Seeking survival: lessons from history on the Cultural Day to Cabramatta

I found the GLP Cultural Day Series to Cabramatta last Session insightful and it inspired me to write a poem on the importance of learning from history. I was particularly interested in the history of Cabramatta, including the history of South East Asian migration from countries like Vietnam and China, and how Cabramatta has changed from a drug, gang and crime driven suburb into the thriving multicultural centre it is today. In addition, it was a great opportunity to meet fellow GLP students and make new friends.

The highlight of the day for me was the personal account of Jenny Tiew’s incredible journey against all odds from Cambodia to Australia, following Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge Communist regime from 1975 to 1979. Jenny emphasised that education and knowledge of the English language were key to her survival and success. I believe, it was through her honesty and determination that she became a successful entrepreneur, founding and running two businesses, one of which was a cosmetics and beautician store.

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Jenny Tiew sharing her story with GLP students on the Cultural Day to Cabramatta. Jenny’s story is one of many important and highly relevant historical insights on the Cultural Day to Cabramatta.

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The Refugee Camp in My Neighbourhood: Cultural Series, Auburn 2016

Over the last several years during my time at Macquarie University I have studied and researched refugees merely in terms of statistics; where they are fleeing from, where they are traveling to and how many there are estimated to be. We have covered an array of international treaties and domestic policies that apply to their fundamental rights as human beings.

We have not however, been provided insight into the personal stories and struggles of refugees themselves. We do not learn about the challenges they face in fleeing their country, finding permanent homes or in gaining legal recognition of their rights. We simply do not study refugees in terms of their experiences as individuals, as they seek a safe place to live and work.

It was our tour through the Refugee Camp in My Neighbourhood, as part of GLP’s Cultural Series Day, which gave me the opportunity to hear real stories from refugees themselves. Located in Auburn, a Refugee Welcome Zone as of 2004, the interactive program highlighted to us the extreme difficulties they encounter as they flee their homes in search of somewhere safe to live.

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Simulated refugee camp, GLP Cultural Series Auburn, 2016 (photo courtesy Amy Thomas).

The tour consisted of several activities that captured the realities of living in a refugee camp and was itself run by a number of refugees who had experienced their own journey in seeking asylum here in Australia.

We were given two minutes to quickly choose 5 things we would take with us upon being forced to flee the country, while noting asylum seekers often do not have time to do just that. Upon entering the camp we were confronted by security. A man yelled at us in a foreign language, while taking from us our jackets, bags and the few things we had selected to bring.

This gave me a sense of how truly terrifying it would be arriving in a foreign country, where you do not speak the language, do not know what is going to happen to you or your family, and have the few things that were yours taken from your hands.

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#15 The Right to a Nationality (photo courtesy Chloe Spackman).

To register our ‘family’ with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) we were given documents in a foreign language that we simply could not complete. We saw what was meant to be a toilet used by hundreds of people, a mere hole in the ground, while ‘landmines’ throughout the camp reminded us of health hazards, including contaminated water and infectious disease.

The difficult decisions often faced by refugees were highlighted to us, as we were made to choose between either staying in an overcrowded house unfit for our family or risk paying a year’s rent in advance for better accommodation, without the guarantee of finding employment.

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Contaminated water demonstration at the simulate Refugee Camp, Auburn (photo courtesy Amy Thomas).

The simulated camp was confronting and opened my eyes to the conditions suffered by millions of asylum seekers globally. Yet the most shocking aspect of the tour for me personally was the stories and pictures drawn by children, pleading to be released from the camps. The drawings showed stick figures crying behind fences, with sunshine and trees on the other side out of reach.

Although it was undeniably upsetting to see, I am grateful I had the opportunity to grasp a greater understanding and awareness of such a significant global issue. I feel the tour has further opened my eyes to the realities suffered by refugees and given me a new perspective on an area I thought I was already familiar with. I know I will take this experience with me through the rest of my studies and into the future as I engage in conversations surrounding human rights and issues of global concern.

Written by Amy Thomas, third year Bachelor of Social Science student and GLPer. 

As part of our ongoing Cultural Series, this month the GLP organised a special one-off opportunity for students to participate in the Refugee Camp in My Neighborhood, an interactive learning experience in Auburn. Developed in collaboration with over 100 community members and led by refugees living in Auburn the experience highlighted the challenges refugees face in finding a permanent home, the daily realities of life in a camp and resettling in Australia. Along with this experience, students received a briefing at the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque and explored the suburb and met with local residents in a scavenger hunt.

