Blog

From a year ago to now, 2016 was a year of growth

A year ago RMCC was continuing to provide vital educational and social support to refugee and migrant children in Footscray. Now we have expanded further and as 2016 draws to a close, we think it is important to look back on the year RMCC has had.

A little over a year ago our Learning Support Program operated out of a school library. Now we are Victoria’s first Refugee and Migrant Children Centre. The launch of our Centre in March 2016 means we now independently run our programs with the support of six local partnering schools and organisations. As a result we are able to reach a wider range of 5-14 year old children from a range of different needs and backgrounds. Our learning support program has continued to focus on addressing educational needs such as reading, comprehension and numeracy skills as well as promoting social inclusion, confidence building and group bonding through high quality mentoring.

A year ago we had never run a workshop. Now we run monthly life skill workshops that are focussed on fun after school activities and life skill development. From Hip Hop dancing to Arts and Crafts and Basketball to a mini Olympics, our eight workshops have proven to be a huge success with the children building their knowledge and experiences through various activities that they enjoy.

A year ago we were thinking about how to be sustainable and have a long-term impact. Now we are planning to open a social enterprise café in early 2017. The Common Social Café will provide financial support for our current educational programs as well as helping tackle barriers to employment. This will be achieved by providing hands-on hospitality training, work experience, guidance and employment to over fifty refugee, asylum seeker and migrant youth each year. It will act as a transitional program and employment pathway for youth in Footscray as well as being a community hub.

Setting up the Common Social requires start-up funding of $25,000, and in June we launched our fundraising campaign. We have currently raised $18,857 meaning we are over three-quarters of the way towards our fundraising target! We would like to thank everyone who has donated thus far; your kindness is hugely appreciated by the team at RMCC. To make the Common Social Café a reality, we still need you to back the campaign though. Please help spread the word with your friends and family, and if you would like to make a donation please visit the campaign at .

A year ago we had never run a program outside of school terms. Now we have successfully completed our first ever school holiday program. The action packed five day program ran over two weeks in September and was an extension to our monthly workshops. The first week focussed on Science activities with the children conducting experiments and visiting the Science Works Museum. In contrast, the second week’s theme was nature, with activities including a visit to the zoo, gardening and learning about animals.

A year ago we distributed 45 educational material aid packs. Now we have successfully provided over 100 children with educational material aid. These packs are available to families encountering financial hardship with materials such as schoolbags, pencil cases, stationary and schoolbooks being distributed. Such materials ensure each child has the resources they need to help them learn and grow at school.

Ultimately, a lot has changed for RMCC in 2016. We would like to thank our sponsors for their continued support, with a special shout going to Commonwealth Bank, Seddon Community Bank, Harold Mitchell Foundation and the Jack Brockhoff Foundation. The important work we do would have been impossible without our amazing team of dedicated mentors and administrative team who volunteered for over 9,000 hours this year. 2017 promises to be yet another exciting year of growth for us, with the opening of the Common Social café and the introduction of our new Family Learning Engagement Program. But at present, it is important to take a step back and appreciate what we have achieved as an organisation from a year ago to now.

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.