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Brisbane to help asylum seekers and refugees resettle in Australia via technology


Queensland will play host to a gathering of top minds in March as up to 80 participants gather to develop creative technology solutions to help asylum seekers and refugee families settle in Australia.

The three-day event will see people from a range of skills, backgrounds and talent, from hackers to humanitarians, form teams to tackle some of the most common problems or barriers asylum seekers and refugees face when adopting a new home.

“We hope to see developers, designers, entrepreneurs, and community members come together to share their skills and collaborate to overcome barriers faced by asylum seekers and refugees in their new homeland using technology,” River City Labs CEO Peta Ellis said.

Ms Ellis said refugees who have resettled in Queensland will be at the event to help teams understand the opportunities and challenges faced by new settlers.

Some of the problem areas to be addressed include disability access and support, employment, entrepreneurship, health, housing, language, legal and migration advice, working qualifications, tracing family, and translation services.

“They (former refugees) will share first-hand knowledge on the hardships and challenges they had to go through to come to Australia just to attain freedom.

“They will sit together with participating teams and co-design solutions for new Australians,” Ms Ellis said.

How else will participants benefit?

TechfugeesBNE teams will also be guided by mentors from the startup ecosystem as well as representatives from Marist180, MDA Ltd, Access Community Services, MultiLink Community Services, Australian Red Cross, Welcome to Australia , QUT and Energy Queensland.

On the final day teams will pitch their solution to a panel of judges who will be looking for teams who have produced viable solutions to real problems.

The winning team will be awarded membership and work space at River City Labs and also Creative Enterprise Australia (QUT)  along with the opportunity to be supported in developing their concept into a company with structured mentoring.

In addition, a $1000 cash prize and useful tech devices will be up for grabs for other teams making the transition from idea to company a little easier after the event.

Why is such a hackathon so necessary today?

In 2015/16, the federal government granted 17,555 refugee and humanitarian visas, according to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s annual report.

“Queenslanders have always been one of the first to open their arms to refugees and asylum seekers and we’d like to see the tech community provide them with an avenue to a better life,” Ms Ellis said.

TechfugeesBNE 2017 will be hosted by event sponsor and Queensland technology hub River City Labs in partnership with Marist180, MDA Ltd, Access Community Services, MultiLink Community Services, Australian Red Cross, and the Urban Informatics Research Lab @ QUT Design Lab.

“The social sector is working to bring refugees and asylum seekers together with the tech, business and humanitarian sectors to solve problems using technology and innovative thinking,” Steve Williams, Marist180 Queensland social innovation manager, said.

Another chapter for Techfugees

TechfugeesBNE 2017 in Brisbane follows the successful events in Melbourne and Sydney in previous years.

Co-founder of Techfugees Australia, Annie Parker, said: “I’m excited that Brisbane is our newest addition to Techfugees Australia. We’ve hosted a number of hackathons already, and the great news is we already have success stories to share.”

“A fantastic example is Refugee Talent, created by Nirary Datcho and Anna Robson. In just 12 months their business has gone from a clever idea to building up a client base of more than 300 refugee candidates and 100 companies signed up to their platform across Australia. The startup has already placed 20-plus refugees in meaningful employment.

“So these hackathons really can turn into amazing business opportunities and most importantly, they help refugees to have a better life here in Australia.”

Husna Nabi
Husna Nabi

Husna Nabi, who will participate in TechfugeesBNE, arrived in Brisbane from Afghanistan (via Indonesia) in 2014 and is entering her first year of university this year at 19. “I have a lot of ideas on how we can help young people arriving in Australia and I am looking forward to sharing people who have the expertise on how to put into action.” She will be pursuing a degree in Accounting and Finance.

TechfugeesBNE 2017 will be held at River City Labs from March 17-19. Teams must register by February 26.