Diversity Education through Storytelling
A program of the Students Against Racism in partnership with A Fairer World and TasTAFE.
- 2016 Tasmanian Human Rights Award winners
- 2015 Australian Human Rights Racism It Stops With Me Award winners
Diversity Education through Storytelling
A program of the Students Against Racism in partnership with A Fairer World and TasTAFE.
A love of food, music and stories is common to young people in most cultures. Students at Tasmanian schools have had the opportunity to learn first-hand about the differences and similarities during a short course in diversity education.
The project is a collaboration between the Students Against Racism, A Fairer World and TasTAFE and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services through the Diversity and Social Cohesion Program.
Students Against Racism 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, Living in Between, that explains why they left their homelands, the journey that brought them to Australia and their lives now.
Jake Buckland, a student at Cygnet Primary School, said that he was surprised by the experiences that members of the Students Against Racism had been through.
I didn’t really know much about what people had gone through before they came to Australia, now I understand why they left their homelands and why they need a safe place like Australia to settle.
Huonville High student Isaac Bannister said,
I learned so much because it was young people teaching us. They made a real connection and they talked in a way we could understand. I had heard a lot about asylum seekers and refugees but actually meeting people who had been through that experience made me realise that this affects real people who all have their own story to tell. It was a great way to learn.
Project Officer, Nene Manasseh says,
It’s also a great learning experience for the TasTAFE students as they are able to build their language and public speaking skills. It’s a great boost to their confidence when they see that the school students are really interested in their stories and cultures.
The Students Against Racism group was first formed in 2008 at the instigation of their teacher, Gini Ennals, at Hobart College. Their aim in developing the presentation was to be proactive in the face of the racism they encountered, which they felt came from a lack of understanding about why asylum seekers, refugees and migrants were settling in Tasmania.
Living in Between has since been developed into a school program that includes resources and training for teachers as well as the performance and activities. Over a series of workshops students are encouraged to get out of their chairs and engage with issues around culture, diversity and why people settle in Australia. Many students, who themselves have experienced discrimination or the feeling of being an “outsider”, find that they can empathise with the stories of the TasTAFE students.
Presentations of Living in Between are also available for workplaces and events. These one-off presentations can be adapted to suit specific needs and range from 15 minutes (sharing stories) to 1½ hours.
In 2009, the group won the Tasmanian Human Rights School Award “for reaching out to build understanding of people from different cultures”. This was the beginning of their partnership with the Tasmanian Centre for Global Learning which created the award and works extensively with schools on improving human rights and social justice education.
In 2011 the group won an Amnesty Human Rights Innovation grant that allowed them to commission the making of a short documentary about the group and their groundbreaking work. The film and education pack are available from A Fairer World or using the order form on this page.
The 2015-16 program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services through the Diversity and Social Cohesion Program. The Australian Government is committed to addressing issues of cultural, racial and religious intolerance by promoting respect, fairness, inclusion and a sense of belonging for everyone. The Government believes that strong social cohesion is best developed by projects that bring all Australians together and in particular create connections across the community.
We are also very grateful for the organisations that have supported the development and running of the program since its inception in 2008, including Hobart College, the Tasmanian Community Fund, the Sydney Myer Fund, the Alcorso Foundation and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
I could never have predicted how extensive the benefits would be for our whole school community. This project has had a significantly positive impact on our year 6 students and also on their families and our wider school community.
… through new understandings, our students’ attitudes shifted in a significant way. They came to realise that while people may look different on the outside and have different customs, inside we all share the same feelings and have the same needs – we are, in fact, the same. And we can and should join together in our communities to lead happy and fruitful lives with each other.
… I think the program is a huge success. The format works well and I know many of the students found their views had changed in some way after the sessions… Our students developed greater empathy and understanding for people who arrive in Australia due to war, natural disaster etc. They now have knowledge as to why certain people have come to Australia and they have significantly improved their knowledge of other countries for example, geography, language, culture etc. Some of my students developed greater confidence in sharing their own personal experiences. I believe some of them felt that if others can tell their difficult and traumatizing stories to a group of strangers then it’s okay for them to stand up and share a piece of work or opinion on this topic.
