LV and GC volunteers help the African community with integration to society

4 October 2012 By Freya Cole

Jasper and Japhet in one of their mentoring sessions.
Jasper and Japhet in one of their mentoring sessions.

Leadership Victoria and Greatconnections have enjoyed a successful relationship with the African Think Tank since 2010.

In 2011, more than 130 people participated in a series of Leadership Seminars discussing aspects of Leadership in African Australian communities. 

This year, LV is supporting the program through the provision of a 6 month mentoring program where we have matched Leadership Victoria’s volunteers through Skillsbank and Greatconnections with an African participant.

Greatconnections volunteer, Jasper Coghlan, decided that his skills in human resources and consulting would be suitable for a mentoring role with for the African Think Tank.

“I have never had any involvement with the African Community so this was my opportunity to get involved,” he says.

Mr Coghlan, who worked with Ford Motors for almost 35 years, says that giving leadership and communication advice to his mentee Japhet Ncube was the biggest focus in their relationship. 

Zimbabwe immigrant, Japhet Ncube, moved to Australia from New Zealand almost three years ago.

When Mr Ncube arrived in Australia he became inspired to help his community and was appointed the President of the Victorian Zimbabwe Community.

When he saw the Leadership Victoria and African Think Tank program was offered, he knew there would be great support.

“I wanted to get more knowledge of leadership and this program has facilitated this through mentoring,” Mr Ncube says.

“It has really helped me with my communication skills and it’s helped me focus on what the community needs.”

Japhet and his wife are currently running a language school for children and it is one of the key actions that facilitate their dream of integrating the African community and developing cultural identity within Melbourne.

As mentor, Mr Coghlan has helped Japhet with balancing his many responsibilities within the Zimbabwe community. 

Mr Coghlan says that sometimes it was just the little things that helped the most.

“The little bits of advice like using bullet points instead of long paragraphs in emails are simple principles of clear communication that have assisted Japhet in conveying his message,” Mr Coghlan says.

The Leadership Victoria and Greatconnections volunteers were encouraged to attend some of the session organised by the African Think Tank to gain a better understanding of the issues facing Melbourne’s African community.

Mr Coghlan attended a session where an assistant police commissioner spoke about the problems and strategies used by police in regards to African youth in Dandenong.

“By attending the talk it helped me personally understand the community and helped shape my opinion better,” Mr Coghlan says.

Mr Ncube’s dream is to open an African retail store that will provide the community with easy access to native food, artifacts and act as a support centre.

“I know I have a lot to learn and I really appreciate Jasper’s help because it’s something I have wanted to do for many years,” Mr Ncube says.

“Jasper has really helped me to be able to look at the community, not only as the people I lead, but also as the people that I work for to make their life better,” he says.

Ernest Dobosn is another emerging leader in the African community who was paired with Donald Holmes as a part of the program.

Mr Dobosn arrived in Australia in January of this year and has since worked progressively to assist the integration of the Liberian community into our society.

His project, as a part of the program with the African Think Tank, aims to bring together the various African communities in Melbourne to face their problems together.

“We realised that many of the issues facing the migrant community are not unique to just one community,” Mr Dobosn says.

“Each individual community is trying to solve the problems by themselves. But we think it is about time the African community come together and look at the issues from a broader perspective,”

“We are achieving this goal with the help of African Think Tank, LV and other the various community leaders.”

 Donald Holmes regards his role as mentor to Ernest as someone who is readily available to simply listen.

“Ernest is a good listener and he is engaging,” Mr Holmes says.

“He soaks up knowledge and is ready to network and drive change in the African community in Melbourne, so it has been a pleasure meeting a man with such great leadership skills. 

Mr Dobosn’s group project brings together voices from Ethiopia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

They hope that they can unite the entire African community. But, they focus especially on the youth, who they feel have become disengaged with their parents and mainstream society.

“A young African might move to Australia straight from a refugee camp where they have been their entire life,” Mr Dobosn says.

“You cannot expect them to adjust smoothly into the sophistication of Australian society without the support and help from leaders within the community.”

My Dobosn likes to refer to his aim as a similar structure to the Australian driving system, where you begin as a learner driver, graduate to a probationary driver and finally become a full license holder.

“We need to strategise and incorporate both the Australian and African way into dealing with the issues faced by the communities.” 

Leadership Victoria and Greatconnections continues to work with the African Think Tank to ensure our multicultural society can live harmoniously alongside one another and create positive outcomes and opportunities for emerging leaders.