Fairfield and Liverpool Refugee and Anti-Racism Forum
On October 31, 2002 the Fairfield and Liverpool Districts of the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) held a refugee and anti-racism forum as a follow-up to the successful 2001 Anti-Racism Forum. The day was envisaged as an opportunity for school students from primary and secondary schools to showcase effective initiatives and programs. The performances and presentations for the day addressed the following issues:
- refugee resettlement issues and programs
- school anti-racism project and initiatives
- the experiences of migrants, refugees and Indigenous Australians
The program for the day was co-ordinated by a multicultural team comprising personnel from both districts: the Fairfield District Student Services and Equity Co-ordinator, Multicultural/ESL Consultants, Community Information Officers and Refugee Resettlement Project Officers.
The aims of the forum were to raise awareness about racism and refugees, to provide members from school communities with an opportunity to liaise with district consultants and community representatives, and to showcase resources and successful school initiatives.
Information letters and flyers were sent to all school principals, local community organisations, and DET state and district office personnel. The invitation was extended to principals and executive staff, teachers, other school personnel, students and parents. In particular, students from the Student Representative Council, students from refugee backgrounds, and representatives from those schools conducting anti-racism education projects in 2002-2003 were encouraged to attend.
District Office personnel liaised with performers and presenters to ensure that the program was relevant to the audience, and sensitive to the current international and local situation. Artwork and literary compositions from the Lurnea High School Refugee Exhibition, along with resource materials for anti-racism, Aboriginal education and refugee support services were displayed and made available to the participants.
Over 200 participants attended on the day, including groups of students and parents from several district schools, parents, teachers and Community Liason Officers, community workers and state and district office personnel. The conference consisted of a variety of presentations from schools groups who are addressing racism in their schools, speeches from primary students who had taken part in a recent multicultural public speaking contest, a speech from a high school student who had recently arrived as a refugee. Other features included an inspiring and challenging address by the keynote speaker Sanushka Mudaliar and a presentation by the co-director, Lawrence Abou Khater, of the video Tale of Two Peoples highlighting the similar experiences of Arabic and Aboriginal young people in schools.Choirs from several schools lent a special touch to the day.
The responses to the forum were overwhelmingly positive. Comments included:
- It's amazing how much a person's attitude, understanding and thinking can change in day - Thank you for a fantastic forum!!!
- Absolutely enlightening. Opened both my mind and spirit. Got me out of my comfort zone. Very inspiring. I was happy to see so many students in attendance
- I thought Merrylands High and Hurlstone Agricultural HS had great ideas which other schools like mine can use to get rid of racism forever. Also those brave young children that got up in front of everyone and said three fantastic speeches that they should be proud of.
- This was the most moving and best conference I have been to in a long time. The variety offered was the secret plus the input from the students and their many talents. We shall buy the video and use it. It has inspired our group.
- Interesting mixture of presentations. It helped me to confront a few of my own beliefs that might be racially based, however minute.
- It was great to hear from students what they were doing in their schools. It's wonderful to see the breadth of activities in our districts that address and help all students to understand each others cultural backgrounds, worries, frustrations and joys as we all grow into an Australian identity for the new millennium.
The forum concluded with a challenge to all present to return to their work places or home and address racism in whatever ways they can. Each person or group was asked to send in a report in a month's time of what they have done and the support their group would like from the district multicultural team in the future.
To view students' speeches:
- Amanda, Year 4, Hoxton Park Public School
- Sarah. Year 5, Smithfield West Public School
- Tristan, Year 4 Beverly Hills Public School
To view students' poems:
- Phuong, Year 11, Cabramatta High School
- Dalin, Year 11, Cabramatta High School
- Qiuyi, Cabramatta Intensive English Centre