Dialog Box

01 August 2019

A lesson in cultural acceptance

CatholicCare Justice Education Program
Pictured clockwise from top left: North Geelong Secondary College students; Lamourette Folly shares her refugee experience; students learn about cultural differences; Nestor Estampa, coordinator of the Settle Well Program.

In a small courtroom at the Geelong Magistrate’s Court, a group of 21 students from North Geelong Secondary College have gathered for CatholicCare’s Justice Education Series. Today they’ve come to hear from Barry Petrovski and Lamourette Folly from Centre for Multicultural Youth.

Today’s topic is ‘Cultural Sensitivity’ – and it suddenly it dawns on me why - even though the program is offered as part of CatholicCare’s Settle Well for Refugee Youth – nearly half of the young people in the room are from non-refugee backgrounds.

The students are here to learn that ‘culture’ is made up of many components, many of which are not visually apparent. They also learn that an individual can be representative of many different cultures, some inherited through family while others are acquired through life experiences.

Most importantly, the students learn the value of curiosity; that getting to know others can be richly rewarding.

Lamourette Folly is a terrific example of how curiosity, connections and trust can lead to positive outcomes.

Born and raised in a refugee camp in Benin, Lamourette came to Australia 11 years ago with her mother and five siblings. She described the difficulties of her early years in Australia, and how - despite speaking three languages (French, Ewé and Togolese!) - her lack of English made communication difficult.

Lamourette described how she was made to feel that she didn’t belong and was bullied at school because of the colour of her skin. She spoke of struggling to understand the culture.

Fortunately, she eventually made friends and found people who were accepting and keen to guide her. After completing university, she now works with CMY as a Youth Facilitator.

Lamourette encouraged the students in the courtroom: ‘If you want to learn about someone, understand them … talk to them and ask questions.’

Most of the young students are still too shy to mingle easily with those they don’t know. But it’s only week three in the series and for the next seven weeks they will continue to come together for sessions on various topics such as legal issues and online safety. By week 10, they will also have had the opportunity to learn more about each other and how they can contribute to community harmony.

The Justice Education Series is part of CatholicCare’s Geelong Settle Well Program, an intensive, school-based support service for young refugees and asylum seekers. Geelong Settle Well is proudly supported by Bennelong Foundation, Collier Charitable Fund, Give Where You Live Foundation, and Melbourne Catholic Archbishop's Charitable Fund.

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