SBS National Youth Week: Five Aussies smash stereotypes through storytelling

Shakila Hussiani, 18. Source: SBS

Five inspiring young Australians entered the SBS National Youth Week competition, which invited people aged 14-20 to submit a video pitch for the chance to make a short film with SBS. Each entry had an important message to tell.

Anthony Farah, 20

Mr Farah is a YouTube star on the rise.

He mixes his Lebanese heritage with comedy, to show a lighter side to his culture.

“With everything that’s happened in the past 10 years with the Cronulla Riots, with the Australians and Lebanese against each other, and then we have 'Here Come the Habibs'," he said.

"(it's) A Lebanese comedy show that came out and after the first episode there was a lot of backlash saying it was very racist and that it shouldn’t be on television and everything and I thought why are people seeing it in that it’s just comedy," he said.

"People need to understand that it’s okay to laugh at themselves, I wanted to help change that perspective coz (sic) you don’t really get Lebanese comedy that comes on mainstream channels.”

“Here Come the Habibs is basically a satire of a Lebanese Australian family I feel like with shows like these they do kinda break the stereotype saying all of us are not like that.”

Mr Farah believes sharing his videos can change negative views of Lebanese Australians.

"I want there to be more people embracing their culture and there isn't too much of a huge distance between Australian and Lebanese culture, that people are starting to accept each other," he said.

"Overall, I'd like to see people not going with the stereotype that is currently portrayed by society and that they actually see people aren't necessarily what is expected, and that people can actually change the way you see the world."


Atak Ngor, 18

“I was born in what is now South Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War in 1997. I grew up in my homeland, and then in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, before being granted a permanent residency visa to Australia.”

After coming to Australia, Atak saw opportunity.

"I fit into Australia's identity because I have more opportunities as a filmmaker and the opportunities are there for everyone who seeks them," he said.

"Honestly, Australia is one of the best countries to live in."

His passion for story-telling stems from his memories of growing up in his homeland.

“One which had made the biggest impact is my childhood in Kakuma Refugee Camp: it was a time where I missed the two most important people in my life, so I spent a lot of time wondering whether I would ever see my mother and father again," he said.

“Now, looking back at my life, I realise I was discovering myself and my identity, and because I know that feeling of living without parents, I desire to be there for my children in the future.”

He believes sharing his story will help shed light on injustices and spread positivity for future generations.

“I want to share my story because there is an entire continent (Africa) which is largely third-world, with much of it at war and living in poverty, and another world which is rich," he said.

"I hope that we are able to talk about some of the issues we are facing, from the past to the present, as a community, to improve those who are affected.

"I also believe that we must set examples to the Sudanese Australian-born children, so they may strive for greatness."


Jovian Aorangi-Taylor, 15  

Jovian Aorangi-Taylor says he's always seen himself as a bit of a panda: "I’m black, white and Asian."

"All jokes aside, I am proud to be Maori/Filipino/Australian," he said.

"I feel really lucky that I can identify with many different cultures, and proud to show them off when I can.

"Although when it comes to an All Blacks and Wallabies games – I’ll always back the All Blacks."

At just 15, Jovian knows who he is.

"I know that my confidence and strong identity is linked to the positive influences I have surrounding me by my Maori, Filipino and Aussie families.

"And I definitely need that confidence because I attend a school with a predominately white Australian population.

"Whether I want to or not , I stand out.

"Having a strong connection to my own people, gives me the confidence to know who I am and stand tall."

But he's also well aware of the difficulties fitting into mainstream Australian society.

"It’s a daily struggle. It feels like I’m juggling sometimes, trying to keep all these parts of me moving and working together in a balanced way," he said.

"Just like juggling, you drop the ball sometimes.

"At the moment I am involved heavily in the Maori side of me because I’m in a Maori Youth Group, Maori Kapa Haka (dancing and singing) group, Maori festivals and forums.

"This leaves little time for the Filipino and Australian side of me. Balance is tough, and I’m still learning to find that sweet spot."

Taz Clay, 17

As an Indigenous brotherboy from Townsville in Far North Queensland, Taz has never had it easy.

“After my mum passed when I was 14, I’d already had a rough trot at this stage," he said.

"I was living at a homeless shelter, and I had a really bad break-up several months later.

"That just set everything out of control.

"I was suffering from depression, PTSD, chronic suicidal tendencies, I was in a really bad place."

For a long time, he struggled with his gender identity.

"I met another brotherboy and he transitioned with the culture as well. Being a brotherboy is quite a new thing, for Indigenous people I guess.

"They've probably been around forever and ever but for me its been more prominent now being in that community."

But coming out as transgender on national television, Taz found that sharing his story would help break down those barriers.

"Coming out I stepped into the limelight pretty early," he said.

"I already saw what could happen with my story and how it can be used for educational purposes, which I found is quote important because ignorance is usually from lack of education."

Taz's work with Headspace plays an important role in healing his past demons.

“If I can get through them, I'm sure anyone else can get through their problems if there is support around," he said.

"There is no shame in talking.

“We need to change the way people see mental health, for Indigenous people, as well as other diverse groups… because mental health shouldn’t be considered as something offside compared to your physical health.”


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Shakila Hussiani, 18

Born in Afghanistan, Ms Hussiani moved to Australian when she was nine-years-old.

She said living in Australia makes her grateful and she's well aware of the injustices facing Afghan women.  

“Afghan women have been fighting for freedom and equality for decades now,” she said.

“Girls in Afghanistan are taught that you have to look down when talking to males or not laugh too loudly… we’re taught how to act and be, we don’t have a choice of own identity.”  

She has taken advantage of the opportunities in her new home.

“The freedom and the countless opportunities that I have been given in Australia has changed the way I see myself and the way I view the world,” she said.

Last year, she graduated high school and is beginning a degree in molecular genetics and bio-technology, and hopes to work in medicine.

“I also do a Diploma in Community Services so I can give back to Australia," she said.

But her true calling is theatre arts, a path not taken by many Afghan women before her.

She uses one of the world’s biggest platforms to share humorous facets of her life.  

“I’m the first Afghan Hazara girl to make YouTube videos, Hazaras have a long history of political prosecution within Afghanistan, and we’re like the minority," she said.

"So as an Afghan Hazara girl starting YouTube videos is like a huge thing.”

Ms Hussiani hopes to inspire other young women who feel trapped by tradition.

“There are so many talented Afghan Hazara girls who have a passion for theatre arts and filming, but they’re not allowed to do that because it’s not seen as a norm in our society.

"We’re taught to keep quiet, but I think I’ve broken those barriers."

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National Youth Week (April 8-17) celebrates young people aged 12-25 across the country, giving young Australians the opportunity to express their ideas and views, and act on issues that affect their lives.

Find out how SBS is celebrating National Youth Week here

Source: SBS News

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