For a few years now, Castlemaine resident Mangok Deng has helped young migrants and refugees find their feet in Australia.
Now, he hopes to expand on that work as a member of the newly formed Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services young leaders network.
The network brings together young adults from migrant and refugee backgrounds to get to know one another, share their experiences and discuss what they want to achieve in the community.
"They're doing a lot in their community, they're already playing a role, but not really talking about it," LCMS community development worker and network member Bu Gay Pah Thei said.
LCMS' Rose Vincent said young people had said they wanted an intercultural space, so the network was born.
These young people were already leaders, Rose said, but the network gave them a chance to find their voice and a platform to use it.
"We just want to encourage people to have their own voice, because they have the right for their voice to be heard," Bu Gay added.
Mangok is one of those young people who has already established himself as a leader in the community.
The 28-year-old, his cousin and a few friends established the non-profit organisation Whetayoukyouk almost three years ago to help other young people from South Sudan and their families establish their new lives in the region, assisting with such things as finding employment and renting.
The formation of the organisation was largely inspired by Mangok's own experience.
When he first arrived in Australia in 2004, he could not speak English.
If someone did not know the language of the country, he said, they needed someone to show them how to rent a home, where to shop, and other necessities of life in Australia.
It was difficult, he said: before they even reached Australia, South Sudanese people had to travel through and spend time in other countries, having to adapt to each one.
Mangok said that while there was a Sudanese community, there had not been a focus on young people.
"Youth are the future - we have to pay attention to them and what they want in their life," he said.
He hopes to build on his work with young migrants and refugees through participation in the new youth network.
"At the end of the day, we come from different cultures, but we all have the same struggle," Mangok said, adding that everyone wanted to live in a welcoming community.
Members of the new network came together yesterday for a lunch at the Old Church on the Hill, during Refugee Week.
The community space also hosted a small exhibition featuring the stories of migrants and refugees, as part of Refugee Week.
Rose Vincent said LCMS usually hosts a lunch to celebrate the occasion, but COVID-19 restrictions meant they had to find a different way to share stories, so they set up the exhibition for people to peruse while picking up their Friday Food Safari lunches.
Chris Cummins from Rural Australians for Refugees is encouraging people to support refugees in Australia by donating to a food drive for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
She said the centre fed up to 1000 people a week, but had seen a huge increase since the advent of COVID-19, due to people losing jobs.
"We've been witness to so much generosity from the people in Bendigo, so we know there are people willing to give," Chris said.
Donations of tinned vegetables and tuna, raw, unsalted nuts, biscuits, honey and other foods can be made to the Good Loaf until July 11.