From the margins to the centre: Multicultural youth communities ‘strike back’ with positive stories of sport, dance and poetry

Footscray Community Arts Centre (FCAC) is hosting an important event on 18 March 2021 bringing philanthropists, communities, academics and policymakers together to celebrate and share the positive stories of youth resilience as part of the project, “Youth multiculturalism from below: learning, sharing and living sports and arts on the fringes of Melbourne”, funded by Gandel Foundation and RMIT University.

The research project investigated ways migrant and refugee youth in Melbourne’s North, South- East and West employed sports and arts to develop a sense of shared generational and local identities with peers from different cultural backgrounds. The aim was to understand ‘what works’ in terms helping young migrants settle better and feel part of the community.

“The event — and the research project within which it is situated — focuses on positive experiences and stories that young people create, perform and live in their multicultural neighbourhoods, usually far from any media attention. At this event, we’ll get a glimpse of a rich pool of talent that young people on the fringes of Melbourne possess, nurture and share,” said Professor Hariz Halilovich, Social and Global Studies Centre, RMIT University.

“Gandel Foundation has been a long-standing supporter of numerous organisations and programs that aim to strengthen community cohesion and inclusion, including some of the participants such as FCAC and L2R. We joined this research project to learn a bit more about what is best practice in helping new and emerging communities, especially young people, feel at home, feel engaged and involved. We hope the findings about what works – and what doesn’t – will inform our future granting,” said Vedran Drakulic OAM, CEO of Gandel Foundation. 

“The opportunity for young people of migrant and refugee backgrounds to participate in arts and sports is vital for their health and wellbeing. The impact of these activities should not be underestimated. Building social connections, feeling a sense of belonging and having the space to discuss complex issues are among a host of benefits that arts and sports provide. It’s great to see emerging research showing the positive outcomes from grassroots level sports and arts initiatives and to guide us in creating spaces that will meaningfully and sustainably support the health and wellbeing of young people,” said Dr Sandro Demaio, CEO of VicHealth.

“At Footscray Community Arts Centre, community is synonymous with contemporary arts practice. Authorship and self-determined practices are central to the ways in which we engage with and deliver our work, a focus on the nexus between creativity and social justice – this is particularly true when it comes to our work with young people and the work we do to have their voices and stories platformed,” said Daniel Santangeli, AD & co CEO.

“Sports and arts transcend culture, language and social statuses, let’s harness their unique powers to unite young people in our society today despite their backgrounds,” said Ms Monica Deng, Director of the South Sudanese Australian Youth United (SSAYU).  

The panellists include, Professor Hariz Halilovich (RMIT University, CI),Mr Vedran Drakulic OAM (Gandel Foundation, CEO), Dr Sandro Demaio  (VicHealth, CEO), Ms Veronica Pardo (Multicultural Arts Victoria, CEO), Mr Elvir Malkic (Balmoral Football Club Director), Ms Adela Kusur (Artist) Ms Monica Deng (South Sudanese Australian Youth United, Director) and Mr Deng Kur (South Sudanese community representative). Performers from Melbourne’s North, South-East and West will take to the stage in Footscray to celebrate and share the stories including: Asanti Dance Theatre, L2R, Balmoral Football Club, KUD Dukat, Victorian Black Sea Turkish Cultural Association, South Sudanese traditional dance, Ekol School of arts and Ziimusic.