Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Taste of West Africa

The West African migrants and refugees are making their presence felt in South Australia; enriching the cultural life of the state.

Residents are extremely delighted as “A Taste of West Africa” comes to the city of Prospect.

This is a cultural festival like no other. People from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Togo, Sierra Leone, and Liberia will entertain the audience; showcasing their culture at the Prospect Town Hall on Sunday, 30th October, 12noon-5pm.

The festival will feature the cultural dance troupe from Sierra Leone, West African drumming, and fashion parade of traditional African Attire, arts and crafts exhibition, and much more.

Come and join the fun! Be entertained by traditional West African music, feast on the delicious cuisine and enjoy the arts and crafts.

For more information, please contact Fil on (08) 8342 8115; Veronica on (08) 8342 8113 or Jasmine on 000400 119 565.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Forgotten Men

African migrants and refugees are making the most of their new life in Australia. But there is a crisis of confidence among the new arrivals.

Nevertheless, recent development in capacity building has provided a unique opportunity to empower the African men, strengthen relationships, and keep families together.

Rene Weal knows a thing or two about the plight of the new families in the process of transition. She is the coordinator of the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) program in South Australia and member of staff of the Department of Health.

In response to the alarming rate of family breakdowns in African communities in Australia today, Rene has become increasingly aware of the need to support African men (as well as women) in their struggle for adaptation and survival.

As a professional service provider, and a very good one at that, Rene’s aim is to “empower and support African men as the pillars of the emerging communities”; forming a support group for those in distress – the first of its kind in the country.

These are the forgotten men with no hope (the war victims from way back), men who have lost everything, and who are still being traumatized by the memory of Africa’s long wars, famine, death, and destruction.

What the Dickens are we going to do to soften their pain? We must bring African men back in from the cold, so to speak, and come to terms with their needs – thereby, supporting their transition to the new society.

In actual fact, the new arrivals are suffering because of the combination of several factors: culture shock, language barriers, and loss of power and status in the new and challenging environment.

It has been widely acknowledged that while there are a number of groups providing social support for women, very little has been done to support African men during the early days of arrival – a period of confusion and realisation, coupled with a sense of bottomless uncertainty.

In recent years, there has been some wailing and gnashing of teeth as African men struggle to make sense of the world around them.

Thus, having lost their power and status in the new dispensation, they suddenly realise that life is no longer what it used to be. Even the vital role of “breadwinner” or “head of household” has been taken way from them, as a new type of family relationship emerges and the old values give way to the new.

Consequently, they believe, they can no longer control their family. Nor discipline. Nor punish. Nor protect their wives as they used to do in the old country; hence the emergence of status anxiety as a significant problem of adaptation for African men. Yet, they know not where to turn in times of crisis.

The nature of this crisis highlights the feelings of anxiety, disorientation, misunderstanding and frustration.

The plight of African men in Australian society does not always feature prominently in the timing and sequencing of service delivery to the new comers during the early days of arrival. But the situation is rapidly changing. Thanks to Rene Weal!

In fact, Rene has worked tirelessly with the new families to address this issue. She has consulted very widely with key people in the new and emerging African communities; including men in distress.

She is the first social worker to focus on the plight of the new families and the precarious position of African men.

Furthermore, she is the first woman to come to terms with the proposition that educating African men on the essential elements of the Australian family law can expedite the process of adaptation to the realities of the new social order.

Indeed, there is a groundswell of support for Rene’s work with the African families here and her views are well respected by all concerned.

Now, it is generally accepted that capacity building in the new and emerging African communities demands what Rene Weal describes as the “empowerment and orientation” of African men and women as soon as they arrive in Australia.

And educating African men on all aspects of equal opportunity in Australia is a good starting point - a potent instrument of enlightenment and capacity building.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

On the Rail

There once was an old man named Tutson
Who lived in Findon
He always believed that the “tollway”
Will kill the “railway”
And bankrupt Mr. Livingston.

Copyright © 2005 Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

On Female Circumcision and the Law

The phenomenon of female circumcision has long been regarded as a traditional cultural practice, in some quarters (It happens in many communities around the world). But in the eyes of the law, in the 21st century Australia, it is nothing more than Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); hence, a criminal offence.

Female circumcision is against the law in all States and Territories of the Commonwealth of Australia. And each State or Territory has its own laws against the practice.

In South Australia, for instance, FMG is covered by section 26 of the Children’s Protection Act 1993.

The practice has been illegal since 1997.

All procedures involving partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs, whether for cultural or other reasons, are prohibited by the law.

Therefore, it is against the spirit of the law to perform the following types of female circumcision or FGM:
• Remove or cut out any part of the female genital area (the law calls this “excision”)
• Stitch up the female genital area (infibulation) – excluding therapeutic reasons.
• Cut the clitoris or part of the clitoris (clitoridectomy).
• Damage the female genital area in other ways.

