Which spaces can we begin influencing? Which spaces are we welcome in the first place?
Well, transforming the spaces you have to be in for 200 days a year is a good place to start.
If you are reading this, chances are you are a leader within your school community - be it a prefect, a student representative council member, school captain, or a member of a social justice committee.
First of all - congratulations!
You have an exciting year ahead of you.
Second of all - never underestimate how much of an impact you can have.
Within a student leadership body, it’s very easy to lose steam or craft plans that don’t meaningfully impact the school community as much as they could.
Don’t be afraid to dream big, and take this opportunity to truly make a mark on your school community. As a young person, you certainly have the power to influence other youth and change the conversation surrounding race. This section of the Anti-Racism Kit aims to help you achieve that.
Here’s how to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-racism strategies, which can generally inform how you can foster anti-racism within your school community.
Effective anti-racism strategies:
Seek to eliminate false beliefs by providing accurate information.
Avoid ‘one-way’ communication: giving people the opportunity to contribute their views makes them more likely to engage with the topic.
Provide the practical skills to empower people to speak out against racism, and set a ‘new normal’ where racism is not tolerated.
Invoke empathy for others.
Incorporate long-term strategies: This means initially emphasising similarities between different groups, and then emphasising diversity and plurality.
Focus on changing racist behaviours than attitudes - the former is more achievable, and can lead to changes in attitude
Develop long-term plans rather than one-shot interventions. Change takes time.
However, the best possible strategy for combating racism is multi-faceted, and tailored to the specific community it targets. A ‘one-size fits all’ program doesn’t generate as much success.
We offer several starting points and templates you can mold to your own community’s characteristics and needs.
In 2018, a study put together by the Australian Human Rights Commission found that 97% of CEOs and Executives within Australia were European or Anglo-Celtic. This itself shows that we have a huge problem regarding diverse leadership, as a country. So how do we stop these attitudes right from school?
Firstly, if you are in a leadership position in your school, know that this portfolio is your own to build. It is important to note that leadership does not involve being someone you are not.
Do not try to change yourself to fit a stereotype of who a “good leader” is, and don’t suppress yourself from talking about issues you are passionate about because it may not be palatable. Don’t compromise your own values.
As writer Reni Eddo Lodge points out in her book, “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race”, the trope of the “angry Black girl” is one which many perceive women of colour in leadership positions to be, and tropes like these wrongfully hinder people of colour from exploring sensitive issues which are perceived as “taboo”.
Never change yourself, rather change the system.
If you feel that you have been wronged by your school by not being selected for a position, or prevented from leading a project despite being qualified, it is ok to point this out.
Most schools are unaware of their prejudice, and would gladly listen to what you have to say.
These institutions often want to better themselves, so pointing out when something is inherently unfair helps them rethink their beliefs, ways of doing things, and image.
Don’t underestimate the power you have when it comes to calling out structural discrimination in leadership.
If you know someone who was wronged by your school and was not given a position they should have due to issues such as race, build the confidence to stand up for them.
Whether this means talking to your friend and assuring them of your support or making an appointment to speak to a teacher to explain your thoughts, feel free to take action!
Show that person that you care about them by voicing your own thoughts. Many victims of structural discrimination will feel more empowered if they know there are also others standing with and supporting them.
Discussions are a simple, powerful way to challenge people’s biases and change their outlook on racism and discrimination. It creates a space where people can openly share their perspectives and experiences.
Important things to be aware of when running discussions:
The Goals of the Discussion:
As a facillitator:
Encourage participation and allow open and honest discussion about personal experiences and anti-racism strategies. Here are some additional tips:
Be comfortable with being uncomfortable:
The Goals of the Discussion:
To discuss issues surrounding racism, we need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. This involves dealing with our own fears and working through our beliefs carefully. As a facilitator, it can be especially nerve-wracking to speak up. However, your opinion matters. You play an important part in creating a secure environment where everyone feels comfortable to share their story.
Consider the following statements and select the one that best describes how you feel when it comes to talking about racism...
Then finishing the following two sentences:
After this reflection, do the following to remove some of the discomfort:
For more detail on becoming more comfortable in talking about racism, read this link.
Now that we’ve welcomed everyone and established the ground rules, we can begin the formal conversation! This conversation is important firstly as an opportunity to understand racism and secondly to fight racism. It can be ambitious to do both, so you can just choose one as well.
You’ve chosen to do a speech - awesome! Public speaking’s something a lot of people tend to avoid, and understandably so - it puts you in a position where you can be very open and vulnerable, but it’s for that reason that people really connect with what you say. A great speech has the potential to trigger reflection and action.
How do you begin?
This is a concern that a lot of people understandably have. Racism is multifaceted, and a sensitive topic for many; people don't want to sound preachy, but they also want to address the weight of the issue. Because of that, it can be hard to figure out the message we want to deliver, and how we can best convey it.
