Tag: School Days

Cultural Identity and Racism in Schools

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Individuality, personality and difference are very much a part of every playground in Australian schools. Everywhere you look you will see children and teachers with their own unique looks and styles navigating their way on the ‘catwalk’ of the school community. Despite the consistency of looks provided by school uniforms, children will still create their very own style codes to make themselves look ‘different’ from others. Indeed it seems diversity is very much valued and encouraged in school. But what if we were to include cultural diversity in this mix? Would it be as equally prized?

Cultural intolerance and discrimination is present in many Australian schools. It occurs between members of minority and majority communities. Note, for example, a 2009 study of secondary school students by the Foundation for Youth Australia, which found that 80 per cent of students from a non-Anglo background experienced racism, while 54.6 per cent of their Anglo-Australian colleagues reported such experience. They were reporting on a wide range of racism experiences, such as: ‘being called an offensive slang name for your cultural group’ through to ‘being refused employment because of your cultural background’.

The Human Rights Commission has also highlighted the issue in many of its reports, triggering responses from states and territories around Australia.

Not only students, but teachers from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) or Aboriginal backgrounds also experience discrimination by students and their colleagues. In fact, approximately 65 per cent of people participating in a survey by the Australian Human Rights Commission indicated that they have experienced racism.

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So why are some Australian schools not accepting towards people from CALD backgrounds? And why are Aboriginal students still experiencing racism?

Researchers have asked these questions before and have concluded that children are influenced by prevailing social attitudes. They found that older children, for example, are more tolerant towards Asian-Australian children than their younger peers. However, this was not the case towards Aboriginal children, with young children being more tolerant towards them. Although the development of attitudes and beliefs is a very complex process, children’s attitudes towards cultural tolerance are very much shaped close to home via parents, peers and popular culture promoted through the media. To illustrate this further, a 12-year in-depth study based on comprehensive surveys of more than 12,500 Australians, conducted by the University of Western Sydney, found that one in 10 Australians believe that some races are naturally superior or inferior and advocate segregation.

Teachers’ attitudes in the classroom are also key. Teachers often have limited knowledge of the cultural details of their students, especially from those of a CALD or Aboriginal background, and as a result may hold a stereotypical view of students, which may then negatively influence their behavior and expectations of students. Several other studies, featured on the ‘Racism. NoWay’ website by the NSW Education and Training Department, also demonstrate a predominantly negative attitude towards Aboriginal students in Australian primary and secondary schools.

The consequences for those experiencing racial discrimination are severe and range from psychological to physical health. A predominant effect experienced by victims of racial discrimination is that of confused or troubled cultural identity. Cultural identity refers to the way in which individuals define themselves in relation to the groups to which they belong, such as family, religion, community, nation, sporting group, etc; where a coherent sense of personal identity can act as a protective factor against psychological distress, a troubled or confused sense of identity may lead to mental and emotional distress.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. Positive accounts of cultural diversity are found throughout Australia, and overall Australians are largely welcoming of other cultures, and are very positive about living in a multicultural society. Students revealed that making sure people from a CALD or Aboriginal backgrounds are treated equally is very important to them. Furthermore, 85 per cent of people think that something should be done to fight racism.

Indeed, schools provide a unique opportunity to support cultural diversity within the local community and Australia as a whole. Community members have indicated that schools are a top priority in terms of converting ideas into action. Schools vary in the way they support cultural diversity, ranging from a spectrum of action, reaction and inaction based on their local circumstances. Positive outcomes were found when strategies were utilised that celebrate and embrace cultural differences, invite community participation, and deliver educational programs aimed at deconstructing and expanding students’ knowledge of cultural issues.

What parents can do

  • Review your own opinions of culture, diversity and religion
  • Talk positively about people as a whole, particularly in the presence of children
  • Never attach an individual’s behaviour to a specific cultural background
  • Make tolerance and cultural diversity a topic of discussion in the family home
  • Embrace the opportunity to talk to people from other cultural backgrounds and consider arranging more social contact. You may be surprised how much you and your family can benefit by pushing your comfort zone
  • Take a look at the media you and your family consume. Does it present a realistic view of a diverse society? If not, mix it up so that it reflects the reality of multiculturalism.

What schools can do

  • Actions should focus on current students’ attitudes instead of old cultural opinions
  • Provide students with opportunities to engage with many diverse cultures
  • Develop a close relationship between school and community
  • Improve professional development opportunities for teachers and staff
  • Update and improve cultural diversity projects for teacher and students, like the ‘School Days Project’ by Quirky Kid
  • Actively participate in Harmony Day
  • Organize volunteer opportunities for students in refugee agencies and local communities
  • Ask staff members from CALD backgrounds to make announcements at assembly or over the school intercom to celebrate diversity and encourage students from CALD backgrounds to also participate in public speaking opportunities.

This post was written for Essential Kids. It was first published at a Fairfax Website. This content is a Quirky Kid Copyright.

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Refugees in India

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Refugee Research in India - Centre for Refugee Research

As one of our Social Development projects and commitment to both local and international communities, Leonardo Rocker represented the Quirky Kid Clinic for a 15 day community development project in New Delhi, India. This involved working with Burmese, Somali and Afghan refugees living in exile. The project was organized by the Centre for Refugee Research at the UNSW and the UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency.

More than 120 women and girls as well as 70 men attended the four-day gathering and while grateful for the asylum they receive in India, the refugees said they faced many challenges. “Our children can go to school but I fear for their safety as the local children tease them, laugh at them, make fun of their skin colour and clothes and sometimes even beat or harass them,” claimed a Somali mother, who fled her country five years ago (UNHCR, 2010).

See some photos of our trip to India:

Our dual role was to participate in the Consultation with Woman and Girls project as part of regional dialogues involving meetings with community leaders, documenting and researching human rights violations. Secondly, we worked closely with the Burmese refugee community by facilitating workshops to encourage regional solutions to local livelihood issues in view of developing funding proposals. Our intensive work served to support the refugee’s  Community Based Organizations (CBO’s).

We were privileged to be part of such a great project, meet amazing people and in helping to fund-raising over $7000 for their projects.

You can find more about the dialogues by visiting the UNHCR website.

Leonardo Rocker participated in this project as an Intern for the Centre for Refugee Research at the UNSW in Sydney. The Quirky Kid Clinic provides supervision for other refugee organizations, such as the Malaleuca Refugee Centre and we currently consults to STARTTS.}

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Community Project

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

The Quirky Kid Clinic has been selected as a consultant organization for the Communities in Cultural Transition Project (CiCTP) which is  been operated by STARTTS. STARTTS is the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors .The CiCTP project aims to assist non-funded associations and groups from newly arrived small and emerging refugee communities to develop governance and leadership capacity.

Burundian family in Australia

Burundian family in Australia

The project will work with great small communities like the Mandaean, Karen, Hazara, Sierra, Leonean, Liberian, South Sudanese, Burundian and Congolese. Leonardo Rocker, who is a Social Developer, will be the principal consultant working with these communities. The Quirky Kid is proud to be working in such interesting and unique project. The Quirky Kid Clinic is committed to the local and international community by engaging in several community development projects. Visit our community page for more information.}

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