On Monday 3 November we (Kevin and Clare) and the rest of our GLP group, began our day-long journey at the Auburn City Library, where we were welcomed by Julie, a Community Development Officer from the Auburn City Council. She revealed to us some surprising demographics and statistics about the suburbs within the Auburn Council area – did you know that it holds the highest percentage of refugees per capita in the whole of NSW? The Auburn Council area lives and breathes multiculturalism!
We were introduced to an active member of the Auburn community, Ghassan, who is also a refugee from Iraq. Hearing stories of refugee camps is one thing, but meeting someone who had endured a Saudi Arabian Desert Refugee Camp for 6 years was truly remarkable. He shared heart-wrenching experiences that led to his settlement in Auburn: the place he calls home. Words can’t describe how overwhelmed with inspiration we felt. “There is no future, because the future is today” … we’ve heard this quote dozens of times, but hearing it from Ghassan, someone who had made strides towards actualizing his dream despite having faced major adversity, gave it more meaning. Our dreams are not vague dreams out of reach, but within our grasp; it is up to us to make it happen.
We left the library inspired for our next adventure at the Auburn Botanic Gardens, which featured beautiful wildlife and Japanese gardens. As soon as we entered the gardens, we saw a peahen, tip-toing around the garden. Seeing the magnificent green feathers of the peacocks spread up close really is something else! The gardens themselves were lush and green with Japanese landscaping, and mini waterfalls of sparkling blue water. There was a lovely bridge over which schools of large koi fish gathered. We came across a barn filled with some Aussie animals. Those kangaroos and wallabies were so carefree, chilling out in the morning sun; there was an albino kangaroo that was just gorgeous! After walking around the gardens, we were starting to get peckish …
Luckily it was time for food! We were warmly welcomed by the staff of Mado Café, a Turkish restaurant decorated with authentic cultural items. Walking to our tables, we couldn’t help feeling as though we had stepped into a restaurant in downtown Istanbul. We started off with dips with bread, and moved onto some salad, meat, chicken, more meat, rice, a bit more meat and then some scrumptious baked vegetables. Then the drinks came around – who knew there was such a thing as Turkish lemonade? We tried the yogurt drink which tasted like, wait for it … yoghurt! Clare found it “delicious and refreshing”, but Kevin found it … well he skulled it and had a bit of Turkish lemonade to mask the taste! After our feast we were given Turkish tea before heading off to the next destination.
Next, we were off to the Gallipoli Mosque, the largest Mosque in Australia, for a tour of the Mosque and a briefing on the religion of Islam. The Mosque, or the ‘House of God’, is considered a place of cleansing and purification as well as education and knowledge. The sheer infrastructure of this sacred building and its history is simply amazing; funded by $6 million of donations from the local community, it took a full 13 years to build this work of art! Yusuf, our tour guide, shared with us some insight into Islam and the process of praying – what Islamic people believe in and why, as well as why Islamic people pray the way they do. Every action or movement in the Muslim religion has significant meaning behind it, whether it be to uphold the core values of Islam, or to maintain the mutual non-discriminatory respect within the community. Then we got Turkish Delight!
To cap off the day, we split up into groups for an Amazing Race. We were given tasks that required working together to navigate the Auburn area and engage with the local community. This was an on-the-spot practice in leadership, since we barely knew our group members! Neither of our groups won, but it was a lot of fun, and a great test of leadership and observation! We ended up in a room, where we had a short debriefing session. One of the questions we discussed that will always be at the back of my mind was – ‘Is there a geographical line where multiculturalism starts/ends? … What do you think?’
Our GLP day trip to Auburn was a truly Australian multicultural experience, filled with tasty exotic foods, natural scenery and a buzzing community spirit. It was a memorable and enriching experience that I recommend for anyone interested in seeing the diversity this city has to offer. How many times in your life do you get the opportunity to experience a guided tour of a Sydney community melting pot such as Auburn? Get out there and get involved!
Kevin and Clare
Clare Diamond is currently studying a Bachelor of Social Science and recently attended the GLP Canberra Symposium and Kevin Chu is studying a Bachelor of Arts – Psychology with the Degree of Education (Primary) and is a Mentors@Macquarie team leader.