On the 27th of September 2012, RRAN’s Dictionaries for Refugees program was handed over to Amnesty International Australia under the name Dictionaries for Asylum Seekers. It is time for this little project to grow up and leave it’s home at RRAN and we encourage everyone to support it as it moves to Amnesty.

RRAN started raising money and delivering bilingual dictionaries to people in detention following our visits with families detained at the Leonora detention centre in January 2010. The program was a massive success delivering hundreds of dictionaries to people in detention centres across the country. It allowed us to be introduced to new people in detention, maintain on-going contact with them and learn the truth about the realities of Australia’s Immigration detention system. More importantly it helped demonstrate to refugees that in a world which continually tells them they have no place there are in fact many people in the community who care about them, who are fighting for their rights and working to welcome them to their new home. The gratitude we’ve received from people in detention has been very moving.

Unfortunately as a small group of volunteers with limited funds and resources we at RRAN are no longer able to keep up with the ever increasing demand for dictionaries (building a grass-roots, community movement to challenge the policy of mandatory detention is already a full-time job). So rather than leave people waiting or disappointed at missing out we approached Amnesty in the hope that with their profile and greater access to resources they would be able to raise the necessary funds to deliver dictionaries to everyone who needed one. Thankfully Amnesty International Australia have agreed to take on the Dictionaries for Refugees project and will enable this project to become even more successful.

D4R, as we like to call it, is a project we care about deeply and one people should continue to support, however from this point people should donate to the Amnesty dictionary program as they will now be the primary purchaser of dictionaries. We would like to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who has donated and supported the project.


View Dictionaries for Refugees (rran.org) in a larger map

Curtin IDC
Over 300 English/Farsi Oxford Picture dictionaries have been sent to Hazara men detained at Curtin. Tamil dictionaries and English dictionaries, thesauruses and grammar books have also been requested and delivered. Dictionaries were hand delivered during the 2011 Easter convergence protests.

Leonora APOD
Leonora APOD detains mainly families and unaccompanied minors and children. Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN) has visited the detention centre twice, delivering Farsi, Arabic, Tamil dictionaries. Dictionaries have also been sent to families and individuals as requested. We are currently preparing for a third trip to the centre http://rran.org/leonora/

Christmas Island
Tamil dictionaries have been sent to Christmas Island IDC.

Tamil dictionaries have been sent to families and young people at Inverbrackie.

Farsi dictionaries and English dictionaries/thesaursuses have been sent to men moved from Curtin to Pontville.

Northern IDC
Farsi and Tamil dictionaries have been delivered to the Northern IDC.

Perth IDC
Tamil, Farsi and Arabic dictionaries have been hand delivered by people visiting the centre.

Sydney Immigration Residential Housing
Tamil dictionaries have been sent to Sydney Immigration Residential Housing.

Villawood IDC
Tamil dictionaries have been sent to Villawood IDC.


It has been a busy six months for D4Rs! The response from the Australian community and from the people being detained has been quite extraordinary. Thanks to your donations, over 120 people detained in Leonora, Curtin and Perth detention centres have been provided with their own dual language dictionary. Together, we are beginning to provide an alternative to the racist and divisive rhetoric of the Australian media and government. We are demonstrating that Australians are caring and compassionate people who welcome refugees to our lives and communities.

What we have achieved so far, however, is only the beginning. Word of the dictionaries has spread amongst the Hazara men detained at Curtin. They have been organising their own English language classes, using the dictionaries we send them. We are receiving personal requests for dictionaries by the truckload, and currently have many hundreds of people patiently waiting. We don’t think it will be long before all 1200 men have contacted us to ask if they may get one too. In order for this to happen we need more money!

Please give generously, and forward this request to anyone you know who might be interested. Don’t forget to also include a personal message of support if you wish. Detail on how you can donate via Paypal or direct bank deposit is below.

Enough talk from me, here are what some of the people being detained have to say about your kind donations….

“Thank you to all staff in the Refugee Rights Action Network and to the kind and generous Australian families. My name is Hussain and I would like to thank you deeply for the donation. Thank you for your kindness and consideration that you have realised our feeling.”

