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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/

The European Refugee Crisis – A Summary of the Facts

Syria’s civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Half the country’s population — approximately 11 million people — have been forced to flee or unfortunately lost their lives.
Families are struggling to survive inside Syria, but the greatest dilemma is that there is nowhere to make a new home in neighbouring countries. Others are risking their lives on the way to European countries, in the hopes of finding safety.

So how did it begin?
Back in 2011, demonstrations began against the government. The government reacted harshly to these protests, and this resulted in the rebels fighting back against the violence.
By July, army defectors had organised the Free Syrian Army along with Syrian civilians taking up arms to join the fight. But the division between secular and Islamist fighters, and between ethnic groups, continues to complicate the conflict.

How many people are affected?
If the refugees of the world were to come together and form a country, they’d be larger than the UK. There are currently over 65 million people displaced across the world, and if conflicts continue, then this number will continue to grow.

Where are they going?
Wherever they can basically. With so many people without homes and countries, these people are risking their lives to find a place to call home. Below are rough figures of the countries that have welcomes refugees.

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Turkey – 2.5 million
Pakistan – 1.6 million
Jordan – 1.4 million
Lebanon – 1.2 million
Iraq – 250,000
Egypt – 133,000
Germany – 105,000 (but have pledged spaces for up to 800,000)
Greece – 88,000
Sweden – 40,000+
Canada – 25,000
Algeria – 25,000
Austria – 18,000+
Armenia – 17,000+
Australia – 8,700
United States – 7,000
United Kingdom – 5,000

What is Australia doing?
During the 2015-16 financial year, a total of 8640 Humanitarian visas were granted to people displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq. While this is a step in the right direction, there’s still a long way to go.

Currently, those who come by boat are processed differently to those arriving by plane.

Australia pays for the processing of asylum seekers who are intercepted by the navy and then transported to other countries. The total cost for this policy is now $500 million and rising.

Recently, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed these inadequate facilities would be closed in the future. He said there is no timeline for closing the Nauru detention centre yet, but both countries would work towards it "as quickly as possible." Australia will give Papua New Guinea extra resources to cope with the transition and processing, but it is not known how much.

At the end of the day, perhaps we should start treating these people as the victims that they are and offering support rather than punishment.

Refugee Art – Expressing experience Through Creativity

Through refugee art that we can come to appreciate the power of determination and see the true strength in creativity.

Humankind’s ability to rise after a great struggle is quite remarkable. So many refugees, despite what they’ve left behind, have used their experiences to build a new life for themselves. Sometimes these past's are confronting but these are images all of Australia, and even the world, need to see.

We’ve found a few amazing refugee artists, but there are so many more talented people out there overcoming these struggles every day. Maybe it’s time we opened our eyes to them.

Kamaleshwaran Selladurai

Kamaleshwaran Selladurai is a Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka. During his two years in Australian refugee centres, he spent time teaching himself to paint with no previous experience. In 2011, Kamaleshwaran was granted a permanent visa in Australia. He now lives and works in Sydney.

“Painting has changed my life. I have improved in my art, and I love to paint new and different subjects. I want to show how refugees feel in my painting and what the people in detention are going through. Everyone in detention misses their family, and the process is far too long.”

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Michael Adonai

Michael Adonai, a refugee from Eritrea, began his artistic career in the 1980’s. His coptic-style art reflects his experiences as a freedom fighter during the war in his home country. He has successfully held exhibits of his work all over the world – the UK, USA, Japan, South Africa, Sweden, Eritrea, Sudan, Singapore, Kuwait, Ethiopia and Italy. He now teaches fine arts and frequently exhibits his work in solo and group exhibitions in Australia.
‘As a refugee artist, [the] ECL program has given me the confidence that I can have a sustainable and successful career in the arts in Australia.’

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Alwy Fadhel

Alwy Fadhel was an asylum seeker detained for five years in the Villawood Detention Centre. His art consists of paintings made with instant coffee powder diluted in water. He was taught by an Iraqi detainee who had some knowledge of coffee art. The use of food as an artistic medium says a lot about the resources provided to human beings in these detention centres.

His works focus on some themes mainly of hardships that detainees commonly face; These include homesickness, anxiety, depression, and the trauma of witnessing others commit acts of self-harm and suicide.

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Murtaza Hussaini

Murtaza Hussaini, a refugee from Afganistan, has drawn upon his personal experience from the war-torn country to help launch a promising career as a portrait artist. Murtaza settled in Australia in 2009 after he and his family fled across the border to Pakistan before they were granted refugee status in Australia. Murtaza is now in his second year of a Visual Arts degree at the University of South Australia.
"It was around the time when there was a heated debate in Australian politics about the rights of asylum seekers, and I wanted to show that refugees have to overcome a lot of personal struggles to try and start a new life here and are not posing a threat to anyone."

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