News & Events

Finding friendship and common ground

August 18, 2017

Student Abdi Nur says his friend, Sue Course, is a ‘saver’. After interviewing her for a school project and becoming her friend Abdi has learnt about the woman familiar to many Melburnians for her decades spent saving the Darebin Parklands from becoming an industrial site.


“Sue has done more in her life than I can imagine a person would be able to do,” said Abdi, a Year 12 student from Fitzroy High School. “She is a person who sets her mind to something and then makes it happen.”


Abdi, 18, will be telling Sue’s story as part of the Fitzroy High School/Old Colonists’ Association of Victoria Intergenerational Project. This project is part of the Senior VCAL students’ Work Related Skills Unit. Students demonstrate skills transferrable to the workplace, including communication, team work, organization and meeting deadlines.


Students have been matched with residents at OCAV’s Rushall Park village for a series of interviews that will result in an exhibition. He could write volumes about Sue, but will have to try to capture her spirit and achievements in a poster.


“I have so much information about Sue, but I want people to walk away knowing that she is a saver. A long time ago she ran in front of a tram to save her brother. Then she saved the Darebin Parklands. She wanted to save it and she got her friends, her people and she did it,” Abdi said. “She also had her family, her four kids.”


Sue, 83, in turn has developed great admiration and respect for Somali-born Abdi who came to Australia from a Kenyan refugee camp eight years ago with his mother, sister and brother. When he arrived he spoke no English and had very little education. With a lot of hard work and determination and support from his mother, who got the family to Australia, he has almost completed Year 12 and his English is excellent.


It’s little wonder the pair has struck up a friendship; they have much in common.  Abdi and Sue ended up in Australia because of war. Displaced from their countries by conflict, they each have a strength and resilience they recognise and admire in the other. Abdi’s family fled Somalia and lived for many years in Dagahaley, a refugee camp in Kenya.  Sue’s family joined the exodus of Jews from Austria in 1938 to escape the Nazis.


“I came to Australia when I was four and education was always available to me. But Abdi came here when he was 10 and knew no English. He had to fight for his education. Look at what he has been able to achieve in such a short time – it is extraordinary. He has learned to live in a new country, study and work four afternoons a week at a supermarket to help his family,” Sue said.


The partnership project was Sue’s brainchild a couple of years ago and she is thrilled with how it has unfolded. Eight students have been matched with residents and all the stories will be featured in the exhibition.


“It grew from my idea that we should interview and write the stories of our Rushall Park residents. But it just seemed too big a job and then OCAV contacted Fitzroy High School and now this project has happened,” Sue said.


“It is lovely working with these young people, they are wonderful.”


Sandra Dickins, the school’s VCAL Teacher and Pathways and Community Leader, said the students were initially very nervous about their first interview. However, over time they developed a rapport and their confidence grew.


“OCAV’s ability to match the students’ and residents’ interests really assisted the process. They were easily able to find some common ground. Overwhelmingly, the students were blown away by the life experiences of the residents and the stories they shared in the interview,” Sandra said.

Caption: This photo of Sue and Abdi was taken by Fitzroy High School student Dharma Georgi, who is also part of the project.

Keith White, who had heart surgery two years ago, reckons he’s better now than he has ever been. He puts his state of health and well-being down to the life he has found at Currie Park, OCAV’s village in Euroa.

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