World Vision and Indigenous communities work together for change
WORDS VANESSA FENTON
Members of the Young Mob
Leadership Program in Redfern When you think of humanitarian organisations like World Vision, Africa usually springs to mind, doesn’t it? While Australia is a very long way away from experiencing third-world living conditions in the large-scale way that Africa does, it’s usually our Indigenous communities that experience real hardship: Indigenous children are three times more likely to die before their first birthday than non-Indigenous babies. Only a third of those children will finish high school, and as adults they’re twice as likely to be unemployed as Australians from other ethnic groups. Those are pretty sobering statistics in a wealthy first-world country.
Fortunately, World Vision has been invited to work alongside several Indigenous communities across the country to help facilitate change for the better.
In 2003, the Armadale community in outer Perth invited World Vision to work together. The partnership established a local organisation called the Armadale Noongar Corporation, which works with Indigenous youth by providing vocational training, teaching leadership and teamwork skills and building young people’s pride in the Noongar culture.
Talia from the Young Mob
Leadership Program performing
during NAIDOC weekAlong with an innovative vocational training program that has experienced unprecedented completion rates, one of the program’s big successes is the Armadale Noongar Circus. This circus program engages about 40 children under the training of professional circus instructors who help develop confidence, self-esteem and physical skills. They’ve even performed at public events like the opening of Government House in Perth and at Fremantle Festival.
In Sydney, one fascinating venture is a self-supporting high-end art gallery, Birrung Gallery (134 William St, Potts Point, www.worldvision.com.au/birrung). The gallery exhibits high quality artworks of some 200 artists, covering remote communities across Australia. You can purchase some stunning Aboriginal art, happy in the knowledge that 100 per cent of the profits are going back to Indigenous communities. World Vision is also working with one of Australia’s strongest Aboriginal communities, Redfern.
The suburb is at the centre of some really positive developments, one being the Young Mob Leadership Program run in conjunction with the Redfern Community Centre. Here children as young as 12 can develop their public-speaking and leadership skills. This program is successful in building self-esteem, confidence and communication skills for its young participants. There’s also a Koori Toastmasters group for adults. This has been such a hit the group is taking their program to other Indigenous communities across New South Wales.
V-Gen participant Tamara Rosman
with Aunt Audrey Pearson at the
Elders Lunch in Redfern during
In 2002, the remote Northern Territory community of Wetenngerr invited World Vision to give them a hand with community development activities. A women’s centre re-opened in 2003 offering business training and a successful arts program that focussed on local craft. With an enthusiastic take-up by the local women, it’s meant more income for the community from the sales of their work. The key focus at the moment is working with the community to improve leadership skills to achieve a greater voice.
Launched in June, the StarKids initiative aims to raise at least AU$3 million over three years for World Vision to fund programs assisting children in Australia and countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. It will raise awareness of the causes and effects of poverty and how we can all make a difference.
In July, members of the Vision Generation (World Vision’s youth movement) organised a group from around Australia to spend a week in Redfern. Julie Welsh, World Vision’s Indigenous Programs staff member, enthuses, “The Inner City Aboriginal Multi Purpose Association Committee and members of the community here in Redfern were really excited to have the V-Gen team join us to celebrate NAIDOC week [which celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture].
The V-Gen team participated in local festivities and met the Elders. This helped them understand the issues and breakdown stereotypes. The V-Genners are the leaders of the future, and together with Indigenous Australia these young people can help make some big changes towards reconciliation and equality.”
We chatted to one of those future leaders, Andrew Pyman – the organiser of the Redfern tour.
What made Vision Generation decide to do the tour?
I’ve been overseas with World Vision to Africa and East Timor. But then I found out that injustice was going on here, in the country I live in. We’ve got the resources here at VGen, so we want to learn more so we can use these resources to do something about it.
What was the aim of the tour?
We went to Redfern to listen and to learn. The people we met have got such a beautiful culture, and it was so fantastic to join in the celebrations [during NAIDOC week]. Everyone was so welcoming.
What’s it like in Redfern?
There are challenges, but hope as well. There’s a real community atmosphere – they have their rugby games and their campfire, it’s so different. We even experienced a bit of culture shock, which was unexpected – and some of the people on the tour are from Sydney!
What was the most powerful thing you took away from the tour?
For me it was a real eye-opener, to realise that we need to see the world through ‘colourful’ eyes, not just black and white. I found the issues in Redfern to be really complicated – it’s social, emotional and spiritual. It’s about not having a voice. And that’s what we V-Genners are committed to now that we’re back home. We want to learn more and work with Indigenous young people to help give them a voice.