Leadership lessons from a local on the Cabramatta Cultural Day

Cabramatta is a cultural hub, busy and full of life. In October I took part in the GLP’s Cultural Day of the suburb to hear from local residents and organisations that work in the community, discover the cultural landmarks and sample some of the South East Asian food! It was an amazing experience and hearing some of the hardships encountered by residents was truly inspiring. From the perspective of a nineteen year old, growing up in a world where everything is in arms reach and there are so many opportunities, we tend to lose touch of how lucky we are. Hearing the diverse stories and hardships of some of the Cabramatta Cultural Day speakers instilled an appreciation for the day to day luxuries that others do not have.

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Students on the Cabramatta Cultural Day

During our day we were lucky to meet with Jenny, an immigrant with the most amazing story! Jenny lived through and survived the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. From 1975 to 1979, the communist Khmer Rouge movement evacuated Phnom Penh’s 2.5 million residents. Former civil servants, doctors, teachers and other professionals were stripped of their possessions and forced to toil in the fields as part of a re-education process. Those that complained about the work, concealed their rations or broke rules were usually tortured in detention centres, such as the infamous S-21, and then killed. The bones of people who died from malnutrition or inadequate healthcare filled up mass graves across the country. An estimated 1.5 million people died or were killed during the regime.

Under Pol Pot, the state controlled all aspects of a person’s life. Money, private property, jewelry, gambling and most reading material and religion were outlawed. Agriculture was collectivized, children were taken from their homes and forced into the military and strict rules governing sexual relations, vocabulary and clothing were laid down.

Jenny, who speaks five different languages, came from an educated, wealthy family. Jenny spoke of how they were all stripped of their possessions and marched down to work in a field where she ended up staying for the three years of the Pol Pot regime. Education was not valued and if you had it, you would ‘disappear’ as she put it. For three years, Jenny kept quiet and did not speak to anyone out of fear she would lose her life. She spoke of how she lost 10 family members during this time. Luckily, Jenny escaped Cambodia with her family in the 1970s.

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Jenny Tew speaking to students on the Cabramatta Cultural Day

Although she was free from the atrocities in Cambodia, she was not yet completely free. Jenny, her mother and two siblings were taken to a refugee camp. Fortunately, Jenny’s father had encouraged her to learn English and she used her skills to assist fellow refugees with interpreting in the camp. The UN’s refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), arranged for Jenny and her family to be placed in Germany.  However, Jenny’s mother was unhappy with this decision, as she and the family were unable to speak German and would likely have to work in an industrial factory. It was through Jenny’s determination and perseverance that the family migrated to Australia in 1981. Jenny approached a visiting Australian diplomat in the camp and negotiated for the move to Australia.

Jenny’s strength and courage combined with her will to carry on brought her great success in Australia. She has two sons, who are in successful careers, one even studies at Macquarie! Since her first role as an interpreter in healthcare in Australia, Jenny has worked seven days a week, 365 days a year to build two successful businesses. She is currently an education and migration agent, supporting international students and immigrants as they establish themselves in Australia, and also has a shop in Cabramatta, which sells her amazing “bum pants”- a creation of Jenny’s that give women curves in the right places! She was also one of the first women to sell Shiseido make up in Australia!  She is an example of triumph, embodies the true Australian values and is an outstanding leader.

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Freedom Gate in Cabramatta, which is opposite Jenny’s shop

In 2012, Jenny was recognised as a People of Australia Ambassador for her endless work in her community to make sure everyone fits in and is doing well. You can find her vibrant little store on the corner right opposite Freedom Plaza in Cabramatta. It is absolutely worth a look!

I feel that as a young person, Jenny is such an inspiring person to look up to. She has so much strength and determination! She is what it means to be a Global Leader, she has taken every hardship she has endured and has the courage and power to help others and to share her story with us to inspire and teach cross cultural understanding and empathy.

References

‘Pol Pot’, 2009, History.com, http://www.history.com/topics/pol-pot.

*By Jacinta Harmer

Jacinta is studying a Bachelor of Law, majoring in Criminology. Next year Jacinta is deferring her degree at Macquarie to join the Navy.

