AfREC convenes Africa Day 2019 public event on ‘Growing up African in Australia’

To celebrate Africa Day 2019, AfREC convened an interactive public panel discussion and book launch on the theme of ‘Growing up African in Australian’ at UWA on the evening of Friday 24 May.

For the event, AfREC partnered with the UWA School of Social Sciences, UWA African Students Union (ASU), Organisation of African Communities in WA (OAC) and Black Inc. Books,

Janine Freeman MLA, Member for Mirrabooka, on behalf of Hon. Peter Tinley, WA Minister for Youth, launched in WA the new book by Black Inc. entitled Growing up African in Australia, alongside co-editor Ahmed Yussuf, who travelled from Melbourne for the event as a guest of AfREC.

Ms Freeman highlighted the importance of telling stories in understanding people’s diverse experiences, as well as how books like this one are crucial in challenging stereotypes and intolerance in society. The book had earlier been launched at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne on 31 March. Copies of the book can be purchased in Perth via Boffins Books.


From the book’s cover:

‘I was born in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.’ ‘My dad was a freedom fighter, waging war for an independent state: South Sudan.’ ‘We lived in a small country town, in the deep south of Western Australia.’ ‘I never knew black people could be Muslim until I met my North African friends.’ ‘My mum and my dad courted illegally under the Apartheid regime.’ ‘My first impression of Australia was a housing commission in the north of Tasmania.’ ‘Somalis use this term, “Dhaqan Celis”. “Dhaqan” means culture and “Celis” means return.’

Learning to kick a football in a suburban schoolyard. Finding your feet as a young black dancer. Discovering your grandfather’s poetry. Meeting Nelson Mandela at your local church. Facing racism from those who should protect you. Dreading a visit to the hairdresser. House- hopping across the suburbs. Being too black. Not being black enough. Singing to find your soul, and then losing yourself again.

Welcome to African Australia.

Compiled by award-winning author Maxine Beneba Clarke, with curatorial assistance from writers Ahmed Yussuf and Magan Magan, this anthology brings together voices from the regions of Africa and the African diaspora, including the Caribbean and the Americas. Told with passion, power and poise, these are the stories of African-diaspora Australians.

Contributors include Faustina Agolley, Santilla Chingaipe, Carly Findlay, Khalid Warsame, Nyadol Nyuon, Tariro Mavondo and many, many more.


Following the launch, and remarks on the importance of Africa Day by Joe Tuazama, President of OAC, a panel moderated by AfREC Postgraduate Coordinator Muhammad Dan Suleiman shared insights and experiences on the theme and engaged in Q&A with the lively audience of around 60 people. A vote of thanks was provided by Dr Dominic Dagbanja, AfREC Community Coordinator, and refreshments and networking followed.

Panel speakers included:

AHMED YUSSUF: a writer and journalist based in Melbourne. He co-edited Growing Up African in Australia, the first non-fiction anthology of African-diaspora stories in Australia. His work has featured in Acclaim Magazine, Cordite Poetry Review, The Guardian, TRT World and Jalada Africa.

RAFEIF ISMAIL: a contributing author from WA to Growing up African in Australia. She is a refugee and third culture youth of the Sudanese diaspora. Rafeif is an emerging multilingual writer, who has won the 2017 Deborah Cass Prize for Writing, the 2018 Convocation of UWA Graduates Bryant Stokes Matilda Award for Cultural Excellence (Literature) and a finalist for the 2018 WA Youth Awards, Cultural Endeavours category. Her work has been published by Margaret River Press, Black Inc. Publishing, Fremantle Press, Mascara Literary Review, Kill Your Darlings, Meanjin, Cordite Poetry Review and Djed Press.

