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8 actions you can take to fight racism

The death of George Floyd has been confirmed as homicide, and protests explode beyond the boundaries of USA, reaching Australia.

As every capital city in Australia prepares to protest in solidarity, our Indigenous, refugee, asylum seeker and migrant communities wonder why – yet again – it’s taken a death on American soil to get us talking about racism.

We Australians like to think of ourselves as an easy-going bunch. We’re laid back, welcoming, quick to laugh and say g’day. And that’s usually the case if you’re white.

But that’s not the experience of everyone who calls Australia home.

Sadly, many of the young refugee, migrant and asylum-seeker children in RMCC’s programs can attest to this.

These aren’t kids that are ‘stealing our jobs’ or ‘roaming the streets in gangs’. They’re working hard to build a new life here. To learn a new language, meet new friends, and find a sense of belonging in a new culture, amongst kids and communities that often look very different to them.

They feel the pressure of living between cultures; wanting to adapt to the culture of their new home, while respecting the traditions of their country of birth.

Australia should offer the hope of a new start, and a more secure future - and this week’s rallies provide us with the opportunity to show that their presence enriches our culture.

But it takes more than one protest rally to show this. It takes continual, individual actions.

 

So what can each of us do to fight racism in Australia?

  1. Listen. If you don’t have Indigenous, migrant or refugee friends to speak with directly, listen to podcasts such as Pretty for an Aboriginal, watch documentaries such as award winning SBS series Go Back to Where You Came From and read books such as Boochani’s acclaimed No Friend But The Mountains.
  2. Don’t ask what you can do to help. Don’t request references, resources and advice from people already bearing the burden of discrimination. Do the research yourself. It’s not their job to help fix a problem they didn’t create. This Forbes article recommends anti-racism resources for white people, and is a great place to start.
  3. Be mindful of the media you consume. Facebook tailors your News Feed based on your online behaviour, and serves you content that reflects your own biases. Journalists such as Herald-Sun’s Andrew Bolt have been found guilty of breaching racial discrimination laws. Critique sources carefully.
  4. Challenge your biases. Yes, we all have them. They’re called ‘unconscious’ for a reason. This document suggests helpful ways to do this.
  5. Speak to your kids about racism and white privilege. This list from The New York Times provides book recommendations for kids aged 0 – 12+ that can support conversations. And this video on white privilege is a powerful example to show older kids.
  6. Try learning a second language (if you don’t already speak one). It’ll give you a greater appreciation of just how resilient, adaptive and determined our new Australians truly are.
  7. Donate your time. Our RMCC Mentors give up one afternoon a week to mentor the kids in our programs, but the positive influence they have on the kids is transformational.
  8. If you don’t have time to give, donate money. There are many fantastic organisations around Australia working hard to support Indigenous, refugee and migrant communities. RMCC is just one of them. National Justice Project and AIME are two more.

Image credit: Australian Human Rights Commission

rmcc-school-holiday

4 memorable school holidays moments

4 memorable moments we created during school holidays

In December, children tend to cheerfully count the days until the start of school holidays. Daydreams of endless play with friends or going to the beach with family fills heads and hearts. But when new to Australia, families from refugee backgrounds may not be able to access holiday programs and feel disconnected from the broader community. They have a lot on their plate, navigating all the cultural unknowns that come with moving to a new country.

This means children from refugee backgrounds often experience school holidays differently to children born in Australia. Feeling isolated at home alone in summertime is quite common. Or having to take care of younger siblings because parents are out working. When schoolmates are doing the opposite, playing carefree, these moments can feel cheerless.

Every kid deserves a break and to have fun during the school holidays. RMCC makes sure they do. Action-packed, our School Holiday Program allows kids to be active and interact with peers, families, and community, building a sense of connection and belonging to their new home.

We offer over 20 school holiday sessions every year. In this blog, we share awesome memories from previous programs and the difference made for our kids.

