AfREC Co-Convenes Ambassador Panel and ASIWA Launch Forum to Engage WA University Students with Africa

September 20, 2019

 

On 6 September 2019, AfREC hosted and co-convened a panel discussion between visiting Australian Heads of Mission based in Africa and students from the five Western Australian universities on the theme of “Engaging WA University Students with Africa”. The event, which took place during the annual national Australia Africa Week in Perth, also served as the Launch Forum for the African Students in WA (ASIWA) University Working Group, an initiative of the Organisation of African Communities in WA (OACWA) in partnership with the WA universities (UWA, Murdoch, Curtin, ECU and Notre Dame).

The speakers on the panel, themed “Australian Diplomacy in Africa: Insights from Australian Heads of Mission”, included H.E. Peter Doyle, Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union; H.E. Alison Chartres, High Commissioner to Kenya; H.E. Gita Kamath, High Commissioner to South Africa; H.E. Jenny Dee, High Commissioner to Mauritius; H.E. Andrew Barnes, High Commissioner to Ghana. Each speaker was asked to identify the most important issue currently facing them in their post in Africa as well as to reveal one interesting insight about being an Australian diplomat based in Africa. Students were then invited to engage in Q&A with the Heads of Mission.

 

Launch Forum for ASIWA University Working Group

Following the panel discussion, the African Students in Western Australia (ASIWA) University Working Group Launch Forum was held. ASIWA had earlier been inaugurated on 9 August 2019 (see below) as a new Department of OACWA. ASIWA is an initiative of OACWA in partnership with the five WA universities to identify and address challenges facing African students in WA. Providing his welcome, UWA African Students Union (ASU) President Mr Adeniyi ‘Ade’ Adegboye highlighted the importance of the ASIWA University Working Group (WG) to African students in WA.

 

Ms Sarah Kiden Simon, the Coordinator of ASIWA, outlined that the WG is tasked with: (1) investigating, identifying, reporting and providing recommendations on key issues and challenges facing African students; (2) identifying the opportunities available to enhance outcomes for African university students, and (3) exploring how universities, government departments and relevant agencies can better support African students.

 

The WG will operate, via a number of activities, for a period of 6-12 months, and is expected to present its report with recommendations to key stakeholders in mid-2020. Following the completion of its initial university-focused work, a separate ASIWA working group will then turn to focus on African students in WA secondary schools and the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.

 The 2019-2020 University WG is led by Mr Muhammad Dan Suleiman as Convenor. Muhammad has a Master’s by Research degree from Macquarie University and recently completed a PhD at UWA. Apart from her role as ASIWA Coordinator, Ms Sarah Kiden Simon who has a Master’s in Professional Communication will also serve as the WG’s Co-Convenor. ASIWA Secretary Ms Saba Tsegay Gidey, with a Master’s in Screen Studies and BA in Media and Communications from ECU, will continue as the secretary of the WG.

 

Importantly, the membership of the WG is comprised of representatives of existing African student bodies in each of the 5 WA universities—Murdoch, Curtin, ECU, UWA and Notre Dame. Three other members of the WG will be selected from the broader community.

In addition to working with African student bodies, the WG will also work closely with the relevant offices within each university—such as in the education, teaching and learning portfolios, careers centres, student services, scholarships offices, international offices, and Africa-focused research groups—to ensure clear two-way communication, consultation and input.

After the launch forum at UWA, the WG will hold four more forums, each focusing on specific themes, at the campuses of the other universities starting in October 2019.  A sixth forum will be held at UWA in mid-2020 where the WG Report will be launched.

 

For further details about the work of the WG please contact the team via: asiwa@dept.oacwa.com.au

Inauguration of the OACWA Student Department: ASIWA

 

On 9 August 2019 OACWA inaugurated its Student Department. The new Department, named African Students in WA (ASIWA) and with Ms Sarah Kiden Simon as Coordinator, aims to create a sustainable platform to address the many issues facing African students in WA. ASIWA will work as a federation which will incorporate all African student unions, associations and clubs in WA to champion their needs and provide reference to services available to advocate their interests on a range of issues.

 

The launch, which took place at the Conference Room of the Department of Local Government, Sports and Cultural Industries in Leederville WA, was under the theme “Connecting, Engaging and Empowering Future Leaders.” The Department aims to focus on issues such as immigration, counselling, law and order, employment and work rights as well as other challenges related to studying in Western institutions.

 The launch of the department was attended by several OAC executives including the President Joe Tuazama, Vice President-Administration Dr Casty Nyaga Hughes, Women’s Director Marie-Clare Evenor and Youth Director Gamboripai Josephine Zimama. Other guests present were Dr David Mickler, Director of the UWA Africa Research and Engagement Centre (AfREC) who gave the keynote address, Mr Tim Jardine, Regional Manager at Murdoch University and Mr Nicholas Tay, the Managing Director of AIMS Immigration and Relocation Specialist. AIMS, Murdoch University and UWA also sponsored the launch event.

 

In their speeches, the OAC President and Vice-President (Administration) emphasised the need to have a special students’ department dedicated to the growing number of African students in WA and the issues they face. In his keynote address, reproduced below, Dr Mickler added his voice to those of OAC executives and raised several key issues that support the need to have a network of African students in WA.

