Humans of Mettamorphosis
As a storyteller and advocate of human rights issues, Marilyn is passionate about working with marginalised communities and stories. Marilyn is a feminist academic and researcher in the social sciences, gender studies, counselling and human rights at Curtin University, Perth. Marilyn has more than 15 years experience as a family counsellor at the West Leederville Counselling Centre, working with individuals, children and families. She is a published author and scholar in the areas of family violence, human rights and social justice.
I’ve always been fascinated by stories, how stories shape our lives and how our lives are shaped by the stories we tell.
I was born in a small town Malaysia in the 1970s and I left home to go to primary school in Singapore when I was 9 years old. At 9, I had to learn everything in English, which was a foreign language to me. Even though school was hard, I had a very curious mind and a hunger to learn. The primary school was a rich melting pot of different cultures, races and backgrounds. I had some wonderful teachers in the school who believed in me and introduced me to the world of knowledge and possibilities. I made friends at the school, who became precious life-long friendships.
My biggest influence when it comes to education was my mother. She was a smart, resourceful and brilliant woman who was never given the chance to go to school, and she made sure that all her children especially her daughters were educated so we would have the freedom and the opportunities to create our own lives.
I think my early experiences have shaped my passion working with children and young people. It’s important for us to take children and young people seriously and to do what we can to ensure that the all children are given access to education, particularly vulnerable stateless children. That is the vision behind Mettamorphosis.
The name, Mettamorphosis means transformation through compassion and wisdom. I think through education we can learn both compassion and wisdom.
Education has opened doors for me that took me to places beyond the circumstances I was born into. It has allowed to me to do what I love and I want every child to have that.
Hi, my name is Rubi. I was born in Myanmar and resettled in Perth, Western Australia as a refugee in 2006.
I vividly remember the first day of school because it was my first time attending a proper school. I remember the school bus picking my younger brother and I up and being amazed at the size of the school. I remember the large classroom, with colourful posters on the wall and feeling ecstatic that I had a desk of my own with colourful stationery beautifully laid out. I don’t remember much of what I learnt that day because English was foreign to me, but I remember feeling incredibly happy and privileged to attend school.
I was 11 years old when I started going to school and have not left since. I’ve completed a Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Science) at the University of Western Australia and am on my last semester of completing Master of Biomedical Science. I am currently writing a thesis on “Asthma in Western Australians” and doing research at the Telethon Kids Institute. I am grateful every day for the accomplishments I am able to achieve because I was given the opportunity to go to school. My life would be very different if I was still in Myanmar.
Education is a fundamental human right yet may stateless refugee children, including myself, are robbed of this. This is why being a part of metamorphosis is important to me. We support 2 refugee schools in Malaysia, a nursery and primary school and give stateless children an opportunity to attend school. An opportunity to attend school changed my life and we believe that it could do it for them too.
I know this is a get to know me, but I would like to encourage you to get to the children at the schools and maybe sponsor a child in one of our Malaysian school.
I’ve always been passionate about social justice. In year four I remember taking someone on in the playground about human rights, and since then very little has changed. I still love a good discussion, though nowadays it’s usually channelled into my uni work.
I joined Mettamorphosis as an intern on the suggestion of a friend. Two years later, I haven’t looked back. Last year I spent five weeks in Kuala Lumpur teaching art and painting a mural with the kids at the schools Mettamorphosis supports. One of my favourite days was getting all twenty kids under the age of twelve into makeshift art smocks created from garbage bags. The room sounded like we were trying our best to record a white noise track, but at the end of the day we’d done the first coat of the mural and everyone had learned how to mix colours to make ones they liked.
To me, everyone has something to contribute through the things they’re passionate about. It’s pretty easy to get bogged down hearing about the sad happening in the world, but often spending time learning and teaching with children reminds me how important it is to keep making it a better place for the people who will grow up in it in the future. The students at the Kuala Lumpur Chin refugee schools are just as intelligent, funny, charismatic, kind and strong as you’d think. I firmly believe that we are all capable of incredible things, and that’s why basic human rights like education are so important.
Media and Communications Officer
I began volunteering with a local student-run not-for-profit called Teach Learn Grow which brought my interests in social issues to the surface, and through several years I learnt so much about the enormous social inequality and disadvantage of education even within our own country of Australia, and how crippling this cycle can be to children’s lives in affecting their future from the get-go. I began to understand how pervasive the ongoing effects of colonisation of Aboriginal lands and livelihood in Australia are, and how future generations of children were continuing to suffer from it by being unable to reach their potential. More than anything though, I began to learn the breadth of the extent of injustices that occur in the world that we just aren’t aware of and are hidden from view.
