Collingwood College is building connections with the African community

Community Liaison Officers are helping the school to build positive connections with students and families of African background.

Community Liaison Officers at Collingwood College

Pictured: Badria Mustafa, Hussein Ibrahim and Hassen Mohamed-Saeed

Collingwood College has a student population of 823 students with a high number of students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD).

Over 34 languages are spoken within the school community, and many students have only recently arrived in Australia with refugee status.

In 2020 Hassen Mohamed-Saeed, Badria Mustafa and Hussein Ibrahim joined the school as Community Liaison Officers working as part of the school’s wellbeing team.

These new roles were established to help build strong and positive connections with students and families of African background.

Hussein explains that they have been able to eliminate the communication barriers particularly for the parents who were struggling to communicate with the school.

‘We are the main contact for many families at school now even for reporting student absence or any other issue they have with the school,’ he said.

‘During meet-and-greet meetings with the parents at the school early last term, parents acknowledged that they now feel a sense of inclusiveness since we came on board.’

Hussein, Badria and Hassen offer a wide range of supports to teachers, students and parents including:

  • translating discussions between parents and teachers who have rarely or never made contact with the school
  • offering teachers an insight, and building their understanding, into the linguistic and cultural aspects of student attitudes and behaviour
  • organising school community events and running a series of information sessions for CALD families, focused on Compass updates, wellbeing initiatives, career pathway counselling, subject choices, camps excursions and important cultural events
  • consulting with parents and families about other issues they would like addressed
  • following up on student absences.

The school has found with Hussein, Hassen and Badria providing these targeted supports, student attendance rates and engagement levels have increased.

Students with African heritage report they feel more connected to the school, and more parents feel supported through the work of the wellbeing team. They are also now more familiar with school processes, resources, and programs. 

Hassen said, ‘helping parents to understand the school systems is one of the best ways to connect with them.’

As key members of staff, Hussein, Badria and Hassen are enabling Collingwood College to strengthen its partnerships with CALD parents and families and helping young people from all cultural backgrounds to feel welcome, supported, and connected.

Badria said the most rewarding part of her job is seeing families and students engaging and communicating with the school better. 

‘It makes me happy when hearing from the families how they feel part of the school now and have a sense of belonging,’ she said.

Find out more

This year, Education Week celebrates the theme ‘Building Connections’. 

It is an opportunity for all primary and secondary schools, higher education, and early childhood services to showcase how they are building connections with the community around them. Education Week will run from 23-29 May.