Mandy Hughes and Htun Htun Oo at SCU's Coffs Harbour campus
Mandy Hughes and Htun Htun Oo at SCU's Coffs Harbour campus

Doco to launch at Southern Cross University’s Fusion Festival

A NEW documentary highlighting the important role food plays within refugee communities will be a feature of Southern Cross University's Fusion Festival, with screenings of the film at the Coffs Harbour and Lismore campuses next week.

The documentary titled 'The Last Refuge: Food Stories from Myanmar to Coffs Harbour' has been created by Mandy Hughes, an academic and PhD candidate with the University's School of Arts and Social Sciences. 

Ms Hughes, who has a background in media working with the ABC and SBS, produced the film as part of her PhD which is investigating the social and cultural role of food for refugees.

"The documentary is about the social and cultural role of food in settlement for people from refugee backgrounds and it focuses totally on the Myanmar community in Coffs Harbour," she said.

"It looks at things like, when you arrive what kind of challenges do you face? Things like going shopping, which we take for granted but that's actually a really challenging thing if you can't speak English and you can't find the kind of food you are familiar with.

"I am also really interested in how food can continue people's culture and traditions, especially for refugees who fled their homeland with nothing.

"They have their stories and they have their recipes and their recollection of food, but they don't necessarily have any material culture with them."

Ms Hughes said the she hoped the Coffs Harbour and broader community would come and watch the film to learn about the Myanmar community. 

She said she had shown the documentary to the community and the response had been very positive.

"The most important thing is that the people in the documentary can reconnect with their culture and feel proud about coming from a particular tradition," she said.

One of the leaders of the Coffs Harbour Myanmar community is Htun Htun Oo, who arrived in Coffs Harbour in 2003. He has since gone on to complete a Bachelor of Nursing degree at SCU and is now working as an intensive care nurse at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus.

He said there were now around 450 people from Myanmar living in the Coffs Harbour community.

"They are quite satisfied with the outcome of the film, they are very happy. Food has its own language, food speaks much more than what we can actually express," Htun said.

Ms Hughes said Htun had been an integral part of the project.

"Htun acted as a 'cultural broker' and interpreter for the whole project. It was very much a collaboration between myself and the Myanmar community. Without this immense support from Htun and the community the project would not have happened," she said. 

Ms Hughes said she hoped the documentary would help to identify in gaps in the services provided to the refugee community when they arrived in a new country.

Screenings of 'The Last Refuge: Food Stories from Myanmar will be held at Coffs Harbour campus on Thursday, August 27 from 5pm at the Block D theatre



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