Updated: Mar 20, 2019
Following our work with various members of the African community in 2016 the LLEN strengthened our relationship further with the African Australian Students Association (AASO). Several meetings were convened to develop a partnership and discuss how we could work together in 2017. Our main concerns were the need to respond to the negative media that focused unfairly on some members of various African cohorts, demonising them and feeding potential racists and unhelpful attitudes to this newest group of arrivals to Australia which could be contributing to them disengaging from school early. It was agreed we needed a positive, non-confrontational approach that builds the self-esteem and aspirations of young people and didn’t make assumptions about who the young people are and what they are capable of. Refugee and migrant young people face many challenges and barriers to participation and these are exacerbated when some sections to the community demonise them, these issues combined may render it even harder for these students to remain engaged in their education. We were concerned for this cohort who reside, attend school or visit our LLEN and the impact the negative publicity could have on students at risk of disengaging.
Together the AASO and the LLEN agreed to provide a positive, motivational opportunity to encourage students to remain engaged in their education and maximise their achievements and opportunities. The AASO team also discussed the impact for many young African students of not having role models to look up to and that they lacked encouragement and support to go to university. As a result, we devised the need for aspirational and inspirational motivation of African secondary students by bringing together a range of employed Africans to discuss their pathways and careers, AASO suggested it would be great if the information and presentations was portrayed like a ‘TEDx’ event and AfroX was born. A lot of time and planning went into making this partnership work as members of the AASO are all voluntary full-time university students.
The LLEN saw a role we could play in helping to build the skills of the students within AASO to support their own careers resulting in enabling them to take on different tasks, teaching them about event organisation and planning, stepping in and out as needed. The LLEN also arranged for our other partner, the Royal Society of Victoria to host the event held in April. Together we applied for National Youth Week Inclusion and endorsement leading to greater social media reach and enhanced reputation of the City LLEN.
Over 70 secondary and tertiary students from an African Australian background attended the soldout event at the Royal Society of Victoria. The night began with registrations and light refreshments catered by the Sorghum Sisters followed by an opportunity to mingle and network. Students then proceeded to the main lecture theatre where the event was officially opened by AASO’s president Amelia Forson followed by the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship Robin Scott, who mentioned in his speech the importance of raising aspirations amongst each other and value of mentorship. The night then went onto showcase the success of five unique African-Australian speakers. Students received valuable tips and tricks from some of the brightest, boldest and most brilliant minds that have taken an alternative career path that has led them to their idea of success.
Guest speakers shared their wealth of knowledge and expertise received from their industries.
Special Guest: Yassmin Abdel-Magied – Mechanical engineer, writer, and social activist
Born in Sudan, Yassmin Abdel-Magied and her family arrived in Australia just before she turned two and since then has devoted her energy and to making the world a more equal place through a combination of technical and social skill. At age 16, she founded Youth Without Borders, an organisation that empowers young people to realise their full potential through collaborative, communitybased programs. She was the 2015 Queensland Young Australian of the year, a qualified mechanical engineer, social advocate, writer and broadcaster. Breaking through many barriers, Yassmin has appeared on television programs to support young African and Muslim people and was a regular host on an ABC arts program in 2016.
Yassmin spoke about her struggles as a young Muslim woman who pursued a passion for mechanical engineering and how she overcame the stereotypes and barriers to chase her dreams.
Sarah Agboola – Founder at m-Time, Board Member of Foundation for Youth Australians, Social Engineer
Sarah Agboola is a Melbourne based entrepreneur who found herself immersed in start-up culture after attending The Wade Institute’s Three-Day Start-up event in 2015. Since then, she declined her offer to study law and instead started two youth engagement programs and founded her first company.
Sarah shared her passion about giving young people opportunities to build their capacity and co-launched Youth Opportunities for Leadership, Innovation and Development (YOLID) in 2015 to provide a platform for this to occur. Sarah also founded and administrates the Women of Colour Career & Study Network which was established to give young women of colour the chance to discuss their career hopes, dreams and fears in a safe environment. Sarah told the young people about what she has learnt other young people from her time running the network.