Intergalactic School Holiday Program

Exploring outer space: a dream come true! Between terms 3 and 4 last year, we organised a 2-day intergalactic experience for Sidekicks Junior students. Space-based games made kids jump around and play astronaut. They learned out-of-this-world space facts and enjoyed lunch at a local park. Creativity and imagination made everything become possible on these two days. 

Trip to Werribee Zoo

Our fun day out with animals was a definite highlight for students from the Sunshine College Sidekicks Senior program. In December, they visited Werribee Zoo, learned about wildlife native to Australia as well as from all over the world.

They hung out (safely!) with gorillas and lions in their enclosures. As part of an adventurous safari, they waved at rhinos, giraffes, and elephants. They walked towards the emus (and loved it!) and many wanted to adopt wild dogs. They were, however, not impressed by the smelliness of the hippos.

Hip hop class

Prepped for an afternoon busting moves, the Sidekicks Senior program at CRC welcomed Mary Gibboyi, a hip-hop dance instructor.

After filling their bellies with yummy pizza, some kids learned to dance hip-hop while others chose to hone their basketball skills on the courts.

Kids were excited and engaged. They loved learning hot new dance moves with their classmates and mentors.

Lost Lands Festival

One-of-a-kind, the Lost Lands Festival in Werribee hosts colourful music, theatre and comedy. Families can participate in workshops, dance and unleash their creativity, while surrounded by beautiful nature.

Last year, RMCC organised Games of the World for the festival, a fun land where kids and adults played games from all corners of the world! Families from over 15 countries were invited to share diverse games celebrating their heritage or homeland.

There’s always more!

Our activities push the boundaries of fun and special to make children feel valued, welcomed and excited about the holidays.

Over the years, RMCC kids have also:

  • attended a jazzy upcycled fashion workshop;
  • gone artsy watching a play at the Arts Centre and visiting the NGV;
  • turned our giant collection of recyclables into a well-functioning city;
  • put their engineering caps on, made buildings out of Legos and learned about robotics;
  • petted lots of animals at the Collingwood Children’s Farm;
  • set up their own imaginative restaurants, creating menus and engaging customers.

For many children, school means learning maths and how to write, playing with friends and perhaps helping with the school play. But when new to Australia, children must navigate socio-cultural differences and figure out how to belong. Fun activities help them create positive childhood memories, connect with their new home and make lasting friendships.

Over 2,000 refugee children arrive in Victoria every year. Our goal is to reach and support each and every one of them by the end of 2020.

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Being a recently resettled refugee child

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Why being on the outside makes it hard to be a kid from a refugee background

You’re only eleven-years old, about to start grade 6 at school. It’s a school you’ve never been to, where you don’t know anyone and where they speak a language you don’t yet properly understand. The other kids tease you because you speak funny and dress differently. It’s been more than a year since you last went to school at all, because of the dangers you faced in the country you fled. It makes you feel bad when you see red pen all over your work. You used to be good at school, before everything changed. 

You don’t understand how this school works, how this country works. Your parents are learning this all too. You have to help them set-up bank accounts, utility accounts, and it’s up to you to contact the landlord when the stove stops working, and Mum can’t cook dinner.

You feel safe here. But now you’re scared in a different way, with a whole lot of new responsibilities, in a strange place, without the friends and extended family you could run to before when things felt hard.

This is what it’s like to be a recently resettled refugee child

Navigating a new dynamic with family, and a new school, seeking new friends and community connections, in a new country with a new language. They may also have experienced trauma.

But this is just one story. And while the barriers they face might be similar to those of other children, the help kids from refugee backgrounds need to overcome them might not be. If someone starts by understanding what they need, it could make a big difference to how the rest of their story unfolds.

So what are common barriers kids from refugee backgrounds face?

Language: limited English language skills affects their ability to communicate, make new friends, and participate in school and activities.

Socio-cultural: differences in familial, educational and social upbringing can mean refugee kids face cultural disparities which can be confusing and confronting, forcing them, before they’re able, to navigate clashes in social norms, behaviours and attitudes, religion or ways of thinking. This can lead to negative experiences such as racial discrimination and social conflict.

