Sixth Anniversary of the Unity Cup

Osman Shihaby & Ahmed Ali

The Unity Cup started in 2008. It was initiated by the Federal Police, Victoria Police, the AFL multicultural program that includes Essendon, Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne football clubs.

Majak Dow with all girls team at the Unity Cup

Majak Dow with all girls team at the Unity Cup

The aim of the event is to bring communities together and to create relationships between the communities and the police, especially the youth.  It is also for young kids to learn more about the AFL.

This year the Unity Cup, held on the 24th of March, was different compared to the past years; now there is music and BBQ as well as the football.  It has also been expanded to involve Muslim, Jewish, South East Asian and Indigenous communities. Also, there were AFL teams from Perth, Sydney and Adelaide, which they competed that day.  These different organisations attending the event gave out flyers and talked to people about the services they provide to communities in their own languages and in English as well.

The 2013 Unity Cup was very unique because the people who came to the event were not just watching the games but they got information from service providers too. The media were also there, including ABC and Channel 7, who interviewed the people and asking how they felt about the event.   Because it was such a nice weather, people who attended the event, were very much enjoyed it.

A Sudanese AFL player, Majak Dow, was there too. He encouraged the young Africans to play the game and talking about his own experience.

Unity Cup 2013 winners from Sydney

Unity Cup 2013 winners from Sydney

Reflections on Collingwood: interview with Anthea Sidiropoulos

By Ajak Mabia

This is my second article in this series looking at the lives of other migrants who came before us.

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Anthea Sidiropoulos

Anthea has tasted and seen it all; the bitterness, the sweetness, the poor and the rich. She knows what it was like to grow up in Collingwood in the 1960s and 1970s. If new migrants think they are doing it tough now, they need to find out about the lives of previous migrants who lived in Australia in 50s and 60s.

Anthea is a singer-song writer and community leader, who has enjoyed a music career spanning over 15 years as an indie-artist.

Anthea’s father was the first non-Australian born person who went into Parliament after serving in local government as a Collingwood councillor. Her mother was a hairdresser (see Interview with Pipo).

Living in Collingwood meant Anthea had to deal with the complex and contradictory environment of a multiethnic society. “It’s not easy being a teenager and trying to find your spot in society, let alone being picked on by peers because you look different”.

“I was a rebel as a child”, she says, “but I just wanted to be a normal Aussie girl”.  She changed her name from Anthea to Julie, and wanted to be blonde.

As a singer, her influences were Australian music, American blues, American rock, and Greek music. “I listened to pop music, such as the Beatles, Aretha Franklin and the early Tina Turner. My influences were from American music in the 1960s, particularly the civil rights movement singers like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Soul music for me was very positive and non discriminatory. All the lyrics were about peace, love and brotherhood, always having a good time and living together harmoniously as a community”.

Her experiences as a child seeing aboriginals in Collingwood and Fitzroy were formative.

“There were pubs on every corner on Gertrude Street. I was 10 years old and my father was concerned with Aboriginal issues. He had no idea how to deal with it. There were many Aboriginal people living there, but they were not really present – they were only in pockets in Gertrude Street, and they always lay on lawn and there was beer everywhere. I was not allowed to go there because of the alcohol. We had a shop there and indigenous people always came to our shop and my parents were very helpful to them, on a basic level”.

Anthea has a theory about the way aboriginal people are treated: “The Australian Government wants to sabotage the indigenous race so if they are on alcohol they will be disempowered, they will not be educated, they will lose their identity and language, and therefore you have zombie community”.

Anthea remembers as a young girl she had many questions about the Collingwood community she lived in.

“We lived in a mono-culture, but I grew up bi-cultural. I had my school life which was English but my home life was Greek.  I had to juggle the two.  At the same time I was exposed to the horrible ways some people treated human beings; firstly because of their colour and secondly, because they were poor. It wasn’t just black people, it was poor white people too”.