Last year I came across Mettamorphosis through co-founder Marilyn who was a passionate and inspiring lecturer of mine teaching in human rights, and felt an instant connection between my values and those of Mettamorphosis. The right to every child, regardless of their race, religion, place of birth or financial status, to have an equal access to basic education is foundation to my beliefs. I believe this is something that everyone shares, but through the crises in the world today these rights are still not met for 12 million asylum seeker and refugee children. This is particularly compounded when children are a part of stateless families and have no citizenship rights and have been forced to flee to countries that do not recognise the rights of asylum seekers and refugees – the right for their children to attend school, to access healthcare, or work to support their families until they are able to be resettled.
Whether a child grows up here in Perth, or is born into a family that experiences forced migration due to conflict or persecution, they deserve no less than us. And through one child at a time, we have the power to ensure that. No injustice is too difficult for us to address no matter how much we tell ourselves otherwise. There is always a way, even if it means by starting with one child. Isn’t that worth fighting for?’
Social Media and Communications Officer
As a student and activist I found my way to Marilyn, the founder of Mettamorphosis, as I was lucky enough to take two classes with her. It was then that I fell in love with the power and art of storytelling, and how this can instigate change.
My parents both come from humble beginnings in Sri lanka, both their stories are testaments to their resilience and how access to education can change lives. If not for their struggles and choice to migrate to Australia some 30 years ago, I would not be afforded the opportunity to be a part of this organisation, nor all the other privileges that come with being born in a place like Australia. I feel very fortunate to be able to be a part of Mettamorphosis and learn from such a strong group as I feel certain that my future career is within the human rights s. I have seen and experienced first hand how education can change a life and the work here at Mettamorphosis does exactly that. Education is a human right, and it is so easy for us to forget that access to education is not universal. The Chin refugee schools in KL directly supports these stateless children and I am excited to learn my own lessons alongside them.
Growing up with the little ones at Mum’s privately run after-school care, I was all of 6 when I first held a toddler and felt inexplicable compassion and fondness. This has guided me in my decisions to work with children since. Their innate capacity for all possibilities, inability to fend for themselves and, vulnerability makes them particularly important to me.
Like all of us, I have come across jarring information on refugee crises. I believed I was already doing my bit for the community in other ways and was content in my ignorance. However, having had the opportunity to connect with a refugee family and listening to their stories of struggle and injustice, I could no longer feign ignorance and action was a natural consequence. I could never understand why many with greater aptitude and talent than me be born in such dire circumstances while I on this side of the world with everything that I need. Maybe I never will, but through Mettamorphosis and our work with the refugee schools, I have found my little way of supporting the precious children who deserve all of the rights and education that I so enjoy.
Van Tha’s Story
Media and Production
My name is Van Tha Rahtin and I am a film and video student at Edith Cown University. Filming and capturing beautiful moments for people is my hobby and something I do professionally. I’ve done multiple wedding videos, music videos and live concert shows. I directed many of the music video i’ve done, and have also directed short films.
I was introduced to Mettamorphosis when I was asked to do “Keeping Dreams Alive”, a short video to promote the Photovoice Exhibition events. Since then, I have been a member of the group and I help with media.
At the age of 70 I am grateful for a childhood in post war England, that placed value on nurture and learning, with a love of the arts and humanities, and a belief in universal freedoms. My generation took the right of free health and free education for granted. As a youth in the 60s I believed that the activism of my generation would create universal freedoms, and break the barriers of class, privilege and racial and religious divides for future generations.
Today as a grandmother I find that human rights cannot be taken for granted and again it is the necessary to work for change.
Education is a human right denied to stateless children in Malaysia. I joined Mettamorphosis because it enables direct change through collective action. We aim to change the potential trajectory of migration by assisting in the provision of education which is denied to children of asylum seeking Chin families in KL.
And equally important, through our work in Australia, to develop an awareness and understanding of the complexities of the Chin migration story, and for a acceptance of refugee rights internationally.
“From little things big things grow”- is my favourite song.
I have been fortunate to be part of a large family. One that ‘migrated’ from the east coast of Australia to the south coast of Western Australia to a then isolated rural settlement community in the early 1960s.
A large and very young family, with no telecommunications in the early years, on a bush block with all extended family and friends left behind. In a friendly, peaceful, and environmentally beautiful region there were still real challenges.
One sacrifice made was to ensure we children got the best possible education. This again had a measure of dislocation attached to it as it necessitated leaving what had become a familiar and much loved farming lifestyle to attend schools in the capital city. And over this time more members kept being added to the family so that we older ones came to share in the simple joy of childhood over and over again, and appreciate the pathway into a much larger world that education provides.
A pathway that should be open to every child.
For stateless children this can be for as little as a coffee every 3 days. No sacrifice at all really.