Good evening…… I would like to welcome all dignitaries, community leaders, government representatives and friends of the Multicultural Communities Council here tonight and I would particularly like to make a special mention of our four life members….. Mr. Bruno Krumins, Mr. Michael Schultz, Mr. Randolph Alwis and Mr. Ron Tan. Thank you gentlemen for joining us this evening, your commitment to the organisation is always appreciated and acknowledged.
I also welcome you to my home stamping ground. I am a western suburbs girl, born and bred. I literally grew up around the corner on North Parade. My parents emigrated from Greece in 1954 with a suitcase in one hand and my 3 year old brother in the other. Some time was spent in at the Bonegilla Hostel in NSW. From there they moved to Adelaide where they eventually settled in North Parade in 1963 for the remainder of their lives. Here is where I was born, grew up, played on the streets from morning till night and went to school. Although I have since moved, it always feels like I am coming home, when I come back to the western suburbs.
So it is very apt that we are meeting here today for my first AGM as President of Multicultural Communities Council. I would like to congratulate the Mayor, John Trainer on this wonderful facility which the Multicultural Communities Council has used on a number of occasions. I particularly enjoy coming in here on a Friday morning when the Greek seniors group meet and they have their mini market outside. It is always tempting.
Thank you for indulging me and allowing me to reminisce a little now………. on to business.
This year has been all about consolidating past initiatives, and laying a foundation for future growth. At last year’s AGM we told you about the establishment of the CALD Ageing Alliance and this has been a very successful initiative. …..As all of you who come from the aged care sector would be aware; this has been a challenging year full of reforms from the Federal Government. Our CALD Ageing Alliance has been keeping the aged sector informed through forums, workshops and by advocating on behalf of the communities. We believe that 2015 will test many CALD service providers as they respond to ongoing changes. If CALD communities want to retain language specific and culturally appropriate services they need to be innovative in how they manage service delivery and funding applications. We, through the CALD Ageing Alliance have responded to this challenge by establishing a Bureau service which will apply for funding on behalf of smaller CALD communities. The Bureau will provide a cost effective and streamlined way of assisting South Australia’s smaller CALD communities retain their identity in the provision of ethno- specific aged care services.
Our Informed Ageing Project this year has provided information on ageing issues to elderly members of CALD communities. We particularly acknowledge the support of Seniors Information Service with this work….…and the communities who have participated in the workshops.
Over the years we have undertaken some wonderful work in the youth area with the Reconnect program. Last year in July the Department of Social Services approved the expansion of our target client group. This was particularly important for us as we are now able to service CALD youth between the ages of 12 to 18 who have been in Australia for more than 5 years and who are at risk of homelessness or are homeless. This expansion has seen our client numbers increasing to 130% of our annual target numbers……. Due to the expansion of our Reconnect service we have developed, and are continuing to develop, new partnerships with schools and service providers across Adelaide. We acknowledge our partners in this program, the Vietnamese Association of South Australia and also the Overseas Chinese Association. We are looking to build on this great program and widening the scope of programs to youth and younger children in the future.
As many of you in this room would be aware, we commissioned Dr Fiona Kerr to undertake a strategic review of the Multicultural Communities Council and its working environment. I am very happy with the broad participation of people in this review and the willingness of people to give honest feedback on our programs, our strengths and our weaknesses. I would like to extend a personal thank you to anyone here tonight who participated, your feedback will help shape our future.
The report will be finalized early next year. However, there are some general comments which I would like to make tonight.
Research is critical in this sector, we have formed working collaborations with South Australian Universities, assisting them to establish an evidence base for future funding and program development. This is a key priority for the Multicultural Communities Council SA.
Since 2009 the Management Committee has seen the importance of establishing a Community Hub for the new and emerging communities. Our aim is to assist them to identify and address barriers that hinder their capacity-building and development. A community service hub could provide both separate offices and shared use of meeting-room facilities and we would provide them with a supportive environment necessary to kick-start them into viable groups. Now that we are back in the city in our own premises we are best placed to make this happen and we will pursue this vigorously in 2015.
Our youth program has also highlighted the need to address employment issues, particularly for our refugee groups, and the smaller and emerging communities. Partnerships will be developed to provide a more holistic approach which can assist youth to be more job ready.
One of my personal interests is regional South Australia and how CALD communities can maintain their ethnic identity working within the challenge of distance and very scattered community groups. It is wonderful that some Metropolitan based ethno specific community providers are reaching out to their country communities and working with them. The Multicultural Communities Council will be looking closely as to how it will be reaching out and supporting regional SA.
We know from speaking with our members that small communities have difficulty in applying for grants so we have established a small grant assistance program, which will be run on Tuesday mornings as from the end of this month.
With the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, we have partnered with Disability Rights Advocacy Service, the Migrant Resource Centre and the National Disability Insurance Agency to support our CALD communities to better understand the impact of the scheme on consumers and agencies.
To ensure that our limited Government resources reach as many community needs as possible, I am committed to us working in partnership and have spent this year establishing links with a variety of organisations. These links will form a basis for future program development.
It is important that multicultural communities continue to work together to address issues which many groups may struggle to address by themselves. Combined we are far stronger than as individual communities. The CALD Ageing Alliance is a good example of this, where older more established communities are helping lay the foundation for service delivery to smaller and emerging communities.
It is also important that we continue to respect differences and accept diversity within Australian society as a whole. I am aware that some members of South Australia’s Muslim community are finding it challenging at the moment because of events overseas. The violence which is occurring is abhorrent and it is important not to generalise this violence to the many Muslims in Australia who are peaceful and productive members of our community. I would encourage all of you to make a special effort over this time to extend the hand of friendship to any members of the Muslim community that you come into contact with.
In closing I would like to thank my fellow members of the Management Committee for all their efforts this year. It has been a challenging and exciting year particularly with the Strategic Review and the period of conscious rejuvenation which the Multicultural Communities Council is going through. Two Committee members Dr. Andris Darzins, and Sathish Dassan are stepping down this year , we thank both for their contribution to the work of the Multicultural Communities Council.
I would like to extend a personal thank you to the Chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia Mr. Joe Caputo, for joining us tonight; Joe has driven from Melbourne and left behind the festivities of the Melbourne Cup to join us here at the AGM.
Finally, and especially I would like to acknowledge and thank all the volunteers who help us out with our work and programs and last but not least the staff of the MCCSA for their great work over the past 12 months, it has been a pleasure working with you and I look forward to the next year ahead of us. Thank you