“There was a little girl I used to go to school with, and her parents were so poor, she lived in a shelter. I visited her house one day and her wall was made of paper. I remember asking my father, ‘how come we have our walls solid with no holes and I just came from my friend’s house and her wall is made of paper and there are holes in it?’ ”

Collingwood was originally an industrial city. “If you at look Collingwood’s original houses, they were very tiny and were built to accommodate the workers. They used to chuck them in there, where they ate and slept. The Yarra River was lined with factories and the workers used to pump water from the river to make the machinery work. It was terribly dirty; it looked like a hurricane on the Yarra River. That’s all changed now. When the human rights and socialist movement arose, they demanded the Council address these issues. They didn’t care whether you were black or white or yellow – they just wanted the fair treatment of the worker and environment for all the residents in Collingwood. They were committed to working towards a better life in the area for every resident, rather than getting themselves into a political career. That’s why my father got in to the Council”.

“An elderly man called George, who was in Council, wanted my father in Council. But nobody else wanted him. They wanted an Australian-born person. My father was officially Australian, but he wasn’t Australian enough to be considered a Council position. He could speak English, but with an accent and with his looks, it was obstacle. This was in 1963.  It took George five years to convince the Council to consider him”.

“My father’s position in Council made him very popular in the Greek community. He became skilful and he knew how to address the community issues and help the community with their bills and so on. It was a struggle and a tough time, and it was very exciting because there were social changes, which had never happened before”.

“It’s easy sitting back now and telling the story as 52 year old, but at the time, I don’t think they had any idea how much impact they made in Collingwood’s community. My father was responsible for Collingwood, Fitzroy, Clifton Hill, North Richmond, and Abbotsford. There were so many different nationalities living there, but the majority were Greeks”.

“The household was very busy. There were meetings every night. Mum was always cooking, with me on the sink from a very earlier age, washing dishes. I witnessed a lot of frustration. I didn’t completely comprehend what the frustrations were at the time. I understand it now, as a older person. There were mixed feelings at same time among the residents: sadness and positives. Then the Vietnamese refugees arrived and that was another interesting story. Again different; there were so many frustrations but positive outcomes”.

“Coming from first migrant parents who worked 7 days and 7 nights a week because they couldn’t find a decent job, working hard so their children could have a better education. It was the last thing they wanted to hear that one of their children wanted to become an artist or musician. When I was 16, I applied to the Alliance Music Competition and won a scholarship for a whole year of singing lessons. I went home very happy, but my mother said, ‘No I didn’t have you to become a theatre singer’. I was very upset. The next day I turned up with a saxophone and drove my mom crazy, as revenge. I was in a school play and my teacher tried to convince my mom, but she still said ‘No’. I pursued my music career and went on to sing in cover band, singing Aretha Franklin songs”.

“I did all this to be accepted. I didn’t want to be a Greek at all. I had my cares at school because I am dark, even though I changed my name my when I was 6 years old and wanted to be blond. But I couldn’t change my colour. And it breaks my heart to see these issues are still exist and continuing to”.

Anthea said somethings have changed for better compared to 60s and 70s. “It is great time to be alive. But there are challenges ahead of us that need to be solved in the 21 Century. When is segregation going to end? When is gap between poor and rich going to close? When are human rights abuses going to end? How far is a piece of string?”

“We just have to get on with life, and regardless of what I’ve said, I am very optimistic and sceptical at the same time”.

African Australian leaders for the future

Ahmed Ali & Osman Shihaby

Premier Ted Baillieu was a guest of honor at the African Think Tank Leadership Program (ATTLP) held its first graduation ceremony on Tuesday 30 October held at Port Melbourne Town Hall.

The ATTLP, a weekly leadership course from July to October 2012, develops leadership skills of African-Australians from Somalia, Eritrea, South Sudan, The Republic of Sudan, Nigeria, Congo, Ethiopia, South Africa, Botswana and Liberia, all of whom were leaders in their home countries.

African Leadership Development Program participants with the Premier of Victoria, Ted Bailliau

The ATTLP received $150,000 over the three years from the Coalition Government and is supported by Monash University, Victoria Leadership and AMES to provide graduates with a Certificate IV covering subjects such as financial management, marketing and media, supporting volunteers, team management and conflict resolution.

Premier Baillieu congratulated the 30 graduates and said “The Victorian Coalition Government is proud to support the leadership program and we have committed to assist its graduates in becoming part of the next generation of Victorian leaders”.