“Dear friends, I regared for you and I hope for help of God and Jesus to you. I want to say thanks for dictionary just I received in my camp Curtin. I’m glad you remembered me and I pray for you and Austaralian people whose help us for education in the camp. We take help more from this dictionary and our English language is improved. If tomorrow I get my visa than I can’t face any difficult so I want say again thanks lots of thanks you are help us I respect you.”

“Dear friends, this is Nojaf and I have received your dictionary, I am very happy with that and I am proud of you, thanks a lot for that. I hope you all a happy new year with your nice family and wish you best of luck.”

“I have received your letters and dictionaries thanks alot for this and thanks for your compassion. I appreciate your nice feeling.”

“To my dear friends, Hi, you remember me I am in Leonora Campe and you send To me Letter and Dictionary book. There is some family need more dictionary and one more for me also because one family need my one and I give Them and Please pery [pray] for us we come out because we are very become tiered. There my children are verry sed. They are become seek. Thanks. Bye.”

“Dear friends, I received your parcel thank you very much for it. please convey my best regards to your family members. The dictionary was good. Please keep in touch. There are some of my friends they also need assistance from you. Please help them.”

“Received your parcel last week, thank you for your help and it is very kind of you. Please convey my best regards to your family.”

To donate money for dictionaries

By PayPal: http://rran.org/dictionaries/donate

By Direct Deposit:
Account name: Dictionaries for Detainees
Bank: ING
BSB no: 923-100
Account no: 30871879

To send a message of friendship or support:

Email: refugeerights.actionnetwork@gmail.com


As some of you may already know, one of the Refugee Rights Action Networks ongoing projects is Dictionaries for Refugees. This project is providing bi-lingual dictionaries and other materials to detainees in Australian immigration detention centres. Currently we are concentrating on Curtin and Leonora detention centres.

Curtin is the the far north of Western Australia, about 2400 km from the capital city of Perth. There will soon be as many as 1200 single men detained there, in portable ‘dongas’, mostly if not exclusively from the Hazara ethnic minority of Afghanistan. The Lenora detention centre is in the goldfields town of Leonora, some 830 km from Perth, in a very arid and hot area of the state. Families, single mothers, children and even pregnant women are being held there. The mix of nationalities and ethnicities includes Tamils, Iranians and Hazaras. Once again, the accommodation is portable ‘dongas’, little more than a box with a door and a window.

As the word spreads among the detention population, the requests for dictionaries is soaring, so we need more funds. Please consider making a donation, or forward this email on to someone who might. We are thinking that professional educators in particular may have some interest in this project since it is essentially an education oriented program.

You can check out the project or donate at http://rran.org/dictionaries/. Please spread the word through whatever networks you have, in your union, among fellow students, work colleagues, family and friends.

Why dictionaries? Because the vast majority of people held in remote detention centres speak little or no English. This places them in a very disempowered situation, frequently not understanding their situation properly and not being able to advocate for themselves. This is a common problem during asylum application interviews, with translator error, or even hostile translators of rival ethnicity, causing problems.

Additionally it is often the case that detainees can not even properly explain their problems to immigration and detention staff, be they medical, personal or ordinary day-to-day problems. An instructive anecdote comes from a recent donation of a dictionary to a Tamil asylum seeker in Perth detention centre. The first thing he looked up was how to say “I need to speak to the detention manager”.

The refugees are very grateful for the dictionaries, it’s such a hopeful gift, with practical benefits. It gives them something to do and has the potential to be of great use for many years to come, even if their asylum applications are unsuccessful. One recipient in Curtin recently wrote to us:

“Dear Friends, we are glad you remembered we and we pray for you and Austaralian people whose help us for education and our English language emprofe. so we are so happy from you and all Austaralian people. Thanks for your helpe”.

This project really is a practical and tangible way to reduce the harm caused by immigration detention, particularly it cuts against the hostility and even hatred that detainees perceive is directed towards them. It’s also very good at building up connections with detainees and really helping to reduce their isolation and humanise them. This is a very important politically, to work against the racism and xenophobia that various political forces seek to exploit or even encourage.



The campaign to get dictionaries to detainee families in Immigration detention centres is now underway.

We’ll update this blog with news of the project as it happens.

Browse this website to find out more…