Bearer of Hope for many Refugees in Australia: Susan Gilbey

Peace Award Winner 2009, Categorie "Unknown Peaceworker"

The Australian Susan Jennifer Gilbey is not a lawyer by profession. Nevertheless, she fought and won many court cases for asylum seekers in Australia, ensuring them permanent stay permits. She is actively working in various areas of society in order to promote peaceful living.

Australia, a continent full of natural beauty, is a dream destination for millions of tourists. However, those who do not come to Australia as tourists and have to stay longer, face a lot of difficulties. The Australian asylum policies are too rigid, as Susan Jennifer Gilbey very well knows: supporting refugees, who had to flee their country due to war or political persecution, has become an essential part of her life.

Susan Gilbey's work in advocating for the rights and safety of asylum seekers began, when her personal situation seemed hopeless to others who may have given up in despair: a serious accident caused her to suffer disability and from severe chronic pain. Instead of retreating into privacy, Susan Gilbey joined the Australian Peace Committee. At that time, the Australian Government was harshly criticised for the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. This led to the rise of a protest movement, supported by lawyers, who fought cases of imprisoned asylum seekers free of charge.

As a result, many refugees were granted a limited stay permit. The government however refused to cover the legal expenses, which made it almost impossible for the refugees to receive a permanent stay permit. Some lawyers still did not want to give up and offered legal trainings to volunteers enabling them to work as paralegals for the rights and in the interests of the refugees. Susan Jennifer Gilbey was the first volunteer to receive such training. She then successfully fought for a residence permit for a number of refugees and thus paved the way for a better future for them.

Susan Jennifer Gilbey is still in touch with many of her "clients", including a refugee family from Sudan, which she once took to her home. She is actively involved in various national and international initiatives and networks. She is also one of the presenters of a local radio programme called A Peace of the Action dealing with global issues such as peace, human rights and social justice. Furthermore, she is committed to fighting racial discrimination against Aborigines. However diverse her fields of social action may be, Susan Jennifer Gilbey's dedicated work is fuelled by the conviction that social commitment is the only viable way to make the world a little more humane.



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