A Passion for Helping Others – Macquarie’s Refugee Mentoring Program (LEAP)

I found out about the Macquarie Refugee Mentoring Program (LEAP) through my friend’s recommendations and the advertisements around campus. Each year, I remember telling myself that I was too busy and will surely do it next year. So as I realised I was in my last year at Macquarie University, I decided to take up all the opportunities available to me -one of which was applying to the LEAP Program. I have been mentored by senior managers in my previous workplace and through the LUCY mentoring program (another great program targeted towards women studying degrees in the Faculty of Business and Economics) and realised how beneficial it is to be guided by someone more senior to you who may have taken the career or university path that you’re planning on taking.

The LEAP mentoring program in particular is great because you get to travel on a Macquarie University bus with other like-minded mentors each week. I have certainly developed some great friendships during these bus rides. In the first few weeks, all mentees sit in a circle with the mentors and each mentee is given the opportunity to speak about his other aspirations. Based on this and our background and interests we recommend the students that would best benefit from our support to the LEAP Project Coordinator. I was paired up with a bubbly and extremely intelligent girl from Sierra Leone who wants to pursue medicine. What is even more incredible is her reason behind this decision. I asked ‘so why do you want to be a doctor?’ She replied ‘I want to build my own health clinic to provide the people of Sierra Leone with help when they need it and also to decrease the number of babies dying soon after they have been brought into this world.’ Hearing this was probably the highlight of my experience so far. People from refugee backgrounds have often come from very difficult circumstances but that does not stop them from having big dreams.

Neha (middle right) and other MQ LEAP mentors.

Neha (middle right) and other MQ LEAP mentors.

A great aspect about the LEAP mentoring program is that it encourages an individual approach to building student skill sets and helps them to navigate new schools, new culture, the Australian curriculum and the multiple education and employment pathways on offer to them. In terms of benefits for me, I believe I have been able to really help my mentee achieve her dreams. In our one-hour lessons at Blacktown Girls High School, we looked at possible degrees that she could undertake to meet her ultimate career goals, university degrees, alternative pathways for entry and how I could help empower my mentee to make informed decisions about her future.

It is an experience that I highly recommend. And of course – the added bonus is that you get 20 GLP points which has definitely brought me closer to the 200 points I need to get in order to complete the Global Leadership Program.

*By Neha Chopra.

Neha is an Undergraduate student in her final year of a Bachelor of Commerce & Bachelor of Laws degree.

Both Undergraduates and Postgraduates can participate in LEAP Mentoring and claim it towards their GLP. For more information please consult your Guidebook or contact glp@mq.edu.au

For more information about LEAP Mentoring at Macquarie please visit their website HERE. 

For applications please click HERE.

Cabramatta – The people & the stories

In the late 1970s when refugees were escaping oppression, violence and wars in Asia, Ma Cho, a Chinese Sea Goddess, had her hands full protecting their lives in the rough seas. Many of the refugees turned up in Cabramatta, already a vibrant and multicultural place, and would end up providing the suburb with its well-known South East Asian character.

Strolling through the streets of Cabramatta and listening to local voices, a lot of questions formed in my mind: what has changed during the last forty years? What particular challenges did migrants face? How did they experience the balancing act between two cultures? Is it a question of either/ or? As preserving cultural practices and fitting into a new environment seems like a pretty challenging process to me, I wondered, what does it need to ‘feel at home and included’ in a new environment?

Cabramatta 2

But let`s start with some general facts we heard from Marilyn at the Whitlam Library in Canley Vale. With more than seventy percent of its residents born overseas, Cabramatta is currently home to 109 nationalities. Furthermore, the suburb in south-western Sydney, governed by the Fairfield City Council has the largest Vietnamese community in Australia. Presumably this richness and diversity is what makes Cabramatta such a unique place. To get to know more about this multicultural suburb and its people we met a Cambodian migrant, Jenny,, who told us about her journey to Australia. Jenny is a vivacious woman with a positive attitude towards life, who shared her tough life story without giving you the impression she feels victimised. In the 1970s she escaped the Pol Pot Communist Regime in Cambodia, which in her opinion left the country in ruins. Fleeing in a refugee boat, Jenny was rescued by the UN and found herself in one of the migrant hostels in Sydney. With the benefit of the English skills Jenny had learnt during her youth, Jenny says she was ‘selected’ for a role assisting a UNHCR official as a translator (but as one of the GLP staff, who had heard Jenny`s story several times, told me it seems more likely that Jenny played a much more active part in getting this job). Shortly after arriving in Australia in September 1981, Jenny applied for a job and got it straight away. She was undeterred by the fact that the job required a drivers licence despite having never driven a vehicle. Overcoming this challenge, nowadays Jenny is running her own very successful small cosmetic business, which is located in Cabramatta and well-known to the community.

