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Angelica Ojinnaka: Complex cultures, connecting communities

Community Voices participant Angelica Ojinnaka is learning new skills for herself and her community

Australia has become a destination for Africans, many of them from South Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia and Ghana. And now Nigeria.

Traditionally, Australia’s African migration has been South African and, to a lesser degree, Zimbabweans. Almost all white, all English-speaking.

But people such as Angelica Ojinnaka represent a growing voice.

Australian-born to Nigeria parents she has a foot in two countries, in two cultures, in two stories — and she wants to try to bring them together.

But Angelica is sufficiently savvy to know her objective is not going anywhere as a one-woman campaign.

Angelica said she is learning skills that she can share with her community.

She needs partners, new skills and she needs to know how to widen the conversation beyond her own community.

Which is why she was excited to be selected for the inaugural Judith Neilson Institute Community Voices program, which she hopes will help her build a greater role in the public conversation.

“I identify as a young African-Australian woman and, as I look around me, I don’t see us as having any representatives,” Angelica said.

“I want to do something about that; not just for the sake of the publicity for us but to help people engage with us as much as we want to engage with them.

“And I need these skills so I can pass them on, because even within our community there are people of different age, with different views, and they have the right to express their opinions.”

Angelica said program has been both enlightening and empowering and hopes further sessions will give her more “transferrable skills” to help her community make some of the changes it needs.

For Angelica, being Australian born adds a layer of complexity to her position when dealing with older members of the Nigerian community.

“Age, culture, position can be a challenge in Nigeria and that different power structure doesn’t simply replant itself in Australia but developing the skills to bring the community with me is what will work best,” she said.

“So how I bring others along and how we can connect with media to help us spread the message, that’s what I signed on for with the Judith Neilson Institute — to be able to better tell our story, better show what we have to offer and to help build respect into a two-way street.”

Angelica with fellow Community Voices participants, and project leaders Jim Carroll and Ky Chow.