The Cultural Day Series is an opportunity to develop your communication and leadership skills in Sydney’s multicultural hubs through briefings with local organisations and residents, a walking tour and a “Scavenger hunt” with other GLP delegates. The GLP runs two Cultural Days a Session. Keep an eye out on our Facebook group and your student email for details on the first Cultural Day of 2016!

An incredible journey of volunteering & global learning

GLPer Jessica Compton has recently completed all her program requirements and finished up her Macquarie degree and is set to graduate in 2015. Below is Jessica’s reflection on the transformative experiences of her six years in the GLP….

In a society where many people have a degree or two, we need that extra edge to prop us up above other prospective candidates to get those dream jobs. I’ve been told that volunteering is that extra edge. But I think it can be so much more than boosting a career – it can be life changing.

I started volunteering as a school kid, well before it was a cool thing to do, and back when it was just called ‘helping out’. It’s now a way for me to both learn and contribute, and thanks to GLP, it’s also a way to distinguish myself as a global minded citizen on my formal academic record.

Beyond volunteering, GLP’s Colloquia events and the Distinguished Speaker Series have added an avenue for further learning outside of my degrees and given me a chance to meet like-minded people. In recognition of the end of my time with GLP, I will take you through some of my GLP highlights.

GLPer Jessica Compton volunteering with Villawood Vollies at Villawood Detention Centre.

GLPer Jessica Compton volunteering with Villawood Vollies at the Villawood Detention Centre.

Villawood Immigration Detention Centre
In my first year at MQU, I initiated Villawood Vollies, a volunteer program promoting health and wellbeing in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre. I have been directing this organisation (as a volunteer) since 2009. The people I have met, the skills I have developed, the tears and laughter that have transpired, have all amounted to a journey so profound that it has shaped who I am today.

Christmas Island
During a colloquium event on International Humanitarian Law, I met a new lifelong friend, Rob. During the session he told me about a volunteering opportunity on Christmas Island where we ended up spending a month delivering programs and workshops to people seeking asylum through the Australian Government. During the month, we gained so much knowledge, understanding, humanity, and a deep care and respect for one another and for those seeking protection in Australia. Thanks Rob!

India
I carried out my psychology placement in India for a month with Pravah, a not-for-profit working on youth citizen engagement. It was an incredible experience learning about Indian culture and forming some special bonds with my fellow Mac Uni peers.

PACE students volunteering in India.

PACE students volunteering in India.

LEAP Mentoring
Two very special things happened while volunteering with LEAP. Firstly, the students I got to mentor were boys from Iran that I had met on Christmas Island when they first came to Australia! It was incredible to see them settled into the community and getting an education. Secondly, I made a very good friend in another GLP student, a friendship that I hope to treasure for a long time.

Professional Development
Colloquium series: These seminars have been a great addition to university life. I have integrated many key lessons into my personal and professional life. For example, during my Health Placement at Ku-ring-gai Council delivering health and wellbeing workshops to high school students, I incorporated concepts and activities from the design thinking session; Insight to Innovation: Using Design Thinking to Solve Wicked Problems and the Climate Change – Leading for the future session.

Distinguished Speaker Series
These events have been the cream on the top of my GLP experience. I particularly loved the speeches by Waleed Aly and the Honourable Michael Kirby, but I have enjoyed and been inspired by all of the incredible speakers that have been freely delivered to us for the past 5 years. There are so many golden nuggets in the speeches, I’ve found it impossible not to take down notes.

So to conclude, I’m sad to be graduating and leaving everything GLP has freely offered. Thank you for an incredible experience and a multitude of wonderful life changing opportunities.

Jessica Compton has been in the GLP since 2009 and recently completed the Program requirements along with her concurrent degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Psychology and Bachelor of Health. All photos are credited to Jessica Compton.

The Colours of Auburn

Kevin and Clare recently attended the Global Leadership Cultural Series – Auburn trip with a group of keen GLP students – read on to find out what they got up to…

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 …

Peacock at Auburn Botanic Gardens

Peacock at Auburn Botanic Gardens

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!

Auburn Mosque

Auburn Gallipoli Mosque

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.

Peace, Parades and Pigeons in France!

Earlier this year I was one of four lucky Australians to be chosen to represent Australia in the Bastille Day Parade in Paris to commemorate the beginning of World War One (WWI). During my two weeks in France I had the opportunity to visit some of Paris’ most beautiful monuments, to commemorate the tragedy of WWI, to meet young people from over 80 countries and to dance with pigeons!

