State Finalist Young Australian of the Year 2016Manal YounusDiversity Champion In 1998, Manal arrived in Australia with her siblings afterfleeing her country of origin, Eritrea, only days before thebeginning of the country’s most devastating war. Tacklingracism and prejudice head-on, Manal learnt first-hand whatit means to be different and has become an agent forchange in the community. Through her work with Welcometo Australia – a not-for-profit that aims to cultivate a cultureof welcome in our nation – Manal has developed programs to elevate the national conversation around refugees, immigration and multiculturalism. As a member of the ActNow Theatre, Manal has staged award-winning interactive theatre performances that identify and confront racism. While completing a degree in international relations, Manal has also navigated her sense of identity through poetry, entering spoken word competitions and performing her work around the country. Working with other refugees to develop poems that share their stories of persecution, displacement and freedom, Manal encourages others to take pride in their identities and for all Australians to understand and embrace diversity.
Prejudice- discrimination, communication, identity She looked at me and sighed, do you ever marginalise anyone?I replied, how can I when I’ve been incorrectly categorised so many times?After being carved to fit in masksin boxes taped with slogansto be spread amongst those who’ve no idea of my storyMy storyhas involved talking to prisoners and prison guardsfolks that don’t leave their back yardmisers,owners of billionsto starving childrenI’ve spent my days learning different religions,languages and historiesopening my mind to the mysteriesthat are human beingsI’ve been a self-hater, demoralised,to an activist and self-celebrator I understand child abuseand going from oppressedto depressed overcoming then repressedI learn from white supremacists,
gays and homophobes, plydifferent coloured Australiansaccents probe my earsvibrating through my lobesand I’m calmed when I see rivers flowand Forests,but I’ve seen too many clearingsI’ve seen life disappearing before my very eyesI’ve spent days in nursing homes learning from the forgottenthen turned to learn from those who forgot them I learn from kids,and parents who’ve strapped them with bubble wrapnot realising that over-protection was a trapmen and women who’ve busted their capsand ones that meditate dailyand live on bay leavesmy story is not unique what I’m learning is that we all seek the same thingslike to belongbe acceptedbe recognised we went wrongwhen we engaged in this unjust action of assuming one must practice what we thrust upon them,fact is,