“Ramadan 2018 Mubarak to everyone”
On Thursday, 10th May 2018, AAMEYS participated in an inaugural African Cultural Day celebration at Ravenhall Correctional Centre. The aim of African Cultural Day event was to share African culture and identity within the centre and create harmony and social cohesion among inmates. Having cohesive and harmonious environment is believed to have significant impact in the rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates. The event was well received by all participants, which included inmates, correctional staff, centre management and community members. AAMEYS played a significant role in the planning and implementation of this successful event.
Dr Behan Ahmed, CEO of AAMEYS, addressed the audience. In his speech, Dr Ahmed, stated Africa Day is celebrated globally and in Australia, in recognition to the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Dr Ahmed, highlighted the role of African communities in the rehabilitation and reintegration of African background prisoners. Reflecting on resilience and bravery, Dr Ahmed stated, ‘bravery is no longer fighting like lions, as perceived during the 20th century, but rather admitting when you are wrong, have made a mistake or need help’.
Recidivism is high among young African Australians, who lack ongoing support and acceptance, which is a concern for the broader community and AAMEYS in particular, which deals with young people and their families who are marginalised on daily basis.
By visiting Ravenhall Correctional Centre, AAMEYS showed its commitment in supporting African young people who are in prison. This project created network and opportunity for AAMEYS to work both at pre-and post-release of prisoners. The young people who visited the centre as a soccer team have better understanding of the prison environment.
At the same time, we know that when young African Australians are released from detention, there is a high possibility of not being accepted back into society due to grounded judgements and other forms of prejudice. During their period in prison many young people lose their relationship with their family members, become disconnected from social and cultural networks and more often to distance themselves from school and employment. These factors contribute to reoffending and further isolate disadvantaged young people. In his speech to participants, Dr Ahmed highlighted the need for partnerships among various stakeholders including prisons, Service providers, families and community organisations. Through partnership, service gaps can be bridged, said Dr Ahmed.
Involvement of AAMEYS confirms the commitment of Ravenhall Correctional Centre to the rehabilitation and reintegration of African background prisoners. The event also shows commitment and role of AAMEYS in supporting African background prisoners in their rehabilitation and reintegration journey. Dr Ahmed highlighted the common goals between Ravenhall Correctional Centre and AAMEYS, which was to support young people who came in contact with the law. Participating in this inaugural African Day event, is the beginning of ongoing partnerships between RCC and community organisations such as AAMEYS.
AAMEYS was approached to participate and contribute to the development of African cultural Day event, by Ravenhall Correction Centre, through its Cultural Advisor, Mr Godefa G’her. Through ongoing consultation, AAMEYS committed to organise a soccer team comprising of young African background men and AFL jumpers used during the soccer match between inmates and visiting African soccer team. In doing this, all correct processes and procedures were followed per prison visit requirement.
There was a lot of excitement during the celebration among participant, particularly prisoners. They were able to engage in music and dance performed by Super Mande Percussion. Prisoners felt connected with their culture through music and dance.
A moving and powerful speech by Dr. Ahmed ignited self-awareness and restored faith to inmates, with each person taking away 2 vivid unforgettable lessons from the short speech, the first was “the hunters concept of what a hero is (to kill and to destroy)” and second a “Chinese idiom of being given one key at birth which opens both the gate of hell and haven”, conveying listeners to disregard being a hero the 20th century portraits as a lion to kill and destroy but as 21st century hero which is someone that admits to wrong doing, lying, or asking forgiveness for the wrong doing, by saying “sorry I made a mistake or sorry I lied”, while the Chinese idiom is choosing to use the given key to open the good side of the world and taken advantage of all that it brings, which is a road map to peace and harmony.
It is evident that organising an event within the prison system is not without its challenges. However, the day was memorable, and was enjoyed by all participants. The prisoners feedback was for more of such event to connect to their roots and identity.
We thank the Ravenhall Correction Centre’s leadership, and staff for their continuous commitment of helping African background prisoners. This event also paves the way for future partnership between Ravenhall Correctional Centre and AAMEYS.
AAMEYS hopes it can a pilot project that can be developed further, to help young African Australians in trouble with the law to keep their identity and, at the same time, know that there is support for them after their prison time.
The visit was also to build better relations between prison staff and prisoners. The prisoners were a mix of identity at the celebration including middle Eastern, Vietnamese, Islanders, etc.
In addition the visit also provided valuable experience for African young people who visited RCC. Other experiences also included the realisation of the misconception of jail, as visitors were fully welcomed and respected by inmates, encouraging a relationship built between inmates and visitors. Resulting in a two-way learning experience. Particularly, it is important for those in detention to be aware that there is a helpful network for them to join when they leave prison. An example of this is the identity card developed by AAMEYS for those without identity card after release from prison, such as passports, driving licences or other types of official identification to help them get on with their lives and find employment. AAMEYS card has been developed with the input of different organisations including Victoria Police. AAMEYS ID card is a start for the new journey to recoup the other official ID cards.
These young people need to know that there is family and community support for them once they are out of detention, and that recidivism can be defeated when guided, helping the individual to lead productive lives and have pride in their identity.
Through its ongoing partnerships with RCC, AFL, AAMEYS will continue to support African background prisoners in their journey of rehabilitation and reintegration. AAMEYS strongly believes other prisons in Victoria follow suit in promoting African culture and identity with respective prisoners.
African drummers at the Ravenhall correction Centre.
Acknowledgement: Especial thanks goes to Godefa G’her, Ravenhall correction Centre management and staff, AAMEYS staff and Volunteers, young Africans participated, AFL for jumpers, last but not list the multicultural prisoners who welcome and beat us soccer game twice