Back in July, as some may recall, I went along to Alexandria Town Hall. See Africa in South Sydney.
That was a South Sydney Herald assignment, and today the paper is published.
Refugee African Muslim Youth – their voices
Just look at the trigger words there, especially in the hothouse of an election campaign, yet when a book highlighting the creativity and stories of Refugee African Muslim Youth aged 12-25 was launched by Tanya Plibersek at Alexandria Town Hall in July not a word was to be heard on talkback radio, not a peep from “A Current Affair” or “Today Tonight”.
Why? Because this is good news. No news value, you see. Sad but true.
What was there that day in Alexandria Town Hall was hope. So was resilience. So was vitality.
None of the people represented in the colourful book launched that day has had it easy. Most, but not all, are from Sierra Leone where more than two million people, one third of the population, were displaced by the Civil War of 1991-2002, though events since can hardly be called entirely peaceful.
Let one of the young people in the book speak.
This is the story of my village called Combowalla in Sierra Leone where everyone can go there. I still can remember my grandfather’s house. There are snakes there. Some of the snakes kill people. The village is not there anymore, it was burnt down.
Some of the images and words in this book are homesick of wistful, some express hope for their new lives in Australia, some tell of new friends made and support found.
Those who conceived the project, reported in the April South Sydney Herald, are to be congratulated. To quote SSCA Manager Jhan Leach in that April article: “We would like the youth to have a loud voice,” Ms Leach said. “We want them to be heard and seen, and we want them to tell other Australians what it’s like to be an African refugee Muslim youth, and what it’s like living in Australia as a refugee. We want to create opportunities where we get the youth to talk to the broader community to share their skills and abilities with creativity and dance and music and art … so we can create some broader acceptance of the culturally diverse community that we live in.”
Mission accomplished, I’d say, but still ongoing.
The grant under the Federal Government’s Diverse Australia Program that enabled much of this is money well spent.