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New Beginnings

Sharmaine Spencer, 7th August 2019

New  Beginnings explores the  personal  stories  of  migrants,  asylum  seekers  and  refugees  who  have  made  their home in Canberra.

New Beginnings, is a twelve-part, six-hour long-from community radio documentary that explores the personal stories of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Canberra and Australia. Created by Becca Posterino from Community Station 2XX in Canberra, In each thirty-minute episode, she will discuss the importance of English language programs as a critical resource for those forging New Beginnings. 

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New Beginnings also examines the intersection between education, history and politics to help uncover how and why Canberra and Australia has been shaped by immigration. 



Episode 1

Dickson Secondary College and their Language of Hope for Recently Arrived Settlers

CRN airdate: Sat 03 Aug 2019

We begin at Dickson College in Canberra’s north at the Secondary Introductory English Centre or the SIEC. The SIEC is an intensive English language program that enables migrant, asylum seeker and refugee students to build much needed English language skills. We meet some of the SIEC graduating students who will go on to secondary school in Canberra and the ACT.


Pah Bleh is a Karen refugee from Burma who spent fifteen years living in a refugee camp on the Thailand border, he now has dreams of becoming an Engineer.


Dickson College Principal Craig Edwards and Executive Teacher of the Refugee Bridging program, Ros Phillips share their personal and professional reflections on how the school community has been positively affected by the SIEC and Refugee Bridging programs at Dickson College.

Episode 2

The Terrifying Climate of War, and the Latin American Voices of Survival - First Hand

CRN airdate: Sat 10 Aug 2019

Latin American migrants, asylum seekers and refugees have found their voice in Canberra as volunteer community radio producers and presenters on 2XX 98.3FM. Many have forged friendships and established connections with community radio audiences with shared culture, history and New Beginnings in Canberra and Australia.

Chilean refugee Victor Marillanca experienced first hand the brutal force of the 1973 Chilean Coup and shares his personal passage to Australia.


Chilean refugee Elba Cruz-Zavalla gives us an insight into her brother’s experiences as unofficial bodyguards during the assassination of Allende in Chile.


Aristedes Gonzales a refugee from El Salvador shares his life in Australia beyond a politically unstable El Salvador.  Associate Professor of Latin American Studies, John Minns of the Australian National University helps unpack the social and political climate of Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s.

Episode 3

Companion House: A Critical Link Between Trauma and Asylum Within Community Development

CRN airdate: Sat 17 Aug 2019

Canberra based non-government community organisation Companion House supports adults and children who have sought asylum in Australia beyond persecution, torture and war related trauma. Companion House serve provide a critical link for people moving beyond trauma to empowerment and recovery.


Director Kathy Ragless and Community Development and Training Team Leader Glenn Flanagan share their personal and professional reflections on their work at Companion House. They explore the challenges and opportunities as a community based organisation and in spite of political and bureaucratic hurdles, they remain committed to advocate for the holistic health of asylum seekers and refugees living in Canberra.

Episode 4

Three Key Figures Speak Openly About the Doors to Community Connections - Inclusion; Understanding and Leadership

CRN airdate: Sat 24 Aug 2019

President of Aussie Forum, Mohammed Ali is a dedicated volunteer, committed to embracing cultural diversity and promoting inclusivity in Canberra. A Pakistani expatriate Mohammed shares his candid views on racism and reflects on his New Beginnings in Canberra.


Alpha Cheng decided to become an ambassador of peace in the aftermath of his father, Curtis Cheng’s death outside the New South Wales Police Headquarters in Parramatta in Sydney’s west in October 2015. The brutal act of the radicalized youth, who shot dead his father, has inspired Alpha to better understand the origins of radicalization.


And Australian National University academic and researcher Sophie Saydan highlights the importance of community leadership as a preventative strategy of violent extremism.

Episode 5
Voices for Change and Improved Outcomes

CRN airdate: Sat 31 Aug 2019

The Adult Migrant English Program or AMEP was a post World War II Australian government initiative designed to provide assistance to non-English speaking migrants. Canberra Institute of Technology Education Advisor – Migrants and Refugees, Lesley Cioccarelli and English as a Second Language Teacher Tina Williamson discuss the importance of English language programs for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Canberra and Australia.


