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African Australian Advocacy Centre’s Student Work Placement Project Celebrates Success and Bids Farewell to Leanne McLean 

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For the past four years, the African Australian Advocacy Centre (AAAC) has been spearheading a dynamic student work placement initiative designed to prepare university students for the practical demands of the workforce as they approach the culmination of their academic endeavors.

 Throughout this duration, the project has played a pivotal role in extending essential assistance to over 11 students, guiding them through a seamless transition into professional roles. 

Under the guidance of AAAC mentors, participating students have had the opportunity to acquire hands-on experience and refine their skills in real-world settings. This immersive learning experience not only enriches their academic journey but also equips them with the confidence and proficiency necessary to thrive in their chosen fields upon graduation. 

The success of the AAAC’s student work placement project underscores its commitment to nurturing and empowering the next generation of leaders within the African Australian community and beyond. By providing invaluable support and practical opportunities, the initiative not only enhances students’ employability but also fosters a sense of purpose and achievement. 

In particular, we would like to bid farewell to Leanne, who has recently completed her work placement with us. 

“My time with the AAAC – Leanne McLean,

In July this year I commenced a student placement with AAAC, as a social work student, to learn about advocacy and community development. With Noël and Gary Cachia (STARTTS) as my friendly supervisors, I have been generously supported in my quest for knowledge and experience.

I began with reading, reading and more reading. I read submissions to government, human rights websites and reports, UNHCR reports, familiarised myself with the history of the African Australian Advocacy Centre and began reading articles and reports on issues impacting the African diaspora. These led me to articles on anti-racism, cultural competence and cultural humility, reports on African migration to Australia, and literature on critical race theory and white fragility, and then on to strengths (asset)-based community development. I fully immersed my thinking processes into as much information as I could find surrounding migration, racism in Australia and what it means to be African Australian. One of the highlights of my early weeks with the AAAC was attending the Ubuntu African Australian networking event in Blacktown and having the privilege of introductory conversations with attendees, hearing how they are contributing to the local community. 

Once my foundational knowledge was sound, Noël put me to good use assisting with various administrative and writing tasks for the AAAC. I had the pleasure of assisting with the drafting of the AAAC business plan, note-taking, email and letter preparations and preparing presentation slides for various presentations. I greatly appreciated attending the UN-WGEPAD symposium event, “From Recommendations to Action…” and meeting some of the academics involved in the writing of the AAAC’s submission to government in response to the UN-WGEPAD recommendations for Australia.

I also attended AAAC stakeholder meetings whenever appropriate. One particular highlight was attending NSW Parliament House when a group of AAAC members were hosted by Ms Charishma Kaliyanda and met with parliamentarians to showcase and introduce more people to the work of the AAAC. Another highlight was the Africultures Festival in Parramatta, an event that I’ll definitely attend again.

I believe that I’ve learned a great amount about the role of a social worker in the community advocacy and research contexts. I have observed AAAC members using listening skills, communication, interpersonal and networking skills, discussed conflict resolution and management, and seen advocacy in action, all through a trauma-informed lens. I will continue to deepen my knowledge of community development and feel inspired to explore experiences of race and racial discrimination in Australia. I have no doubt that my time with the AAAC has provided me with meaningful lessons in what it means to be black, and white, in Australia. I am inspired to continue seeking to learn about decolonisation practices and white fragility, and to critically reflect on how I personally can contribute to a more cohesive and respectful Australian society, one where the strengths of all communities can be recognised and enjoyed.”

The success stories of students like Leanne highlight the effectiveness of AAAC’s work placement program in nurturing talent and empowering future leaders. Many former placement students have gone on to pursue successful careers equipped with the practical skills and experience gained through their involvement with AAAC. 

As Leanne embarks on her next chapter, the AAAC extends its heartfelt gratitude for her dedication and wishes her every success in her future endeavours. Her contributions have been invaluable, and her legacy will continue to inspire others to make a positive difference in their communities. 

As the program continues to flourish, the AAAC remains dedicated to expanding its reach and impact, ensuring that more students can benefit from this transformative experience. Through collaborative efforts and unwavering dedication, the AAAC reaffirms its commitment to fostering educational excellence and professional growth.

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