Panel Discussion

Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre and Australian Refugee Association (ARA)

As a society we have never had more tools to tell our stories, and with that comes the opportunity to raise the voice of groups traditionally under-represented in mainstream media.

Storytelling can also be used as a way to share personal experiences, in order to raise awareness about issues. When people go through traumatic experiences, there can be a need from within or pressure from others to share their story. 

For some it is the path to healing, for others it reopens deep wounds. How do you control how your story is told?  And what actions can we all take to protect and respect the storytellers?

In My Story, My Way, four creatives from refugee and migrant backgrounds discuss the benefits, dangers and responsibilities in the 'golden age' of storytelling.

The Panellists include:

  • Jelena Dinic, Author and Poet
  • Pola Fanous, Performance Poet, Author and Educator
  • Cecile Saidi, Masoka Productions
  • Stephen Tongun, MC and Professional Motivator

The event will be presented during SA Refugee Week (19 June - 25 June 2022) and complement the My Story, My Way exhibition on display at the Kerry Packer Civic Gallery, 8 June  - 29 June 2022. The exhibition includes short films and stills from the Ghan International Film Festival Australia.

Nexus Arts will present Healing (Saturday 25 June, 7.30pm) -  a concert for SA Refugee Week 2022, with all profits being donated to Australian Refugee Association. The concert will feature performances by Zuhir Naji & Saleh Al Mansoor, with more musicians to be announced soon. 

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Thursday 23 June 2022, 6pm - 7.30pm

Allan Scott Auditorium, Hawke Building,
UniSA City West Campus,
55 North Terrace Adelaide

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Jelena Dinic

Jelena Dinic, who arrived in Australia in 1993 during the collapse of Yugoslavia, writes in Serbian and English. She is the recipient of the George Town Literary Exchange and The Arts Space residency in Rimbun Dahan, Malaysia and the Eleanor Dark Foundation Varuna Writers' Retreat in the Blue Mountains. Her first full collection In the room with the she wolf was selected for the Adelaide Festival 2020 Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award. Her poetry and short stories have been published in journals and anthologies including Australian Book Review, Australian Poetry Anthology, Australian Poetry Journal, Best Australian Poems, Going Down Swinging, and Westerly among others. When not writing poetry, Jelena is dedicated to working with students and families from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds, supporting their inclusion, settlement, learning and wellbeing. She lives in the Adelaide Hills with her family.


pola fanous

Pola Fanous is a Coptic Orthodox performance poet, author, and educator. Pola was the 2018 NSW Poetry Slam Champion and has performed Australia-wide at locations including the Opera House and Parliament House. Pola has published two books, a collection of poetry titled STRONGSOFT (2018) and a devotional on discovering love through faith Abba Father (2021). Pola is currently completing his Masters in Secondary Education (Leading Teaching) at ACU, while teaching English and Humanities in Echuca, Regional Victoria.



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When Cecile Saidi was six months old, a war broke out in her country, forcing her family to flee to neighbouring country, Tanzania, where they found refuge in a refugee camp. The family was granted visas by the Australian government and arrived in Australia in 2005. Cecile graduated from the University of South Australia in 2018, with a Bachelor of Communication and Media, majoring in English and Creative Writing. In her final year of study, she participated in a three-week creative writing tour in Malaysia, where her passion for collecting stories, especially of people from different walks of life, was fuelled.

In 2018, she started working for the Adelaide Football Club (Adelaide Crows) as their very first Multicultural Liaison Officer, introducing the club to the multicultural scene of South Australia, and involving them in conversations that may or may not have been comfortable. She left the Crows to embark on an uncomfortable journey of self-rediscovery, consciously and fully participating in her own story.

That led her into starting a podcast (One Conversation) in 2020, exploring and celebrating the differences and similarities in the human experience, through story and conversation. In 2021, she started going on monthly camping trips around South Australia, on her own. Recently, Cecile founded Masoka Productions, an African storytelling and theatre company which aims to tell and celebrate African stories, the African way.


stephen tongun

Stephen Tongun is a graduate of Flinders University Law School, as well as being an actor, MC and professional motivator. His outstanding theatrical performances over the last ten years have included Beckett for Independent Theatre, Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing and Oladoe Equiano in My Lover’s Eye by the Company of Muses; as well as starring in Frank Forbes and the Yahoo Boy, Bordertown (play and audio serial), and The Deep North for South Australian Playwrights Theatre. For screen, he has appeared in the feature films Escape from Pretoria and Never Too Late, as well as the highly acclaimed ABC TV series Stateless. He is a member of the ‘SANAA: A better world through creativity’ team and frequently performs and presents at their events. In November 2021, he starred in the State Theatre Company of SA/Far and Away Productions', Dry.

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While the views presented by speakers within The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia, or The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: Strengthening our Democracy - Valuing our Diversity - Building our Future.