All Things Assyrian
Sydney and the Assyrian Refugee Writer
By Eliza Barr

Monikka Eliah (L) and Winnie Dunn are among a number of western Sydney writers speaking at Sydney Writers Festival this weekend. ( Robert Pozo/AP)
They are so much more than their struggles and hardship -- and now western Sydney writers say it is time to tell their own stories beyond the stereotypes surrounding migrants and refugees.

Assyrian-Australian writer Monikka Eliah has lived in Fairfield since her family arrived from Iraq via Jordan in 1998, when she was just six years old.

Ms Eliah said it was time western Sydney showed the world what it was really made of.

"Mainstream culture perpetuates stereotypes about what culturally and linguistically diverse Australian stories look like," Ms Eliah said.

"People have niche expectations that our stories will always be about refugee and migrant families fitting into Australian culture, traditions, violence and hardship -- but it's time to allow people from those backgrounds to tell different stories."

Ms Eliah will join several emerging western Sydney voices for a Sydney Writers Festival event titled Owning Your Story at Casula Powerhouse on Sunday.

"It's important migrant and refugee writers tell their own stories, because it's not an opportunity for white Australian writers to capitalise on our experiences as an interesting subject matter," Ms Eliah said.

"We also have stories to tell beyond the struggles of being a refugee -- we have entertaining and funny stories to contribute to the Australian literary landscape, outside the stereotypes of struggle and hardship."

Ms Eliah is a member of the National Theatre of Parramatta's Page to Stage program and CuriousWorks' Breakthrough program.

She has previously presented for the Wollongong Writers' Festival, the Stella Girls Write Up and the Digital Writers' Festival.

She will speak on the Owning Your Story Panel on May 6 alongside Vietnamese-Australian writer Stephen Pham, poetry editor Omar Sakr and Tongan-Australian writer Winnie Dunn.

Mr Pham is based in Cabramatta and received the NSW Writer's Fellowship 2017 to begin his manuscript Vietnamatta.

Mr Sakr is based in Casula and is the poetry editor for progressive literary magazine The Lifted Brow.

Ms Dunn is a manager and editor at Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement.


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