School initiatives

Student Leadership Equity Forum - 2005

Words of unity written and pasted on white cardboard
Stomp out racism

We were pleased to receive the following report from the Western Sydney Region Multicultural/ESL Consultant 7-12.

Following the success of our pilot forum in December, 2004, Western Sydney Region held a Student Leadership Equity Forum in April this year. All High Schools in the Region were invited and 21 schools applied and attended. Each school came with a teacher and four Year 8 students, who were chosen for their leadership qualities and their passion to make a difference. This year we needed two adjoining rooms for the 120 students, teachers and consultants who attended. Schools came from all the corners of our geographically large region and were able to make friendships and school links.

Prior to the day, the committee of teachers, who work hard all year in their own schools to create cultural harmony, trained a group of Year 9 students, chosen for their leadership from the previous forum. These students spent a day preparing as peer tutors to conduct group workshops at the Forum. They proved to be wonderful role models who not only conducted workshops but also presented reports on their schools' cultural harmony and anti-racism activities.

Jacinta Tobin, a local Dharruk singer and songwriter, once again came to open our Forum with Welcome to Country. Accompanied by her guitar and supported by her young son playing the sticks, she sang and encouraged participants to clap along with her. Her warm personality and interesting dialogue enhanced the day's program.

At the Forum, students were able to engage with the concepts of cultural harmony and how they as individuals and as school teams can make a difference. Within mixed peer tutor groups they participated in fun team building exercises. Consultants from the Racismnoway website attended to show students the wide variety of resources available for their use. Peer tutors demonstrated many activities to their groups which can be conducted in schools.

In the last session of the day, students had time to work in school groups, to think about the needs and concerns in their own school and plan strategies and activities which could be implemented.

The Regional Equity Coordinator, Daryl Jacobs and the Equity SEO2, Wanda Snitch attended part of the day and presented teachers and students with certificates. They were most impressed with the commitment and enthusiasm shown by all participants.

Schools, who participated, appreciated the opportunity to work with other schools and to build student enthusiasm for equity issues. All schools have continued with or formed student committees, and are planning strategies and activities to suit the needs of their school culture and environment. Schools will be developing a one page report, profiling their school plans. These reports will become the content of out first regional Harmony Newsletter, which will be sent to all regional schools on a regular basis. Students in Western Sydney are being encouraged to have a say in the shaping of their world and they have already impressed teachers and consultants with their enthusiasm, their insight and their wealth of good ideas.

Forum Activities included:

Harmony chains (currently adorning the office of the multicultural/Esl consultant) - students in groups each wrote their name or a message on a strip of paper and these were then linked together. All groups' chains were then linked. This demonstrated both the strength of harmony as well as its fragility.
Role Play - students in groups developed a role play to demonstrate some aspect of discrimination. These plays were then presented to the whole group and carefully discussed.
Balloons - in groups, each student blew up a balloon and wrote a word or phrase on it to show what they think racism means. Balloons were all thrown into the centre of the circle. Students in turn picked up a balloon, not necessarily the one they contributed, and discussed it.
Stomp Out Racism - in groups, on butcher's paper, students wrote out words which they had heard or used which are offensive. After some discussion, students were given cut out feet and asked to cover these offensive words with healing, acceptable, harmonious words.