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Dr Georgia Birch, Alumni Community Service Award 2019


♪ [music] ♪ My name is Georgia Birch,
and I am the coordinator of the African Liaison Program in the Western suburbs of
Melbourne. My time at Deakin was influenced by my
supervisor, Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, in the School of Health and Social
Development. She was inspirational in cutting-edge
qualitative research. She allowed me to evolve into learning
about myself, as well as the community that I was researching. To able to find and navigate their way
through both worlds, so being African and being Australian,
is a very difficult path to be on, and it takes a lot of energy. And so those students get sick and tired
of the same things that they’re experiencing day in, day out. And I’ve felt like they needed a program
that really understood that and helped re-educate people about it. The program started in 2016 as a pilot,
and that was so successful, the education department took that on,
and it’s now distributed through 15 schools in Victoria. And I cover about eight of those schools
at the moment. As the word gets out,
more and more schools want to come on board. There is a mentor in each of those schools
that is there five days a week. They help parents, students, and teachers. And those act as an advocate for students. [inaudible] is one of our really
sort of perfect mentors, if you like, because he’s got that funkiness,
the street cred, yet he’s very mature when it comes to dealing with divisional
orders, police, parents, and teachers. So that fine balance is something that he
gets really well. So it doesn’t fit into that teacher mold,
but he’s got the cred to get at students. I’ve seen so many kids stay in school
because of those mentors. And many students have said to me, “Look,
there was a path where I could go the wrong way or the right way,
and the mentor in the school encouraged me to go the right way.
And that’s the way I went.” The summit I find every year is amazing. I’m totally inspired by the great things
that the students can do, because we hear so much negative stuff,
and just to be able to see the beautiful people that they are,
to see that shine on one of these days, and to have all those
speakers inspire them. Because it inspires me to keep
going as well. And it inspires the mentors to keep going. And we make new connections and new
partnerships with communities. And I think that’s really important. I just want people to know that
African-Australians are here to contribute, and they just do amazing
things. ♪ [music] ♪

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