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.

“The cultural wealth of the world is its diversity” (UNESCO)

(Image source: www.theguardian.com)

May 21, 2016, marked World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

Proceeding UNESCO's Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity in November 2001, the General Assembly of the United Nations announced May 21 as World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

"Affirming that respect for the diversity of cultures, tolerance, dialogue and cooperation, in a climate of mutual trust and understanding are the best guarantees of international peace and security."
(UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity)

We are encouraged to develop a deeper understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to engage with others of diverse backgrounds to learn to live together harmoniously.

Three-quarters of the world's major conflicts have a cultural dimension.

This year UNESCO invited everyone to join the "Do ONE thing for Diversity and Inclusion" campaign. Suggesting small, personal changes can reform communities and encourage cultural diversity.

Here at RMCC, we implement programs assisting children of refugee and migrant backgrounds who are encountering disadvantage. The foundation offers Learning Support programs, Life Skill workshops and provide essential education material.

What is the one thing you can do on an ongoing basis to have universal success in the plight against racism and exclusion?

How you can do ONE thing for Diversity and Inclusion:

1. Visit an art exhibit or museum dedicated to other cultures.
2. Volunteer with an organisation working towards diversity and inclusion (volunteer with us at RMCC)!
3. Read about different religions and cultures.
4. Engage with work colleagues of different cultural backgrounds.
5. Encourage friends and loved ones to do the same.

Investing time to learn about other cultures and engage with others of diverse backgrounds does not to suggest a requirement to compare and judge, but rather to contemplate different ideas and beliefs.

In the words of one wise philosopher,
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it” - Aristotle.

Words by Lucy Davidson

Do we need ambassadors for us to care?

Image source: www.UNHCR.org

On May 2, the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, announced the appointment of Academy Award winning actor, Cate Blanchett as a Goodwill Ambassador.

This announcement came as Blanchett returned from a mission in Jordan, where she witnessed the ongoing humanitarian support to people displaced by the conflict in Syria. In light of meeting those seeking refuge, UNHCR released a video (here) of Blanchett speaking of the importance of compassion and our innate desire to connect is what makes us human.

‘We have a deep vein of compassion …. It seems we are at a fork in the road, do we go down the compassionate road or the path of intolerance’?

Capitalising on the influence of prominent public figures plays an important role in bringing to light many of the issues NGOs, grass-roots, and many other organisations are striving to aid. It seems we need a central figure, someone who is respected, appealing and perhaps holds a connection to the cause; to inform us about what to care about and how to go about assisting if we have the inclination.

The support of an impassioned celebrity for a cause can help to reach a new audience, albeit this reach can only drive so far. Working on delivering a campaign message which genuinely touches a nerve with the public is of greater importance.

UNHCR is not alone in utilising public figures for influence, many organisation seek persuasion through these channels. Depending on their profile, interests and level of responsibilities, gaining support from prominent figures can place the organisation at the forefront of the people’s awareness and act as a liaison between audience and organisation.

When seeking local support, ambassadorship can take on a different ideal. If used to gain meaningful connections with the community, utilising local leaders and people prominent and well-respected in the industry can be of far more importance. Key ambassadors for the Asylum Seeker Resource centre located in Footscray are 2010 Australian of the year Prof. Patrick McGorry and writer, human rights advocate Arnold Zable. Likewise, youth worker, author and former refugee Abdi Aden was appointed Australian Red Cross Ambassador. These somewhat less prominent figures all aspire to achieve the same as those with notoriety, to pull public awareness and gain support for the causes they champion.

Blanchett asks the audience a poignant question ‘what type of world do we hope to live in?’, perhaps this is the reason we need public figures championing causes. Perhaps we need to be reminded of what is important; a central figure championing causes that need our focus and to highlight the issues that will define the type of world we live in.

Words by Lucy Davidson