LODDON Campaspe Multicultural Services are pushing to develop a multicultural hub in Bendigo.
Multicultural Services chief executive Kate McInnes said the hub would be a one-stop shop for migrants and refugees to access support services.
"What we're learning from the community in Bendigo and across the region is that there needs to be a recognisable multicultural hub or space for people to use," she said.
"It's a space where multicultural communities know they can get support, ask questions, and connect with the community."
Ms McInnes said Multicultural Services were conscious about the location of the hub.
She said it would need to be close to public transport because many migrants and refugees in the community do not have a drivers licence or access to a car.
"We want a space that is vibrant, welcoming, and has a real sense of belonging where people can feel comfortable," she said. "We also want to make sure it's accessible by public transport.
"A lot of support services also offer programs in church halls, which can be difficult for people who had to leave their country because of religious persecution."
The space would not only be a space for linguistically and culturally diverse communities, but also the wider population.
"Multicultural communities also want to host the broader community," Ms McInnes said.
"They want everyone to participate in their celebrations and they don't often have the opportunity to give back to the community like they want to.
"There would be a cafe-style reception area, some spaces where people can use computers, and others areas where it would be easy for children to play.
"There would also be a commercial kitchen so groups can use it for events, as well as a classroom where there could be English classes.
"It would be a multi-disciplinary space so other services could also be hosted there."
Ms McInnes said the concept was still in its early stages, although Multicultural Services had put the idea to the various levels of government.
"We're right at the beginning of our journey," she said. "We launched Our Home, Our Future last month so we can hear more from the community about the hub.
"We want everyone to be involved in the process and to share their thoughts."
Multicultural Services has been having conversations with the community about what the space could look like. More public consultation sessions will be held in the next couple of months.
Ms McInnes said Multicultural Services would collaborate with other community groups in Bendigo and the broader region to develop the hub.
"We're really open to anyone who wants to get in touch and wants to collaborate with us," she said. "We have already had consultations with other non-for-profits and we will continue to work with them."
Bendigo Community Health Services speaks at inquiry
A Bendigo Community Health Services case worker says she's concerned some migrants and refugees may be slipping through the cracks in the Greater Bendigo health and education system.
Senior case manager Sue Ghalayini spoke at the Victorian Inquiry into Early Childhood Engagement of CALD Communities on Wednesday.
She said she works primarily with members of the Karen community.
"Often service providers in the health and education sector assume whatever they say can be translated," Ms Ghalayini said. "But the reality is sometimes there isn't a word for it in Karen.
"One that keeps coming up is counselling - there simply isn't a word that means that in Karen. The service providers need to be trained on how to speak to interpreters.
"I don't know how they're navigating that. I worry there are a lot of people slipping through the cracks."
Ms Ghalayini said there needed to be greater cultural sensitivity for migrants and refugees.
"The Karen community have virtually no experience with Australian systems," she said. "In my observations, other migrant communities have a familiarity with the services so it's not as difficult to adapt.
"But the Karen community finds it more difficult. Many of them are shy or can't speak English, so we're not finding out about issues they're experiencing until much later."
Ms Ghalayini said many in the CALD community were struggling with areas like medical forms and school enrolment because they were all in English or not translated effectively.
"Many groups are not provided that language support," she said.
Bendigo Community Health Services manager Martine Street also spoke at the government inquiry.
She said the Karen community had been growing in Bendigo for the past decade, and it was time for the education and health workforce to reflect that.
"Services haven't kept up with the increase," she said. "It's time for the community to reflect that. We want parents to help design that model and to ask questions."
More interpreters needed: City of Greater Bendigo
There needs to be more interpreters with medical backgrounds for people who have culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, the City of Greater Bendigo has told a government inquiry.
The City's Andie West also spoke at the Victorian Inquiry into Early Childhood Engagement of CALD Communities on Wednesday.
She said there were some concerns migrants and refugees were unable to fully understand medical advice.
"Workers want to ensure the message is given in an accurate way," Ms West said. "We need to ensure medical terminology is translated correctly.
"It's all linked to informed consent. It's a real concern and focus for the City."
Ms West said there were also times when male interpreters were not appropriate, particularly when women were given information about post-birth treatment.
"Sometimes if there is a male interpreter, the conversation is shut down because the woman doesn't feel comfortable speaking," she said.
"There needs to be a balance between providing information but not overwhelming them with information. It's tricky to find that balance."
Ms West said the organisation was also conscious of how it was viewed by migrants and refugees.
"Some communities have come from a place where they value authority," she said. "Often, we automatically walk into that room in a position of power. So we want to ensure there is that informed consent."
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