We decided to participate in ATTLP’s 2013 program with the aim of acquiring the skills to establish a soccer group for boys age between seven to fifteen years old from newly arrived African migrants.

The purpose of the group is to engage youth and develop social and sporting skills, teaching them how to be leaders while exercising and have fun at the same time.

Other benefits will include:

  • developing good relationships between the boys and their parents
  • helping the boys gain new skills such as problem solving
  • creating friendships with other members of the community.

These activities would be organized in a number of ways starting with a BBQ with parents to advertise our program, discuss our plans and hear their feedback. Other activities could include:

  • a fundraising dinner where we will invite all members of the community, the media and Premier Baillieu
  • recruiting volunteers to assist the team
  • invite Soccer Australia players to come to one of the match so we can learn from their experience and feedback
  • School Holidays program e.g. camping for the parents and the children
  • a fun night (e.g.) music and cultural food and we ask parents to participate on the night
  • celebrate Harmony day and play a match with another community soccer players
  • encourage players to participate to Australian Clean Day so it teaches them volunteer work from the early age.

Our participation in the 2013 ATTLP Program will develop leadership skills, both for ourselves and also for the next generation of young African-Australians, providing benefits and promoting greater understanding, to all members of the Victorian community.  We look forward to being part of ceremony 2013.

The 52nd independent celebration for the Nigerian community

By Emma Berberi

Saturday 27/10/2012 was a very beautiful day. It was the day that the Nigerians celebrated their 52nd Independence Day. The event took place in a community centre in Moorabbin. It was a day to remember, a day full of colour. Everyone was beautifully attired in their African dress.

The event was well organised. Everyone was assigned a table that was beautifully decorated. The colours they used were green and white which are the colours of their flag. They had snacks on the tables and plenty of drinks. There were drinks provided all night.

The event started with a word of prayer from one of the Muslim clerics and a Christian pastor. After the prayers, there were the Australian and Nigerian national anthems.

The master of ceremony started the day by telling us a very interesting story about why the devil is very scared of Nigerians. One upon a time, the devil took an Englishman, an American man and a Nigerian man into a ship, he took them to the deep seas, once they were there; the devil informed them that they had to attain their freedom. And the only way out, was being witty and are able to outsmart the devil.

The Englishman was first. He took a coin and threw it in the water. The devil dived into the water and went and found the coin so he eats the Englishman. The American man was next; he took a pin and threw it into the water. The devil dived into the water and found the pin so he eats the American man.

Finally it was the Nigerian man’s turn; he got a cup of water and poured it into the sea, and the devil was outwitted because there was no way he was going to separate the water from the cup and the water from the sea. The Nigerian man was spared his life by the devil. And from that day hence forth, the devil is very scared of Nigerians.
Then came the speeches from some VIPs at the event. After that, everyone had to line up for dinner. After dinner there was the traditional dance which was performed by a group of young girls, then performances to entertain the guests.

The grand finale to the performances was the musician being described as the best male artist in Australia, none other than Timomatic. He was absolutely amazing everyone was on the dance floor dancing. He was very entertaining with his music.
After the performance from Timomatic, it was time to award the best dressed couple for the night. The award was taken by one of the couples who were beautifully dressed. They were wearing their traditional beads from head to toe. And they absolutely deserved to win.

In the name of the law

By Fawzi Adam

At half past eight in the morning I was driving from Shepparton to Melbourne to be on time for a course in journalism at Melbourne University.

I needed to fill up the tank with petrol. There is a petrol station on the edge of the Shepparton, about seven kilometres away from where I live. I stopped there. I had $25 in my pocket and I wasn’t paying attention when I was putting in the petrol. My hand slipped and I accidentally put in $7 more petrol than I could pay for.

It was really embarrassing. I didn’t quite know how to deal with this. Anyway, I went to the petrol station attendant and asked if there was an ATM. He pointed one out to me. I tried to withdraw money from the machine but I had forgotten my pin number because I don’t use my card very often.

So I went back to him and asked him if I could try EFTPOS. But that wasn’t working either. So I asked him if I could go to the car and check if there was any money lying around in there. Unfortunately, there was nothing. I came back into the shop I told him I couldn’t find any more money and asked him what I should do.

