were, but it’s good to hear that the climate crisis was the main issue in this election. Unfortunately we have not elected a very progressive party so appropriate climate action seems a little out of reach.  Staying hopeful.

Are you looking forward to the fundraiser on Sunday?

Well I haven’t been an MC at an event before so hopefully I don’t trip up too much! I’m a little bit nervous but I’m very excited and looking forward to it. I’ve got great support and it’s a very important issue. It’s great to be part of such a friendly family event, kids are free!!!!

Can I ask the awful question- your plans for after school?

To be honest I’m not quite sure what I want to do after school, it’s a big question. I know that I want to continue protesting and fighting for global human rights. Eventually I think I want to pursue a career doing something green-related. I’m pretty clueless for now haha.

Clueless?? I don’t think so.  This is one space to watch!!


Youth for Refugees Concert at Bellingen Golf Club
Sunday 2nd June 2 pm- 5 pm
Tickets: $20 Bellingen Golf Club and Bello Youth Hub or at the door
Lucky Door Prize for Advanced Ticket Holders

 Our inspiring Bellingen youth have created a grassroots initiative 'Youth for Refugees' to raise money for recently settled refugee families in our region.

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