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Melbourne refugees to give free advice

Date

Aisha Dow

Melbourne refugees will give free advice on everything from wearing a hijab to eating meat pies during a unique art installation running this week.

The eight residents from a range of professions will be based in an office on the ground floor of the Melbourne Town Hall until Saturday.

When people enter the Bureau of Worldly Advice they will be handed a menu of the advice on offer for the day, before being called in to receive that advice.

On the menu is expertise on topics such as industrial design, cooking, history, volunteering, music and stigma, though the project funded by the Melbourne City Council is about more than just philosophy and housekeeping tips.

Artist Dagmara Gieysztor said many Australians go through life without meeting people with a refugee backgrounds.

“It’s more of an icebreaker conversation, to talk about other things … The point is asylum seekers are just people and they have a lot to offer.”

Participant Rosa Vasseghi has lived in Australia for almost two decades but spent three years of her life imprisoned in Iran, with other Baha'ís – a persecuted religious minority group. Her sister and friends still languish behind bars.

The author said a lot of people did not know what was happening to refugees in other countries, or why different groups of people had arrived to Australia seeking asylum.

“Every day refugees arrive and people don’t know why they are here. People are not interested to know what is around the bend.”

During her first three hour shift at the bureau, Ms Vasseghi was visited at her desk by a number of homeless people. She told them to seek help from local charities, but also to give back by volunteering their own time.

The bureau located in the Old Met Shop on Swanston Street will open 12pm to 3pm on Saturday. Bookings are not required.

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