JOSEPHINE ZIMAMA: Youth President of the Organisation of African Communities (OAC) WA, among other voluntary commitments, and she is currently completing her Bachelor of Science (Health Promotion) at Curtin University. Josephine is passionately engaged in all forms of community work and particularly drawn to creating opportunities for and empowering young people. Josephine a co-founder of STOP the Violence Campaign launched through OAC. Currently, she is also assisting with the Let’s Make It Happen program, a school-based program that utilises the skills of young people. She is a registered speaker with the United Nations Australian Association WA branch. As a youth development officer with the City of Stirling, Josephine facilitates the integration of newly arrived migrants and refugee youth in WA.

ADENIYI ADEGBOYE: President of the UWA African Student Union, where he is studying Pathology and Economics. As UWA ASU president, Ade is also the UWA African students’ representative on the student department of the Organisation of African Communities. He strongly believes in serving and contributing to the wider community, and he has immersed himself in several initiatives with the goal of uniting the people around him to achieve a shared goal. But, perhaps, what we must all know about Ade is his advocacy for mothers, starting with his own.

TINSAE TESHOME: A 19-year-old, second-generation Australian daughter of Ethiopian immigrants. Growing up as an African girl in Australia has proven to be challenging but rewarding for Tinsae. Accordingly, she entered the Miss Africa Perth competition with a mission to rekindle her cultural identity and her passion of advocating for mental health awareness within the African community. Tinsae has successfully won the title of Miss Africa Perth 2019 and during her reign she will pursue her passion by being a Youth Ambassador.


Introductory remarks by AfREC Director, Dr David Mickler:

Welcome everybody and Happy Africa Day 2019!

It’s fantastic to welcome such a big and enthusiastic crowd to the University of Western Australia for our annual Africa Day celebration and a special welcome to all of the young people with us who identify as African-Australian.

My name is David Mickler and I am the Director of the Africa Research and Engagement Centre (AfREC) here at UWA and also an academic in the School of Social Sciences.

The University of Western Australia acknowledges that its campus is situated on Noongar land, and that Noongar people remain the spiritual and cultural custodians of their land, and continue to practise their values, languages, beliefs and knowledge.

This event tonight is a partnership between AfREC, the UWA African Students Union, our School of Social Sciences, the Organisation of African Communities in WA (OAC), and Black Inc. Books.

Over the last five years, we have developed AfREC to be a platform promoting critical engagement with issues relevant to the African continent, to African-Australian communities and to wider Australia-Africa relationships. We do this through collaborative research, teaching, student mentoring and public engagement with governments, industries and communities.

Indeed, we have partnered with OAC over the last several years to mark the annual Africa Day with a public engagement event on a relevant theme. These have included: the impacts of climate change on Africa (2015); the past and future of African unity (2016); African women and leadership (2017), and last year, Africa and sustainable development agendas (2018).

This year, we are really delighted, and excited, to discuss the important theme ‘Growing up African in Australia’, and to launch in WA the new book by Black Inc. Books of the same name. The book was launched in Melbourne in March, and we wanted to provide a platform in WA to have a similar discussion here.

We are really grateful that the book’s co-editor, Ahmed Yussuf, was able to travel across to Perth from Melbourne to join us tonight, and we also greatly appreciate Janine Freeman MLA, Member for Mirrabooka and a great friend of the WA African-Australian community, launching the book in WA here tonight on behalf of WA Minister for Youth, Hon. Peter Tinley. I also acknowledge the presence here tonight of Margaret Quirk, MLA, Member for Girrawheen, who spoke on a panel we convened with OAC in March 2018 on ‘Engaging African-Australian Youth’.

My colleague Muhammad Dan Suleiman, our AfREC Postgraduate Coordinator, will introduce our wonderful panelists and moderate the panel shortly.

After the panel, I would like to invite you to join us outside for refreshments and to purchase copies of the book if you wish. You can also join the AfREC mailing list via our website to keep up to date with our upcoming activities, including a National Diaspora Engagement Conference in Perth in partnership with OAC on 30-31 August.

I would now like to invite our partner Joe Tuazama, President of the Organisation of African Communities in WA, to say a few words about OAC as well as about the importance of Africa Day.

Thank you.

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