Before I get to my adventures in Paris, I will begin with the interview. Yes, that’s right, you read it correctly! A week before I left, a French television channel (France 24) contacted me to ask if I would be part of an interview about the “Mission Centenaire” with 2 other young people (one from Morocco and one from Mali). My answer was, of course, yes! Who doesn’t want to be on TV?

During the interview I was asked how I  felt about representing Australia and my feelings towards going to France. I was also asked to talk about my 5 relatives who were involved in WWI. It was an extremely emotional experience to share their stories and sacrifice on television. However, I also felt honoured that I was able to remember my forebears in this way. (I have included a video link at the bottom to the interview if you would like to find out a bit more).

From the first day the French Government entertained the enthusiastic young delegates with a myriad of cultural activities. We started off our two week sojourn with ice-breaker games led by the Franco-German Youth Office. After having bonded over “scissor, paper, rock” and some fine French fare, it was off to a press conference and reception with the President, François Hollande. The President reminded us all of the importance of honouring the sacrifice of those involved in WWI and the need for peace across our world.

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At the Australian Embassy in Paris, at a Press Conference with the president, François Hollande, and with the Australian civilian and military delegations.

 

The following days proved just as exciting as the first (if that’s possible!) Our other cultural activities ranged from dinner-boat cruises along the Seine as the sun set over Paris, to lively “World Café” discussion forums at UNESCO, to taking part in a ceremony for the Unknown Solider at the Arc de Triomphe. But wait, there’s more! We attended the launch of Ubisoft’s new computer game “Valiant Hearts” (focussing on the WWI experience at the frontline), we watched an impressive air performance and we marvelled at the 360° views of Paris from the top of the Arc de Triomphe!

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Our fun continued as we attempted to learn the dance routine for the parade… We rehearsed for several hours each day (including at 5am on the Champs-Élysées every morning), we practised walking and dancing in formation to “La Cucaracha”, we styled Agnès B costumes (affectionately referred to as the “pyjamas”) and we danced with pigeons! Over 300 young people trying to learn an 8 minute dance routine in 2 weeks is quite an undertaking. So you can imagine the squawks and the flurry of feathers that resulted as we all tried to learn the correct technique for holding the white pigeons! In my case, learning the pigeon handling technique was quite a slow process, but as they say in French, “vouloir, c’est pouvoir” (where there’s a will, there’s a way) and it’s true! Several fly-away pigeons and a large amount of bird poo later, we did it! Everyone held his/her pigeon perfectly and danced gracefully for the whole parade! The music, movements, costumes and pigeons were all carefully co-ordinated to promote peace, unity and harmony within our world and to depict the sorrow and loss of WWI. The final moment of the dance routine (where we all released our pigeons and yelled “peace” in our native language) was a beautiful symbol of how love, generosity and harmony can (and must) be shared.

This excitement and adventure did not always run smoothly! It was interspersed with pouring rain, inordinate amounts of time on buses and with rather large amounts of pigeon excrement in our hands. However I think these experiences made our new found friendships more wonderful and the time we spent together more memorable. Through these new friendships I have discovered new places and learnt greetings in countless languages! It was such an enriching and exciting experience to meet young people from around the world who had come to France to commemorate and honour the lives and sacrifice of those involved in WWI.

I hope you have enjoyed my blog post about my amazing time in France, but to finish off I thought I would end with the fireworks at the Trocadéro! This 40 minute display of light, colour and sound demonstrated the beauty humanity is capable of creating and reminded us of the importance of promoting peace in our world.

 

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Here are the links to the videos of the parade and my initial interview.

http://api.dmcloud.net/player/pubpage/4e7343f894a6f677b10006b4/53c3ab7206361d32eb29dadb/1981cc24812d4a87b2cd72cbf4ba4406?wmode=transparent&autoplay=1

http://www.france24.com/en/focus/20140714-bastille-day-parade-choreography-international-youth-ancestors-peace/

 

I would like to say a final big thank you to all those involved in helping me attend and participate in this wonderful event. It was truly a rewarding and enriching experience.

