Tag Archives: Anna Carrig

19. Stephanie Livingstone

5 Mar

Stephanie Livingstone has an interesting theory. She considers education to be currency. It flows naturally that her investment into bettering the lives of individuals in the developing would be through teaching. At the age of 20 and with no formal training Steph realized that a love of teaching as a skillset could be more valuable than a merely financial contribution to combatting some of the challenges faced by the small Indonesian community of Sembalun on the small island of Lombok.

Steph’s induction into helping others came into its own in her local community. Volunteering in the St Vincent De Paul Society and serving as the Diamond Valley division’s Vice President set her apart from many people her age – volunteering in a soup van for the homeless as well as helping out at holiday programs and kids days. It was through this experience that Steph first learnt about UN Youth. UN Youth had at its core an educational purpose, and anyone that watched Steph in action will agree that she truly did justice to UN Youth’s tagline to “open young eyes to the world”.

Graduating quite quickly from facilitating workshops in classrooms to organising them Steph was delivered a significant challenge.  Reflecting on her experiences she describes the process as an opportunity to learn about teamwork, leadership and to channel her passions into real outcomes. Her passion for the plight of Asylum Seekers and Refugees influenced her choice of theme for two day long events for Year 9 students, attracting over 400 attendees. Steph remembers standing nervously in front of “a stadium of young faces” trying to start up a conversation which is often sensationalized by politicians and figures in the media. Regardless, Steph relished the challenge and has soared to great heights utilising the skills she has developed along the way.

Steph’s most recent and exciting project has developed since returning from a month long visit to Sembalun, Lombok in 2010. The village is located precariously at the base of a Volcano and has been the catalyst for a major realignment of her world view. Steph says that her “whole perspective on life was turned on its head”, returning she harboured “a resentment of Western Culture, stayed away from shopping and was unable to take part in consumer culture after watching friends of mine living on less than $4 a day in Lombok”. Personal friendships formed and a feeling of welcome have aided Steph’s ability to build her project in Sembalun. At home in Australia Steph continues to teach English classes by Skype with a classroom sitting around a mobile phone on loudspeaker.

Steph radiates positivity and enthusiasm. What’s the secret? “Focus on something that resonates with you, take opportunities to take that spark or frustration and do something about it” oh and another thing “you can never dream too large, get a team together and strive for ten times what you think is possible”.

Steph’s big dream for the future of the Skype program is for it to go National and has already begun building capacity here in Banyule conducting a pilot program at St Martins of Tours Primary School in Rosanna. This component will have primary schoolers taking part in letter-writing and creating storybooks that can be used by Steph as a teaching tool and foster a greater understanding of the lives of kids in Indonesia.

Steph and the Skype program are taking off but not without the support of her community. So far the program has had a positive reception in schools as teachers and students recognize the real opportunity to experience cultural exchange. Individuals are encouraged to contact Steph to register their interest in supporting the program, “Support comes in many forms but really it’s what people are capable of it could be money, or donation of resources but the more important thing is education and awareness”. Listening to her speak I am endeared to her cause, her moral obligation to enhance kids access to universal and basic education. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And we’re all hoping that simplicity spells her success.

Steph can be contacted at Stephanie_livo@hotmail.com

Words By:Anna Carrig


Photo by: Sean Porter


© Sean Porter 2011


15. Ming Kang Chen

21 Dec

Ming Kang Chen was once a Mayor of Banyule. ‘But he’s so young’ I hear you saying to yourself, and I guess in response I should start by explaining where his journey began.

Ming Kang’s mum stumbled across an advertisement in the Banyule Banner looking for a young person living in Banyule to put themselves forward as a Young Mayor for the 2009 Banyule Youth Express, a Youth Summit otherwise known as the BYE. The role of the Mayor as Ming Kang explains is to help organise the event and assist with the running of the day, a sort of Master of Ceremonies. 2009 was actually the first BYE event, focused on the theme ‘Mental Health and Relationships’. The BYE is designed to bring young people with broad ranging views and experiences together to have input into the council’s decision making. A perk of the job for Ming Kang on taking it up was the opportunity to present the findings to Councillors and the Mayors at a Council meeting. Probed on whether he has ambitions to be mayor Ming Kang smirks, “It’s not on my short to long term outlook, but you never say never right?”.

What are his plans then? Ming Kang’s not absolutely sure himself, the future holds many opportunities as he muses that “I could be overseas, I could be here, I could be starting my own business”, the world is definitely his oyster. In the meantime Ming Kang is contently studying Marketing at theUniversityofMelbourneand he’s keen to try to put his skills to good use. Ming Kang would like to apply his skill set to good instead of simply “driving consumption”.

Beyond the requirements of University Ming Kang still stays involved with Council as a member of the Banyule Youth Participation Network (BYPN) and is involved with MUDS- the Melbourne Uni Debating Society. In his capacity at BYPN Ming Kang has supported the Banyule 100 project. Banyule100 has helped open his eyes to the variety of things that young people are doing in his community “I had no idea that there was a young person in Banyule composing operas… it really highlights the diversity that exists amongst young people”.

Ming Kang’s involvement with debating had opened his eyes in a different way and taken him from local competitions inCarltonand Clayton to international championships inKorea.  Just a short while ago Ming Kang travelled toKoreato the Australian debating Championship, commonly known as ‘Australs’. Ming Kang says that the thing that is most valuable about young people getting involved in debating is the ability that it fosters for people to better understand the world, to “understand why things are, or aren’t, the way they are”. Other skills you develop along the way aid confidence and prepare you to think on the spot- a skill that is put to use during our interview.

Ming  Kang’s funniest debating memory takes him back to an afternoon in high school when his teammate started a debate on conscription asking “Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he chose to”. Needless to say they didn’t win the debate, but the fun of it is what keeps him going back.

