Philip Feinstein, founder for Music for Refugees and a columnist for AMUST has been recognised with the Medal of the Order of Australia at the Queen’s birthday Honours List announced by the Governor-General on Monday 14 June 2021.
Philip was recognised for his service to refugees primarily for his Music for Refugees program founded in 2009 through which he helped refugees cope with trauma caused by dislocation and detention.
Born in South Africa, of Jewish origin, Philip migrated to Australia in 1972. He has worked as a volunteer music teacher at Villawood Detention Centre, Sydney as well as for Burundian refugees in Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya.
He has been a regular columnist for AMUST since 2014 and was presented with the Outstanding Writer for AMUST Award in July 2019 by Mr Chin Tan, Race Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission.
His stories for AMUST have strong underlying peace messages for Christians, Jews and Muslims trying to build bridges between diverse communities. See his stories on https://www.amust.com.au/author/philip-feinstein/
He has also received NSW Volunteer of the Year Award, Centre for Volunteering, 2019, Humanitarian Award for Best Project ‘Music for Refugees’, NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) in 2014.
Philip created a unique music teaching method responding to the restrictions placed on refugees. The methodology includes boosting self-pays for all printing of instruction sheets and brochures.
When there were children at Villawood Detention Centre, he taught them theatre, puppetry, and other mind-broadening games, focusing self-esteem.
Philip went about getting music instruments (like guitars, pianos, percussion, etc) to donate to Villawood Detention Centre for the refugees Philip then contacted all the other detention centres in Australia and set up drop-off points (via Uniting Churches and Synagogues) so that instruments could also be sent to those centres.
He also donated and distributed musical instruments to other refugee and asylum seeker centres throughout Australia, including Christmas Manus Island and Nauru.
He then set about finding music teachers to visit those centres like he does at Villawood Detention Centre.
Where possible he gives music instruments for free to any refugee or asylum seeker who contacts him.
Philip trained a Jazz Band called Music for Refugees including refugees to participate in the annual ScorcherFest featuring 14 Bands where income went to help refugees.
The band also participated in the 2017 Bondi Shir Madness show to support refugees.
Philip has organised outside independent professional musicians to come into Villawood Detention Centre to entertain the detainees.
He often leads protesters at refugee rallies under the banner Jews for Refugees and conducts many talks to various sections of the public showing more care and support for refugees.
Philip is very active on a variety of think-tanks that seek to manage refugee issues. He coordinates with Red Cross, Amnesty International, Council for Civil Liberties, Salvation Army, Department of Human Services, Migration Council of Australia, Refugee Council of Australia, Department of Education, STARTTS, SSI and others.
Philip is also very involved with the refugees from the country of Burundi where there is a genocide happening. He has traveled to East Africa to get programs started there.
He is also involved in trying to get peace established and has involved the Australian government with his quest for an end to the fighting.
By also teaching refugees and asylum seekers “Theatre Games” their self esteem and use of the English language has improved. With the new outbreak of COVID-19 and families being stuck in isolation, the above “Theatre Games” link has been forwarded to schools, colleges, hospitals, businesses and other organisations for their students, staff, members.
Along with running charity events Philip is encouraging people to visit Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, where over half a million Burundian refugees have fled to.
Towards the end of last year Philip went to those three counties. Although he took many music instruments and lap top computers with him and had intended to focus programs like he has done in Australia, he soon realised the horrific situation they were in and refocused his position.
Most of the refugee virtually have no water, very little medical aid, and almost zero education for their kids. Since returning to Australia apart from transmitting funds every month for their medical situation, he is working at sending donated medical equipment, books, computers, plus trying to get wells dug for water, getting finance for solar lighting for the families, and much more.
Philip recently travelled to Canberra to have a meeting with the Ugandan High Commissioner about the Burundi situation. While apparently meeting was successful, he is frustrated that there are no replies to his emails to them confirming everything that they agreed to.
He is currently working on the huge task of getting a container organised to ship a load of badly needed items from Australia to the Burundian refugees in Uganda.