Staff of the Ethnic Council visited Cobram Community House to make a presentation about multicultural services to the Cobram Service Providers Meeting on Tuesday, 12 November 2019.
The Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District Inc. was established in 1978 as a non profit community based service, comprised of elected representatives from the principal ethnic groups in Shepparton and surrounding districts. Ethnic Council representatives are immediately accountable to their ethnic community members.
The Ethnic Council became a legal entity in 1985 when it became incorporated under the Associations Incorporations Act.
The communities served were enumerated, and the conditions facilitating settlement now and in the past were given:
- Intensive irrigated agriculture provides a strong local economy and year-round work
- Migration from Southern Europe: Greeks, Italians, Albanians
- Easy to get work: picking, pruning, canneries, dairies, abattoirs
- Post WWII – settlement of Turks, Punjabi’s, Indians, Filipinos, Chinese, former Yugoslavs, Pacific Islanders and smaller numbers from diverse countries
- 1990’s – change in intake type with large numbers of humanitarian entrants/refugees including Iraqi, Afghan, Sudanese and Congolese
- 2007 Pilot project to settle African refugees and 13 Congolese families
- Secondary migration has attracted over 350 families primarily Sudanese and Afghani (and some Punjabi families)
- Model of successful settlement
- Arrival of Iranian families
- Syrian families as new arrivals
- Burundi families now arriving
- Skilled migrants from China, India, Sri Lanka
- Training – language, education, employment, accommodation, health
An overview of activities initiated by the Ethnic Council in order to facilitate settlement and social inclusion were given by Project Officer Andrew Murley:
- Men’s Groups – dealing with visa anxiety and social isolation;
- Visa Explanatory Sessions – dealing with visa problems, we have engaged legal services to come and provide professional advice;
- Citizenship Classes – enables understanding of Australian values, law and cultural understanding;
- Cultural Tours – to mosques, temples, places of cultural significance; helps understanding of different cultures;
- Leadership programs – empowering communities to flourish with excellence in Leadership skills and strategy;
- Motor Vehicle L plates introductions.
- Sports – community based friendly matches: soccer, cricket;
Given community attention to superannuation, the Royal Commission on Aged Care and the appropriate provision of healthcare in ageing, the Ethnic Council also looks to the future of what is needed in multicultural services:
- Aged Care – as people get older they revert to their home language and cultural habits;
- Social Isolation: is a problem for all – particularly for those who cannot bring their families here to be with them;
- Regional Settlement – as the Federal government is encouraging settlement to Regional Australia, appropriate support services are needed in smaller towns.
Building Social Inclusion
There are many strategies for social inclusion, as recently highlighted by the recent SBS – Deloitte survey of the economic benefits to Australia by improving social inclusion (See here ). Much can be done to improve the experience of those who settle here, and speed their inclusion. Some activities were explored:
- Community Awareness – Movie nights such as Thon Thon’s ‘Lost Boys of Sudan’; screening of movies during Harmony Week and Refugee Week
- Break Isolation – support of events including all communities like Picnic 4 Peace (see here )
- Cultural Awareness – conduct culture days in the park, conduct events like Culture Corner in the centre of town (see here )
- Social Isolation – through English language practice sessions in libraries, after school, etc;
- Social Isolation – Create show-piece events and locations; invite the community and Conduct cultural tours of different cultures.
- Homework Clubs for students;
- Community Garden and Community Kitchen – food unites peoples;
- Partnerships with higher education providers to run business courses, courses on how to be an Entrepreneur, etc.;