Identity and belonging: building an understanding who you are is far more difficult when you feel socially isolated and alone in your experiences.

For refugee kids, this can have a ripple effect into their futures, limiting their employment pathways or in long-term mental health issues.

Listening to each child, to understand their needs is the first step.

While more generalised support services exist for refugee families, specialised support, programs and resources for children are less common, and can be difficult to find or access.

RMCC exists to bridge this gap in education, culture, and community for refugee children. Focusing on one-on-one mentoring programs that place the individual needs of each child at the core, we partner with families, schools and local community to break down the barriers they face throughout their settlement journey.

Programs such Sidekicks and Side by Side bring together refugee children in need with mentors, who deliver personalised support and training. Our mentors create a caring and inclusive environment for refugee children to learn, shape their confidence, and help create connections.

This includes helping them with their English language skills, supporting school projects and homework, building social and life skills, and walking them through cultural differences and unpack conflicting ideas. Each program is tailored to fit the child’s needs and mostly guided by goals defined by the children themselves, with ongoing support.

Fostering positive experiences

Having no sense of belonging, feelings of social isolation, and experiences of discrimination can impact a child’s motivation to go out and engage in activities and fun. In fact, we have found that many refugee children don’t look forward to their school holidays when they first connect with RMCC, because it means being home alone or faced with responsibilities of taking care of younger siblings.

Our School Holiday Program exists to resolve these issues. We build trust and connections between refugee children and their peers, families, and community, through interactive and inclusive activities, such as going to the Melbourne Zoo and the National Gallery of Victoria. These holiday sessions create positive childhood experiences and memories, that help build on each child’s sense of identity and belonging.

Follow the journey

Over 2,000 refugee children arrive in Victoria every year. That means over 2,000 stories waiting to be told, and over 2,000 futures to be shaped. Our goal is to reach and support each and every one of them.

Like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram or sign up to stay connected just below.

How RMCC is Different to Other Orgs

Our RMCC journey began because of a need that was not being met. We decided to mix things up by working a little differently in the way we approached a complex issue.

RMCC creates a collaboration of the key figures in a child’s life and supports them to work together for the educational and social needs of each child. We also provide each kid access to mentors from a diverse background that they can relate to. This means that all barriers are being tackled in unison by an extensive support network. Our focus on the key areas of education, identity and belonging, life skills, and mental health and wellbeing ensures that there are no gaps in our network and that we continue to overcome barriers wherever they arise to improve educational and social outcomes.

RMCC provides a space where kids can grow confidence and establish social connections while increasing their own independence. Schools are also supported with opportunities to explore how they can establish a support system within their school community and how RMCC can help them get there through strategic planning and professional development.

 

We build a personal connection

It takes time for a child to find their bearings and not all barriers arise at once. That is why we don’t just provide support through the first 6 to 12 months of resettlement, but provide ongoing programs and support to families and schools during and after this time. This helps to guarantee every child is supported throughout their journey, however long it may take.

We always begin by working with each child to address their individual needs. We then support their parents or guardians and schools to do the same. This helps to build the same sense of value, identity and understanding throughout their school and home lives, while making sure each kid can comfortably find (and use) their own voice.

We also recognise that not all children face the same difficulties during resettlement — some may face language barriers, may have never attended school, some are socially isolated or are learning to walk between two or more cultures. This is why all of our programs are specially designed with tangibility at the forefront to address these issues.

 

“Some of the differences are that we provide weekly mentoring programs, so we don’t teach or dictate what each kid should be doing but empower them to be able to overcome the barriers they face themselves in a way that works best for them. This means that each program is fluid for each kid because we tailor it to their needs.” — Alice Wojcik, RMCC

 

We work with our greater community

Last but most certainly not least, outside of our partnerships with schools and settlement agencies we work with the greater community so they can learn more about how they can support Australia’s newest and youngest members. Whether it is a business discovering what it means to walk between two or more cultures, or a classroom of students learning about what the settlement journey entails, it all plays an important part of growing an inclusive and welcoming community for all.

 

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