We are One

Encouraging Peacebuilding in Schools

This project is proudly supported by the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship through the Diversity and Social Cohesion Program.  For more information, visit www.harmony.gov.au

The We Are One Project ran at the Victorian Arabic Social Services (VASS) from November 2009 until November 2011. It was funded by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s Diverse Australia Program.  The Diverse Australia program funds of community projects designed to foster respect and inclusion and engage the whole community in responding to issues of racism and intolerance in Australia.

The We are One program’s overall aim is to address the negative contributions of disempowerment, anger, helplessness and frustration within the Muslim Arabic Speaking Background (ASB) communities within schools in the Northern and Western Regions of Melbourne and within the broader community.

A total of seven secondary schools were involved in the project which spread across the municipalities of Hume, Moreland and Hobson’s Bay. The schools were:

  • Roxburgh Park Secondary College
  • Hume Central Secondary College Town Park Campus
  • Hume Central Secondary College Blair Street Campus
  • Isik College
  • Illm College
  • Bayside Secondary College
  • Preston Girls
  • Australian International Academy

The project sought to bridge the cultural divide between new and established migrant communities and the broader Australian community.  The project aimed to enhance community capacity building using workshops, mentoring activities, youth forums and school-community partnerships.

Some of the outcomes of the project include:

  • Harmony Day Celebration at Hume Central involving the Anti Racism Action Band
  • Three Harmony Day Celebrations at Craigieburn Secondary College and the production of a school harmony day rap in partnership with the Anti Racism Action Band
  • Cyber Bullying and Cyber Racism talks delivered to 5 schools to a total number of students involved in the police information sessions was: 505 students aged 14-18 years old.
  • School Holiday Programs for young people and their families from different schools and assisting in the engagement of social and recreational activities with Lifesaving Victoria, Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Richmond Football Club, Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police and Free Debate Inc to encourage dialogue and discussion about belonging and cultural diversity.
  • Peacebuilding Through the Arts programs with Australian Federal Police whereby students from four schools produced an Art mosaic about building peace in their community and showcased in the Immigration Museum
  • VASS advocates for the needs of CALD parents in the Hume Youth Strategy and Moreland Youth Commitment Strategy
  • We Are One Project staff presentations at key educational forums throughout the Northern Region of Melbourne
  • Young Women’s Leadership and Human Rights programs involving Brunswick Women’s Theatre
  • Young Men’s Leadership workshops involving Australian Federal Police and Essendon Football Club
  • Cross Cultural Training at Bayside Secondary College
  • Youth Led Human Rights Conference at Roxburgh College
  • UN Model Conferences at Roxburgh College
  • Ongoing Consultations with Schools based on individual family support
  • Strong working relationships built with 7 schools in the project
  • Strong Working Relationships with key community organisations
  • The production of three training resource manuals for teachers, teaching staff about addressing racism in schools, parenting engagement of Arabic Speaking Background (ASB) communities and Local Responses to International Crisis. Enquiries about these manuals can be directed to the VASS office (C1, 1-13 The Gateway, Broadmeadows, Ph: (03) 9359 2861). See attached electronic versions of the three manuals.

The range of activities developed throughout the project have further resulted in some highly innovative and effective best practice models.   The project was evaluated internally and externally with MyriaD Consultants. Some of the comments from key stakeholders, young people involved and schools include:

“The majority of students at our school are from a Turkish background and having worked with the Arabic communities, I am aware that they are susceptible to feeling isolated.  This project made a big difference to their sense of belonging and showed them that they are accepted.” School Staff

“VASS collaborated with our school and co-facilitated 4 Harmony Days across 2010 and 2011. These Harmony Days were held for Year 7 and year 8 students and had a focus on the promotion of peace, hope and acceptance. The portions of the days facilitated by VASS included the creation of the school’s Harmony Rap with the aid of the Anti-Racism Action Band. The Harmony Rap was published in the local newspaper. “ School Staff