 

*All photos taken by, and are the sole property of,  Anna Gregory

JUNGLE BLOG – A LAND RIGHTS MISSION

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Living and working in the jungle environment of Sabah, Borneo, is a truly amazing and unique experience. I am lucky enough to be here with a team of seven other girls from Macquarie University selected by PACE International, and a sensational team leader from AVI, learning about village life and the struggles these remote communities face in relation to land rights. We live in a wonderful home stay in Kipouvo village, and although there are many comforts from home that we are missing, we have quickly come to love our space and to make the most of the resources we have available. After a week of adapting, laughing and learning, we have learnt how to wash our hair very in a challenging shower situation, how to deal with giant bugs and scorpions, and how to perfectly chop a pineapple.

Our first week was spent with the staff of PACOS Trust, a non-government organisation who has supported and empowered communities in Sabah through a ‘grass roots’ approach. With the help and hospitality of this amazing organisation, we were able to gain an understanding of the land rights problems in Sabah, and begin to prepare for our field trips the next week.

On Monday 14th July we split off in to two teams and went off to visit Mangkadait and Malinsau. These villages are about 5 hours in land from Kota Kinabalu, and are situated in amongst some of the most majestic and beautiful mountain terrain we had ever seen. It was not until we arrived and began to adapt to village life that we began to understand the very real and troubling nature of the challenges these wonderful communities face.

Claire Mitchell, Simone Bova, Stephanie Triefus, Elizabeth King, and the youth of Mangkadait village, Borneo.

Claire Mitchell, Simone Bova, Stephanie Triefus, Elizabeth King, and the youth of Mangkadait village, Borneo.

After five days of personal interviews with women, men, leaders and youth, as well as participation in various activities such as clearing burnt forest areas, planting rice paddy and integrated farming, it has become evident to us that there is no life for these people without their land. Their land is a sacred part of their community history and of their personal lives in a very intimate way, as well as being a necessary source of food, water, medicine and other materials. Being able to cultivate land together facilities a strong sense of community, which ensures positive relationships, health, and excellent use of resources

What we have seen and experienced has inspired and motivated us to do what we can to help these communities strengthen their Native Customary Rights, and gain official ownership of their land. We are now working very hard as a team to consolidate all of our knowledge on the social, economic, political and spiritual aspects of these communities, and to prepare a document which can be used by the villagers to help claim proper, legal title to their land.

We are all very grateful to have had this opportunity to come to Sabah and become emerged in a wonderfully different and challenging culture, and we encourage everyone to take that leap of faith and make the most of all the opportunities out there, especially the ones offered by the Global Leadership Program.

Claire Mitchell, Elizabeth King, Simone Bova and Stephanie Triefus in Mangkadait village.

Claire Mitchell, Elizabeth King, Simone Bova and Stephanie Triefus in Mangkadait village.

Once you see what is out there in the world, beyond your comfort zone and realm of understanding, you will feel a greater sense of responsibility as a global citizen, and will feel empowered to do what you can to help those who face intense, daily struggles.

PACE International has helped me achieve my life-long goal of working overseas, and provided me with an amazing team, support and endless advice and encouragement so that I can appreciate every minute here, and come home with a greater understanding of different cultures and how we can make a sustainable difference in the world.

Many of us have conquered some significant fears while we have been here; including heights, eating fish and chicken feet, facing down insects the size of your hand, living without a proper fridge, trekking in 40 degree heat and roughing it in very remote communities. Every day has been filled with laughs, challenges and opportunities for growth, learning and fun, and we can’t wait to see what the next two weeks of our journey will bring.

If you are at home wondering what to do with your holidays, start to look for some opportunities, and make the most of your time as a student. You will never regret it, and never forget it! 🙂

Stephanie Triefus, Elizabeth King, Claire Mitchell, Arielle Zinn, Simone Bova, Emily Swanton, Jennika Woerde and Erin Turner-Manners.

Stephanie Triefus, Elizabeth King, Claire Mitchell, Arielle Zinn, Simone Bova, Emily Swanton, Jennika Woerde and Erin Turner-Manners.

Elizabeth.

 

Cultural Series, Cabramatta

Born and raised in Liverpool, I’ve lived near Cabramatta for my whole life, but I’ve only ever ventured into the area to buy fabrics or clothes for an upcoming occasion. Despite having visited Cabramatta, I’d never really seen it. So when I heard about the Sydney Cultural Series in Cabramatta, I jumped at the opportunity. I quickly applied, and it wasn’t long before Friday the 30th of May rolled around, and I set out for Canley Vale station, bag packed, pen and paper at the ready.