Dr Helen Moore is the Vice President of the Association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. She reflects on her academic research and shares her professional insights as an advocate for adult migrant English Teachers. Dr. Moore argues that change is needed in order for the sector to improve experiences and outcomes for teachers and students of AMEP in Canberra and Australia.


Dr Chris Corbel, Melbourne University academic and AMEP teacher has extensive experience as a general manager in the AMEP sector. Dr. Corbel helps unpack some of the critical changes to AMEP since its inception.

Episode 6
Challenge and Protect: Narratives that Question Community Attitudes Whilst Nurturing Answers to Broad Social Cohesion

CRN airdate: Sat 7 Sept 2019

Dr. Kim Huynh arrived in Australia as a refugee from Vietnam in 1979. He almost died as an infant over the course of his perilous passage to via boat. Kim is now a lecturer of politics and international relations at the Australian National University and is a devoted father and popular ABC Radio Canberra broadcaster. Kim challenges the trope of ‘boat people’ and instead prefers to unravel weary stereotypes. 


Dr. Ibolya Losoncz of the Australian National University’s School of Regulation and Global Governance discusses structural and institutional exclusion of refugees. Dr. Losoncz claims, Australia needs to do more, to better protect and promote the human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.


Dr. James Jupp is the author of From White Australia to Woomeraand maps the history of Australian multiculturalism. Dr. Jupp sheds light on the political and historical factors influencing Australia’s relationship to immigration.


Dr. Andrew Marcus of Monash University is the author of the Mapping Social Cohesion Report 2018 and highlights Australia’s attitudes towards immigration and helps explore the potential factors contributing to current trends.

Episode 7
Welcome to Country: The Great Blight on Human Rights then - Activists Needed Now

CRN airdate: Sat 14 Sept 2019

On the 27 April 2016, Australia’s former Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs addressed an auditorium of 1500 people at Llewellyn Hall at the Australian National University in Canberra to discuss her concerns as commissioner regarding Manus Island and the impacts of offshore detention on asylum seekers.


Sophie Singh, Activist for Refugee Action Campaign in Canberra argues, policy and the narrative that accompanies the treatment of refugee and asylum seekers need to change in Australia.


Dr. Helen Watchirs, Australian Capital Territory Human Rights Commissioner believes racism should be called out, rather than disguising it with euphemisms. Dr. Watchirs believes we need to ‘clean up our own backyard’ regarding our historical treatment of Aboriginal people and claims historical genocide is a corruption of Australia’s culture.

Episode 8
Employment Exploitation and Discovering the ART of New Beginnings for Canberra’s South Sudanese

CRN airdate: Sat 21 Sept 2019

Jenny Wells, Director of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Office of Multicultural Affairs, discusses the practical initiatives the nation’s capital is taking to address workplace exploitation and discrimination. And significantly, how embracing cultural diversity in the workplace could improve employment prospects and experiences, particularly for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Canberra and Australia more broadly. 


Zsuzsi Soboslay works as an ‘artist’ and bodywork therapist across the eastern states of Australia. Zsuzsi has nurtured a long-term, genuine relationship with the South Sudanese community in Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory - forged by many years of academic studies and professional experience in community development.


Reverend Peter Manyok Kuot is the spiritual leader of the South Sudanese, community in Canberra. Peter Kuot reflects on the challenges and opportunities faced by his community in Canberra and Australia. He generously shares his personal experiences traveling within and beyond the Sudan to find New Beginnings in Canberra, Australia.

Episode 9
Public Policy Escaping it’s Dimensions - Covering Political Relationships and Historical Events that Continue to Tower Over Australia’s Policy on Asylum Seeker

CRN airdate: Sat 28 Sept 2019

Former Australian Liberal Party opposition leader Dr John Hewson and Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University discusses some of the politic and historical dimensions of immigration and our relationship to migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Australia.


Karen Middleton, The Saturday Paper’s Chief Political Correspondent shares her insights on the events of September 11 and how these events have shaped Australia’s current political climate particularly regarding security, border protection and asylum seekers and refugees.


