Equal Representation8 August 2016
The first national student run People of Colour Conference took place from 23–24 July at the
University of Melbourne.
The conference was an opportunity for students who identify as a person of colour to
congregate for workshops, panels, discussions and talks. With several universities and states
represented, a range of diverse discussions of contemporary issues took place over two days.
From the increasing prevalence of Islamophobia in Australian society to the representation of
people of colour in the media, the Conference was an opportunity for students to consider
issues affecting young people of colour in Australia today.
Open to all tertiary level students who identify as African, Asian, Pacific Islander, Aboriginal,
Indigenous, Latinx, Arab or multiracial, the conference topics were reflectively diverse.
On the first day, a panel of four, including broadcaster Namila Benson and stage designer
Eugene Teh, discussed the representation of people of colour in the media and the arts. Benson
explained the need for young people of colour to be represented by an “authenticity of voice” in
the media and encouraged attendees to “be the change you want to see”.
Copanelist and writer Jean Tong discussed the need for an increase in the representation of
people of colour in the arts and the importance of mentorship. Student run workshops continued
these discussions and more, tackling cultural appropriation, multiraciality and principled
Keynote speakers included Marita Cheng, an alumni of the University of Melbourne and 2012
Young Australian of the Year. Cheng shared her personal account of growing up Chinese in far
North Queensland. Other keynote speakers included Jennifer Yang a previous mayor of
Manningham and 2016 Senate candidate who advocates for greater representation of
Australia’s cultural and racial diversity to be reflected in its parliament, and Alice Pung an
awardwinning novelist and editor of the collection of short stories Growing Up Asian.
“I couldn’t necessarily relate personally to all of the things discussed over the two days, but its
been eyeopening and given me a greater understanding of the issues facing people of colour in
Australia today,” said a student from the University of Melbourne who attended the conference.
A constructive and authentic platform for students of colour to discuss issues affecting the
Australian and global community, the newly annual conference will continue to attract students
from across Australia.