It was a privilege to work with the young people in the group. They were all so generous with their deeply personal information. It was heartening to see our young students treat the group members with respect and interest.
We felt very fortunate to be part of this program. There are a large number of humanitarian entrant (HE) students at Cosgrove High School who found the sessions particularly interesting and relevant to them. Some of our HE students commented afterwards that they felt that their interactions with their peers had improved and were more positive as a result of the program… The workshops were engaging and inclusive, and provided great starting points for discussion.
My students have learnt an extremely important life lesson. Before our sessions they had absolutely no idea what a refugee was and just how hard it was to come to a country like Australia. I think they have learnt why it is vital for us to be tolerant of everybody no matter who they are. After our session, my students have gained a greater level of tolerance to all types of difference.
Without doubt our students made some extraordinary progress towards becoming far more knowledgeable, tolerant, understanding and compassionate as a result of their participation in the Living In Between project.
What students said they enjoyed about the program:
I enjoyed hearing their stories and what they had to go through to get a better life. It was interesting listening to their stories.
I enjoyed meeting new people, learning about their lives and how they speak and dance. The whole time with them was really fun.
Learning about different cultures and languages, working in groups, seeing other people talk instead of teachers.
Meeting really cool people whose stories inspired me and give me more understand. I loved it all.
The stories they told us about their journey and life. I also enjoyed the dancing.
That they related to us to help us understand.
People being brave and talking to a whole group of people and sharing their stories.
In the groups talking about their past.
Hearing their stories and what they had to do to travel to Australia.
That they all have a story and no one listens to them so this way helps.
Listening [to] different cultures and sharing different stories from different countries.
When we did the dance with the girls. The food, the posters, everything pretty much.
The song. It was really fun and funny hanging out with the Hobart College [students].
What students said they learned from the program:
Not to be racist.
That it does not matter what you look like, its what’s on the inside that counts.
I got a better understanding of racism and how awful it is.
To respect everyone and treat them equally.
I learnt that people from other countries are more like me than what I thought they were.
That we really take a lot of stuff for granted, and the way that people all around the world are living bad lives.
That asylum seeker means safety seeker.
That reasons for leaving your home country are traumatic but people get through it and try to put their life back together.
How hard their lives have been and that we should appreciate what we have.
I got so much valuable information about other religions and countries that I can pass on to others.
I learnt mostly that racism is not okay, and how people bullying others from different countries is wrong.
The program has been developed to explicitly address the racism, prejudice and intolerance shown to the culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community in Tasmania, specifically to people who have come to Tasmania as refugees.
We believe that acts of discrimination and racism occur as a result of:
By combining the personal experiences of the Students Against Racism and the education resources of A Fairer World the program aims to:
Up to 30 members of the Students Against Racism make three 90 minute visits to each school. All sessions were facilitated by TasTAFE EAL teacher and SAR coordinator, Gini Ennals. A key aspect of the visits was the creation of small groups comprising a humanitarian entrant TasTAFE student (as the group leader) with 2 or 3 school students. These groups worked together over the course of the visits to provide the opportunity for building closer relationships.
Activities and discussions undertaken by the groups over the 3 visits covered all aspects of the refugee experience:
When did you join the Students Against Racism group?
I joined SAR in 2008 when I first came to Hobart College.
What prompted you to join?
After telling my story to my teacher she told me that it would be good for me to tell others to help them build understanding of issues about refugees and asylum seekers. The group wasn’t operating then and I was the first member.
What were those early days in the group like?