At that moment, I saw a huge policeman, with his full uniform and gun in its holster. He looked as though he was browsing for a newspaper, but I knew in an instant that he was there for me.

I told the petrol station attendant I would call my wife to ask her to help me. As I was beside my car trying to call, the policeman, who had gone outside without buying anything and seemed to be waiting for me, snatched the eftpos card from my hand. He started to question me about my licence and saw that the surname on my bank card was not the same as on my licence. I tried to explain to him that the Department of Immigration had given me different surnames on different visas because in Arabic countries we have multiple surnames in our passports so they get confused.

I was feeling really annoyed about the policeman because he was treating me really badly. I felt he was very rude. He was treating me like a criminal, as if I had robbed the shop, but I had never tried to avoid paying and it was only $7. He didn’t give me a chance to call my wife or to explain the situation.

The policeman took my details from my licence and my bank card and told me I should change the name on the licence. When he handing them back, he said nothing. I went over to the service station attendant again and told him I would be back next weekend to pay the $7.

Next week, I returned to give the attendant the $7. He seemed very surprised. He thanked me a lot. I apologised to him about what had happened and told him it really was an accident.

I heard no more from the police about this. But I learnt my lesson. Next time I have limited money in my pocket I’ll be using the pre-set buttons on the petrol pump.

EID AL ADHA

By Ahmed Ali & Osman Shihaby

Dhul Hija is a holy month in Muslims’ calendar because Muslims from all over the world go to Saudi Arabia to do the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, where they visit they grave of prophet Mohamed and pray.

They started travelling to Saudi Arabia from the beginning of the holy month so it became very crowded with more then 3.5 million people.

Muslims all over the world celebrated Eid Al Adha on the first 10 days of Dhul Hija.

Prayer meeting at Debney Park, Flemington

All Muslims celebrated this day to remember when Prophet Ibrahim was going to slaughter his son Ismail, then Allah sent down Angel Jibreal to swap Ibrahim with a sheep.

The day before Eid Aldha is Arafat, which is a very special day to all Muslims because Allah is in the 7th Heaven, so all Muslims should fast on this blessed day and make a lot of dua and ziker (prayers).

In Muslim countries people celebrate Eid Al Adha three days in a row.  Everyone has to slaughter a sheep, cow or camel and distribute the meat to poor people. This is to remember what prophet Ibrahim did and that we should obey Allah and do everything he ordered us to do.

But most Muslims in Australia send money overseas to family and to people who don’t have enough money to buy a sheep to celebrate with their Muslim brothers and sisters in their countries.  As well, they buy a sheep from a butcher to celebrate with family in Australia.

On the Eid day it will be very crowded in the mosques, there will not be enough room, so most of the prayer will be in a park, especially in Muslim countries.

But in Australia first of all it depends on the weather and also on the day of the week. If it is on the weekend,  community centres can be used. For example, last year Eid was on the weekend and it was raining so Muslims living around Flemington, North Melbourne and Kensington prayed in a large community hall in North Melbourne.

For Eid Aldha this year Muslims in Flemington, North Melbourne, Ascot Vale and Carlton prayed in Debney Park. When the prayers finished everyone had to shake hands and hug each other, then everyone went home to have  breakfast and lunch with family members.    They also visited friends and relatives.

The next day was Saturday so most families took their children to Eid festivals arranged by Muslim community members.  At the festival there were so many activities,  for example jumping castles, dodgem cars, slides, henna and  face painting, food and soft drink.

We congratulate Muslims everywhere and we say in Arabic, Kulu Am Wantum Biker Takabalulah Mina Waminkum In Shalla. And for those who are in the Haj we say to them, we hope they will arrive safely and we hope the New Year will be peaceful for all people around the world.

Post-war difficulty forum for South Sudanese in Australia

By Thokgor Reech

Post-war trauma as a result of the conflict that tore the former African nation of Sudan in two is having a significant impact on the lives of South Sudanese Australians. To address the problems associated with this condition a forum was held at the Melton Anglican Church on 1 September.

South Sudanese in Australia face unmentionable impairments to their lives as a result of the wars in their homeland. As a result of the conflict which caused the deaths of millions, and mass emigration the country has now been split in two – South Sudan and North Sudan.

