Victoria’s African-born population represents over 50 different nations, sharing unique experiences, skills and ideas that strengthen our state’s social, political, economic and cultural life.
The newly appointed Victorian African Communities Committee (VACC) will play a critical role in ensuring that the advice and insights of Victoria’s diverse African communities are heard at all levels of government.
Members will also support the implementation of the Victorian African Communities Action Plan 2018—2028 and work together to shape the development of policies, projects and strategies that better respond to community needs.
Pauline Richards MP has been appointed to the role of Chair, continuing the work of Josh Bull MP who was fiercely committed to engaging and empowering Victoria’s African communities during his two-year term.
Supporting the Chair and providing leadership and guidance to the committee are Community Deputy Co-Chairs, Monica Forson and Tigist Kebede.
Meet the Committee
Pauline is the Member for Cranbourne, having been elected in November 2018. Before being elected, Pauline was an adviser to the Hon. Jill Hennessy, then Minister for Health and then Attorney General. Pauline provided advice encompassing the policy areas of prevention and population health, refugee and migrant health, cancer, blood borne viruses, Community health, family violence, dental care and the government’s response to the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry.
Monica currently works at the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission where she oversees the Commission’s engagement with multicultural and multifaith communities and leads the ‘Reducing Racism’ project. Monica founded the Afro Australian Student Organisation which provides sociocultural services and a network forum to improve outcomes for African Australian young people.
With experience working across government and community organisations, Monica has worked in a variety of policy, advocacy, engagement and education roles. Her career has included direct service delivery in the youth sector and policy advisory and advocacy roles with diverse communities across human rights, mental health and law enforcement settings.
Monica is a respected leader in the Victorian multicultural community. Monica has been a member of a number of Victorian Government advisory groups including the Victorian African Communities Action Plan Implementation Committee, the Victorian Multicultural Commission’s Regional Advisory Group and the Victorian Anti-Racism Taskforce.
Tigist Kebede is a Senior Counsellor who employs culturally responsive frameworks in her practice. She has held positions providing clinical therapy in hospital, community and forensic based settings.
She is the founder of “The Tena Therapist” a social media mental health profile whereby she provides accessible mental health advocacy, health promotion and psycho-education. Tigist was a board member for African Think Tank, and was part of the African Communities Working Group and Intercultural Advisory Committee in Melton City Council.
Tigist’s notable grassroots connections with community organisers as well as experience in advocating and advising state and federal government, resulted in statewide change in culturally responsive health initiatives.
Adongwot is dedicated to capacity building of CALD communities as demonstrated by her extensive community development work within the African Diaspora within the South Sudanese community. She is a Cultural Consultant at VICSEG New Futures, which supports skill building and social equity for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.
Adongwot was awarded the 2019 Churchill Fellowship and the opportunity to conduct research globally to explore ways in which African Diaspora have successfully integrated in other Western societies, with a special focus on creating meaningful change within the education system and tackling systemic and individual bias.
Anaab Rooble is an experienced human resources, finance and diversity and inclusion practitioner. She has 20 years of public services experience and currently leads the Human Resources and Finance team of the Victorian Disability Worker Commission. She migrated to Australia from Somalia 24 years ago, spoke no English when she arrived, and a civil war prevented her from accessing an education beyond Grade Five and was recently awarded the Victorian Refugee Leadership Award 2022.
Anaab is passionate about revamping workplace cultures, driving diversity and inclusion initiatives and has learnt that organisational change often relies on the individual to have the courage to speak up and highlight where inequality exists and to challenge the status quo and hopes to see a world where us and them no longer exists. She is a proud member of the Victorian Public Sector Women of Colour Network and is a Treasurer and Board Director for the Women with Disabilities Victoria.
Andrew Gai works at Anglicare Victoria as a Team Leader in The Orange Door providing support to families impacted by Family Violence and other issues. Andrew also co-founded the South Sudanese-Australian Academic Society (SSAS) with a vision to see a generation of South Sudanese Australians that empowered, educated and contributing to the society. SSAS creates networking opportunities for the community and fosters discussion on issues affecting students and professionals in their education and career pathway.
