Reaching out to all Australians
Understanding diverse client needs and characteristics is fundamental to developing responsive programs and services. For example, the National Library of Australia recognises the diverse backgrounds and interests of Australians. It collects a range of material, including oral histories, to record their stories. The library has also started a project to archive selected overseas websites, especially those relating to the Asia-Pacific region. In 2007, there was a particular focus on collecting information on the Cambodian, East Timorese, Papua New Guinean and Thai elections and the Burmese uprising. In collaboration with other organisations, the library has hosted public lectures on human rights, justice and equity for asylum seekers from other cultures.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has been working with ex-service communities and in cooperation with the Springvale Indo-Chinese Mutual Assistance Association to establish a social forum, the Freedom Day Club, for Vietnamese veterans living in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The aim is to connect them with other members of their community and general Returned and Services League of Australia activities.
To improve the quality of life and care for older people with specific cultural and linguistic needs, the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) funds a number of aged care homes and community care services run by ethnic community organisations. Flexible care options delivered through multipurpose health centres extend support to rural and regional areas.
In 2007–08, DoHA approved 70 organisations for funding under the Community Partners Program to improve access to aged care services for specific cultural or linguistic groups. This was a doubling of the number of projects that were funded in the previous year. Projects involved information dissemination, translations, cultural briefings for aged care providers and the establishment of partnerships with aged care services.
DoHA also funded an organisation in each state and territory under the Partners in Culturally Appropriate Care Program to train aged care service providers in culturally appropriate care.
Family Relationship Services for Humanitarian Entrants, funded through the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), helps Humanitarian Program families to adjust to life in Australia. The services include community development; education and skills training; guidance on customs, laws and gender expectations; counselling and family therapy; and information and referral.
Since May 2004, FaHCSIA has funded support to 105 women as part of the Support for Victims of People Trafficking Program. The program helps victims around Australia who are of interest to the police or assisting with criminal investigations and prosecutions. It provides financial assistance, access to accommodation, medical treatment, basic legal advice, counselling, training and social support.
The Women in Export program run by Austrade encourages business women who own or operate an export business. It identifies suitable mentors and works with existing women’s business networks to help them achieve a greater export focus. Women from a range of cultural backgrounds are involved. The linguistic and cultural skills of Australian business people, their understanding of overseas markets and their international networks strengthen Australia’s place in the world commercially and politically.
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) ran Better Connections Workshops to bring together employment services providers, federal, state and local government agencies, chambers of commerce, businesses and a range of other key stakeholders at the local level. The aim of Better Connections Workshops was to develop practical strategies to address labour supply and demand issues for the local labour market. A Better Connections Workshop that focused exclusively on the needs of Humanitarian Program entrant job seekers was held in June 2007 in Sydney’s outer western suburbs.
The Disability Support and Equity Support Programs provide funding to eligible Australian universities to promote outreach and access programs for domestic students from equity groups including students from non English speaking backgrounds, some of whom will be Humanitarian Program entrants.
Humanitarian Program entrants may have experienced conflict and human rights abuses that make them vulnerable to mental health problems. DoHA provides a Program of Assistance for Survivors of Torture and Trauma to support their psychosocial recovery. The program provides funding to a specialised agency in each state and territory to deliver a range of services including direct counselling and related support services to survivors and their families. The program also provides education and training to mainstream service providers to assist them to understand and respond to the needs of survivors of torture and trauma.
In May 2007, the Australia Council for the Arts announced a commitment of $200 000 over three years to the Brisbane Multicultural Arts Centre to fund One for All–Courage, Diversity, Tolerance and Harmony. This is a series of community driven cross-cultural arts exchanges. Beginning with a music and public art program, the initiative has developed in response to community consultations with emerging refugee communities. It aims to engage with young people cross-culturally and link them and their communities to professional artists.
Under an innovative new program, the Australia Council for the Arts Literature Board provides assistance for writers submitting applications and writing in their first language. This program is now focusing on engaging publishers to work with these writers to develop their texts for mainstream publication.
The DEEWR Inclusion Support Agencies coordinate a network of specialised workers called Inclusion Support Facilitators (ISFs).
They work directly with child care services to develop inclusive policies and practices so that children with additional needs can access quality child care. ISFs help child care services to access additional resources or funding to include children with additional needs. If required, bicultural support is available to eligible child care services free of charge, to help child care staff communicate with families and children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Support ranges from interpreting in meetings between parents and service staff to translation of enrolment documents. Bicultural support facilitates cultural awareness, the implementation of culturally and linguistically appropriate practices and anti-bias curricula and provides child care staff with information about relevant community resources and services.