Once again it is overwhelmingly obvious that education is the key

RMCC were incredibly excited to attend an end-of-year event run by the Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY) that examined the current debate around crime and young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. Speakers explained how unfortunately the public’s perception of young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds is often associated with crime and offending behaviour, with unbalanced media stories sometimes reinforcing such stereotypes. The portrayal of crime in the media is therefore incredibly alarming and provides a paradox to recent evidence which shows that youth crime in Victoria has fallen in recent years despite what the headlines suggest.

The focus of the event was a talk by special guest, Rob Hulls, the Director of the Centre for Innovative Justice at RMIT University, who provided a fresh perspective on the narrative around young people in the media. He highlighted various headlines published in the last six months throughout Victoria that reported crime related issues and explained how sensationalized media portrayals build a case for panic instead of addressing the cause of juvenile crime. As a consequence, these unbalanced stories lead to misinformed public perceptions that have a detrimental impact on the lives of young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. Hulls stated that what is most concerning is that when individuals encounter such barriers it is incredibly easy to give up because it appears they are in a helpless situation due to detrimental stereotypes.

From his talk, it is evident that Hulls passionately believes that in order to tackle crime and refugee and migrant youth, education is the key. Education provides powerful guidance of future actions so it is important to ensure that young refugee and migrant youth have the necessary facilities and support systems to let them develop both academically and socially. He spoke about how we must get better at ensuring children are properly engaging at school to stop them falling down the poverty to prison pipeline.

It is important to recognize that the young people caught up in the juvenile justice system represent the most disadvantaged individuals in our community. Arguably, a major shakeup is required of Australia’s current system in order to build future paths to prevention and rehabilitation. Hulls suggested that perhaps Australia should look to Spain, and the work of not-for-profit organization Diagrama for guidance. Diagrama runs 38 re-education centres in Spain on an understanding that if children are going to be jailed, they need to be nurtured, educated and rehabilitated. Thus, a good day within this centre is one where children have learned well and made progress. There is special emphasis on the level and nature of staffing with the staff who run the centres being called educators and requiring degrees from Engineering to the Arts and English Literature to Commerce.

What was evident from CMYs looking behind the headlines session was that in order to address the current issues facing youth migrant and refugees, we need to place greater emphasis on early intervention measures. Hulls explained how such measures tackle the root cause of the issues and thus prevent the long-term problems that are often a result of individuals feeling marginalized and locked out from society. Arguably therefore, the need to celebrate diversity, build an inclusive community for all and champion refugee and migrant youth is ever-increasing as it provides the fundamental opportunity to smash existing stereotypes portrayed in the media.

Arts and Crafts Workshop Recap

Monthly life skills workshops run by RMCC are providing a fun and interactive educational environment for refugee and migrant children in Footscray.

I remember as a child always looking forward to having activities planned after-school, whether it is visiting a friend’s house to play, going for a walk with my sister or staying on at school to do athletics. Those same feelings of excitement are expressed on the cheeky grins of the children in West Footscray as they enter a life skill workshop run by RMCC.

These life skill workshops run on the last Thursday of every month build knowledge and experiences through various activities. Each workshop has a learning or skill development focus, ranging from nutrition and sports to creative writing and dance. October’s workshop is based on Arts and Crafts and aims to boost the children’s creativity by allowing them to experiment and invent. Our Program Manager, Bobby, expresses how artistic many of the children are at RMCC and how important it is that they are able to express themselves. The session itself has three main activities designed to facilitate this: building a tower from straws, making finger puppets and doing origami.

As the session starts, most of the children head to the finger puppet making table which is unsurprising since it has plenty of craft materials including googly eyes, felt pompoms and colouring pens. As the children set to work on making the finger puppets it is clear that their creations outshine the example made by the workshop volunteers prior to the session. Each finger puppet is unique; whilst some look like people, others are more mythical and animalistic. However, a personal favourite was a three-eyed monster finger puppet, made by a boy who mimicked monster sounds as he proudly walked around the workshop with it.

By contrast, the origami table was a lot calmer, with the children following written instructions in order to make a cat, dog or love heart. The approach from each child varied, with some conscious to be super precise and delicate with their folds and others speeding through the activity with ease.

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On a more competitive table, the building a tower from straws activity had now turned into a competition between the children as to who could build the tallest tower from just ten straws and unlimited cello tape. Whilst some focused solely on height others were keener to make sure their tower was stable and had a solid base. The victor was a young girl who described how building the tallest tower in the workshop was a top-ten moment in her life and that she wanted a photo so she could remember this day. She reveled in her achievement proudly showing it to her mother who was watching the workshop and her brother who was more focused on making origami. Moments like these, when children express sheer joy in the activity provided epitomise the work of RMCC, and thus the necessity of services we provide.

RMCC are always keen for people to get involved so if you would like to volunteer with us or make a donation with us please visit the 'Get Involved' section of our website at https://rmccaustralia.org.au/