 

Ms Sarah Kiden Simon, the ASIWA Coordinator, noted that “OAC has paid specific attention to Africans living in Western Australia and we appreciate the organisation for creating a platform where students can discuss the challenges, opportunities and successes of being an African student in Western Australia. The ASIWA Committee looks to support all the African Student Unions on various levels and work together on forums where we can exchange ideas and discuss a way forward for the betterment of all African students.”

 Keynote Address by Dr David Mickler, Director, UWA Africa Research & Engagement Centre (AfREC):

 

 

Thank you and I would first like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Whadjuk Noongar people, and to pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging.

 

I would also like to pay my respects to the elders of the African communities in WA as well as to emerging African-Australian leaders, many of whom are in this very room tonight.

 

I am not and have never been an African student. But I do consider myself to be a student of Africa through my teaching, research, international collaborations with the continent and community engagement activities here in Australia. I also work very closely with a number of amazing African and African-Australian students at all levels of study through my academic roles at UWA and with AfREC. I learn a great deal from them, including from Mr Muhammad Dan Suleiman—participating here tonight—who is about to become the first African student to complete his PhD under my supervision. A well-deserved congratulations to you Muhammad!

 

Well, also A BIG CONGRATULATIONS to OAC on launching the fantastic initiative tonight—the OAC Student Department: African Students in WA (ASIWA)—and to Joe, Dr Casty, Sarah, Saba, Muhammad and all the team for your great leadership and hard work in getting us to this point, which is really just the beginning of what I expect will be an ongoing and highly beneficial new platform in OAC alongside other great OAC initiatives and departments.

 

The OAC Student Department: ASIWA is a very important and timely initiative. ASIWA will work closely with African students in WA across secondary schools, the VET sector, and the university sector, as well as with their families, communities, education institutions, government bodies and other relevant stakeholders. This community-driven, collaborative approach given ASIWA every chance of successfully making a meaningful impact.

 

The AIM of ASIWA is to provide a collective voice to African students in WA (enrolled both as international and domestic) and to serve as a platform to address common issues; identify common opportunities; provide information, advice and support where needed and where possible; play a coordinating and unifying role; and to create ongoing and self-sustaining student networks and community organisations.

 

ASIWA’s initial project, starting soon, is the ASIWA University Working Group.

 

I would like to acknowledge and thank the ASIWA University Working Group student representatives who are committing their time and energy to the Working Group over the next several months, as well as to the Working Group Coordinators.

 

Importantly, the ASIWA University Working Group is comprised of representatives of existing African student bodies in each of the 5 WA universities—UWA, Murdoch, Curtin, ECU and Notre Dame—meaning that ASIWA plays an important coordinating role between them and does not duplicate the good work they are already doing on their respective campuses. In this sense, ASIWA can unite African students in WA to amplify their voice and pursue change where needed.

 

In addition to working closely with African student bodies, the ASIWA University Working Group will also work closely with the relevant offices within each university—such as in the education, teaching and learning portfolios, careers centres, student services, scholarships offices, international offices, and Africa-focused research groups—to ensure clear two-way communication, consultation and input.

 

On top of direct consultations with student groups and other stakeholders, a series of Open Forums will be held over the next 6 months—at least one at each respective university—to identify and discuss the key issues across the student life-cycle that are most important to African students in WA.

 

From preliminary discussions with OAC and ASIWA Coordinators, these issues may include but not be limited to: Information and application processes; orientation processes; student experience on campus; counselling; study support; post-study employment and careers transition; managing responsibilities and finances; managing time; racism and discrimination; networking; ‘decolonising the curriculum’; obtaining internships and work experience; and the roles of family, community organisations and universities in best supporting students during their studies.

 

I’m happy to say that OAC successfully applied to our Community Partnership Program at UWA last month and received funding to host the first and last ASIWA University Working Group Forums at UWA.

 

The first, Launch Forum will be held on Friday 6 September 2019 as part of the annual national Africa Australia Week in Perth. It will be used to raise and identify the most important issues and themes that will structure the subsequent Forums and contribute to the final Working Group Report and its recommendations to stakeholders, which will be presented at the Final Forum in 2020.

 

The Launch Forum will feature a special panel discussion between WA university students and several Australian ambassadors currently serving in Africa, followed by a panel discussion with ASIWA representatives, and concluded with refreshments and networking. We strongly encourage all of you to participate in the various Forums and to invite other African students to do so as well.

 

Why is ASIWA so important right now? It is important for at least the following reasons:

  1. To provide a collective voice for students of African backgrounds and create a wider student community and ongoing network of future leaders that transcends university campuses;

  2. To identify common problems and challenges facing African students, and address them collectively, including structures of discrimination;

  3. To identify common opportunities to maximise the great potential for African students and help to realise these opportunities for individual, community and wider benefits to WA society;

  4. To collectively counter the return of white nationalism and supremacy and other racist ideologies that we are experiencing in society and in some cases on campuses;

  5. Because students—all students—face uncertain times and careers, including the changing nature of work (including Artificial Intelligence) and ongoing global instability. In such times of uncertainty, we need relevant education and skills, the ability to communicate effectively, and opportunities to connect in diverse ways.

 

This evening’s launch theme of “Connecting, Engaging and Empowering Future Leaders” therefore encapsulates the value and importance of ASIWA well. I would like to conclude by strongly urging you to take this opportunity to actively participate in ASIWA so that we can collective improve the WA African student experience and in doing so improve Western Australian society.

 

Thank you.

 

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