Inspiring people, making a difference
Retired school teacher and active volunteer, Manly 74 years old.
The chance meeting of an Australian tourist travelling in my home country Germany changed the course of my life. I was 26 and newly married, he was so funny and genuine. The decision for my husband and I to move to Australia was clear.
Growing up after the Second World War in Germany, I’ve always been aware of the dark lessons of history. My parents opposed the Nazis and taught me to think critically about the dangers of fear mongering and exclusion.
My life in Germany was privileged but we were young, adventurous and looking for a new life far away.
My husband and I arrived in Sydney in the 60’s and we stayed in what was then the Villawood hostel. We didn’t know a soul in Australia but we were made to feel instantly at home. Australia was a beautiful, vast, foreign place to us and we loved it instantly.
The Australian people are warm and relaxed and have such a great senses of humour. At first we didn’t understand ‘Australian’ English but we soon got to know it working in a factory in Bankstown. Working there was great for us, it made us feel part of this new country we called home.
In the early 70’s we had the chance to return to Germany without paying back our free passage, but we didn’t want to leave. Australia was a country of fairness, multiculturalism and equality and we believed in these principles strongly.
Multiculturalism to me is not just tolerating others but appreciating diversity, and helping newcomers cultivate their own culture. Multiculturalism is a colourful tapestry of different religions, cultures, food, art and music - it’s a tapestry we should wrap ourselves in and when we do we are truly richer.
I’ve done many things in my life. I was an art and foreign language teacher and I’m a very active volunteer in my community. I love the sense of civic community in Australia and feeling part of something bigger than yourself.
My love for the Australian wilderness brought me to protecting the precious fairy penguins in Manly. For 11 years I monitored these magical little creatures who are endangered and need our protection. When I started I was alone and now half of Manly is helping out!
As an artist I think art is a beautiful way to bring cultures together. I volunteer with refugees in Sydney and help them come to terms with their past through art. I was welcomed so warmly when I arrived here and I want others fleeing war and oppression to feel the same sense of inclusion.
I’m 74 and looking back I know I’ve had a very lucky life. All my experiences have taught me that good things can happen and there is power in celebrating our common humanity.
NRL Social Inclusion Programs Lead, Hawkesbury 30 years old
Sport is my passion and my dream came true when I made my professional debut for the Sydney Roosters. It’s a big moment for anyone, but especially somebody from Samoa, a small island in the Pacific.
Playing footy in south Auckland there were lots of Pacific Islanders just like me. We moved there when I was four and by five, I was already playing Rugby League. It was great for me being young and playing with people who understood me and I shared common ground with.
Moving to western Sydney when I was 12 was a big cultural shock. I suddenly went from being part of a majority to a minority. Sport is what bound me to my community in Auckland so pretty soon I was playing with the local footy club in Merrylands.
Rugby league made me feel I belonged to a new community. I was playing alongside Australian Lebanese and Iraqi kids and spending time in their homes with their families. Before long I was also the only kid without a Lebanese background in my class to learn Arabic in high school!
I feel really blessed to have been exposed to so much diversity in western Sydney. I made my debut playing first grade for the Roosters at the age of 20. I wouldn’t have made it that far without embracing diversity, challenging myself with other perspectives and stepping outside my comfort zone.
Unfortunately, my professional career was cut short after I suffered a major knee injury and spent three years having operations. The injury wasn’t easy to deal with but I stayed involved in the game I loved and finished a teaching degree in health and physical education.
Diversity is success, on and off the field. Any good team is founded on respect, inclusiveness and true collaboration. For me that means respecting and embracing diverse cultures and beliefs as well as different roles on the field. Each team member has a part to play and you need to work with others to be successful.
Now as the NRL’s Social Inclusion Programs Lead I work with schools, Junior Rugby League Clubs and youth to promote the positive social outcomes through the game. We work on diversity and multicultural programs for young people all over western Sydney including newly arrived migrants.
I’m proud of our programs like ‘In League In Harmony’ and the Harmony Cup which promote social cohesion and tackle youth disengagement, racism, bullying and gender inequality through sport. The young people involved learn to embrace differences and how to work effectively in a team on and off the field.
I can vouch first hand that sport is a powerful tool for promoting inclusion, a sense of belonging and positive, healthy communities. In my role I now get to give back to the sport that has given me so much and teach kids that respect and diversity go hand in hand with success.
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