What Can One Person Do?: The Unknown Project Australia


If you’ve ever had an out-of-the-box idea for a way to assist refugees and asylum seekers in your local community but were worried the idea was too small or obscure to work, then Olivia and Rory’s story is one you need to hear.

We are super excited to welcome The Unknown Project Australia to our blog today to find out more about their simple and creative project to raise funds for school supplies for refugees and asylum seekers in Brisbane.

Unknown Project logo

The Unknown Project is a Brisbane based initiative aiming to facilitate cultural exchange through educational opportunities for kids from refugee backgrounds.

Inspired by the ‘lucky-dip’ second-hand books at Shakespeare & Co in Paris and the ‘blind date with a book’ concept, we wanted to bring this sweet idea to Brisbane readers. We cover selected and recommended second-hand books (and poems!) in brown paper, with only a few lines on the cover detailing the genre, plot and an ‘if you like this’ section. 

While we think this idea is cool on its own (we are both big book nerds), we think it has the power to make a real social difference.

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There’s just two of us in our little operation – Rory (19) and Olivia (20). We are best friends and both study Economics/Law at QUT, while we’re both working part-time at law firms. We have been known to call each other at 2am with wild and wonderful social enterprise/business ideas – and this just happened to be one of them!

We are passionate about educational opportunities for all, and want to facilitate, even in this small way, access to the incredible opportunities we were privileged to experience. We believe that integration into Australian culture is a two-way street, and want to encourage this inter-cultural exchange as we welcome new Australians.

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Our first pop-up was at Suitcase Rummage in the Brisbane CBD. We weren’t sure how it would be received, and were absolutely overwhelmed at the response. We sold all but two books and all of our poetry packs!

Suitecase 1

We couldn’t have asked for a better debut!

Rummage shot 2

With the proceeds, we have purchased school resources for The Romero Centre in Brisbane (we’ve just received our first shipment!). We have two types – a primary school pack, and secondary school pack and will be able to supply about 20 in this first round.

We’re currently sending out our first set of school packs, and then we’ll be organising the next pop-up, so check out our FacebookIn the future, we are hoping to establish and sponsor a homework club through the Romero Centre, to continue the initiative, and re-invest the beneficiaries back into the program.

Prep shot

We are yet to purchase a book for our project, taking in generous donations from our partners. At this stage, we have had donations from Avid Reader and Riverbend bookshops, The Footpath Library, and many of our friends.

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(Don’t worry – if we find we can’t use them in our project, we’ll be happy to pass them on to The Footpath Library).

The rhetoric and debate surrounding the arrival of refugees in Australia has been divisive and charged over the years. It’s easy to become complacent or apathetic to when mainland Australia is so (literally!) removed from confronting offshore detention and refugee settlement. There are an abundance of incredible initiatives all around Australia working tirelessly for refugee rights. Not everyone has the capacity to give a voice on Q&A or volunteer their time, but even a donation goes a long way.

That’s why we are so excited by the prospects that social enterprise offers – Startups like Words With Heart (a Brisbane stationery initiative facilitating education for women in developing nations – check them out!) deliver an incredible product and are fundamentally defined by their social cause.”

Inspired yet?  We certainly are!

Teddy Bears Without Borders would like to thank Olivia and Rory from The Unknown Project Australia for sharing their story with us.  You can find the project on Facebook here and on Instagram here.

If you know of an individual or group that would like to be featured in our What Can One Person Do? series, please ask them to get in touch via the Teddy Bears Without Borders Facebook page. 

If you would like to contribute to any of Teddy Bears Without Borders current projects, just click here for more information.




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