The Cardinia Strategic Reference Group LDAT is based in Pakenham, southeast of Melbourne. It works with the local African migrant and refugee community.
Following a widely reported “riot” at a major public event in Melbourne in 2016, young people of African backgrounds have been profiled by the media and political leaders as anti-social, criminal gangs.
Despite this perception not being supported by data, the racial profiling and stigmatisation of this group has continued in the community. Young people have reported classroom and schoolyard experiences of racialised bullying and have not felt supported by teachers and school administrators.
These experiences have left many of the young people with a sense of powerlessness and exclusion from the broader Australian community. This impacts their identity, self-esteem and wellbeing, creating risk factors for alcohol and other drug harms.
This project addresses the anxiety and powerlessness felt by these young people by cultivating resilience. The LDAT held a series of workshops that included relationship building with local organisations and creating positive networks with Konnext RightNow, Centre for Multicultural Youth, YSAS, Foundation Health and Monash Health.
During these sessions, a range of issues was discussed, such as understanding mental health and unpacking anxiety, responding to racism and bullying, how to manage uncertainty, effects of alcohol and other drugs, identifying addiction and support referral.
The sessions also included dance lessons where participants of the program learnt about their traditional dances and had an opportunity to showcase them – providing a sense of culture and connection to their community.
The young people involved in the program reported that they found it positive and moving.
Throughout the sessions, they gained knowledge of tools and strategies to use in their everyday life to manage and recognise racism and bullying.
Participants learnt about the effects of different drugs and alcohol, and now feel more aware of, and confident in, accessing the support services available to them.
This story is an excerpt from the 2023 LDAT Highlights Report.