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A Conversation Within the Community

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Committee members from the Ballarat African Association, Isaac Moses and Charles Nani, optimistic about the future. Photo by Debbie Kolarik.

WITH negativity surrounding some African youths in Melbourne the local Ballarat African Association (BAA) is keen to nip in the bud any dissent that may creep its way into our district.

BAA leaders say they are running a project called social cohesion with the main aim of the project to bring the Ballarat and African communities to understand cultural differences.

“We also will be running some workshops that will address some issues that are happening in our community,” BAA President Isaac Moses said.

Guest speakers and industry professionals will be integral in discussing major issues affecting the African community.

“These will be family violence, child protection, employment, youth issues, drug and alcohol issues, gambling and also the role of Victoria police within the community,” added Charles Nani.

“Even though it is an African project, we encourage members of the community, who are interested, to come in and listen because some of these issues are not only peculiar to the African community.” The workshops are four phase with the first workshop already held focusing on employment.

“This one went really well and we had some interesting information from the resource personnel,” Mr Nani said.

“The next one is happening on the 24th March, which is addressing family violence and also child protection issues. So we are getting people from the Department of Human Resources to lay down, pretty much, some of the rules that we may not be privy to.

“So this is not to say there is domestic violence in the community but it is something that we need to know and how to navigate some of these issues if they arise.” A workshop on April 21 and will focus and drug, alcohol and gambling issues.

“We are looking for resource personnel on how we candela with some of these social issues,” Mr Nani said.

The final workshop is the role of Victoria Police in the community.

“I don’t think there is cohesion between the police and the African community and some people think the police are there just to lock up the bad guys but they are actually part of the community and they do a lot for the community but when people see a uniform they think they are in trouble,” Mr Moses added.

“So we need that understanding that if people need to speak to someone they can talk to the police and ask where they can get help.” The workshops are also information sessions to show people where they can get help.

“The services are there, if you don’t know you don’t know so it’s pretty much creating awareness to the wider community, the African community in particular, the services are there to support us, not to antagonize us,” Mr Nani said.

Mr Nani added that they were still looking for professionals to be a part of the upcoming workshops.

“We are all aware of what is happening in Melbourne, we don’t want that to trickle down to a community like Ballarat, we just have to stop it before,” Mr Nani said.

“We know these issues are there but we don’t want to get to that point and you can imagine if this blows out of hand – not good – so we need that education.” Mr Moses said unemployment is a big issue and needs to be addressed.

“We have a lot of young kids, they finish school and there are no jobs, so we need jobs whether that is cleaning, McDonald’s, anything,” he said.

“And if we look at what is happening in Melbourne is because these kids are doing nothing, they get together and misbehave, so if they engage in the workforce they will be busy doing jobs.

“Ballarat doesn’t have these issues but young people are struggling a lot and we have clubs and activities, which is really good but the issue of unemployment is coming up in every conversation.” Both Mr Moses and Mr Nani say there is acceptance in Ballarat that there is diversity in the community.

“You can walk here and no one will really care who you are and that’s a positive in going forward,” they said.

Workshops are being held at BRMC 145 Victoria Street, Ballarat this Saturday beginning at 12 noon and finishing at 5pm.

Refreshments available throughout workshop.

Details Isaac 0403 684 702 or Charles 0402 493 218.