Syrian refugee scores inaugural film scholarship

A young Syrian refugee will fulfil her 'need' to become a filmmaker thanks to a new award.

18 February 2020
Joelle holding a camera, standing in front of a world map
Image: Joelle Sanounou - Everyone has a voice they want to project and a filmmaker can make this voice echo. Credit- Australia for UNHCR.

Movies played a large part in the life of Syrian refugee Joelle Sanounou when she was growing up in her war-torn homeland.

'They moulded the person I am today,' Joelle said after receiving the inaugural Australia for UNHCR Beddie Scholarship that was created to support a refugee to study at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS).

'[Through films] I was introduced to multiple worlds I have never seen in my small town [in Syria],' Joelle said.

'Films made me a better person, taught me about history, empowered me and helped me to empathise with others.'

Joelle and her family fled Syria in 2011 and lived in the Lebanese town of Zahle (on the road from Damascus to Beirut) before being resettled in Australia three years ago, initially in Toowoomba and a year later moving to south-western Sydney.

Last year she completed a Certificate IV in Screen and Media at TAFE NSW in St Leonards.

Joelle said she had a 'need' to become a filmmaker.

'Getting into the film industry is the only thing that made sense in regards to my future,' Joelle said.

'I believe that everyone has a voice they want to project. And a filmmaker can make this voice echo.

'This scholarship means a lot to me, especially being someone who grew up in a society where women are not encouraged in the filmmaking industry. It will pave the way for a great future in film and television.'

The scholarship was established by the Public Education Foundation with the support of the AFTRS, Australia for UNHCR and Francesca Beddie, to help the scholarship recipient develop their storytelling talents.

The scholarship, valued at more than $72,000, covers full tuition for a Bachelor of Arts program, living expenses and internship opportunities at Australia for UNCHR.

Francesca Beddie initiated the scholarship to honour her parents, in particular her mother, Rurer, who came to Australia during World War II and became a passionate supporter of the arts and an advocate for social justice.

The Public Education Foundation works in collaboration with schools, communities, business and both the state and federal governments to provide equity and excellence scholarships for students and educators in public education; and enhance the value and reputation of public education.

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