Celebration in the heart of Dandenong

Dancing and Drumming. Harmony Square went wild, and all were welcome. Picture: ROB CAREW. 368148_01

By Sahar Foladi

Black Rhinos basketball team reached spectacular heights with a dazzling display of African culture in the heart of Dandenong.

In a thrilling exhibition on Sunday 28 October at Harmony Square, the Ubuntu Black Rhinos attracted the gaze of bystanders with attendees in bright African dress, the beat of cultural music and the energy of dancers.

The Rhinos program, established by Afri-Aus Care, is a crime prevention program for youth to provide them with opportunities to integrate in the community with a positive social experience through basketball.

Founder and chief executive officer Selba Gondoza-Luka said if the program ceased there was a high chance the youths would fall into troubled lives.

“The young people brought their friends from other regions, and it was a very successful event,” Ms Gondoza-Luka said.

“People who just walked by came and enjoyed the dancing, individual performers, singing and much more.”

The event saw a mix of audiences in the heart of the multicultural city with participants from across various suburbs.

“Young people were dancing, kids were just so happy, Caucasian young people came to play basketball with the Rhinos.”

The police team were also involved, taking part in a friendly match with the Rhinos with laughter.

Senior Sergeant Rob Colcott from the Multicultural Liaison unit in Dandenong was among the attendees.

Although the Rhinos team were established back in 2017, the annual Harmony Square event funded by City of Greater Dandenong began just last year.

It has become an eye-catching, fun and must-attend event.

Some of the Rhino players’ mothers – known as ‘Mamas’ – are also invested as volunteers for the organisation.

Through the three-year funding from the Department of Justice, the organisation was able to empower the Mamas through various services and programs including a partnership with Sister Works.

“The Mamas have been improving through that grant. They’ve done a great job and have actually brought their dreams and vision in the program,” Ms Gondoza-Luka said.

“They also bring their children and their grandchildren in this program to be part of Afri-Aus Care.”

As a result, the organisation is in the process of launching an educational program, Ubuntu cultural competency training, for the wider community which is divided into three components.

The program will be provided by Ubuntu Junior Ambassadors, Ubuntu Youth Ambassadors and Ubuntu Senior Ambassadors to deliver 10 Ubuntu principles with evidence-based backgrounds.

These Ambassadors will provide training in different settings such as at schools and government and private stakeholders to teach them about Ubuntu.

“We have come up with Ubuntu principles which we’ve put together in a package where people can learn what we put together for the past three years,” Ms Gondoza-Luka said.

She has already applied the Ubuntu program for 16 Catholic schoolgirls who also completed their work experience with the organisation.

“It’s very powerful.

“The credit goes to the people at Afri-Aus care including the mamas and the volunteers.”

The Ubuntu Cultural Competency Training program will provide Afri-Aus Care’s wrap-around programs such as alcohol and mental health awareness and celebrate the richness of African life, food and dance at the Community Village in Springvale South.

The Afri-Aus Care has supported 300 women and guided many into employment.

Ms Gondoza-Luka is also a mentor at the Joan Kirner Emerging Leadership program which supports emerging leaders from the community with experienced mentors to assist them.

She works in the program to also encourage youth particularly from African backgrounds to become mentees as part of the program.