One thing that I greatly respect about Ming Kang is that he harbors a strong set of values which comes across in his humble, warm and unassuming manner. Somewhat boldly I enquire what it is that drives Ming Kang. After some confusion he consolidates this to a simple philosophy as he tries to “focus on what I feel is right”, particularly the focus on “finding the good in people”.

Ming Kang isn’t your typical young leader. Not particularly outspoken, his care for global issues is none-the-less there, a “quiet campaigner in my own head”. The example that Ming Kang sets is one of the variety of things that young people in Banyule are involved with and their capacity to break the prejudices that many adults hold toward their younger counterparts. As he says, “we’re not just complainers or radical or naïve”. A hope that Ming Kang and Sean Porter, the mind behind Banyule100, hope that projects like this will do is highlight the depth and breadth of young people’s experience and contribution. It’s young people like Ming Kang that help us to escape the overly simplified stereotypes. And on a side note- I think Ming Kang would make a really great Mayor one day.

Words By:Anna Carrig

Photo by: Sean Porter

© Sean Porter 2011


12. Ahmed Tohow

27 Oct

Ahmed Tohow has the extraordinary ability to bridge the chasm between two cultures encouraging understanding and mutual respect.  Having come to Australia ten years ago as a Somali refugee Ahmed has a spectrum of experience to draw upon.  He recounts his own childhood and the freedom with which he moved from place to place.  To a degree he despairs at the difficulty of raising his own children inMelbourne’s suburbs. Like many parents Ahmed is forced to recognise that his children are growing up in a vastly different world to that which he did.  Working to build an integrated community Ahmed is affecting change from within.

This journalist will happily admit to having a bit of a chuckle listening back to our interview and hearing Ahmed’s offhand comment that parents in Somalia had far less to worry about- “only wild animals” different to Australia where “you have to have a parent or guardian with your children at all times”.  For Ahmed and his wife, this new world presented challenges at first as the rest of his family remained overseas.

To the credit of Ahmed’s own upbringing his mother’s encouragement to give and to help has stirred in him a spirit of volunteerism.  The establishment of Dugsi is just one demonstration of his work to build a stronger community.  Dugsi is the product of lengthy observation of the challenges that were facing Somali youth attending Olympic Village Primary School. Dugsi is the Somali language word for school and is a volunteer run homework club for kids in the area.  Without the immense support of Olympic Village Primary School these programs would not likely operate and it is crucial that their contribution be acknowledged.

Language barriers and lacking confidence were two difficulties that Ahmed noticed were impeding his own son and some of the other children from participating at school.  Alongside studying Ahmed chose to spend time at the school helping out. Ahmed was then invited to step up to the role of Multicultural Liason Officer- working to bridge the gap between teachers and the parental community.

The origins of Dugsi brings to mind that old saying that ‘from little things big things grow’. Humble beginnings have since grown to attract up to150 students from prep to year 12.  Initially 2-3 volunteers ran Iqra ,a Saturday class to encourage reading and help Somali students to learn and practice Arabic.

The greatest breakthrough for the program has been the fostering of trust in the parent community. As Ahmed puts it much cultural misunderstanding between the school and parents can be broken down if the “hearts and minds” of the Somali community are won.  This must be done, he suggests, through fostering “trust and respect”.

Trust is one of the core elements of any community and a tool for bridging the gap between the Somali community- that Ahmed calls an “invisible community”- and the greater Banyule community.  The issues at hand are complex. Resettlement and the negotiation of two very different cultures present great challenges for migrant groups of East Africa.

Problems at home are not far from Ahmed’s thoughts either- provoked by an SBS news report the night prior to our interview he speaks of how “disheartening” it is to hear of the ravages of drought and famine over East Africa. He speaks too of his efforts to rally interest from local media to fundraise for this cause.

Ask Ahmed about the future of the young people that come through Dugsi and Iqra and you will be met with a mixed response. On the one hand he has high hopes for young Somalis, “a lot of the young women” he says “are educated and doing really well”. On the other hand Ahmed is pragmatic and speaks of the mentoring support that is needed to raise the potential of the young men and women to take full advantage of educational opportunities. 

In Ahmed’s exceptional hands a simple idea has grown to be a model for success.  Dugsi has succeeded in engaging and empowering not just young Somalis but also parents and community leaders.  Similarly, Ahmed’s message is a simple one.  If we can collectively take steps to uncover the hidden groups in our community and extend a welcoming hand then positive partnerships will form.  If Council and Banyule residents- young and old- work collaboratively then ultimately the future looks bright.

Words By: Anna Carrig

Photos by: Sean Porter

© Sean Porter 2011


2. Anna Carrig

7 May

From what I remember, Anna Carrig was wearing a telescope the first time I met her. This is the part where I might put in something about how I’d equate this to her wide-eyed enthusiasm, her incredible vision, or maybe even how it simply matched her golden hair, which had been flailing into my face as I conducted a portion of this interview with her on an amusement ride at the Banyule Youth Fest. She doesn’t need that to describe her though, she’s probably heard it all before.

Anna works with UNYA Victoria, the United Nations Youth Association of Victoria, a branch of the national organisation affiliated with the United Nations itself. Her role in UNYA is as schools convener, put plainly, “I organise the education program.”

Less plainly put is how she describes what she found when she was first involved with the very same education programs that she now organises. “It was really refreshing to be meeting people that were very interesting, passionate, inspiring, and inspired. So it meant that to pursue meeting those kinds of people, I was going back over and over again.” Moreover, the idea that she could meet these people “alongside learning about international issues and the UN [was] really quite eye-opening.” Continue reading