Whittlesea Anti-Racism Community Project Launch

17 October 2022

Al Siraat proudly hosted the official launch of the Whittlesea Anti-Racism Community Project, a community-led initiative led by Whittlesea Community Connections and Victoria University, on Friday, 7 October 2022.

The event commenced with a brief welcome and introduction by Emma of Whittlesea Community Connections. The Welcome to Country was an emotional one, with Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Ringo Terrick giving some insight to his lived experience of racism. He said he is a “strong proud black Aboriginal man”, and knows what it feels like to be different from others. He paid his respects to the different cultures, customs and spiritual beliefs, saying the multi-cultural jam has changed the flavour of Australia, in a positive way.

Our very own Head of Primary School Mr Mohamed Elbotaty welcomed guests, staff and students to our College. He encouraged people to speak out against racism, and reminded us all that in Islam, colour doesn’t matter. Al Siraat Year 9 student Umar Faroqui opened the event with a beautiful Qur'an recitation.

Lisa Thorpe, Gunditjmara, Gunnai woman, and CEO of Bubup Wilam Aboriginal Child and Family Centre, described her struggles on a daily basis. While she is proud Bubup Wilam has achieved their 10-year anniversary, their staff, students and families still combat racism every day in the City of Whittlesea, as they fight for basic human rights from day to day. She expressed the need for schools to teach the accurate history of our country, giving the Aboriginal perspective. This will help bring understanding, respect and harmony.

Professor Peter Raddoll, Deputy Vice-Chancellor People & Organisation at Victoria University, explained the Anti-Racism Roadmap for Whittlesea Report provides concrete steps for residents of the City of Whittlesea who are affected by racism. He encouraged us all to have conversations – it takes courage and resilience to share stories and lived experiences. The ultimate goal is to end racism, and in the meantime empower people to know where to go if they experience racism.

Mario Peucker of Victoria University is one of the driving forces of the Anti-Racism Roadmap, and said he, and his colleagues Tom and Holly, are very proud of what has been achieved. He said the place-based program is aimed at developing the community. They wanted to make space for community voices and leadership, but not necessarily responsible for the outcome. Everyone needs to put their heart on the table and decide how far they want to go. Racism is hard, difficult, uncomfortable and painful to talk about, but it can be empowering and strengthening for people to talk about their experiences, to be listened to and taken seriously. Mario said during the project they learned that people want to talk about racism and we need to foster that to happen, and create spaces for people to come together, and Whittlesea Community Connections is this initial space.

The Hon. Andrew Giles MP, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, officially launched the Roadmap. He stated that everyone needs to feel safe in this country. Unfortunately, racism is increasing in Australia right now, and we can see it in institutions such as AFL, with systematic evidence of racism – it’s quite shocking. The Government is introducing a new anti-racism strategy. The Anti-Racism Roadmap for Whittlesea gives a guide for a better and safer community, which is meaningful and powerful, and he honours the report.

Our Year 11 students Harun Hassan (Indigenous Relations Leader), Osama Akkad (Senior SRC member) and Adam Najem (House Captain) gave a very powerful and heartfelt presentation about racism that included:

  • Facts within the City of Whittlesea, stating there are 920 asylum seekers and migrants from over 140 countries and 40% are of non-English speaking households.
  • Why it is essential we have anti-racism laws, so we can all live comfortably knowing that any transgression will be punished.
  • What we can do to promote anti-racism, including raising awareness, creating safe spaces, speaking out and seeking help.

The presentation by the students was very well received, with so many people commenting afterwards what a great job they did. Credit also to Media Captain Mohamad Otman for his support with the PowerPoint presentation and taking photos on the day.

Concluding, Alex Haynes, CEO of Whittlesea Community Connections, thanked everyone for attending and for the work and time they contributed to the project. Whittlesea Community Connections will continue working in this space, and promote themselves as a safe place to go for those who experience racism.

The event concluded with morning tea and networking. It was so warming to hear people stating how nice the school looks and what great facilities we have. The event was a great success, and we are very proud to be part of this very important project by Victoria University and Whittlesea Community Connections.

Click this link for an article in our local Star Weekly relating to the Anti-Racism Project.