Gini brought in Justin Kenyi and Jean Murray to start the group. We all got along very well because we had similar experiences and got to know each other better. We started to rehearse our stories with Gini. The first time I told it in public I was scared and nervous, but the audience – Hobart College students and teacher – was great and Gini said no one could notice I was shaky. I felt pretty good when it was over and it was a great boost to my confidence.
How are things in the group different now?
I’ve done my story more than 40 times in public now and I don’t feel nervous any more. There are now about 35 in the group but it still has the same feeling of togetherness. The backgrounds are more diverse now; there are Australian born students as well as people from a variety of different cultures. We go to a lot more different places now, last year we even went to Melbourne to present to Preshill School.
What would you say that you have gained from being a part of the SAR group?
Experience, skills, maybe a career, friends.
What have been the challenges?
When I first started, language was a big challenge. Also when there are arguments in the group it makes things hard. Time, because I’m also studying and it’s hard to manage everything.
You’ve been sharing the story of your journey to Australia for many years now – does it get any easier to tell?
I’m less nervous now – more confident. But sometimes there are some things that make me sad and sometimes it’s difficult to answer people’s questions because the answers would be too horrible to remember. In the last 2 years I don’t need my notes any more!
Do you think that it’s been effective in educating Tasmanians about the experiences of refugees?
Yes, because it helps them to build understanding. The comments and feedback show that it makes people here realise that they take things for granted, like education, which was difficult in the refugee camp.
What about reducing racism?
In the first 2 years here I experienced a lot of racism but now I don’t notice it. Maybe because I ignore it, but I hope it’s also because people understand more about refugees.
This year you have been working as Trainee Project Officer on this project. How has that been?
Great, very good. I have learned new skills in how to plan, manage and deliver the project. Also I’ve got the opportunity to work in the TCGL office; it’s the beginning of my career path.
You’re also studying at the Polytechnic. Tell us about that?
I’m doing a Certificate III in Community Services and I’m doing similar things to in the SAR group. We spent the whole of term 2 on refugee issues and we went to a school to deliver a workshop. I went to Kempton Grade 5 and 6 with someone from Amnesty and that was easy because I’d done it so many times before.
What are your personal goals for the future?
Next year I’m doing Diploma I in Community Services, then Diploma II in 2013. After that I hope to go to Uni to do Social Work. Eventually I want to work as a Social Worker with refugees. I want to work with those who are traumatised when they arrive and help them settle in to a new country.
I’ve never been to my home country, Sudan, so I’d like to go back one day to visit – not to stay – I feel that Australia is home now.
Born in Sudan.
When I was 3 months war came to my town.
My father was killed by the soldiers.
My mum took three of her kids and me and escaped.
My older brother and sister were taken by my uncle.
I have only seen them in photos.
I grew up in a refugee camp.
In the camp, people were not treated well and life was very hard.
There was a lot of violence, criminals and people were killed for their money and possessions.
We heard that the United Nations was helping the refugees go to Australia.
We waited to see if we could be accepted.
Arriving in Australia:
We waited for four years. Finally we were accepted.
It was a great day for my family.
On the plane we were excited but nervous.
I wanted to know what it would look like and what would happen.
It was a long trip and I didn’t know what to expect.
What would my new life be like?
We arrived in Hobart, our friends were at the airport.
We hadn’t seen them for six years.
We had a party for two days.
Then we had to settle.
Living in Between:
Settling in was a bit strange.
Everything was different.
I miss my friends and I didn’t know how the system worked.
I started school, I made friends and I knew my life here would be okay.
I am getting used to Australian culture.
I am taking the good things from this culture and putting them with the good things from African culture.
It is great.
I know about 2 ways of living. I love it.
I love the freedom here. The education system here is very good.
The teachers turn up. In Africa they didn’t get paid sometimes so they didn’t turn up.
We have a new chance here.
We have food and a house and I can go to school.
I can have a future here. I want to change the world.
I want people to know about what’s happening in other countries in Africa.
I can do this here. Everyone is friendly, my family is safe, I feel a part of Australia and I have a place to call HOME.