• Sharifah Emalia Al-Gadrie

2019 in Review with Leyla

Hello! My name is Leyla and I am from Afghanistan but I was born in Iran. I have been in Tasmania for 2 years and I have been studying English at TasTAFE since I arrived here.

At TAFE we have a project called Students Against Racism which is a group of young people from different backgrounds. We deliver our workshops about cross-cultural awareness and anti-racism to many various places such as the Tasmania Police Academy, some schools and other TasTAFE classes. I am so happy to be part of this group because it helps to improve my communication skills and also increase my confidence. I have had a chance to talk about my culture and my religion. I am a Muslim woman and I wear a hijab and some people don’t know about Islam and hijab and that can make them scared. So being in Students Against Racism has been a great chance to share why those things are important to me and make people feel less scared.

Leyla presenting part of the 'Living in Between' workshop at a local school

I think all the workshops that we did were amazing and memorable because I got to meet lots of new and different people and share my story and my culture with them. I think that the workshop that we did at Clarence High School was my most memorable – it was great because we learnt many things and they learnt many things too. Sometimes with our workshops we can change people’s minds by talking about our lives and sharing our stories. Sometimes we even make people laugh and cry because there are funny parts but also serious and really hard parts in our journeys and our audience follows along our journeys with us when we tell them our stories.

This year we did 20 workshops and all of them were great and enjoyable! In every workshop I feel that I want to cry. I can’t explain it but I think it’s because doing the workshop makes me feel so hopeful that we can stop racism and discrimination by doing this - sharing our stories. I believe that if you are able to help someone, you should and it makes me feel happy to know that I am doing what I can to help other people.

After presenting the second workshop at the Tasmania Police Academy in 2019, the SAR group was on a high

This year was the best year that I ever had in my life. I made friends with young people from different backgrounds, I had opportunities to meet new people in different places. It really feels amazing when we can change at least one person’s negative opinion about refugees and migrants. It’s so special to be able to do the workshops with other young people who are my friends because we support each other and work together to make a change. One of the main messages we try to teach people in our workshops is that if you see someone being racist to another person, one of the best things you can do is to go up to the victim and say ‘That person was wrong. You are welcome here and you belong here.’

There were a lot of opportunities that I have had this year and I have learnt a lot from each of them. Most of all, I learnt that if I work really hard and use every single opportunity, I can do so much. I thank Gini and Emalia who helped me (actually all of us) in this year to find the best pathway for our future. I am not really sure what my future holds yet, but I know that I am heading in the right direction as long as I keep using every opportunity I can get.

SAR visited Bendigo (VIC) to work with multicultural youth from the surrounding areas. This trip was funded by the FRRR and was an invaluable experience for the SAR group - for many it was the highlight of 2019!

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