Far From Africa looks at the journey of Africans who have come to Australia but here we showcase how African Australians, and especially two proud students of African descent, are making a difference. Monica, half Australian and half Ghanian has just graduated in Political Science from the University of Melbourne and Nepoleon, a young Australian woman of Ugandan descent who is studying law at Monash University. These two ‘go-getters’ have just rolled out the foundations of the Afro-Australian Student Organisation (AASO) to ensure that “a true representation of African students is integrated into the Australian academic landscape”.
This time is different! Previously many African clubs or programs had been opened and shut down within 1 to 2 years, leaving Africans students without ongoing support. This time AASO foresees a long-term strategy that will not let any African students down and rather be inclusive as an overarching national body. Any African student wherever they study can take ownership and bring it to their own campus with the support of AASO.
The campus chapters run social activities, state chapters coordinate leadership programs and the National Board will hold a strong advocacy role for students in Australian universities and TAFE institutes.
Nepoleon and Monica aren’t looking for fame or board positions in AASO to sit back and command from their desks but to address the racial profile of Africans, the crisis identity and the lack of pan-Africanism among African born and descent youth. Through their developed social media tools, “we offer a wide range of content for every taste and keep students engaged on volunteering, work experience, networking opportunities to meet like-minded people in and outside the campus”. Wherever based in Australia, members will be able to follow AASO activities and build strong links across the nation.
More than a virtual platform, AASO is built around three pillars. Firstly, the employment pillar providing AASO members with access to mentors in areas of interest to develop skills and confidence. It comprises more support to prepare students for the professional world. Secondly, AASO offers a leadership program where prominent guest speakers and members will have the opportunity to network. First, second and third-year students will be offered access to the peer-to-peer buddy program to connect with other students. Lastly, the community pillar coordinates forums where cultural concerns or other topics are raised and reported at state and national level. Not only this, AASO will be about showcasing African students’ achievements.
Backed by African academics, the African Think Tank and other corporate groups, Monica says that “Africans aren’t valued as much and AASO provides a platform for high achieving students, meet like-minded people to gather as a general community”.
AASO’s foundations have been laid, the pillars are standing strong, only the community spirit of African students can fill it up with ambition and passion to go a long way.
Nepoleon declares, “I would be really happy for what to come out of AASO is to have a child of African descent born in Australia and many years to come, grow up with the values of Australia and feels he is valued within the Australian and global community and not to grow up, sit and hear endlessly about poverty and war from his/her continent that he or she may know nothing about but actually grow up and think ‘wow, I’m from a really good place!’ “.