World Refugee Day with Samuel Gebreselassie from I'm a Refugee... Get Me Out of Here!

Thu, Jun 20 2024
In acknowledgement of World Refugee Day, we had a chat with Samuel Gebreselassie, the inspiring artist behind the powerful Fringe show "I'm a Refugee... Get Me Out of Here!". Samuel’s compelling performance delves into the raw and often challenging experiences of refugees, blending sharp wit and personal anecdotes to provide a unique perspective on the refugee experience. Samuel’s show at Fringe 2024 invited audiences to laugh while reflecting on the realities faced by refugees, drawing on his own family’s experiences. Join us as we delve into Samuel's comedic journey, his inspirations, and the messages he hopes to share through his hit show show.
A man stands on the stange with a mic in his hand.
Image supplied by artist
How do you feel about being in Australia now compared to when you first arrived?

I’ve been in Australia for eight years; before that I was in New Zealand for 18 years. It’s weird because the world feels more polarised and Australians are falling into that polarisation. This creates scapegoating of refugees for the major issues affecting Australians. 

I hope we can stray from this narrative through educating ourselves and hearing the experiences of refugees first-hand. When I first got to New Zealand and Australia, everything was so new and scary. 

I was fortunate to rely on family and friends to navigate this new landscape. My community also helped make me feel at home. Now, I feel at home because I’ve created connections within my wider community and work. I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be. 

What are the greatest misconceptions you think Australian society has about refugees, and how can we overcome these?

Mostly that refugees aren’t contributing to society in a positive way and that they’re the reason things are so expensive.

I think to overcome these, the conversation about refugees needs to change from being politicised because it’s not a political issue, it’s a humanitarian issue, and hearing firsthand the experiences of refugees will prove that. 

Your show ‘ I’m a Refugee… Get Me Out Of Here!’ talks about your journey to Australia. Can you give us a small summary of it?

My parents fled from Ethiopia because of a civil war to Sudan. Then we were sponsored through the UN’s resettlement program to New Zealand. The show was about my family and our experiences - an insight into our lives, but also a pushback against the ignorant things people have said regarding refugees. 

Have you found that by telling your story through comedy, you have been able to change perceptions that people have of refugees? 

I hope so. I think people are more understanding when things are delivered through the medium of stand-up and through the lens of the person that has experienced the subject spoken about. 
Why is it important for you to share your refugee story on the stage?

There’s a lot of misconception floating around about refugees, and I felt like through sharing my story, I could break them. I also felt like I could break the stigma related to refugees by sharing my story.

Has performing at Adelaide Fringe and other festivals changed your experience as a refugee? 

It has, in that a lot of people have been very nice after watching the show. They were surprisingly accepting of me and my story, and wanting to do whatever they can to help.

Looking ahead, what are your hopes and aspirations for the future? How do you see yourself and your story impacting or contributing to the wider Australian community in the future?

There’s so much more I want to say about being a former refugee. I hope to do another show going into deeper details about my family's experiences. I hope to be more involved in organising and coordinating events to further educate the wider Australian community and help newer refugees adapt to their new home.

Australia is known for its multicultural society. How do you perceive the role of diversity in shaping the community here, especially in terms of arts and culture?

I think diversity exposes us to our ignorance's and further connects us because we realise how similar we are as humans. It’ll add to our arts and culture through collaborations and from hearing different perspectives and new stories. 
A massive thanks to Samuel for sharing his story with us to acknowledge World Refugee Day. Watch this space to hear more stories from Fringe artists and their journeys throughout the year.