Human books unite to challenge prejudice

A GRASSROOTS program is using the art of storytelling to break down social barriers and encourage acceptance and empathy among young people in the Tasmanian community.

Students from TasTAFE’s Clarence campus learnt the importance of the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover” when they participated in a Hobart Human Library workshop held earlier this month (March).

Delivered by not-for-profit organisation A Fairer World, the Hobart Human Library workshops provide a comfortable space for participants, or “readers”, to engage in face-to-face conversations with people, or “living books”, from different backgrounds and experiences.

The program is being rolled out in schools and workplaces around Tasmania with the support of a $57,000 grant from the Tasmanian Community Fund (TCF).

A Fairer World Coordinator Helen Hortle said the catalogue of human books comprised Tasmanian individuals who had encountered stereotyping, prejudice or discrimination as a result of their culture, religion, refugee background, gender or physical or mental ability.

“By creating a collaborative story made of shared experiences, this initiative inspires and empowers people to think past these stereotypes and not to judge a book – or person – by its cover,” she said.

Ms Hortle said the books received training as community educators to participate in workshops with local schools and workplaces.

“Our human books are recruited in consultation with support organisations, and our training has been developed with their assistance to ensure the readiness of the books to tell their story publicly,” she said.

“The wellbeing of both the books and readers is paramount.”

Ms Hortle said the 90-minute workshops were designed to provide for up to five book readings in a “speed-dating format.”

“The workshops close with a group discussion of actions that individuals can take to challenge their own stereotyped thinking, to make others feel included and to reduce discrimination,” she said.

The Hobart Human Library was one of 79 projects to be awarded grant funding under Grant Round 33 of the TCF.

TCF Chairwoman Sally Darke said the project was innovative, proactive and good value for money.

“The TCF is pleased to fund this project, which is based on a model proven to be effective and in-demand around the world as it directly addresses one of the main causes of bullying and discrimination – stereotyping and prejudice,” she said.

Her Excellency Professor The Honourable Kate Warner AC, Governor of Tasmania is hosting a special professional development event to benefit A Fairer World on Wednesday 5 April 2017 from 10am.

The fundraising event will include a Hobart Human Library workshop (10-11.30am) followed by a light luncheon and opportunity to network (11.30am-12pm).

For further information, please visit www.afairerworld.org/hhl.

Tickets cost $500 each and are available for purchase online at https://www.trybooking.com/OZNX. Numbers are limited.

Caption: Emma recently spoke to students at Clarence TAFE as part of a program to break down barriers and encourage acceptance in the Tasmanian community.