One of my must-do's every year is to see a Treehouse Theatre performance. Known as 'Tree of Life', these performances tell the stories of young refugees from high schools in the Liverpool area; from their lives overseas to settling into Australia and the high school experience. Now in its fourth year, the program is essentially a series of stories told in a safe and welcoming environment. Through song and dance, each person tells of his or her life in their country of birth, how they came to be a refugee, and what life in Australia has been like for them. Hailing performers who come from Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Iraq, the performances are not only entertaining, but educational for those who may not have experienced the cultures of these countries.
The weekly rehearsals ensure that the children are given opportunities to improve their English language skills, their social skills, and their self-confidence. For the older students, there is also a mentoring component, which helps to empower them, and inspire the younger students. The program serves as a wonderful opportunity for Australians to learn more about the refugee experience, see how far these amazing young people have come, and perhaps change their perception of the word 'refugee'.
When I first saw the original performance (in 2010), I remember being amazed at how passionate and inspiring these young people were. Some had been through traumatic experiences, yet here they were, happy to share their stories with us; with respect for their past, and all the best hope for the future.
The performances for 2013 will be held at Casula Powerhouse (23rd and 24th May), and at the Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli (3rd June, 22nd July). If you're free on these dates, I strongly urge you to support your local community and see a show– if you're anything like me, you'll laugh, cry, and dance in your seat, all at the same time!