The South Sudanese in Australia are silently looking at failures both in Australia and South Sudan to progress from post-war-trauma, which is affecting their development, and government systems in South Sudan, while their lives in Australia stagnate. For this reason the forum was created.

“We are in need of more support so that we can achieve at least one thing after the war,” said the forum chairman and organiser Anthony Maluk Dau,

“Australia is a very lucky place for us and could remove many things in our post-war trauma, but the most important is integration into the Australian system to enable us to learn how to get many skills for every mechanism of moving forward and our differences in cultures, such that we can know very well, the Australian lifestyle and all dynamics ways into mainstream Australia” added Dau.

The forum has been moved by many happenings, even the recent SBS documentary “go back to where you came from”, that was shown at the forum, with one emphasis on a young boy from Sri Lanka who said  “I need to go to Australia even thought I couldn’t afford now to get to Australia, I will make sure my grandchildren go to Australia.”

“That statement has a lot of influence in my heart although I am in Australia, I feel I am so lucky in the world,” said Rachel Nyadeng.

Nyandeng also adds that she likes Australia because of good security and education.

This wasn’t the statement that has inspired many South Sudanese at the forum. Others came from very influential people such as Martin Luther King, who famously said: “Everybody can be great… anybody can serve…. you don’t have to have a college degree to serve…. you don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve…you only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

It has inspired young South Sudanese and other African people to get up do something good in both Africa and Australia.

“We have many problems, with major post-war trauma, and the overwhelming war is still lingering resulting into scarcity of any progress in anything and so we in Australia are going to continue this forum many times to discuss this topic to help ourselves here to get educated and that way we could help contribute to Australian people and help our people back home,” Dau concluded.

What’s happening to the Eid Al-Adha celebration in Shepparton?

By Fauzi 

The holy celebration of Eid Al-Adha is a special time for Muslims when we celebrate the Prophet Ibrahim and his devotion to God.  But not so in Shepparton, it seems.

I woke up in the early morning in Shepparton to prepare myself to get ready for Eid prayer. I took my son with me, wearing our traditional costumes to the Mosque. It was seven o’clock. When we got there the Mosque was empty. I thought we had arrived early so I called my Sudanese friend. He told me that they had prayed the previous day, which meant we missed the Eid prayer. He was at a mosque but not the one we usually prayed in; it was the Shia mosque, which belongs to the Iraqi community.  We joined him there, finished the prayer and after a bit of chatting, I took my son to the swimming pool for about an hour and then to childcare. When my wife came from work at the end of the day, we went to Kids Town and that was the only time we celebrated together as a family.

Eid Al-Adha is something like Christmas is for Christians. But in Australia there is no real Eid. It is so different to what I remember in Sudan. It is not exciting. I have none of my close family here. Most people in Australia are not Muslim. I talked to one of my Sudanese friends who has been in Australia for many years, and he said, “I just go to work in Eid, it doesn’t matter because there is no Eid in Australia”.

One family that has lived in Shepparton for a long time told me that they got used to not celebrating traditionally and they can’t do anything to change it now.

When I lived in Sudan, Eid was something special. I remember going to pray at the mosque with my dad early in the morning. After praying, we came home to prepare for breakfast. Breakfast in Eid is very special. I helped my Dad to prepare a clean spot outside and then he would cut the throat of a sheep while I held its legs. We had to let the blood drain and then cut the meat up to cook. Our whole family got together to share the meat of our sheep and we would give some meat away to others.

After we had our breakfast, all families would go around to neighbours, relatives and friends, visiting and sharing food. It was so exciting because most people who had been living overseas would come home for Eid so you could see people you hadn’t seen for a long time. The Eid celebration lasted three days and nobody worked. They just spent the time having fun with people they cared about. Everything felt so exciting and everyone was celebrating.

Now I live in Australia and I have had one Eid-Al-Adha here. But it is nothing like what I remember from Sudan. I feel really sad about this. I miss the Eid from Sudan.