Having grown up in Wagga Wagga, creating opportunities for regional and rural young people is of importance to Sarah leading to her work with Social Traders and the Foundation for Young Australians to develop initiatives dedicated to serving this group. It is the combination of all her endeavours that led to her selection as the inaugural Australia Post Scholar at the Wade Institute of Entrepreneurship.
Dr. George Williams Mbogo – Scientist, La Trobe Institute of Molecular Sciences
Dr. George Mbogo successfully completed his PhD from La Trobe University. His story was a rag to riches story, where he shared his experiences of overcoming poverty, persistence, winning a scholarship and overcoming language barriers to pursue his dream career. He touched on his passion for global health, underpinned by his prior experiences with the HIV epidemic and other tropical diseases.
He initially trained as a Medical Laboratory Practitioner, before embarking on advanced translational research focusing mainly; drug discovery (Heart failure & HIV), diagnostics (sleeping sickness), population studies (malaria) and vaccinology (Newcastle disease). George has evolved a multidisciplinary profile spanning industry, academia and public health, leveraging from mentorship and collaborations from global leaders based in the United States of America, Africa, Europe and Australia.
George is a firm believer of following your passion – or finding something you like and trying and trying again, he emphasised the importance of learning from your mistakes and perseverance.
Manal Younus – Spoken word poet, freelance writer & creative producer
Manal Younus is a Naarm/Melbourne based freelance storyteller. As a Muslim with Eritrean origins living in Australia, the young writer and spoken word artist uses her poetry to both discover and strengthen her identity as well as to spark thought and discussions amongst those around her. Manal performed a spoken word poem during the night which captured the struggles of African youth in overcoming barriers to reach their fullest potential.
‘It wasn’t until I was about in year 9 when I started opening my mind to a lot more than what I felt like, I was conflicted as to so my identity at the time, I was just this black kid in a white space and all that I could do was assimilate in some way. And then when I was in year 9 I met these girls who were Somali sisters and they were real go getters and invited me to this event and I started spending more time with them and they started an organisation called the African girls collective, and that changed a lot of things for me because suddenly I was seeing other young black women doing something that was completely unconventional, they were getting grants to run events, challenging the way that I saw the world.’
Abdullahi Alim – Western Australian Young Person of the Year, Director at MyHACK and digital innovato
Abdullahi had just graduated from his honours degree in Finance 2016, yet he has already co-founded an innovation lab to solve issues of contemporary concern. Abdullahi came to Australia as a Somali refugee at the age of five. He talked about his struggles in fitting in and finding his passion. Now, through the Lighthouse Strategy, Abdullahi via People Against Violent Extremism and supported by the Federal Government established MyHack to encourage young Australians to come up with online solutions to counter Islamic State group (IS) propaganda. This work includes running ‘hackathons’ – fast-paced and intense exercises that bring bright young innovators together to develop solutions to global challenges. Abdullahi’s approach has attracted other partners including Google and the US Department of State. Through his work Abdullahi has supervised a group of local students create cutting-edge digital solutions to undermine the influence and pervasive appeal of violent extremist propaganda. Abdullahi’s goal is to create hubs or ‘lighthouses’ around the world to promote social impact and youth entrepreneurship. He’s set his sights on innovation challenges to empower more young Australians to solve international issues including the global refugee crisis and Indigenous disadvantage in the West.
Abdullahi recommended to the students to: ask questions, don’t be afraid to express yourself and your ideas and to seize an opportunity and of course, to go online and research what you need to know.
‘Whose familiar with the phrase great minds think alike? Contrary to popular belief the greatest minds do not think alike, because you need diversity and diversity of perspectives to reach the best outcomes and best solutions and I think that’s what was lacking in Somalia among many other issues of course. What I’ve come to understand in this world now is that talent in truly universal while opportunity is not’