Our day began at Canley Vale Buddhist temple where we met Jong Wan who told us the stories of the Buddhist deities that were depicted in the temple, particularly Kwan-Tai, the God of War, who was a defender against an army of bandits, and is revered for his loyalty and integrity.

I was particularly moved by the story of the female deity of the southern seas. She wasn’t much older than me when she set out saving fisherman from harsh weather conditions. I couldn’t imagine doing the same, and I was awestruck by her bravery and fearlessness. She was thought to have been taken up to heaven in a hurricane, and those who install her image in their homes do so to pay their respects to her, and to thank her for the prosperity they believe she has blessed them with.

Soon after, we had the opportunity to have our fortune told. After a skilled combination of tossing shaking sticks and rocks, we asked the deities questions about what our future holds. I asked the deities whether I would pass my final exams, and my answer was – “work hard!” It was definitely a new and interesting experience for me, and gave me a valuable and unexpected insight into a religion completely different than my own.

We bid Jong farewell, and moved on to the Whitlam Library (opened by Gough Whitlam himself, who lived in Cabramatta from 1952). We listened to a talk by Marilyn, a researcher of Fairfield city history (who we later got to have lunch with), who told us all about her first-hand experiences of living in Cabramatta and the city’s history. We learnt about the statistics of Cabramatta’s population, and just how incredibly multicultural it is. Later in the day we had the opportunity to reflect on these statistics and we discussed whether, despite the fact that Fairfield City is multicultural, with just over half of its residence having been born overseas, this means that the community is necessarily more tolerant.

Jenny, a Cambodian refugee, entrepreneur and migration agent, told us all about the Pol Pot communist regime in Cambodia, which saw her separated from her family for three years, and working, dressed in an all-black outfit (of which she only had two a year). I sincerely loved listening to her talk of her life experiences. She was resourceful, brainy, and bold. She started up her own dress-making business in Cambodia when she saw an opportunity in the wake of the communist regime – a country full of people who had been living in only 2 pairs of all-black pajamas.

Her journey eventually led her to Australia in 1980. After some talking, questions, tea and biscuits, Jenny agreed to come along on a tour of the suburb with us. Binh, a Project Officer from Fairfield City Council took us on a brief but highly informative tour of Cabramatta where we walked through Freedom Plaza, and saw amazing lion sculptures and the Friendship Arch – and she also pointed out a lot of different important details that we would need later on in the day for The Amazing Race!

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Then came the most important part of the day. Lunch. We had a three-course meal at a cosy Vietnamese restaurant where we made our own rice paper rolls. I piled a little too much chilli onto mine, but it was still delicious. We had tofu (fried with a hint of cinnamon and lime – glorious!), then grilled beef with broccoli and rice. Looking around at my new-found friends, I realised we weren’t just having a meal together; we were also learning about, and celebrating, our different cultures.

It was then time for the Amazing Race. A heart-pumping sprint around the streets of Cabramatta answering trivia questions, it was a chance to apply what we had learnt. And although our team came in well and truly last, we had a great time.

Tired and still buzzed from our race, we huddled in small groups on the grass to reflect on our experiences. Although it had only been a day, we all felt that we had learnt so much, not only about a different culture, and leadership, but also about ourselves.

I will definitely be going back to Cabramatta soon, and this time not just for fabrics.

Francesca Krakue

 

Pioneer Alumni High-Tea and learning-through-doing attitude to education

 

Macquarie University Golden Jubilee Pioneers Morning Tea 26 May 2014 2014-0526 2013_0821 2013-0821

Have you heard of Macquarie’s Pioneer Alumni? No, neither had I until recently when I had the privilege of being asked to speak on behalf of current students to our pioneer graduates. Macquarie’s Pioneer Alumni are graduates and staff from the beginning decade of the university.  On Monday 26 May, a splendid High Tea was hosted by Prof. S Bruce Dowton, Vice Chancellor, with more than 250 of Macquarie University’s ‘pioneer’ students and staff from 1969 to 1977.  This was a part of the 50th Jubilee celebrations of our University.  Professor Dowton spoke of the leadership and achievements of Pioneer Alumni.

My representation was to capture the variety of student life that we have available to us as current day Macquarie students.  When I was asked to speak, my brief was, well, brief.  ‘Nothing specific, but if I could somehow tie in the current success of MQ to the groundwork of our original alumni, that would do the job nicely!’…… is a vague paraphrasing of how my task was pitched to me.

