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Navigating culture, without being stereotyped or pressured by society was the theme of an African Kings and Queens workshop held at Greater Shepparton Secondary College during the week. Facilitated by Mariam Koslay, in partnership with Networking African-Australians, the sessions were delivered in two parts for around forty male and female students from an African background. The workshops explored and discussed what it means to be an African man or woman in Australia today, including the narrative driven by the media and society in general, and how we can sometimes feel stuck between who we are versus who we are expected to be.

The African Kings and Queens workshops are a continuation of an independent mini-series developed by Mariam, which explores the lives of eight different black men as they discuss culture and identity alongside their loved ones. All men featured in the mini-series are based in Melbourne. Mariam said the idea came about during COVID-19 lockdowns, when she felt African Australian people were being adversely affected by the pandemic or misrepresented in media. “The documentary was about changing the narrative, through positive storytelling we wanted to give an authentic insight into what it means to be an African man or boy living in Australia and to share these real life experiences exploring all things from culture and identity to masculinity, relationships, fatherhood, business and failure,” she said.

Through speaking with many African men and boys living in Australia, Mariam said she quickly came to the realisation that what we often see or associate with African men is controlled by a US or UK-based narrative that can pigeon-hole black men into the categories of being a criminal, an entertainer or model or a rapper or musician. “It really is sub-conscious conditioning and it is not a complete, fair or unfiltered reflection of how African Australian mean are positively shaping their society,” she said. Mariam said through workshops such as African Queens, she was hoping to develop a similar documentary, and during the session held yesterday with GSSC female students, Mariam asked: “what does it mean to be an African woman living in Australia?”

The students spent some time discussing this as a group and reflected on both positive and negative experiences. Many of the students felt proud of their culture and identity and linked this to food, fashion, hair, skin colour and not being afraid to showcase their true selves. Some of the students also discussed some challenges faced living in a country that is not your own and trying to feel part of the community. The girls also reflected on the stereotype for African women of being “a housewife.”

Greater Shepparton Secondary College thanks Mariam for her time working with our students and to the Networking African-Australians group who continue to work closely with our College through a formal partnership that has provided many opportunities and positive outcomes for our students. Exploring and celebrating culture and diversity at GSSC is such an important part of our College life.

For more information about African Kings and Queens visit:
For more information about Networking African-Australians visit:

Greater Shepparton Secondary College’s Year 9 and 10 students took part in the Pat Cronin Foundation’s ‘Be Wise’ program recently as part of the school’s extensive Social and Emotional Curriculum.
Pat Cronin was the 19-year-old victim of a coward punch that proved fatal and his foundation works to teach young people across Australia important skills to handle conflict, look after mates and make wise decisions. Foundation Presenter, Peter Eames spoke to the students about Pat’s story and how we can all make wise decisions together so we can end this type of senseless violence that devastates families and communities. This includes working through feelings of anger and aggression before they turn violent. Year 9 student, Thomas, who attended the presentation, said the message was powerful and emotional.

“The story really dug deep and it got us to show empathy for a person we didn’t even know,” he said.
“The message showed us that we need to stop and think about our behaviour.”

The delivery of this program was made possible thanks to a generous donation from the Shepparton Lions Club. The Lions Club donation was made up of funds provided by local businesses and through the clubs’ fundraiser selling tickets to the Circus Quirkus performance held earlier this year. GSSC extends its thanks to the Shepparton Lions Club and the Pat Cronin Foundation for delivering such an important and powerful program to our students.

For more information regarding the Pat Cronin Foundation please visit:
For more information about the Shepparton Lions Club, please contact the club President Patsy Lansdown on 0403 252 286.