Living in Between – a Students Against Racism schools presentation by refugees and migrants in Victoria and Tasmania to explain the refugee journey.
Students Against Racism (SAR) is a group of students who came to Australia as refugees and migrants from a diversity of countries and personal circumstances. Working with their TasTAFE teacher, Gini Ennals, they have developed a dramatic presentation called ‘Living in Between’, which explains why they left their homelands, the journey that brought them to Australia and their lives now.
These young people have presented their story to many local school groups across Tasmania and Victoria and have also presented at conferences in Sydney and Melbourne.
The presentations explores issues around racism, using storytelling and activities that challenge the audience to examine the causes and consequences of racism and how they can combat it. They have developed a film, a play and a range of presentations and workshops.
The SAR group was established in 2008 to give a voice to students in Hobart who had arrived as refugees. Living in Between is a collaboration between the Students Against Racism (SAR), A Fairer World and TasTAFE and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services through the Diversity and Social Cohesion Program.
Over 80 young people from refugee backgrounds including Afghani, Karen, Iraqi, Sudanese, Congolese, Ethiopian, Bhutanese have been trained to deliver the workshops and tell their stories.
The Students Against Racism group was formed with the aim of developing presentations to be a proactive response in the face of the racism they encountered, which they felt came from a lack of understanding about why people seeking asylum, refugees and migrants were settling in Tasmania.
When teacher Gini Ennals first started working in Hobart with young people from refugee backgrounds, she learnt that many young people often experienced issues of racism and exclusion. She also found that they had incredible stories and that many young people were willing and keen to share their stories. Gini realised that in order to address these issues of racism and a lack of understanding in the community it was important for their voices to be heard and for other people to understand the issues they have gone through.
Students spend time writing their stories and presentations and working with the teacher to learn public speaking and presentation skills. Students get training in leadership skills from other organisations.
There is a set process, where students prepare, edit and practice their presentations. As Gini says, “we write the stories and edit the stories together. We take time to write the story and ensure we are protecting the speakers so they are not re-traumatised.
There are also specific narrative therapy sessions provided from counsellors to help students address past trauma and use the story telling process to develop strengths.
In each presentation three presenters share their experiences. The presenters are paid for their time and skills.
After the initial presentation, the group tries to do a return visit to the school to continue to build relationships and share experiences together.
The success of the program relies on young people from refugee backgrounds teaching other young people. This provides positive outcomes for both the presenters and the audience. Young people from refugee backgrounds improve their English skills, develop increased confidence, and form friendships and networks.
Presenters feel empowered as they have something valuable to contribute as experts.
School children and other audience members gain knowledge and understanding about refugees and people seeking asylum and other cultures, working towards breaking down hostility and racism.
Schools have reported a big difference in their school environment after presentations from the group. Students are more respectful and understanding of diversity and are eager to learn more about refugees and people seeking asylum.
As Gini says, the challenges are “time, energy, money”.
While some work is done in class, much of it is done after hours.
Finding grant money to continue to support the presenters and provide a quality presentation.
Advice for others
- Start small. Make sure that the presentations are really of high quality and the presenters are prepared.
- Young people need significant support in writing and sharing their story and it is important to ensure a proper process in developing the presentations.
- Ensure there is a budget set aside for narrative therapy and proactive group counselling.
- It is also important to acknowledge the strengths in the group and use their skills and interests.
Ph: 03 6223 1025 or 0400 824 261