After Jenny`s impressive story I was pretty convinced that all you need to master life is courage, determination and strong self-belief, along with a positive attitude. Even though I am sure it is not as simple as it sounds, perhaps it`s this hope and belief that you will do better, which consistently opens new perspectives and possibilities. Jenny did not resign herself to fate, but rather grabbed every opportunity to achieve the best outcome. Indeed, Jenny experienced rejection and racism, but in keeping with Jenny’s own pragmatic motto “if people don`t like you, stay away from them!”, she found her own way to respond to negative experiences and situations. It´s this idea of individual choice mixed with determination that makes the difference between struggling and contentment – at least in terms of individual life choices in our control. Seizing this idea, I remember a sentence she repeated several times: “Please study hard!”.

Cabramatta 1

*By Alexa Briel

Alexa is an exchange student studying Educational Science in Vienna. Alexa is very interested in working with refugees and will pursue these interests when she returns to Vienna.  

The Global Leadership Program Cultural Days are an opportunity to explore the multicultural hubs of Sydney that exist on our doorstep. On Monday 18th May the GLP is heading to Auburn with students. Check out our Twitter @GLP_MQ for live tweets throughout the day!

Consul General of France: It All Begins With Partnership

The world we live in is so diverse and unique where every individual has a story, a culture and a shared history. Meeting the Consul General of France, Eric Berti, helped me to see that the world and France in particular, is not as far away as I once thought. Rather, Monsieur Berti as a French ambassador and as an individual, stood before me as a bridge between my nation and his. I was utterly amazed at his in-depth knowledge of Australian domestic affairs and I was acutely aware of my own lack of knowledge regarding France and what is important to her. Whether you are interested in diplomacy, economics, history, defence or any other field, everyone can learn something valuable from this event.

The Consul General of France, Mr Eric Berti speaking at the GLP Consular Series

The Consul General of France, Mr Eric Berti speaking at the GLP Consular Series

I had no idea that this brotherhood between the people of Australia and France dates back to 1788, when the French Laperouse expedition arrived days after Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet. I couldn’t believe that such a brotherhood could develop further in war, where French and Australian troops fought side by side during WW1 and WW2, and now 200,000 Australians travel to France each year to pay their respects at the war cemeteries. For me a truly heart-warming moment that Monsieur Berti touched on, was when France’s President Francois Hollande met with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Canberra November 2014. Did you know he is the first French president to do so? Together they planted an oak tree at the War Memorial Park using a combination of Australian and French soil. This was a significant and symbolic gesture made by the French President to thank Australians for their sacrifice during WW1. This has really inspired me to consider the power of partnership in building connections and shaping the world in a positive way.

I discovered that Australia and France have enjoyed bi-lateral partnership for many years. They signed a joint statement on Strategic Partnership in 2012; Australia sat alongside France as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council from 2013-2014; and both nations are members of the G20. As part of the Strategic Partnership, both nations have an interest in the Pacific region and collaborate in areas such as humanitarian aid, economic development, defense and politics.I discovered from all this that Australia can learn a great deal from France, as France seeks to have a comprehensive view of the world, whereby they extend their efforts and attention beyond their own soil to areas in the Middle East and Africa, as well as forming alliances with many other nations. Through listening to Monsieur Berti, I became acutely aware that there are needs out there that we as developed nations are able to address. Monsieur Berti highlighted the potential of education in schools to teach tolerance, respect and cross-cultural understanding. This is an idea that really inspires me, as I would love to see social paradigms change to embrace freedom, equality and mutual respect. Individuals as well as states can initiate a new social paradigm that will echo throughout the international community. Imagine the kind of world shaped by these values that we could create.

Students at the GLP Consular Series

Students at the GLP Consular Series

Economic trade between France and Australia has also proven beneficial to the partnership. I never realized how important French economic trade and investment was for Australia. For instance, after 1880 the French were the first to buy wool from Australia, which assisted with the stimulation of Australia’s economic growth as a new country. In 2013, Australian investment in France was valued at A$34 billion, while French investment in Australia was A$15.7 billion. These are large figures! Not to mention the large levels of tourism between France and Australia. It is estimated that 1/8 of Australian travellers go to France each year and 110,100 French tourists visited Australia in 2013, a figure that is predicted to increase. Clearly the Aussies are just as excited about posing with a baguette in front of the Eiffel Tower as the French are about getting a selfie with a kangaroo, or braving it on top of the Harbour Bridge.

Learning about foreign nations such as France has opened my eyes to see that individuals play a part in the joining of nations in friendship. For me, I now realize that Australia and France have demonstrated that partnership and collaboration is integral to global leadership. Whether I support a particular organization or simply initiate a conversation with a student of a different cultural background to mine, this consular event has taught me that changing the world and making a difference ultimately begins with partnership.

Nicole Rademeyer with the Consul General of France, Mr Eric Berti

                              Nicole Rademeyer with the Consul General of France, Mr Eric Berti

Written by Nicole Rademeyer

*Nicole is a first year GLEP student studying a Bachelor of Laws.