“Many of the Years 7 and 8s who participated in the program have gone on and increased their links with A.R.A.B and attended Youth Forum and Rap workshops. All of these workshops have a focus on harmony and multiculturalism.” School Staff

“VASS was great, they chatted to the boys and there was a real sense of belonging.  The Harmony Day message ‘we belong to one’ really came through.”  School Staff

“The program helped to change the image of Muslim kids. They were very proud of their achievements and presented these at assembly.” School Staff

“The students got a lot out of it.  In term 1 year nine students went to camp for five days.  McKillop Family Services assisted as did MFB with a mentoring program. The kids are still talking about it!” School Staff

“VASS approached asking ‘what can we do for you?’ The whole project continued to have the same positive approach.  They are now an important stakeholder that our school will definitely continue to work with.” School staff

“These links have been fostered and are now an integral part of the curriculum programs at our school.” School staff

“We are looking at a growth model that will, in the future, see VASS implementing programs such as the Ramadan project and the mosaics and peace project on a larger scale.” School Staff

“Many of the projects and activities have now been written into the curriculum and therefore will be sustained into the future. “ School staff

“Girls don’t do a lot of extra curricular activities but working with VASS and local ethnic groups could help parents know the value of these things and the involvement of girls would improve and grow.” School staff

“One barrier we picked up quickly was that some boys grew beards for religious or cultural reasons.  You can’t have a beard as a fire fighter because it is a safety risk.  We also need to look into setting up prayer rooms at stations – we don’t currently have these types of facilities.” Metropolitan Fire Brigade Staff

“The schools loved it and have followed up and asked AFP to come back.  We have developed what I believe will be ongoing sustainable partnerships.” AFP staff

“Harmony Day is a time for fun, a time for fun and not to shun” Student

“As we join together to, we’ll decide together whether this day is about a replay, something that happened in the past, so will regret the days, when a race lived in shade, because that’s what Harmony Day is all about” Student

“People who use Facebook should think before they act and be careful and not to be racist because it gets people mad and plays with their feelings” Student

“One of the problems in Australia is racism.  There should be more socialising especially as there are problems in the workplace.” Student

“Getting kids to stand up and have confidence and talk to others and get along with others is very hard and this program, We Are One, they are doing, they are enjoying it” Youth Mentor involved in the We Are One Project

“I have been involved with the Islamic communities before,  but it has always been that community, I think it’s time to interact with other communities and get everyone together because that is what Australia is about multiculturalism. This program made me see, people are out there doing that, and I can be that initiative to get my community to do the same.” Student

VASS could not have achieved the outcomes without the support from key stakeholders who dedicated their time, skills and knowledge in various capacities throughout the life of the project.

Thanks to key stakeholders in the program throughout the two years including:

Illm College

Isik College

Roxburgh College

Bayside Secondary College

Preston Girls Secondary College

Inner Northern Local Learning and Employment Network

Hume Whittlesea Local Learning and Employment Network

Hume Central Secondary College

Australian International Academy

Australian Federal Police, Community Liaison Team

Victoria Police Region 3 Multicultural Liaison Officers

Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Multicultural Liaison Officers

MacKillop Family Services

UN Victoria

Essendon Football Club

Richmond Football Club

Lifesaving Victoria

Free Debate Inc

Initiatives of Change

Dot Point Productions

Brunswick Women’s Theatre

VASS Anti Racism Action Band

Youth Law

Foundation House

VASS would also like to extend its sincere gratitude to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Diversity and Social Cohesion Program for its support throughout  the life of the project.

The project was co-ordinated by Lisa Tribuzio from VASS.

Project Officers were: Reta Ando, Jasmine Ouaida, Osama Naimi, Eman Souki

Project Support Staff were: Raad AlMajidy, Ishak Morris, Suehayla Abou-Eid, and Hala Attalla.

For more information contact VASS on (03) 9359 2861