L- FRESH the LION in schools: Audio Transcript

L- FRESH:

Poetry is a great medium to use when trying to build with young people. It’s an immediately graspable format, and can be used to spark discussions on important issues. My name is L-FRESH the LION, a hip hop M.C., and as part of the Immigration Museums’ Talking Difference program, I conducted four short poetry workshops with grade 6 students at Sirius College in Broadmeadows. Each workshop ran for approximately 45 minutes. The aim of the workshop was to engage the students in a discussion on what it means to be Australian, and to ask them to write short poems of any style, that summarised their thoughts on the question. Here is what transpired:

Student 1:

I was born here I say, but my mum is Turkish. I say I am both but I don’t really mind. This land is big and filled with nature and beauty, it’s our land. We might come from all across the seas, but its multicultural country. We are lucky to have a country like this because it’s very big and young.

Student 2:

We might not be blond; we might not have Aussie parents.  We might not have the same skin colour, culture or religion. As individuals we might be Turkish, Somali, Chinese or Japanese. But together, we are Australian.  We might be a very young nation, but we are strong. We are, and always will be Australian.

L- FRESH:

I began each workshop with an introduction to spoken word poetry. As a class we watched a few videos of young poets performing some of their poetry, and then had a brief discussion about the format of spoken word poetry. I then asked the class to participate in a warm up activity, just to get their brains moving. We did an object writing exercise where student wrote very short pieces on any object they could find in the classroom. After that, we got into the nitty gritty.

I engaged the class in a discussion on racism, and what it means to be Australian. Many students spoke of their experiences with racism, and what it felt like to be discriminated against, because of their cultural background. They also noted instances of subtle racism, where they weren’t openly discriminated against, but were made to feel as though they weren’t Australian. This is despite the fact that a vast majority of the students were born in Australia. Many students also spoke of how they identified with the cultural background of their parents, and many of them didn’t initially consider themselves Australian when I asked them what an Australian looked like. Only upon further questioning did they agree that they were indeed Australian, despite not looking like what they collectively perceived as Australian. This discussion raised an interesting point about mainstream portrayals of Australian faces, and the impact of those portrayals on young Australians, whose families come from migrant backgrounds.

Student 3:

We are young but we are big. We are Australians, we all live in one country. We are multicultural; we are all different, with different colours and religion. They call us ‘wogs’, they call us ‘aussies’. We don’t care, we are both. We live together, we like each other. We don’t have any place for bullies: we are young but we are different.

Student 4:

Being Australian means having a heart full of love. You don’t need to have blond hair. It’s about where you come from, not what your body or skin colour is. It’s about being unique; no one is the same as you. Enjoy your life while your story lasts.  Don’t let someone interfere with your life by saying you are not Australian, because they can’t decide if you are, it ain’t gonna change because of someone else.

L- FRESH:

At the end of the workshop, students were asked to reflect of the concept of Australianness, and to think about it more deeply in their own time. They were informed of the Talking Difference Studio, and were asked to think of questions and responses to record into the studio.

I found these workshops quite interesting. In such as short space of time, the students engaged with the questions I asked them, and they were challenged when I flipped their responses back to them, in order to get them to think about their own identity as Australians.

Overall, it was a great experience, and I’m looking forward to the next instalment of Talking Difference workshops.

Student 5:

As people we are one, but as a country we are many. Australia is full of different cultures and that’s what makes it so special. Some of us weren’t born here, but we live here. So that’s what makes us Australian. Australia is still young and we all belong, because we are all Australian and we come from all the different lands of the world.

L- FRESH:

Yeah, well done. Thank you. Round of applause! C’mon!

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