Courageous Conversations about Race

Untitled-1ILC’s Multicultural Aged Care Service (ILC MACS) and Aged & Community Services WA (ACSWA) presented the Courageous Conversations about Race workshop in May.

Attended by over 35 people working in the community and aged care sector, the workshop was facilitated by Malcolm Fialho, the Senior Diversity Officer at the University of Western Australia.

The session provided an opportunity for participants to explore race from multiple perspectives and develop language and confidence to engage in complex, challenging and meaningful conversations about race.

Stereotyping and prejudice were explored through comparing personal, national and international narratives about racial identity, power and privilege and their impacts on lived experience.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data revealed that almost a quarter (24.6 per cent) of Australia’s population was born overseas and 43.1 per cent of people have at least one overseas-born parent.

ILC MACS Service Coordinator Amar Varsani said that considering the cultural diversity of Australia’s population, cultural competence is a critical attribute for staff working not only in the aged care sector, but for those working in any industry in Australia.

“Working with staff and clients from different cultures is both rewarding and challenging. To be able to better support and engage with people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds it is vital that people actively build on their self awareness to be culturally aware and competent.”

This workshop challenged people to think through the various ways race and culture impacts on their life and professional practices.

It then provided an opportunity for attendees to increase their comfort, share their experiences and build confidence to work effectively with people from culturally diverse backgrounds.

Heather WhitworthHeather Whitworth, ILC’s Grant Project Officer, was amongst the attendees at the workshop and provided the following feedback.

Why did you want to attend the workshop?

I have attended some training in this area, such as the occasional multicultural event, or information session about particular cultural groups. From the title I knew this would be a challenging workshop that would delve deeper than any other session I had been to before.

What were some of the stand out moments for you?

The entire session was very challenging and frank. There was no skirting around issues, and no question or comment was unwelcome. Participants embraced the “courageous conversations about race” theme and we all felt comfortable to speak freely.

A particular stand out for me was an activity titled “white privilege”, which asked participants to answer 20 questions with yes, no or maybe answers, and move to designated areas of the room. Questions included “if an alarm goes off mistakenly as you leave a store, are you treated politely during the discussion of the issue” or “When the media reports on people from your cultural background, can you be sure their race or colour won’t be mentioned”. This exercise highlighted the varied experiences of the group which has given me greater insight into the perspectives of others.

How will it change the way you work with people from CaLD backgrounds going forward?

What I learnt at the session is while it is important that organisations have sound policies and procedures in place, it is still up me as an individual to ensure I am inclusive and welcoming of all people. We need to reflect on our own background, prejudice and understanding of others perspectives. For everyone this is a work in progress, and there is always more to learn or experience. We were asked “to make complexity your friend” and that discomfort is ok. There is no right or wrong, and the important thing is to connect with people as individuals and share our stories.

Would you recommend this type of training for other people, and why?

Absolutely. The facilitator Malcolm Fialho from UWA was excellent in breaking down the discussion and getting participants to share their story. It was very challenging, and I must say I was pretty rattled that evening. But that was the whole point. In many ways people are scared to raise race issues for fear of being seen as racist. But by doing this we can fall into the path of seeing everyone as the same. But in all honesty we are not the same, because our experiences based on what we look like or where we are from are very different, as highlighted in the activity we did. Starting the conversation about race in a ‘safe’ place, has given me the confidence and insight into hopefully continuing the conversation in the future. This was by far the most real and useful training on multiculturalism I have been too.

Following the success of this event and the positive feedback received, ILC MACS, in partnership with ACSWA and Community West bring a two-hour special session for senior management on 4 July 2014. This will be presented by the man himself – writer and producer of Courageous Conversations about Race, Glen Singleton from the US. Click here to register for this event.

ILC MACS is an information service designed to educate, support and partner aged care providers and people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities to meet the diverse needs of older people.

Find out more about ILC MACS services here