Malala Yousafzai spends 19th Birthday at world’s largest refugee camp

Image courtesy of Associated Press

Nearing the end of your teenage years is usually a cause for celebration, our defiant teenage years have (hopefully) come to pass, high school graduation has become a distant memory and we are faced with decisions and new expectations that were once, rather simplistic.

Malala Yousafzai chose to spend her 19th birthday at the world's largest refugee camp. During her time in the Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya, Yousafzai voiced her concern that Kenya's plans to close the camp could result in worsening circumstances for those residing in the camp.

The Kenyan Government has announced decisions to close the Dadaab refugee camp by the conclusion of this year, claiming the situation has become a security liability.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Yousafzai reaffirmed her commitment to highlighting the plight of refugees and said returning any of the 300, 000 refugees to Somalia should be voluntary.

"They should not be forced to move," the advocate for girls' education said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The complex opened in 1991, as a temporary shelter for those seeking refuge from civil war. Due to prolonged unrest and violence, the camp has become a virtual city.

Kenyan's interior minister spokesman, Mwenda Njoka, has denied allegations that Kenya would be 'dumping' the refugees back in Somali and has taken measures to assure humane resettlement on 10,000 acres north of Kismayo.

"I am here to speak for my unheard sisters of Somalia striving for education every day,"

Malala arrived at the camp on her birthday to draw attention to the refugee crisis and highlight the detriment of neglecting female education.

Words by Lucy Davidson

A conversation on the refugee experience

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In celebration of Refugee week 2016, the Victorian Multicultural Commission organised a discussion event on the social, economic and cultural benefits of our humanitarian arrivals in Victoria. The event was hosted by chairperson and noted Australian journalist Helen Kapalos. Guest speakers for the evening were Hugh de Krester, Sam Almaliki, Barakat Rezaie and Nyadol Nyuon.

Read more "A conversation on the refugee experience"

End of term 2. That was a blast!

In March 2016, we opened our doors to Victoria’s first Refugee Migrant Children Centre in Footscray. Term 2 of this school year saw us launch our independently run programs and launch 6 key partnerships with referring organisations in the community.

Our Learning Support Program (LSP) runs every Wednesday at 4pm and aims to  overcome both educational and social barriers. The first 45 minutes of the program focuses on educational needs such as reading, comprehension, numeracy and homework. The last 15 mins of the session is dedicated to social engagement through games and bonding time.

Some of the games available are Twister, puzzles, and Snakes & Ladders. Also my personal favourite, Uno! Some children become restless easily whilst learning, thus we’re well-prepared with snack time! Chocolate muesli bars seem to be the children’s favourite, with the classic Le Snak not far behind.

Some children are there because they need the assistance with their learning. Others are more confident with their learning and requires assistance with their social development. These are some of the issues faced, and the programs are tailored to their individual needs,” says Bobby, Tomorrow Foundation’s Project Manager.

Our monthly workshops focus on fun out-of-school activities, building knowledge and various life skills. We believe in equipping the children with the right tools to help them engage with one another and develop various skills.

As an introvert at the age of six socialising wasn’t something I enjoyed so much, however excitement always arises within the children when a workshop is coming up and they always feed of each others energy. Our first workshop, a basketball clinic, aimed to get our children active and build endurance. It was great to see the quieter children come out of their shells! Also the Hip Hop dance workshop that was held last month was a big hit and had everyone dancing like professionals by the end!

‘Bricks 4 Kidz’ will be running our next workshop in July. The workshop is based around building basic engineering skills in a fun and dynamic environment using Lego. ‘Bricks 4 Kidz’ build models designed by engineers and architects with various exciting themes such as space, super heroes and amusement parks. This will provide an opportunity for the children to express their creativity and be innovative.

The RMCC team is also currently developing a school holiday program. It will be four action packed days spread over two weeks, with the program being an extension of our monthly workshops. Each day will have different activities allocated - with morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea to break the day up. As always parents’ are engaged in developing our school holiday program, with them having a big influence on what the children get out of our programs. We’ve been consulting and working with them in developing the program and they are just as excited about it commencing as we are!

These programs are not made possible without our dedicated team of volunteers. Our children are constantly learning, and most importantly enjoying themselves whilst doing so.

Looking forward to another exciting term!

Social Cohesion and Integration

Social cohesion refers to the development and maintenance of positive social relationships in society. A community working toward the well-being of all its members combats exclusions and marginalisation and develops a strong sense of belonging.

Australia has a remarkable extent of social cohesion given its diversity. However, maintaining this steadiness can be a challenge. Rapid social changes, particularly in growth areas, can result in disharmony between newly arrived groups and established communities. The fear of difference and its unknown potential has a damaging effect on community relations and breeds discrimination. The threat of terrorism has brought suspicion and hostility to Australia’s Arab and Muslim communities and, families seeking refuge and asylum are depicted as ‘queue jumpers’. The expectations of the Australian ‘fair go’ mentality, seems to have given way to the reality of disharmony and caution.

The results of The Scanlon Foundation National 2015 report on mapping social cohesion found that there is a strong support for cultural diversity, with 86% agreeing that multiculturalism has been good for Australia, while sense of belonging ‘to a great extent’ declined from 73% in 2011 to 65-66% in 2013 and 2014, in 2015 it is at 69%. Interestingly the report captured the difference in attitudes between young and older Australians, this is particularly evident in the matter of national identity and cultural diversity. 65% of young adults agreed with the provision of government assistance to ethnic minorities to maintain their customs and traditions compared with 34% of middle-aged Australians.

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This study would suggest that young adults are striving for a socially cohesive Australia, where cultural differences are embraced, positive relationships are fostered and the combat of exclusion and marginalisation are of great importance. This report seems vastly different from the content littering our news outlets; sensationalised stories of disharmony, ‘stop the boats’ and other dehumanising titles lead us to believe we are a country of intolerance.

For those who oppose migration, who feel the Australian way of life is threatened by invasion from those of distant shores and that allowing those who seek refuge will hinder our own prosperity, we are a country of migrant backgrounds. Developed through the emulsion of many cultures and backgrounds. Having an ideal society does not necessitate us to be all alike, but rather appreciate our differences and create a socially cohesive and harmonious country.

Here at RMCC, we understand the importance to social harmony, we work with children from refugee and migrant backgrounds to foster positive relationships in an environment where they feel supported and included.