SCHOOLS | St Mark’s Coptic kids’ ideas for diversity and inclusion

YOUTH FORUM | Students of St Mark's Coptic Orthodox College present their strategies to increase Indian and Egyptian refugees' school participation in a meaningful way.
YOUTH FORUM | Students of St Mark's Coptic Orthodox College present their strategies to increase Indian and Egyptian refugees' school participation in a meaningful way.

Students from St Mark's Coptic Orthodox College, of Wattle Grove, along with 10 other Sydney schools, were selected to present their gameplans to the Inclusive Communities Youth Summit for promoting diversity and inclusion at Parliament House last Tuesday.

The youth forum, Apart and A Part, was aimed at involving all levels of government in ideas to better include all our diverse, rich cultures.

The 100 students from 11 schools across Sydney and beyond came together to present their ideas to government and community leaders about how we can create a stronger sense of belonging and connectedness for all groups in society. 

Students have been working on their ideas in the weeks leading up to the summit and the top four proposals, as voted by the combined group, were presented to a panel of NSW Parliamentarians, including Education ministers and opposition spokespeople, community leaders and their peers.

YOUTH FORUM | In action last Tuesday, at Parliament House. The theme was "Apart and A Part", encouraging students to explore how to create a sense of belonging and connectedness for all groups in society.

YOUTH FORUM | In action last Tuesday, at Parliament House. The theme was "Apart and A Part", encouraging students to explore how to create a sense of belonging and connectedness for all groups in society.

The proposals focused on a broad range of diversity concerns faced in NSW schools, including students on the autism spectrum, broadening school-uniform policies to include items required by students’ faiths, greater acceptance of students from gay, lesbian and transgender backgrounds and ways of strengthening reconciliation among indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. 

St Mark's Coptic Orthodox College students presented on Indian and Egyptian refugee children with strategies to increase their participation at school in a meaningful way.

This is the second youth summit organised by Together for Humanity, a multi-faith, non-profit organisation helping schools develop their students’ intercultural understanding.

The maturity and wisdom of the students’ proposals demonstrated that in spite of the range of backgrounds represented at the youth summit we all have more in common than should divide us.

Rabbi Zalman Kastel, national director, Together for Humanity

Since 2006, the foundation has run intercultural programs nationally to respond positively to difference and to dispel negative stereotypes.

The event is supported by the Department of Social Securities, the NSW Ecumenical Council and the Muslim Women’s Association.

“The maturity and wisdom of the students’ proposals demonstrated that in spite of the range of backgrounds represented at the Youth Summit, we all have more in common than should divide us,”  said Rabbi Zalman Kastel, national director of Together for Humanity.

PROPOSALS PRESENTED AT PARLIAMENT HOUSE

ARKANA COLLEGE: Advocating for women who choose to wear a niqab to be able to choose what they want to wear without fear of prejudice, discrimination and islamophobia. They propose national school religious days; media to portray a more balanced and knowledgeable view of women in niqab. Communities setting up Speed Salam, meet’n’greet sessions and Wear a Niqab for a Day programs, to break down preconceived notions and assumptions.  

GILROY COLLEGE: Advocating for increased support services (ASPECT unit) for students with autism so they can be a part of the broader school community with the help of a teacher aide. They propose a Walk for Autism, gradual introduction of a buddy system, Life Skills in Stage 6, post-school work-experience options; establish more schools with ASPECT units. 

MUDGEE HIGH SCHOOL: Advocating for greater recognition and acceptance of gay, lesbian and transgender groups in school, rural and broader social contexts. Also advocating for offering greater recognition and acceptance of groups largely invisible in rural contexts, groups such as mental health, aged and ethnic groups.

REVESBY PUBLIC SCHOOL: Advocating for further understanding of specific differences and needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, Muslim students, Sikh students and students with a disability by teaching mainstream student leaders to use visual communication aids to communicate and better include students with disability in social situations and playground games. Also changes need to be made to the school uniform to be more inclusive of religious clothing (eg, turban and hijab with school logo).

SCHOOLS INVOLVED

  • Arkana College
  • Australian International Academy Kellyville
  • Bass High School
  • Chester Hill IEC (Intensive English Centre)
  • Christian Brothers Lewisham
  • Gilroy Catholic College
  • Lewisham Public School
  • Masada College
  • Mudgee High School
  • St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox College, Wattle Grove
  • Revesby Public School

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