Darebin City Council has a long commitment to promoting cultural diversity inside its walls and out in the community. The organisation funded the development of a training package promoting inclusion that was delivered throughout Australia.
In 2014, the City of Darebin contracted Polykala to begin developing and piloting a new training program focusing on creating more inclusive workplaces and communities where people are willing to step in and intervene in the case of inappropriate behaviour taking place. The sessions would be provided to Darebin City Council staff on their professional training calendar. The program would also be delivered to organisations around Australia. The management, promotion, design and delivery of the training package would be the responsibility sat within our remit. It’s a wonderful co-management program. We’d commend other government institutions looking to leverage the best from providers and the best from its program staff.
Designing the ‘Say No to Racism’ training was an iterative process that took place over a few years. The training did maintain three key pillars that are reflective of our design approach; it was composed of teaching (key concepts and definitions), facilitation (curated conversations that sought the perspectives of participants) and training (skill development in difficult conversations). These three pillars form the backbone of every training program we provide.
The program culminated in the practising of difficult conversations through the dynamic role play activity inspired by Forum Theatre. Forum Theatre was a form of theatre that was developed by Augusto Boal in Brazil in the 1960s. The process involves a blending of the audience and actors into spect-actors, whereby spectators are invited to take the place of characters within a scene to experience the situation from their vantage point and, importantly, engage in the scene to influence its outcome. We used a tweaked form of Forum Theatre that was focussed on bystanders using indirect approaches (supporting the target or other bystanders) and direct approaches (engaging in conversation with the perpetrator).
We chose this approach due to the findings from the Scanlon Foundations’ reports into the state of Australia’s attitude toward multiculturalism and the data around taking action to address racism. The report found, over time, that people were unsure about distinguishing racism and even less sure about what to do or say to tackle it.
The Say No to Racism training was officially endorsed by the Australian Human Rights Commission’s ‘Racism. It Stops With Me.’ campaign. Throughout 2014-2021, the training was delivered over 65 times.
The training was delivered across Australia at educational institutions (University of Sydney, Monash University, La Trobe University, Melbourne Polytechnic), local government authorities (Merri-bek City Council, Wyndham City Council, Yarra City Council, Port Phillip City Council, Maribyrnong City Council, Whittlesea City Council, Hobsons Bay City Council, Moonee Valley City Council and Mitchell Shire Regional Council) and not-for-profits organisations (Oxfam, Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre and the Institute of Public Administration Australia).
Everywhere we went, participants appreciated the embodied and reflective approach to tackling racial discrimination in the workplace and community. We thank the City of Darebin for its leadership, taking the national lead in 2014, before the racial reckon of 2020-21, before the rise of Ibram Kendi or others in this space, to give life to a powerful idea from Brazil (Forum Theatre) by articulating it at a local level in Australia.
“I have engaged Polykala for a number of projects for Darebin Council. I was impressed by the process and outcomes and especially the way Polykala personnel engaged with me and others in Council to develop the brief, understand exactly what the objectives were and propose options to implement the project.”Dalal Smiley – Manager Community Planning and Customer Service, Darebin City Council