We enter the room where the Capoeira Angola session is about to begin at The NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS). The class is comprised of mainly young Sudanese Refugees, victims of brutal conflicts, many of them born into protracted refugee camp situations in East Africa. So their perception of the world is shaped by the tragedy of their circumstances.
Edielson Miranda, aka Master Roxinho, begins the class talking about time management as most of the kids came late to the lesson. Discipline plays a very important role in each class. Unruliness is not tolerated. Anybody who comes late to class must repeat Negativa, a Capoeira Angola movement, 50 times. In this way, Master Roxinho demands his students to be accountable for their actions. He is a leader, someone to look up to; he demands respect in a peaceful and loving way.
He presses play on his Ipod and Ladainha, traditional songs of Capoeira Angola, begin to emanate from the speakers. The sound of the Berimbau (a single-string percussion instrument, a musical bow, from Brazil), African drums and old Afro-Brazilian singers, envelops the room. Master Roxinho explains that the game of Capoeira Angola has to be played with strength and confidence, as it is the only way to communicate during a ‘game.’
Integration of Refugee Children into Australian Society:
“Refugee children have problems not just with education, but also with socialization,” says, Elizabeth Pickering, School Councillor of the Intensive English Centre at Cabramatta High School (CHS).
These young people have often experienced high levels of trauma. Many have witnessed violence directly or indirectly through the experience of dispossession, conflict, living in refugee camps or coming from dismantled families and fragmented communities.
Mrs Pickering notes that the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has “a focus on quality teaching and learning, and so good funding is put into the teaching of English as a second language.” However, Mrs Pickering, who has worked with new arrivals for over forty years, doesn’t “think there is near enough given to a holistic approach,” to resettling refugee youths.
“We neglect the holistic approach at our peril,” she says. “Because if someone has been highly traumatised they are going to be affected in ways that will impact upon their ability to sit in the classroom, and learn, and benefit from the quality teaching and learning, if their other dimensions are not being addressed.”
Mrs Pickering believes that there needs to be “many more programs that are creative, and we need to really look outside the box,” when it comes to helping refugee youths fully integrate in Australian society.
Capoeira Angola Cultural Centre Australia is a not-for-profit association founded in 2007 by Master Roxinho. The association aims to introduce, preserve and develop Capoeira Angola and Afro-Brazilian culture in its entire traditional, ritualistic and contextual form in Australia. Master Roxinho says, “Project Bantu is a movement through the mind to understand who you are.”
Project Bantu is a socio-cultural program delivered to young people aged 6-20 either from Aboriginal, refugee or Australian backgrounds. The program originated in Brazil for homeless youth and young people in Juvenile Justice Centres and has been adapted to fit the needs of the young people at risk living in Australia.
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