Intercultural understanding grants aim to combat prejudice, injustice and inequity

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
The Together for Humanity grants support stronger intercultural connections in schools.

Government, Independent and Catholic schools across Australia are invited to submit their expressions of interest for Together for Humanity (TFH) Intercultural Understanding Partnership Grants by 31 July 2024 to be considered in the current round of funding for 2024-2025 grants.

Educational not-for-profit Together for Humanity’s (TFH) partnership grants, funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, assist Australian schools with combating prejudice, injustice and inequity in their communities.

“There are many schools facing intercultural challenges, and many may feel unsure about asking for assistance,” TFH CEO Annette Schneider told EducationDaily.

“Perhaps these schools have a sense of isolation, and maybe there is some unease that these challenges have arisen within their community in the first place. These schools may not have the resources – monetary or staff – to address such issues; or school leaders may be unsure of where to even start.”

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Schneider says the grants “present a solution, offering time, resources and support alongside concrete planning”.

“They are a collaborative process where we work together towards a goal of increasing intercultural understanding and building more connected, inclusive school communities.”

Teachers and students from Heaton Public School NSW

Addressing genuine community need

Schneider told EducationDaily the projects are all school-led.

“Schools identify a particular challenge or set of challenges that they’d like to address, specific to the needs of their community, and our intercultural educators support the team within the school to realise their project goals,” she says.

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“Ultimately, we want schools to feel less alone and to be supported in building cohesive communities where the learning, engagement and well-being of students is nurtured and improved. The Partnership Grants pave the way for a whole-school approach, which often brings about transformative change in school culture.”

Through the Intercultural Understanding Partnership Grants, Schneider says TFH has already worked with 109 schools across six states to make enduring changes and addressing challenges students, teachers and the broader school community face – including prejudice, racism and inclusion.

Alinjarra Primary School WA

Examples of projects and positive outcomes:

  • Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School – Tarro, Hunter region, NSW

Challenge: Cultural disconnection of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at the school, and a lack of connection and opportunities for the wider school community to develop relationships with the local First Nations community.

Project: The school undertook a number of initiatives to address the challenge:

  1. Provided opportunities for Indigenous students to strengthen their cultural identity, e.g. Yarning circles, Culture Club, Didge Club (purchased clapsticks, didgeridoos, lessons with Indigenous Elder), lunchtime Aboriginal weaving sessions.
  2. Provided opportunities for non-Indigenous students, parents, and the wider community to increase their connections with, and cultural understanding of, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures, e.g. NAIDOC Week, Reconciliation Week, and Harmony Day celebrations; teacher professional learning on embedding Aboriginal perspectives.

Outcomes: Many non-Indigenous students expressed a thirst to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures. Many of them joined the cultural groups that were established (Culture Club, Culture Yarns and Didge Club), and continue to be committed to this day. For the first time, non-Indigenous students were given the space and access to learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, first hand and on a regular basis. This learning is taking the school on a journey towards reconciliation, reducing racism and building cultural safety.

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“I wanted to play didge to learn more about this country and the land. I love playing didge. At my old school there was bullying to Aboriginal kids…this is helping to stop racism…” Archie, age 11.

  • Brunswick Secondary College – Brunswick, Victoria

Brunswick Secondary College’s project aimed to enhance engagement with Arabic-speaking and Middle Eastern students and their families. Parents and carers of students from Middle Eastern, Turkish, and North African backgrounds were invited to attend a morning tea with the Principal, Assistant Principals, well-being team, staff from diverse backgrounds, and two guests from Arabic Welfare. Attendees had the opportunity to engage in conversations, share laughter, and build connections. The school also organised a five-week cooking program for students from these communities, providing students with the opportunity to cook food from their cultures to build stronger connections with their peers and the wider community.

Student school attendance was high during the program. Students talked about the program during the week with supporting staff. One teacher noted that many students, whose main interactions with staff were previously around misbehaviour, were now having conversations around Ramadan, cooking at home, a future cooking program, and how they were going at school. One student spoke several times a week with the Assistant Principal, whenever they crossed paths. He has continued these friendly and frequent regular interactions, and has since sought mental health support from the school. Previously, the Wellbeing Team wasn’t particularly successful building connections with Arabic-speaking and Middle Eastern young male students, so this is celebrated as a significant step.

  • Drummond Memorial Public School – Armidale, NSW

Local Indigenous and refugee families find common ground. Drummond Memorial Public School in Armidale, NSW directed their Partnership Grant funding towards developing connections between Ezidi refugee families and the local Anaiwan First Nations people. Five families travelled to Newarra, the new Anaiwan land 25 minutes west of Armidale. There, Mima Dave Widders shared about the Anaiwan culture. An interpreter translated for the Ezidi families and led everyone in Ezidi dancing. There was also a family from Bhutan who led some Bhutanese dancing. It was a bitterly cold day but the relationships that developed were warm. One parent reflected: “I was personally surprised by the parallels between the Aboriginal culture and our Ezidi culture. We have both suffered loss of land and language at the hands of the dominant culture.

Educating against prejudice

The TFH Intercultural Understanding Partnership Grants program is a national initiative created by TFH as a resource for any Australian school that requires assistance to address cross-cultural challenges in their community. All schools across regional and metropolitan Australia are eligible to apply, including early learning, pre-schools/kindergartens, primary, secondary, K-12 and central.

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TFH has worked with school communities for more than 20 years, educating against prejudice and advancing belonging and inclusion, by reaching more than half a million young Australians through its programs.

Successful schools receive:

  • Up to $10,000 to address a cross-cultural and/or interfaith challenge. 
  • Consultation time with TFH’s intercultural experts 
  • Assistance to develop, implement and monitor an Intercultural Understanding Partnership Action Plan.

Expanding inclusion builds stronger communities

The projects help to improve the learning and well-being of students, teaching them how to challenge prejudice, expanding the inclusion capabilities of schools, and ultimately helping to create a more cohesive, inclusive Australian society. 

Schools that are unable to meet the application deadline can be reassured that they will be able to apply for further rounds of funding. TFH remains committed to working collaboratively with schools and offering assistance where needed.

Interested schools can visit here for more information or to apply. Schools are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as projects will begin in Term 4.

Penola Catholic College NSW

Application tips

For schools considering submitting an application, Schneider has some practical advice: “Do your research.”

  • Read the application page and FAQs before starting your application so you can get an idea of what is required.
  • Don’t be daunted: The application is quite straightforward and not particularly time consuming, so don’t quit before you even begin.
  • Speak from the heart: Be truthful about the challenges and impacts you are facing, as well as how you have already tried to overcome them, so we can accurately assess them.
  • Show foresight and planning: The more detail and longevity there is to your proposed solution, and the more wide-reaching it is within your community, the better.
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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live