*The Consular Series brings high profile members of the diplomatic community on campus to meet and brief GLP students. The GLP runs the Consular Series twice a semester. The next event will run in Session 2 of 2015. Students will be invited to the event by email and Facebook.

GLP Cultural Series April 2015: Cabramatta’s Story

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Inside Tien Hau Temple photo courtesy of http://doorsteptravel.com/

Our day began on the 24th April 2015 at Canley Vale train station where a sleepy group of GLP students embarked on an exploration of Fairfield’s migrant communities for GLP’s Cultural Series. It proved the perfect location to experience local Vietnamese culture in particular, which exists on our doorsteps but was as yet unexplored by much of the group. I did not know quite what to expect after reading the preparation articles we were given on Fairfield’s history. Most of the articles and documentaries were distressingly poignant, some even tragic. But the day started auspiciously at Tien Hau Temple with fortune telling and a discussion about its namesake, a heroic sea goddess appreciated all across Asia.

Dismissed, we walked to the Whitlam library in Fairfield. Here we learnt about the transition of the area from an economy of land cultivation during the 1700s to the establishment of schools, commercial industry and the current socio-economic circumstances of the community. Settling in Australia in 1990, guest speaker Jenny Tew, People of Australia Ambassador and local Cambodian businesswoman, told us of her experiences labouring in the rice fields under the Khmer Rouge regime. During these years Jenny hid her English speaking abilities to disguise her level of education and temporarily completely lost the ability to speak English. Currently she is fluent in six languages. Sadly Jenny told of experiences of racism in Sydney, both towards herself and Cambodian locals and how racism occurs in unexpected ways and continuously around Australia towards migrant communities. Next Dr Eman Sharobeem, a tireless advocate of immigrant women’s rights in Australia, briefed us about the unique issues facing these women in Australia.

Cambratta’s Friendship Arch photo courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org

Cambratta’s Friendship Arch photo courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org

Over our Vietnamese lunch, which included favourites such as rice paper rolls and pho at Thanh Binh on John St, students discussed their own backgrounds and experiences of coming to Australia. In our small group students from Germany, China, Korea, Bangladesh and many more gathered to experience a taste of Vietnamese culture. Refreshed and energised we strolled the streets of Cabramatta in a leisurely walking tour where we learnt about local business, the significance of the decorations on the commanding Friendship Arch and the varying statues of Freedom Plaza. Wandering the sidewalks of Cabramatta it is not hard to see that local shopping areas are different to most parts of Sydney. Lucrative local businesses include fabric shops with at least one store on every street, and a multitude of fruit juice bars. There are at least five different types of vinegar and chili available from most convenience stores and markets. Fish was displayed whole and not in slices for customers and all parts of an animal are bought and sold out of respect, with all parts on display for customers’ scrutiny, including stomachs, brains and feet – not for the faint hearted!

The day closed in a frenzy as teams competed in an amazing race involving drawing, playing detective and eating custard puffs, a local pick-me-up and favoured treat with an soft airy pastry exterior and a gooey sweet custard centre. At dusk, in front of the Cabra-Vale Park Vietnamese War Memorial we discussed our newfound understandings of leadership. Issues raised included the importance of leaders in showing resilience, persistence and creativity when encountering economic, political and social obstacles, and the solidarity of the Vietnamese community and culture in the face of adversity.

GLP coordinators and students pictured with Dr Eman Sharobeem outside the Immigrant Women’s Health Service photo courtesy of Dr Sharobeem.

GLP coordinators and students pictured with Dr Eman Sharobeem outside the Immigrant Women’s Health Service photo courtesy of Dr Sharobeem.

From my perspective, the talk delivered by Dr Sharobeem at the Immigrant Women’s Health Service (IWHS) was particularly topical and profound. The IWHS was established in 1987 to address the unique needs of immigrant women, girls and their families. It tackles all seemingly insurmountable aspects of daily life for migrant communities, offering bilingual and bicultural services; support groups; English classes as well as nutrition and exercise classes. Dr Sharobeem – strong willed, determined and a role model for women internationally – was also incredibly honest and sincere and at times not particularly positive about how much progress is being made for migrant women and children. She explained how bureaucracy has proven to be a disappointment in terms of organisational support at times, but also mentioned how the Australian Police are one of the most useful bodies to the IWHS in protecting clients. Dr Sharobeem spoke about many heart-wrenching encounters she has had with clients and this coupled with the desperate need for continued support for IWHS prompted at least three members of the group to express interest in volunteering with the organisation.

Our day in Cabramatta offered a short and sweet glimpse into the lives of Vietnamese locals and the rich cultures that enliven the city of Fairfield. It’s an experience I think many students would benefit from, if only to burst your geographic bubble and familiarise yourself with a thriving area of Sydney unlike any other.
By Helen Steinberg

*Helen is in her third year of her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degree at MQ.

* The GLP team runs the Cultural Day Series twice a semester to different locations. Keep an eye out on Facebook and in your emails for Upcoming Opportunities! Applications are currently open for the Cultural Day Series to Auburn and close on the 5th May.