I’m Abraham, Community Development Coordinator at the African Australian Community Centre in Footscray (know as ‘the AACC’). The AACC assists African Australians in Melbourne’s west by helping individuals and families to settle in the area and build a positive future for themselves. The AACC is a joint partnership between the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Anglican Parish of Footscray.
I came from a large family in South Sudan, where I worked as a veterinarian treating farm animals such as cattle and horses. During the civil war that ravaged my country I fought not with a gun but by advocating for the human rights of my people. I was one of the founders of the Civil Society for Southern Sudan which lobbied for a better future free of war and poverty.
The Australian government deemed it too dangerous for my family and I to remain in Southern Sudan, so we were fortunate to gain asylum in Australia. My wife and two sons (who were aged under 10 at the time) came to Australia in 2003, and I joined them a year later, when I was 31-years-old.
I studied and worked in Auckland and Australia. I wanted a career change so I studied sociology and information systems at university, but I realised my passion was working with the community. I worked in a multicultural affairs job for local Government in Melbourne for a number of years. I was lucky to find work because I knew people in the sector who I had met at UNI. It’s difficult for many newcomers to Australia to find work because they don’t have contacts.
When I moved away from government work into the community sector with the Brotherhood I was excited about the new experience. I was lucky to get the role at AACC that directly linked me with the African community. I am passionate about community development. I belive capacity building and empowerment is key, not welfare and handouts.
I’ve been with the Brotherhood for 18 months now. My role is to manage the AACC by coordinating and supervising the program staff, volunteers and students. I also provide leadership for the development and implementation of programs for African Australian communities. The AACC currently has programs for young people such as Youth2Youth and The Community Justice Project, and for women and children like the Mamma’s Plus program. Our vision for the AACC is to run programs and activities based on the needs of the local African community, and in time for the Centre to be run solely by the African community for the African community.
The site that houses the AACC has been undergoing renovation for almost two years. The grand old bluestone building, St John’s Church in Footscray Parish, has been restored into our new offices and a community hall. We are really looking forward to launching the new facilities and sharing it with the community on 19 October this year.
All locals can benefit when the site reopens because there will be community halls for function hire, a children’s playground and a community garden. We want it to be a place that the whole community can embrace, where men and women, young and old, from a range of backgrounds, can come together. I am excited about the possibilities!