To narrow things down, you can start by examining your audience: your school community. By taking a closer look, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to realise the message your community needs to hear and what you’re really trying to achieve.
Ask yourself these questions:
What issues are they facing at the moment?
What are the things they are already familiar with? Can you enrich their understanding even further?
What do they not know about but should?
Which issues does your community often talk about, and which issues do they avoid?
These are a worthwhile option for discussion. Events such as:
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 Mar), NAIDOC Week (first week of July), World Refugee Day (20 Aug).
Also relevant are rising trends in society (e.g. Islamophobia after terrorist attacks, Covid-19 and Asian discrimination).
Above all, have authenticity. Think back to the times you’ve been part of an audience for a great speech. Chances are the most memorable speeches were the ones that felt real. They were the ones about things they’re genuinely passionate about, or about lived experiences that you might have not considered before.
You can view your assembly speech as an opportunity for storytelling. You know your experiences better than anyone. If you feel safe and comfortable with sharing your past experiences, then incorporating that within your speech can really help you connect with your audience.
However, there’s no rule that says you can’t speak about things you haven’t personally experienced! It’s like saying able-bodied people can’t talk about disability rights, or men can’t talk about issues faced by women or nonbinary people. In fact, it can be great to use your privilege to discuss topics that may not easily reach the platforms you can access. Just keep in mind that: You should put more care into researching those issues and how to appropriately communicate them.
In the end, there are some stories that just aren’t for us to tell, even if we care about them very much. It’s important to be empathetic, as there may be experiences and stories that may be deeply personal to the people we want to support, and they may not want them to be retold. In fact, you can offer your platform to the voices of others by perhaps playing a video or reading a portion of their article.
Avoid writing from a deficit model for marginalised groups. For example, do not claim that “Black people can’t get jobs”, instead explain that employers exclude and discount great Black applicants. Do not act as the “White saviour” while doing so either.
That’s right. For a lot of people, the pressure of finishing something great can inhibit them. It can stop them from exploring other avenues because they might feel unconventional or risky. Give yourself permission to write rubbish. Jot down all the ideas, lines and material you can think of.
Your main goal is to give yourself everything you could potentially work with. Doesn’t matter if it seems all over the place at the end - it’s always easier to edit something than nothing.
Opening: Engage with your audience, and introduce the main message you’ll be talking about here! There’s no right way to open a speech. Some people opt for a little-known fact while others could share a personal experience or analogy. Go with whatever you’re comfortable with.
Body: Expand on the points you want to discuss, which will flesh out into your main message.
Conclusion: Summarise your points, making sure to emphasise your main message here. Even better, give a call to action! If you plan to start off with an analogy or an anecdote, you can also call back to your opening to add cohesion.
It’s better to write something short and sweet; the longer the speech is, the harder it’ll be to maintain people’s attention.
Write for the spoken word, not the written word. The way we speak is completely different to the way we’re encouraged to write in the classroom. Save the big words and flowery language for HSC English – they’ll be more useful there than they will be here. Write naturally, and as simply as possible. If it doesn’t sound like something you would actually say, rewrite it. Don’t forget to write at an appropriate level of formality. You likely have a wide age range to cater for, with students as young as 11 to the adult staff members supervising the assembly.
A common misconception is that humour is necessary for a good speech. It really isn’t. Humour usually works because the speaker’s comfortable and at ease with where they are and what they’re going to say. That’s why it’s important to ultimately aim for authenticity, since that’s what actually draws the audience’s attention. You speak best when you know what you’re talking about.
Awesome - first draft down! When you start the editing phase, it’s crucial to read your speech out loud. After all, your audience will be hearing the speech, not reading it. It also helps you detect the errors you can easily miss when you skim through it, and gets you thinking about the delivery of your speech. Grab a friend, if you like - a second opinion can be insightful.
Go through the same principles in the previous step when you’re editing, and rework the weaker sections. Rinse and repeat until you’re happy with what you have.
Before you start writing, you should get a slot at an assembly through your Prefects, Student Representative Council, Prefect Coordinator, or whoever organises assemblies at your school. Remember to ask about logistics - time limit, any technical requirements such as how to switch slides, or speech requirements (e.g. content that could be deemed too triggering).
Would you like to share your speech to inspire others like you? Let us know here!
Practice Makes Permanent - it doesn’t necessarily make perfect. Practice makes us better at what we’ve been practicing, so it’s important to do things right from the get-go.
Asides from practicing it by yourself in order to fine-tune your pacing, tone, and delivery, consider practicing with other people. This is worth trying, especially if you’re not that good with crowds - yet! It’s a great opportunity to get feedback and take care of the things that you might not notice when you’re practicing alone such as projection, enunciation and eye contact.
Many people often have something to aid them like palm cards or a printed copy of their speech on sheets of paper. If that’s the case for you, try and become less reliant on them as you practice. You don’t necessarily have to memorise it, but being less reliant on any assistive material can help you focus more on connecting and engaging with your audience.
