'It is times like this that define a society': CMY CEO on St Kilda Rally

January 9, 2019

Statement from CMY CEO, Carmel Guerra

I echo the sentiments of many others, our Board, staff and volunteers at CMY when I strongly condemn the racist rally that unfolded this past Saturday at St Kilda beach.

I know from the work we do here at CMY that such fearmongering and misinformation inflicts immeasurable damage and suffering upon the African Australian community.

Some of the young people we work with tell us that there is deep-seated disengagement between them and society. Many feel they cannot go into a shop with a friend or in a group for fear of looking suspicious. 

They feel disconnected and undervalued, and struggle to find work despite being qualified. 

“The racist rallies and media reporting causes anxiety to everyone in the community – mothers, the young people,” Natalina Andrews, co-founder of the 2018 #AfricanGangs campaign on Twitter, told me yesterday.

“The general public will be looking at us and trying to figure out if they can trust us. There are heightened tensions, it builds fear.” 

“What does that do to a young person’s self-esteem? How do you think it affects their sense of belonging and their mental health?”

Research indicates that these divisive behaviours have collectively contributed to a heightened sense of exclusion, isolation and powerlessness among young South Sudanese Australians.

It is times like this that define a society. We need political leadership to condemn this harmful behaviour and Government and community leaders to step in to protect migrant groups from racist, divisive forces.

No migrant group in Australia should face this kind of behaviour. 

I applaud the efforts of those political leaders who have named the far-right groups for what they are, but also the general community in Victoria, the journalists and community organisations that have come out in full swing denouncing the hateful and divisive rhetoric. 

I would also like to commend the significant work done by Victoria Police to ensure that everyone was safe from physical harm on Saturday.

Importantly, to the many individuals coming out in support of a cohesive, safe and welcoming society for us all, we need you to continue to reach out in friendship to the Australian African community.

CMY will continue to work towards an Australia where young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds are connected, empowered and influential Australians. Please join us.

 - Carmel Guerra, CEO - Centre For Multicultural Youth 

 Volunteer with young people