Eid is a really important festival for Muslims. Celebrating by sacrificing sheep shows that you are devoted to God like Ibrahim. I feel like I can’t do this here and it makes me feel like I am losing a part of my religion and my culture. In Australia, there are laws about keeping animals and preparing food so I can’t just sacrifice the sheep in my backyard. I can’t spend the time with my mum and dad and brothers and sisters because they all live too far away and I can’t afford to travel to see them. I can’t visit friends and relatives and neighbours because there is no holiday for Eid like there is in Sudan and everyone is working or going to school. The worst part is that most people in Australia don’t even know that it is Eid, so there is no feeling of celebration. In Sudan the whole country is celebrating together, but in Australia no one cares.

I will celebrate Eid at home with my wife and my son. I am worried about my son. He is going to grow up without a real Eid. He is not going to feel excited about Eid like I did when I was little. I wish that all Muslims in the community could get together to celebrate Eid properly. I wish we could get together and take days off work to really celebrate properly. I wish we could not lose this part of our culture. One day, I will take my son Kareem to have Eid in Sudan so he knows what it is like.

African communities confront police over crime statistics

By Thokgor Reech

Recent crime statistics released by Victoria police has caused tension between the force and the African-Australian community.

Last week African youth organised a forum to dispute police figures, which indicate that crime among Sudanese and Somali youth in Victoria is alarmingly high.

In August police released a report indicating that 0.92% of all offences in Victoria were committed by the Sudanese, while 0.35% of offenders were said to be Somali. The data went on to say that among the Sudanese community that 7.1% were lawbreakers while 6.1% of the Somali population fell into this category.

 The African Youth Forum challenged Victoria Police claiming the crime statistics were discriminatory.  Community members urged Victoria police to stop releasing incomplete crime statistics and figures that were targeted at particular ethnicities.

“No matter what gender, age or colour we are, we are all Australians”, said one community representative. The African Youth Forum felt it was essential to put an end to stereotypes that painted African youth as violent. Community members argued stereotypes only created a bad image for the entire African community in the eyes of other Australians.

 The forum also discussed the importance of and need for both African communities and Victoria police to work hand in hand to support disengaged youth. In one statement a community representative said, Victoria Police did not make any allowances for the fact that African “kids are kids”, and often behaved like other kids in the wider community.

Victoria Police spokesman Sergeant D. Jeffrey told the African Youth Forum, police produced the figures in response to “a request from the media”. However he did not answer how police had arrived at these figures.  

But Sergeant Jeffrey did admit that the data could be skewed, as it was possible that people arrested and charged might falsely identify themselves as being Sudanese or Somali.

He also added that the crime statistics were likely to be influenced by community attitudes. Sergeant Jeffrey said, given that the Sudanese and Somali communities were newcomers in Australia, it was possible that the wider community blamed them for crimes without always being sure that their accusations were correct. He added that this had happened to other nationalities settling in Australia in the past.

The community forum also expressed concern about remarks made by Deputy Commissioner Tim Cartwright who had suggested that Melbourne’s so called African crime problem was causing similar tensions in Victoria to those that led to the Cronulla riots in Sydney back in 2005.

Forum representatives flatly rejected Mr Cartwright’s statement, collectively agreeing that there was no link between African crimes committed in Victoria and the Cronulla riots, because there was no element of racial tension involved.

Forum attendees were united in their view that the issues and problems facing their youth presented a huge challenge for the entire African-Australian community. They felt this was partly exacerbated by the fact that police had more power over their kids, which made it difficult for families to control their kids.

It was stated that teenage African-Australians particularly found themselves caught between their parents and the police and found them selves at higher risk of turning to crime.

The forum was bold in dismissing the police crime report as “simply showing a lack of understanding about Sudanese and Somali communities and what makes them tick”. Community leaders agreed the major obstacle facing them was the great divide in the ‘life experience and cultural differences between members of the police force and young Africans’.

As a means of moving forward, many participants in the forum spoke about the need to increase education and employment among the African youth to help reduce crime.

The forum also discussed the need for the Australian Government to provide sport and recreational centres that could be financially subsidised as a way of reducing crime among young Africans by offering activities that attracted them.

 The wish list also included a plea to the State Government to help create job opportunities and provide additional English language educational courses as it was collectively agreed that the 510 hours of English lessons provided by the Federal Government was not meeting the needs of most new African migrants.