Transitioning from a mundane accounting job into the vibrancy of improving community health, diversity and social cohesion is one of the life decisions I am most happy about.
At the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation, we define ‘inclusion’ quite distinctly—a newly-arrived person initially joining a migrant-targeted program, then transitioning into a mainstream community program with people from different backgrounds and last, enthusiastically giving back!
Shamsiya is a story of inclusion in action. A newly-arrived migrant from Ethiopia, she initially joined our Ready SETTLE Go program and then transitioned into participating in Daughters of the West (DOTW). Soon after, she began to actively volunteer for our youth programs.
For me, if we continue creating more Shamsiyas, we know we are doing good work.
Our efforts are not limited to strengthening harmony for those from CALD backgrounds alone. Instead, we seek to achieve social change among the wider community.
Our efforts as a part of the Sons of the West (SOTW) program is an example. We organise a Welcome Round during the program, where community leaders from various socio-cultural backgrounds speak to our participants. We seek to make people more welcoming, self-aware and accommodating, and such initiatives help us in achieving this goal.
Moving into the domain of sport, I believe it is a great leveller between communities. Whenever harmony is spoken about, everyone’s in agreement about its key enablers—food, art and sport.
In this regard, one of my favourite quotes on the power of sport is by Nelson Mandela, who said, “Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair.”
We saw the quote at work quite recently, between Sydney Swans’ Aliir Aliir and North Melbourne’s Majak Daw—two footy players of South Sudanese background. After playing against each other during the match, they shook hands and walked together, demonstrating what the community can achieve and deliver.
A sense of poetic justice prevailed, especially considering the recent commentary against the community.
Alongside sport, I have always been passionate about A Taste of Harmony, owing to both my personal and professional experiences.
I organised it for the first time while working at the Essendon footy club six years ago, and since then I have been able to progressively handball it to others. Now, it has become an annual fixture at every organisation I have worked for.
A Taste of Harmony is different every year at the Bulldogs and we do our best to ensure that it’s celebrated in a unique way. In 2017, it was the cook-off between Majak Daw and JJ, while in 2018 it was the cook-off at the McAuley Community Services for Women between a bunch of NMFC and Bulldogs players.
In addition, we host it at our office and have activities that help the staff know each other better. This year’s activity encouraged every colleague to share stories surrounding the 2018 theme, “A taste of what makes us great.”
Bringing together such a wide array of people with different stories and palates is an enlightening experience, every single time.