In 2019, Olivia Rivera-Burke contacted award-winning screenwriter, film-maker and author Cath Moore to gain some perspective about her Year 6 Exhibition project. What followed was a totally unexpected, but wonderful, connection between the two of them.
Olivia’s project focused on “being of two or more different races”, which she wanted to normalise. “I wanted to raise awareness that some things – some questions – that might seem harmless can actually be a bit offensive. I didn’t think a lot of people realised that, because I didn’t even realise that.”
Olivia invited Cath to the College to talk about racial identity from the perspective of someone with a mixed racial background. Cath is of Irish/Afro-Caribbean heritage, was born in Guyana and raised in Australia. She has contributed to works such as Growing Up African in Australia. Olivia is “half-Filipino, half-Irish”, so Cath was someone she could immediately relate to.
“I don’t know many people who are quite like me with my ethnicity, so it was really cool that Cath and I had a lot of things in common,” said Olivia.
“It started with small questions like ‘Do you find it tiring when someone asks you where you’re from’ and then it got into bigger things like ‘Have you ever experienced racism towards you or your family’. We had really long discussions and it really helped with my project.”
Cath recently invited Olivia – now in Year 7 – to the launch of her first novel, Metal Fish, Falling Snow. The launch was particularly special for Olivia because Cath thanked her and called her “an inspirational young person and a talented writer. While she was reading out her acknowledgements, Cath mentioned my name. It was amazing. I never expected that – it was really humbling.
“She also sent me a signed copy of her book and said to look on page 228, where she mentioned my name in her acknowledgements.”
Olivia is also a keen writer – another thing she and Cath have in common. Cath has been “a great inspiration” for Olivia, who sent Cath some of her writing after their interview. Since then, they have remained in touch. “We email back and forth when we see something the other might find interesting. I watched a program about racism and told Cath maybe she should watch it. She also sent me links to Australian writing competitions.”
Olivia plans to stay in touch with Cath, and hopes her project will continue to raise awareness about being respectful and considerate when getting to know others.
“Be aware that being bi-racial is normal. It’s fine to be curious, but you need to be careful with what you’re asking.”