Gail Whiteford had just presented the occupational deprivation of asylum seekers in detention, and Jeanette Isaacs-Young and Clarissa Adriel, were concerned about the lack of professional engagement and response. So in the tea break of the OT Australia 2003 Conference, Clarissa typed a position paper noting that occupation as a human right - which includes refugees in detention centres.
Vigorous conversations ensued as the paper was circulated for discussion during conference drinks. Yes - the profession did have an obligation to respond. No - we were “not ready”, infact if OT roles with refugees were advertised, they'd probably stand vacant.
Post-conference conversations with OTs refined these impressions. OTs felt overwhelmed - what can one OT do? Some felt lost - where and how to begin? Others felt unprepared - what do I need to know? And they felt alone - where can I go support? So OOFRAS emerged to inspire, empower and equip OTs to respond to the occupational needs of refugees.
Initial networking and a student project later, Crissy, Clarissa, Sally and Jess (below) gathered after work for meetings. We reflected on values we saw woven through our name, the logo we devised with Excite Media, and the work we wanted to see happen.
From these early days in 2004, there was a lot of heart invested from this core group, right up till 2009 (Jess), 2010 (Crissy) 2012 (Sally), by which point the OOFRAS network took on a heartbeat of its own! Historical snapshot here
Beginning in three stages
First we formed as a network and the focus was on connecting and learning. For example:
Newsletter & email list & individual contact with interested OTs
Phone surveys of multicultural sector & participating in forums
Representing occupational needs of refugees at OT & refugee conferences
Then OOFRAS formed a co-ordination team and the focus was on doing things ourselves. For example:
Facilitating student projects and research
Engaging in local community development work
Fundraising and supporting OT refugee initiatives
Now OOFRAS Inc has formed as an organisation and the focus is on enabling others to act. For example:
Develop & support oofrasLINKS building local social capital
Enhancing networking between OOFRAS Inc members & guests with web2
Develop online resources building and sharing intellectual capital