That’s it. You’re done.
You’ve successfully written a speech and practised it effectively. Go out there and share your story, challenge people’s biases, spark change and action!
Would you like to share your speech to inspire others like you? Let us know here!
Having an Anti-Discrimination Statement is a way for your school to officially take a stand against racism, and commit to creating a safe, welcoming environment for students of all cultural backgrounds. This will clearly outline what the school community strives to become while stating what is not tolerated as behaviour or speech.
Importantly, this Anti-Discrimination Statement should not be something that is tokenistic. The more frequently it is referenced, discussed or applied, the more useful this statement will become. It's important to integrate this statement within your school culture, so anyone at any time can use it to help themselves or bring attention to an important issue.
When drafting a meaningful Anti-Discrimination Statement ask yourself these questions:
Asking these sorts of open-ended questions will enable you to prioritise and structure your Anti-Discrimination Statement around the wants and needs of your students.
Remember this statement is first and foremost for you and your peers, so draft it for your collective concerns and goals. Ensure you seek input from a diverse group of members from the school community so you can best capture these.
Finally, when drafting this statement, remember that it doesn’t have to be ‘boring’! Since it will be a helpful resource for your school community, write it with their needs and concerns in mind.
Now to pitch the statement. As a student leader, you may realise that coming up with new initiatives will not necessarily be the hardest part of your role. More often than not, getting them approved can be more difficult.
On top of that, there’s the power imbalance thanks to their age and status as adult teachers.
For students who are people of colour, this imbalance could feel greater as the situation may make it difficult for them to claim a ‘seat at the table’ and influence decisions, and they may be held to a different standard to White students.
To overcome these challenges, it helps to develop a solid pitch before you talk to your school’s executive team. You need to outline what the Statement will involve, as well as address any concerns you think they may have.
You should address:
Getting feedback on your pitch from other teachers/student leaders who have experience with the executive can be helpful.
During the pitch, it can also be useful to share your own experiences and why you think the Statement can be beneficial, as that can garner empathy from the executive.
Additionally, consider going with a couple of other student leaders; not only would you be able to bounce arguments off of each other during the meeting, you’d be able to step in for each other should there be a question that you aren’t too sure on how to answer. Also, there can be power in numbers.
Examples of Anti-Discrimination Statements include
Oak Flats Public School’s Anti-Racism Policy.
Equality and Diversity Policy Template
#1 Tips and a guide for Building Your Plan
In particular, consider the NSW Department of Education’s Anti-Racism Policy.
This policy applies to all NSW Public School employees and students, and has implications for each school community that you could reference in your statement.
Like all proposals, there could be some pushback from the executive. If that is the case, you can use this approach towards negotiation, adapted from United Nations Youth NSW’s model used for their Negotiations Competition.
Negotiations should be interest-based. Focus on the interests of each party, not their specific demands. While focusing on specific demands is the more conventional approach, it’s far better to focus on their interests. Don’t focus on the ‘what’, focus on the ‘why’.
What’s known as the ‘Orange Quarrel’ may clarify this for you. Imagine that A and B both want the same, whole orange.
If we take a position-based approach, the most logical approach would be to halve the orange, but that leaves neither party satisfied. However, if we take an interest-based approach, we can come up with a more equitable solution that satisfies both parties.
If we look into why A and B want the orange, we find out that A needs the whole orange for its juice, while B needs the whole orange’s peel. With that knowledge, B can zest the orange and then give it to A, serving both parties’ interests.
When you’re in a negotiation, establish both parties’ interests very clearly.
Negotiations can be understandably confronting; in that case, it can be a good idea to bring any other members you may have collaborated with in the process of creating the proposal (e.g. Prefects, Student Representative Council, Social Justice Committee) to help negotiate for the Anti-Discrimination Statement’s approval.
Organising an Anti-Racism Leadership Event takes more time and effort than other strategies in the Anti-Racism Kit, but it is uniquely powerful because it educates and empowers many more school leaders such as yourself to recognise racism as a significant issue.
Here are the step-by-step instructions to organising this ambitious event.
Get together with your organising team and establish what you want this event to achieve. What will the attendees gain from your Anti-Racism Leadership Event? This thinking will inform the structure and the choice of activities. A clear intended takeaway for the attendees will make it a meaningful experience for them.
Besides the nature of the activities, organising the Anti-Racism Leadership Event would be similar to the organisation of other similar events like Prefect Afternoon Teas or similar student leadership events. After the organising team decides on the structure of the event, your team can start organising and allocating responsibilities to each member.
Some Responsibilities to Consider:
Your team should also start writing the runsheet, which everyone should have a copy of on the day to ensure things are running smoothly and on time.
We've created a draft runsheet for an example event theme: Celebrating Multiculturalism - Prefects Afternoon Tea.
Fight racism beyond the school gates and advocate for people of colour within wider SOCIETY