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When most people think of life beyond sixty many notions come to mind, but grace, elegance  and sensuality are usually not among them. And yet they should be. At least when you consider the dancers at the British Isles Association Inc.

Meeting every Tuesday night at the Brunswick Town Hall, dozens of men and women come together to roll, swing and twist their way through hours of beautiful music. Some come with their partners, others on their own, yet from the moment they arrive they all form part of something greater. Something fun and timeless.

For over three hours they move with practice grace throughout the hall. Between songs some dancers take a breather, others jump at the sound of a favourite sound, and ultimately everybody dances with everybody.

The ladies look their very best, turning and whirling, literally flowing across the floor. The men are light on their feet, masculine and gentle in their moves, secure in skills younger lads seem to lack….

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She moves across the floor wrapped in elegance. Leading confidently, transparently, guided only when she chooses to be. Her body glides and bends in the arms of her partners.

The music ends and they hold a dramatic pose, perfectly still until someone claps; their bodies relax and her smile widens. She looks to her students and explains the steps taken, helping them contort their bodies, encouraging that extra effort. And then they go again, all led by their tango teacher.

It’s hard to imagine Aysegul Altug as someone different – at least while she holds the room and guides her students forward. It’s easy to not see the Masters student in I.T software, or the young woman who didn’t speak any English a few years back. When looking at her work, it’s especially difficult to discern a girl who had never danced Tango, or much of anything else, half a decade ago.

Life is long and no road is perfectly straight. Aysegul knows that better than many, and she now revels in the fact. Today she studies, teaches and nurtures, far from home and everything she once imagined as her future. She does not consider her life better or worse, just whole and connected….

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The evening of Monday, September 7, was cold and rainy, but that did not stop over 1,000 Melbournians from attending the “Light the Dark” event held at Treasury Gardens in support of Syrian refugees and all asylum seekers detained outside Australia.

The people attending could easily have stayed at home, frowning at a bit of news before switching to some cooking or dancing reality show, but that was not an option in the circumstances. For everyone there, and those attending similar events all around Australia, a line had been crossed.

As most are aware, a three-year-old boy named Alan Kurdi and his brother were among a group of Syrian refugees who drowned as they tried to reach the Greek island of Koz during the early hours of September 2. The boat they were travelling on capsized, and the lifeless body of the toddler washed ashore. The image of his dead body, taken by photographer Nilüfer Demir, quickly became a wake-up call which could no longer be ignored by politicians and citizens around the world. “Light the Dark” commemorates the passing of Alan Kurdi, his brother, and the many families who have died while running to stay alive….

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Held at Brunswick Town Hall on Saturday 25 June, the ‘Festival of Hope’ marked a warm end to the activities of Refugee Week.

The event, which was organised by Amnesty International, UnitingCare Lentara and Moreland City Council, highlighted the talents and contributions that refugees have made to local community and culture.

Showcasing singers, writers, actors, and the work of many other individuals, the festival provided a chance to meet former refugees and learn of their experiences in coming and settling in Australia. The event also aimed to create awareness of the global situation, presenting the facts regarding Syria’s refugee crisis, and running advocacy workshops throughout the day.

Mariam Issa, resident in Melbourne since 1998, shared her experience as a newly arrived refugee and her attempts to comprehend and fit into her new community.  Her journey highlighted many of the trials facing refugees, especially women and girls, who usually deal with the strongest cultural shift….

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