The Assistant Bishop of Melbourne has produced a television commercial urging people to give South Sudanese exiles a “safe start” to the school year. Within the Australian state of Victoria, there has been recent high profile political and media commentary about “gangs” of young Africans, and this has resulted in discrimination towards and fear of the community. The video says that many South Sudanese children in the state are frightened, and urges people to “give them a wave and a smile and make them feel welcome.”
Voiced by Helen Kapalos, the chairperson of the Victorian Multicultural Commission, the video says that: “Hundreds of these Australian families have survived a dreadful war and seen millions killed. But they’re just as frightened now. Why? Because some people in our community are spreading hate and fear, and it is these innocent kids who are copping it.
“Yes, some people have fallen through the police are dealing with it. But don’t hate the majority of good people because a few have strayed. That’s not the Aussie way.
“These are beautiful people. So when you see one of these kids come to school, look out for them. Give them a wave and a smile. Let’s make the start of the school year a good one, for everyone.”
The advert has been produced by Melbourne assistant bishop Philip Huggins and film-maker Richard Keddie. On the video-hosting website Vimeo, Keddie says: “Every child in Victoria should feel safe going back to school this week. For South Sudanese communities, it’s been a particularly tough time. Some people blame the majority because of the actions of a few – which is not the Aussie way.
First Day of School from Richard Keddie on Vimeo.
“Every parent wants their kid to get the best start in life, and school is where it begins. So parents, teachers, students and others - please look out for South Sudanese kids at school this week. They deserve to feel safe at school too, so give them a wave and a smile and make them feel welcome.”
In a statement issued ahead of a press launch of the video at the Citadel Hotel in Melbourne earlier today, Huggins and Keddie said: “We support the police in their efforts to bring any person, regardless of background, who has committed a crime to justice. We also acknowledge and support the efforts that the community is making to guide and engage young people to reach their potential.”
They say that recent media coverage “may have let a few shape our perceptions of a whole community” and that they want to ask “Victorians to look out for these young students and acknowledge the contribution that they are and will continue to make to our state.
“Victorians have more common sense and compassion than to punish everyone for the actions of a few. We hope to send a message of peace and goodwill to all kids, families, teachers and schools. We hope that our community will look after each other so that every kid has a great start to the school year.
“Our message is simple, but powerful and true. Going to school and having an opportunity to learn is something that every Victorian child should experience and enjoy.”