Political Editor for Sky News and host of Speers Tonight, David Speers discusses the existence of a proportion of Australian voters who share discriminatory views, supported by minor political parties. However he also recognises, the Australian government need to better manage resettlement of asylum seekers in offshore detention. How the coalition government navigates these issues and how the media choose to report and analyse these political debates and decisions, will no doubt shape the future of immigration and refugee policy in Australia.

Episode 10
Travel Plans in Former Yugoslavia Changed Lives Forever in Australia Escaping one’s  ‘Home After Dark’- A coup in survival

CRN airdate: Sat 5 Oct 2019

In May 1990, Vesna Cvjeticanin, a successful lawyer from Serbia was just 28 years old when she traveled with her husband and two young children to Australia, for a three-month holiday with Vesna’s grandmother in Canberra. However, in their absence, political issues surfaced at home in former Yugoslavia and changed their lives forever.


Vesna’s daughter Dunja, is a successful lawyer living in Canberra and was inspired by her family experience and collaborated with a friend to create an online publication. Be:longing is a digital hub for people to share stories on migration and cross-cultural issues. Dunja reflects on the impact her mother’s determination had on her own life.


Author Kavita Nandan discusses her novel Home After Dark, a work of fiction interweaving her families real life unraveling, after her father, a Fijiindian politician, academic and writer, was held hostage as part of the 1987 Fiji Coup. Beyond trauma, Kavita and her family moved to Canberra, Australia, in search of New Beginnings

Episode 11
A list of Risk takers and Givers of New Beginnings

CRN airdate: Sat 12 Oct 2019



Mustafa Ehsan was 16 years of age when he decided to leave Iran to start a new life. He left behind a desperate mother and three sisters and carried with him great uncertainty and fear; for Mustafa there was little choice but to take the risk.


Anna Cirocco is the Refugee Mentoring Coordinator at Calvary Hospital in Canberra; she leads a team of volunteer mentors who help facilitate 12-week work experience programs for people from refugee or asylum seeker backgrounds. 


Pah Bleh is a refugee from Burma and lived for over fifteen years in a Karen refugee camp on the Thai border. Today, he lives in Canberra and has dreams of becoming an architect.


Marilyn or ‘Maz’ Higgins is a volunteer with the Refugee Bridging program at Dickson College in Canberra. Maz values her time as a volunteer with Pah Bleh and considers it one of the most important experiences of her life.


Craig Edwards, principal of Dickson College in the Australian Capital Territory recognizes the value of the SIEC and Refugee Bridging programs. Craig believes these programs enrich cultural diversity within the College and the Canberra community and in Pah Bleh’s case, ‘…when you create a positive environment, students can and do thrive.’

Episode 12
Making the Connections: So begins a Journey in Giving, Receiving and a Different Language of Love

CRN airdate: Sat 19 Oct 2019



In this final episode of New Beginnings, we weave together some of the most concise and poignant reflections of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. This documentary also draws together the insights of educators, community organisation leaders, politicians, academics as well as journalistic analysis to reveal some of the most relevant and interconnected issues.


And finally, I take to the streets of Canberra to ask; Why are English language programs so important in Canberra and how has immigration shaped the Australian Capital Territory and Australia?


On a brisk winter’s day, in Garema place, a central shopping area in Australia’s Capital Territory, I ask locals to share their views. Most people I approached and who chose to respond had an opinion, some people were reluctant to engage, and others grasped the opportunity to shine a light on these issues from a local perspective.  


This documentary is ultimately a celebration of the courageous journeys made by migrants, asylum seekers and refugees who endured hardship and discovered resilience and the power and purpose of their New Beginnings.


Image: New Beginnings Logo

For CRN subscribers:
  • Broadcasting on CRN on Saturdays at 10:04 am from 03 August 2019
  • One episode distributes each week, for 12 weeks, at 27'50 duration each
  • DDN equipped stations can capture the series by ordering 'New Beginnings'
  • 12-part series available weekly or in bulk download - email [email protected]
  • For more information contact CRN staff on 02 9310 2999 or email [email protected]
Not a CRN subscriber, but want to find out more about getting content like this for your station? Read more here.

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