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For 30 years Courage to Care has been educating and empowering students across Victoria to stand up against racism and discrimination by being ‘Upstanders’.

This generational impact has been delivered free of charge to Victorian schools by a team of skilled and dedicated volunteers including inspiring first-person testimonies from Holocaust Survivor Speakers who were saved by Upstander action.

However, as CEO Mike Zervos commented ‘Our work is far from done’

The Victorian Government today announced a grant of an additional $2 million which will enable Courage to Care to expand its Upstander Program to support a mix of school visits, a year 9 outreach program in rural and regional schools, and virtual visits.

Premier Daniel Andrews stated yesterday, “It’s critical that we teach every generation about the horrors of the Holocaust to fight intolerance and prejudice in our own communities – because there is absolutely no room for antisemitism in Victoria.”

State Education Minister and Deputy Premier James Merlino added, “Courage to Care’s Holocaust education program is a powerful and compelling experience for students and school communities – and we’re proud to expand it to make sure every Victorian student can participate.”

Mr Zervos said Courage to Care is fighting against racism and intolerance by working at a grassroots level with school students across Victoria to create a generation of Upstanders rather than bystanders.

‘We are enabling students to stand up against racism and broader societal issues such as homophobia, ableism, sexism and bullying generally,’ he said.

‘This commitment from the Victorian Government represents a significant moment of growth for B’nai B’rith Courage to Care Victoria and will truly allow us to achieve our mission – to create a generation of Upstanders – one school at a time.’

‘The Scanlon Foundation Research Institute – which monitors changes in social attitudes in Australia – reported that in 2020, 40 per cent of respondents thought racism in Australia was either a very big or fairly big problem. By the end of 2021, that number swelled to 60 per cent,’ he said.

‘Worryingly, these figures aren’t just thoughts – they are real.’

Similar numbers were reported in the Asian community, with the Asian Australian Alliance reporting that they have received more than 500 reports of racist incidents against Asian Australians in the past year.

The Community Security Groups across Australia reported 490 antisemitic incidents in Australia during 2021, a 38 per cent increase over 2020 and the highest on record.

Gandel Foundation’s first national survey of Holocaust knowledge reported almost a quarter (24%) of adult Australians have little to no knowledge of the Holocaust.  And that number rises to a staggering 30% among Millennials.

Despite these alarming insights, most Australians (88%) agree: we can learn lessons for today from what happened in the Holocaust.

Susan Hearst’s mother is a Holocaust Survivor, who survived only because a stranger was brave enough to be an Upstander, in the most extreme of circumstances. Ms Hearst volunteers with Courage to Care, sharing her mother’s story to students across Victoria, with an inspiring message, that we can all be Upstanders against racism, discrimination and prejudice in our schools and communities.

Ms Hearst said ‘My mother said her survival was a miracle. Through telling her story I have the unique privilege of honouring my family, and the Upstanders whose bravery saved thousands of lives, including mine.

By having open discussions with students, we empower them to become Upstanders, wherever they encounter prejudice and discrimination.

We are creating a generation of Upstanders, so that our grandchildren will live in a better world.’

Courage to Care will be welcoming all members of the community to a series of free public events to celebrate its 30th anniversary at the ARK Centre in Hawthorn between Tuesday 24 May and Thursday 2 June 2022.

This includes educational and empowering guided tours of the Courage to Care Exhibition showcasing Upstanders throughout history, as well as  series of Community Upstander Programs are offered to community leaders as structured, interactive workshops open to anyone who wants to learn to be Upstanders against racism and discrimination in their communities. An educational breakfast panel event hosted by Dr Susan Carland and an expert panel will generate ideas and collaborate for proactive community and structural responses to discrimination. Bookings essential.

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