Andrew is on the Board with several community organisations including the Refugee Communities Association of Australia and the Community Response Australia. He is also a previous member of the Regional Advisory Council to the Victorian Multicultural Commission.
Andrew has received multiple awards for his community service including: the Refugee Achievement Award 2022; the 2020 Holt Australia Day Award in recognition of his community service and the Future Leaders Award in 2016.
Catherine founded her public relations and brand communication agency, Emerge Media Group which operates Emerging Brand Africa (EmBA) and publishes Emerge Magazine. Its aim is to amplify the visibility of African Australians both in corporate and in business, through strategic integration of cultures that represent the diversity of Australian society. She also aims to spotlight Australian allied partners, those who collaborate and support African Australians. Through her work, Catherine was named a Finalist for Agenda Setting by Women's Agenda Leadership Awards 2022. Catherine is also a member of the Victorian Multicultural Commission’s Regional Advisory Council, a Vice- President of the African Professionals Australia- VIC chapter, and also a member of various African community groups, including Africa Day Australia, an organization that champions for cohesion of multicultural communities in the city of Melbourne and Africa Music & Cultural Festival.
Dr Stephane Shepherd is Associate Professor of Forensic Psychology at Swinburne University. His research explores cross-cultural issues at the intersection of psychology and the criminal justice system. He is a member of the Victorian Youth Parole Board, and the Eastern Regional Advisory Committee of the Victorian Multicultural Commission. Dr. Shepherd is a Fulbright Scholar, and in 2020, he was the recipient of the Victorian Government Multicultural Award for Excellence in Justice.
Fred is the Co-founder and Chair of the African Music and Cultural Festival and founding member of the African Australian Communities Leadership Forum. Fred has over 20 years’ experience working in policy, project management and system-wide improvements across the public and private sectors. He is the Treasurer of Africa Day Australia Inc and previously sat on the Victorian African Communities Action Plan Implementation Committee.
Mahamed has worked in the youth and community sector for more than half a decade as a youth practitioner across both local government and not-for-profit sectors. He is a Planning and Advocacy Stream Leader at Maribyrnong City Council, where he coordinates a range of youth participatory initiatives across the community. Mahamed is also a co-founder and Director of the BETTER MEN Project, a mental health service which delivers evidence-based programs, workshops, professional development and seminars to better the mental health and skills of young men and those that support them.
Mohamed is the CEO & Co-founder of Endeavour Youth Australia (EYA), an organisation that aims to re-engage young people in their learning and within their own communities. He also is a Co-Chair on the Maribyrnong Youth Advisory Committee. Mohamed has been the recipient of the Liberty Victoria's Young Voltaire Human Rights Award and named Muslim Youth of the Year at the 2020 Australian Muslim Achievement awards.
Selba-Gondoza is the Founder and CEO of Afri-Aus Care Inc which provides culturally appropriate mental health assessment and a variety of support services to young people with African heritage, their families and those from other CALD backgrounds. In addition to being a trained Mental Health Clinician, Selba-Gondoza’s work at Afri-Aus Care has also seen her become a grassroots community leader and impassioned advocate for ending family violence, empoering maginalised women and implementing the NDIS within the African Australian community.
Selba-Gondoza is a Charter Member of the Rotary Passport Club of Melbourne and has served as the Deputy Convenor for Police Victoria’s African Australian Community Taskforce. She also holds positions on the University of Melbourne AREiA Advisory Board, the Department of Health CALD Health Advisory Committee, the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing Volunteer Strategy Committee 2022. Selba-Gondoza is a multiple award winner in 2021 she was awarded Citizen of the Year by the City of Greater Dandenong and was Indicted into the Victorian Hornor Roll of Women 2021.
Tawana is a Community Project Officer for Crime Stoppers Victoria. She is also the Co-founder of Umami, a Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, People of Colour event night. Tawana is a passionate advocate for improving access and social inclusion opportunities for LGBTIQ+ people with African heritage. Tawana recently completed her Masters in Public Policy at Monash University.
Reviewed 28 April 2023