Grant to give Bendigo refugees a head start

BENDIGO Community Health Services is helping refugees build better lives, thanks to a $225,000 state government grant.

The grant was recently announced by Nationals MP for Northern Victoria Damian Drum, on behalf of Multicultural Affairs Minister Nicholas Kotsiras, and will be used to strengthen refugee services already offered in Bendigo.

BCHS chief executive Kim Sykes said the money would greatly benefit newly arrived refugee and asylum seekers.

“It means we can further strengthen the programs that we run for the refugee and migrant population that’s settling in Bendigo,” she said.

“For that population it means greater assistance to really understand what Bendigo offers and support for them to engage with this community in a very active way.

“It’s about building the capacity of the refugee population to be independent and to participate fully in this community.

“We’ll be able to help them access the things they need and contribute.”

Mr Drum said the grant would enable BCHS to run a Refugee Action Program in Bendigo.

The plan aims to allow people to: 

identify local issues and concerns by consulting community leaders, the refugee community and engaging a bilingual worker; involve the refugee community to plan and implement tailored community and community-owned responses; 

and foster enhanced local capacity and improve settlement outcomes. “It will enable Bendigo Community Health Services to do an even better job when it comes to the resettlement program that they’re putting in place for refugees within the Bendigo region,” Mr Drum said.

“It’s not just about a matter of giving them what they need so they can get by – it’s far more complex than that.”

Mr Drum said Bendigo already had strong, positive experience with Karen refugees from Burma, and was now seeing people from trouble spots across the globe, including Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

“We are seeing not only individual men and women fleeing turmoil, but in some cases, whole families,” he said.

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