My answer was to defer to the vista of opportunities each of us has available by virtue of being a student at MQ.  I wholeheartedly believe that Macquarie prepares us, if we choose to take the baton, for the certain unknowns we will face post graduation.  The value placed on academic excellence is evident and measurable by the bell-curve. The real virtue of education, however, is not measurable by conventional standards; but by engagement; by leadership and manifest through the development of our global attitudes.   I have approached these attitudes by joining the Global Leadership Program (GLP), participating in LEAP Refugee Mentoring, serving on our Student Advisory Board and writing for Grapeshot, the Macquarie student publication; and yet, there is so much more to do – semester exchange, a PACE trip, a PACE unit and TEDx MQ to name the first things that come to mind.

Those Pioneer Alumni whom shared their passion through the early DRAMAC productions or honed their skills of parley with the Debating Society (now MUDS), which are our two oldest student organisations, will attest to the great contributions those experiences made to their university lives.  I firmly place confidence in the attitudes and conscience raising exercise that is OUR involvement in the GLP.  Going beyond and learning through doing is the nexus of our education today; I love it and I will value it well beyond my graduation ceremony.

 

By Kristofer Gilmour

Multiculturalism in Action

Ellen Kirkpatrick is a current GLP student. During the summer she participated in a PACE project where she travelled to the Phillippines to work with Bahay Tuluyan, a childrens’ rights organisation. She wanted to participate in the Auburn Cultural Series to gain a better understanding of different cultures and how refugees living there are able to maintain their cultural values despite living in another country. Read on to find out her experiences there…

 

Yesterday, a group of students, including me, made our way to Auburn for the GLP Sydney Cultural Series. What was meant to be a rainy day ended up being a beautiful warm autumn day which made the trip a whole lot more enjoyable. After a chance to get to know one another in the morning we headed to Auburn City Council to learn more about the area itself. We heard about the unique history of Auburn and how it has developed into a culturally rich and diverse area. The city welcomes refugees and there are now over 126 cultures living alongside one another in relative harmony. We also got some insight into the troubles that Auburn city faces in regards to access to services and other related demographic issues. For instance, the fact there is only one public high school, which is also girls-only, for Auburn’s 80 000 people astounded us all, especially as youth make up one of the largest groups. The city’s population is increasing dramatically with more and more families coming to the area and there is an obvious demand for greater access to necessary services.
After the council briefing, we were able to relax for a little while as we visited the Auburn botanic gardens – a hidden treasure of the city. The Japanese garden was pretty spectacular, although, we were all a little surprised by the unusual coloured water and the bearded man (possibly from a popular TV gardening show) followed by a camera crew wandering around the gardens. Then it was time for lunch, which we were all incredibly excited for and our expectations were certainly fulfilled. Jasmine 1 has amazing Lebanese food and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who goes to Auburn. Not a single bit of food was left, with some people packing whatever was leftover into containers to take home.
A highlight of the day was definitely the visit to the Gallipoli Mosque after lunch. We were able to fully appreciate the beautiful architecture and design of the Mosque as well as its intricately painted interior. We had an enthusiastic tour guide who was happy to talk to us about what Islam meant to him and the important value of the Gallipoli Mosque in the Auburn community. It was a great learning experience and I think I speak on behalf of all of us when I say I feel more informed about Islam after visiting the Mosque.

At the Mosque with our tour guide Randolf

At the Mosque with our tour guide Randolf

We finished off the day with an Amazing Race around quite a large area of Auburn city. Some groups found this challenging but we all did pretty well, answering most of the questions correctly. Congratulations to the team who won (my own team), as well as to the team who came second – that final sprint to the finish line was pretty impressive.
All in all, the GLP trip to Auburn was very enjoyable and I encourage students to attend the Auburn or Cabramatta Cultural Series. It was a very interesting day and I feel a lot more informed about cultures I previously had no real idea about. In terms of being global leaders, we need to understand variances in cultures and accept that we are all different but just as valuable as one another. One of the underlying things we agreed upon at the end of the day as a group of GLP students was that no matter how different we are as people we can always cooperate with each other and make it work. I believe the trip to Auburn helped us recognise this.

We really wanted a group shot at The Botanic Gardens!

We really wanted a group shot at The Botanic Gardens!

Ellen Kirkpatrick
Photos taken by GLP staff members and Emma Dillon