Stepping Up

Lena Nabi is a Toowoomba secondary school student with a passion for justice and change. With the purpose of getting conversation started around racial and cultural discrimination among youth in the community, she initiated a workshop to bring like-minded young people together. The gathering was held on Saturday 15th January in the community space at Another Life Cafe and Wares in Bellevue Street, and piqued the interest of young adults and teenagers from a variety of cultural backgrounds. As part of Lena’s vision for a vehicle for discussion and increasing understanding amongst people of different backgrounds, Lena launched what she hopes will be the first of many opportunities for this concept to grow in the future.

It is a privilege to share her thoughts on the initiative. Lena believes it was a great start. The topics which were discussed included the impact of the media, and the under-representation of cultural groups on television and what effect these standards have on young people today in Australia, and here in Toowoomba in particular. There were a variety of workshop activities and strategies used to bring out statements and discussion, and to allow opportunities for the participants to feel safe and heard. As many of those who attended come from migrant and refugee backgrounds, this youth-generated workshop was highly valued for the chance to express opinions without an agenda from adults or external influences.

Some of the comments which flowed from the workshop included:

“Social media is a common contributor to racism”.

“My culture is not represented on tv”.

” I have the courage to speak out if ever discriminated against.”

These and many other topics were explored throughout the time spent so productively together.

Participants gave very positive feedback and shared comments such as :

I came to the workshop to learn more about the matter and be able to share our knowledge with our community.

This was a great session where I got to be involved in a session starting change.

So what is the next step for Lena and her vision?

She is striving to develop as a youth social enterprise. This will require funding to support future projects and already she and her team members are looking at a Get Up funding campaign. If this becomes available Lena hopes to present opportunities like the workshop in her school, and hopes to spread the message in the community as well to build more awareness, understanding and hopefully action to address the issues raised.

What is the change this small but determined group is hoping to see?

You can follow along with Lena as she steps up in the world of social justice and knocks on the doors that can help her build. Initially, Lena saw support from the Toowoomba&Darling Downs social media platform, and Word Fest Toowoomba, and now it is hoped partnerships with other youth organisations will provide broader community visibility as well. We expect to see much more of Lena in the future as her voice rings in the change we would all like to see, and this group helps shape a more just future across the Toowoomba landscape.