The point to note is that female circumcision, as an ancient ritual, has no place in a civilised society and must be abolished because of the obvious health implications.

Immediate health problems can include violent pain, repeated urinary and kidney infections, as well as problems during labour and childbirth.

In fact, the law says it is illegal to “aid, abet, counsel or procure a person to perform female circumcision or FGM on a woman, girl or female baby”; even if the female wants it to be done.

Anyone who breaks this law commits a serious offence and can be sent to prison for up to 7 years.

South Australia has an effective education program for communities which practise female circumcision. The program is also aimed at helping all education and health workers understand more about the practice so that they can provide better services to women and girls who are circumcised.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Africans Add New Sparks to Australian Life

African electrical workers from Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe are enjoying their new life in Australia, according to the Sunday Mail report.

Thanks to the emerging new sensibility in Australia’s recruitment policy.

As skilled workers, the Africans are adding new sparks to the local electricity supply industry (so to speak); helping to ameliorate the nation-wide shortage of skilled workers in Australia.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Flight

There once was a young man from Nigeria
Whose name was Gabria
He took the bull by the horn
On that fateful morn
And brought an elegy to Australia

Copyright © 2005 Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Sunday, October 09, 2005

My Brother's Keeper

The best way for the African migrants and refugees to secure a future in Australia is to create it. And, if the recent development in the educational sector is any indication, Africans are working within the school system to help young people realize their potentials.

The professional men and women in the new and emerging African communities in South Australia are volunteering their services to bridge the cultural gaps; helping the youths acquire relevant skills and listening to community concerns.

The talk in the street is that the new breed of African philanthropists is performing socially useful functions.

They are feeding the poor, educating the youths, and mentoring the new arrivals; helping the lost boys find their way in the mainstream Australian society.

In fact, the need for survival is overwhelming. And Africans are helping each other come to terms with life in the periphery of the post-industrial society.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Tales of the Refugee

There once was a young man from Somalia
Who found a refuge in Australia
And lived to tell the tale

He said “I have made my peace with time
And found a home away from home”
In the sun-burnt country
Amongst the perfumed gum trees

It’s the same site where
The honeyeaters feed
Where the spring flowers
Lose their pollen
And where Cook
And the rainbow warrior,
Met in that immortal encounter

Thus having planted his roots
In the great antipodean soil
He could now allow his eyes
To dream again

Yet Africa still beckons
Its magnetic force immense
Despite the human condition
And the lurid clouds of war
Of famine and despair

Even in the best of times
The constant longing
For Mother Africa (MA)
Captivates his young mind
And energizes the soul
As he does the daily battle
For survival

The Somali is not alone
For distance warms the heart
And feeds the imagination
Of the young and old alike
As they live out their odyssey.

Copyright © 2005 Lawrence T. Udo-Ekpo

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Bilingual School Support Officers

The emergence of African bilingual workers is reshaping the Australian education system in the 21st century; adding real value to the education and training of the new arrivals.

The Bilingual School Support Officers (BSSO) program is an initiative of South Australia’s Department of Education and Children Services. Generally though, it is administered through the English for the speakers of other languages program.

Currently, there are 21 African BSSOs from different language groups operating in South Australian schools. And the result, so far, has been absolutely impressive.

In fact, there is an overwhelming support for the program. The parents love the idea, the students adore it, and the community leaders think it is the best thing that has happened in this part of the world since the slice bread.

Nevertheless, the role of the BSSO is to work with classroom teachers in order to bridge the gap between students and the curriculum; helping the new arrivals to understand the language of instruction.

“The BSSOs also help children with academic problems”, so says Gordon Tutt, a Sudanese refugee who works as a bilingual support officer in the Adelaide metropolitan area.

“Due to cultural differences, there have been some disputes among the students themselves or with students from other ethnic groups.

“In such cases, BSSOs often work with teachers to mediate conflict using their cultural knowledge”.

The point to note, however, is that African ingenuity (or creativity) has been deliberately used in the Australian school system to facilitate learning and to generate positive educational outcomes for students of all cultures.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The African Festival of Cultures

A really funky African Festival of Cultures will be held in Sydney (Australia), 15th October 2005.

The festival is a deliberate attempt to celebrate the richness of African cultures; showcasing the African traditional music, along with the contemporary African-Australian hip-hop and R&B.

The Sydney audience will be treated to the mesmerizing rhythm of the African drumming; and lots of singing and dancing.

The highlight of the festival will be the Sudanese Goo Goo dance, and the masquerade spirit dance from the Igbo people of Nigeria. The Ethiopian chanting choir will also be on show.

Join the fun!

For more details, go to:
or call (02)9793 8324