Celebrating Global Diversity Week
This week, our Languages Department has been celebrating Global Diversity. Students have created incredible artworks and our Global Diversity Club has created a powerful video to express what diversity means to them.
As Director of International Studies, Mr Boschiero explains, “Global Diversity, acceptance and cultural differences impact everyone in our community. We often throw these words and terms about and we recognise that they are important topics, but do we have a true understanding of their meaning and their impact? If we are to truly grow as a community and tap into the rich opportunities that different cultures give us, we must match this with meaningful and long-term action. At all levels of our community, we must take responsibility and ownership of our words and actions; purposefully build a diverse community; engage community leaders and seek their support and perhaps their counsel. Our statements should not and cannot be mere rhetoric if we are to succeed in our endeavours to create authentic and genuine understandings.”
“This week, Wenona’s Global Diversity Club has been looking at how these themes play out in the lives of the staff and students at the School, how they have shaped their lives, their view of the world and the hope that their stories can help create better, richer and more fulfilling relationships.”
Across the different Language classes, students were given a brief to create an artwork that represented peace, love, harmony, friendship and understanding. The artworks have been on display on the walkway to The Athenaeum, much to the delight of passing students.
The Spanish students created doves based on Picasso’s Dove of Peace.
The Japanese students used origami to represent different images of love.
The Chinese students made love knots.
The German students based their artwork on ‘No Walls’ and the idea of breaking down barriers.
The French students created locks to represent the ‘love locks’ that used to be found on the Pont des Arts in Paris, as a symbolic act of affection, with lovers often throwing the key into the Seine afterwards.
Throughout Term 3, Languages Teachers, Mr Mikkelsen and Ms Furlong-Alexanderson have held a weekly Diversity Global Club, with students coming together to present on different topics close to their heart. This culminated with a video, in which staff and students were asked a series of questions. They all spoke openly and honestly about issues such as race, culture, identity, difference, acceptance, racism, exclusion and change. Questions were as follows:
How do you react when people ask what country you are from?
“I get where they are coming from as obviously, I don’t look like I’m from Australia.”
“I think they must be basing it off my appearance.”
“I sound Australian and I act Australian so they must be basing it off my skin colour.”
“They’re implying you’re not Australian based on their idea of what an Australian is.”
What cultural heritage do you identify with?
Answers included Greek, Cypriot, Indian, Japanese, French and Australian, Maori, Sri Lankan, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, Uruguayan and Persian. One student said, “I am British and Australian and South African and Indian… it’s very confusing. I spice it up sometimes!”
Have you ever experienced exclusion or discrimination because of your cultural heritage? If so, how did this make you feel?
“At least once a week and usually it makes me feel lonely as there are only about 1,000 people from where I’m from in Australia.”
“Even now people pronounce my name wrong.”
“One of my good friends… and I love her to death… said recently, ‘You know when I’m with you, I just forget you’re Asian, I think you are just normal.’”
“I’ve had strangers on the street yell at me and tell me to go back to my country. It makes me feel scared and upset.”
Have you ever wished you had a different cultural heritage?
“Yes, I wished this a lot when I was younger. I forever wanted to be Australian when I was at school.”
“Growing up I did because people didn’t know or understand my cultural heritage.”
“It gets really tiring just constantly being the odd one out. And occasionally, I have wished that I was just normal and the standard of beauty that we see in the media.”
If you were given the choice, would you change your cultural identity?
“I don’t wish to be another cultural identity, if anything I’m really proud of it.”
“If I had the choice, I’d still choose to be Chinese.”
“I love being Vietnamese because I love Vietnam.”
What advice or encouragement would you give to young people to help promote acceptance of cultural identity and diversity?
“Get to know people’s stories.”
“Don’t always assume someone’s heritage.”
“Listening to each other and having really open-minded conversations is the only way we can all come together as one.”
“Don’t be afraid to tell people about where you’re from.”
“Be proud because we are very lucky to be bilingual and bicultural.”
The video will be shared around the School, but you can see an excerpt here:
Karoy is in Year 10 and is the Global Diversity Club President for 2020/21. She says, “As an overseas student who has left my own country to live within an unfamiliar culture, I know how brave and how tough it is to move out of your comfort zone. People without this experience won't necessarily understand the struggle and hardship we face, not only the language barrier, but also the marginalisation from both cultures. Therefore, I wish to increase people's understanding and acceptance of global diversity, so that people with a non-Australian background can still feel at home and included here, starting with Wenona. I hope that by holding open conversations, we are able to create an even more inclusive environment at Wenona next year.”
Alex, who is also in Year 10, is the other Global Diversity Club President for 2020/21. She said, "It’s fairly obvious by looking at me that I’m not somebody who could be considered globally diverse, unless you’re counting that I'm 0.25% Romanian! However, I am passionate about advocating for others and listening to their stories, as well as using my platform to make Wenona the most accepting and welcoming place possible. I think the reason I have this passion stems primarily from the admiration I have for those who have experienced discrimination. I admire their courage and the pride they have in their culture. I hope over the next year to see Wenona really celebrate diversity. I think this will be achieved through visual representations of diversity, such as the 2020 Global Diversity video, as well as making sure we do an Acknowledgment of Country in every assembly. I also hope that Karoy and I are able to encourage more girls to join the club so all year groups are represented."
Finally, Ally, Zoe, and Alex presented on Australia’s First nation’s people at Global Diversity Club. They said, “We are fortunate that Global Diversity Club gave us an avenue to educate our peers on some of the issues for Indigenous discrimination, including systemic racism, incarceration rates and intergenerational trauma. Systemic racism is the cyclical nature of disadvantage that Indigenous Australians are subjected to, along with inequality of opportunity and education. We used a video from an Indigenous Australian to convey the message in a more appropriate way. We also linked systemic racism to the cycle of generational wealth and provided realistic ways for Wenonians to help bring bring systemic racism to an end. We also spoke about the over-representation of Indigenous Australians in custody, using graphs and statistics to illustrate this. We explained why incarceration rates among Indigenous Australians are so high and explained the consequences and the effect it can have on mental health and opportunity. We then spoke about intergenerational trauma, which is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope. This can be seen in the impact of the Stolen Generation. Finally, we spoke about the ‘cycle of trauma’, relating it to methods that can be used to decrease intergenerational trauma. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to have a platform such as the one
Global Diversity Club has to offer and look forward to what it will bring in the future.”