Things we can and can’t control: Prudence Melom on tackling racism.

Things we can and can’t control: Prudence Melom on tackling racism.

Prudence Melom was only a little girl when she arrived from Chad in Toowoomba via Brisbane. Her experiences of community kindness have stuck with her throughout her upbringing. Today, she wants to continue to foster and spread that community kindness, not just in Toowoomba, but across Australia.

 

“I first arrived in Toowoomba in 2007, I came here with my family, we arrived as refugees here. When we first came it was an unknown country, we didn’t know anyone in Australia before we arrived. So from arriving at the airport in Brisbane, we had a team of people who worked for resettlement services. They were at the airport and were waiting for us with big smiles on their faces. Even in that moment, when you’ve just landed, you are welcomed with big smiles and you are just made to feel very safe and welcomed.

 

“Before coming to Toowoomba itself, I didn’t know much about the town, it was chosen for us and it was just a place that the government decided to send us to to settle. But I think the best way I can describe my relationship with Toowoomba is it is like being set up on that blind date that actually works out! It is a really good place to raise a family, it’s not as busy as bigger cities, it is a regional area but it’s not too small either, it’s like a small city on its own. There are schools, Universities, really that good community spirit, we have a lovely mayor as well. 

 

“There are just lovely people around and that’s definitely another big reason why we’ve stayed loyal to Toowoomba since then. For example, I had my ESL teacher, she was the first one to have me taste sausage rolls and vegemite, so I had my first experiences that I’ve had in this country was because of people’s random acts of kindness and generosity, just people trying to get me to experience the lifestyle here in Australia, so those were really good memories. 

 

“Even though we met a lot of great people that helped us a lot coming here, there was that number of people that were not so keen seeing our faces. You know, walking down the street and being told to go back to where you come from, where you know deep inside you don’t have anywhere else to go, no one leaves home if home is a safe place to be. So, after having my own personal experience of racism on different levels, I decided that I wanted to do something about it and I wanted to speak up. So, I decided that since there was a void of programs to educate young school kids about the arrivals of refugees and migrants, I created E-raced.  

 

“E-raced works with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds and gives them a platform to share their stories and experience. They can use their own personal stories to educate, to empower, to create mutual understanding and respect and start to combat racism. We can try to hide away from the fact that there is racism in Australia but I don’t know how long we are going to keep hiding away from it because people are experiencing it on a daily basis, so we just use our platform and our voices to speak up and to stand against it as a team 

 

“COVID-19 was just a disaster, because in the beginning of the year we had a lot of plans, a lot of events to attend to, a lot of schools to visit and we were really looking forward to what the year had to offer, but when COVID-19 hit it brought up a lot of cancellations. But we had a moment where we told ourselves that if we can’t have those face to face interactions because of COVID, maybe we can try using our online platform to still keep the message going, keep the stories out there and using our stories to bring people together during this hard time

 

“So we created e-raced live which is on every Sunday from 6pm on our e-raced page, we bring in a guest from a refugee or migrant background, we interview them and we ask them to share their stories with us to talk about their experiences of racism and they just have a page to use their stories to motivate other people around Australia and encourage them to keep going. Initially e-raced live was for us to keep it going until the end of COVID-19 and restrictions were eased but we had people messaging us, saying don’t stop it, keep it going. So I think people are learning and are taking positive messages from it especially in this time now, where there is such a big conversation on racism. People are realising that because it is happening in America it doesn’t mean it is impossible that it can also happen in Australia, so it’s raising a lot of conversations as well, it’s getting a lot of attention for our work. 

 

“We’ve also started working together with SportsGirl. It was with gladness that we decided to work together with SportsGirl to use their big platform to spread the message on racism. We use that platform to speak up about racism in Australia, how it is affecting the Indigenous community, we talk about institutional racism, we just talk about, we really tackle that conversation and bring that conversation about racism to light. It’s such an important conversation that we might not have been able to deliver at a fast pace for ourselves but having them behind us and encouraging and pushing us and giving us that platform to do so. The work with SportsGirl is getting a lot of attention for our work and so we’ve been very busy and sometimes I feel frustrated and overwhelmed,

 

“But the reason why even when I’m frustrated and tired I keep coming back to the work that I’m doing is that I’m so passionate about it and I want to live in world where the next generation will not feel the need to always, explain themselves and justify their reasons why their skin is black or why they are who they are. Things that we can’t control. I feel that we have the opportunity and the platform to speak on it so that it will not be a continuous issue for my kids in the future, I want them to live in a world where its a bit safer for them, that’s definitely what empowers me to keep going and to keep pushing”