Term 2 2023 Program Guide

27 April 2023

See below our Term 2 2023 for 24 April – 23 June.

You can download the guide here.

Embrace Multicultural Mental Health Project

31 March 2023

SMRC has been engaged by Mental Health Australia to lead Phases 2 and 3 of the Embrace Multicultural Mental Health – CALD Community Engagement Project.

The Project aims to promote mental health awareness, build capacity and resilience, and decrease stigma through engaging with stakeholders from the Rohingya community in Melbourne. The project will incorporate co-design of a communications and engagement plan to implement a set of activities co-designed with the community through a series of engagement activities.

We are currently in Phase 2 of the project, comprising targeted community engagement utilising the CALD Community Engagement Plan developed by SMRC’s project team.

During this phase, SMRC is consulting and engaging with the Rohingya community and community leaders to identify key mental health issues. This is delivered through semi-structured focus groups with community members, and stakeholder interviews with bicultural workers, relevant community organisations, and community leaders in Springvale and Pakenham. The project team, which includes Rohingya Bicultural Workers, successfully delivered the first milestone report; the CALD Community Engagement Plan.

Charmaine reminds us that a little love, patience and understanding can go a long way.

31 March 2023

Charmaine has been caring for those around her for most of her adult life. She is one of 160 volunteers at SMRC making a difference to the community.

Like many people in Sri Lanka, her responsibilities to family not only included her husband and four children, but also her in-laws and husband’s grandparents. In addition, Charmaine became a primary carer for her husband’s grandmother.

When she migrated to Australia in 2008, she was caring for her father who was part of SMRC’s Palliative Care Program.

“When COVID came, they couldn’t pay me because I [had] just started. So I stayed home. When I stayed home, I thought I can do something instead of staying home. And I called SMRC”, she says.

Charmaine soon commenced volunteering in the Palliative Care Program. “I’m happy because I had this experience already being with my husband’s grandma and my dad. I talked to [clients] over the phone and they were so nice. You know, the clients I got were very, very nice. They were just looking forward to my call”, she says. This experience was monumental to her getting involved in more volunteer visiting programs at SMRC. “I told my coordinators, if you have any more, I’m happy to do it.” Even through the isolation and difficulties of COVID and not being able to visit the clients Charmaine kept connected with regular phone calls.

Charmaine has always liked to help others and knows that the simple act of connection can make a huge difference. “I’ve always been a people person. I like to help the people around me, the neighbours. Whatever help they need”, she says. Her empathetic natures shines through when talking about her clients. “I have a 90-year-old [client]. I speak Sri Lankan languages as well so when I speak to her I speak her own language, she’s very happy. She loves to talk and have a bit of a social life because here it’s not at all like how she lived back at home.” Reminiscing about their shared experiences in Sri Lanka not only allows them to deepen their connection, but she’s confident it brings some light to her client’s day.

Having an appreciation for different cultures and upbringings, Charmaine says, is key to what she’s learnt from many years of volunteering. “When we were raised up, we were only raised up in our own culture, we saw only that, but when we come here, we see, every culture has their values, you know, from where they come from. And at the end of the day, you all feel the same, you all need the same things in life,”, she says.

When asked what she would say to people considering volunteering, she contends that love and patience, above all else, is important to us all. “The joy that you get from just talking to them and socialising, makes a big difference. And we feel good that they are happy in our presence. Volunteers can learn how the other person is and you can get to know each other. Then slowly you can make the journey with them. Have patience and love and listen to what they have to say.”

Charmaine is well-known in the SMRC community, and her positive presence is felt everywhere. “Here, in SMRC… I feel at home.” She reminds us that a little love, patience and understanding can go a long way.

“I love what I do and I do what I love”: Karen’s passion for being a personal carer

29 March 2023

Karen’s eyes light up at the mention of the work she does as a personal carer. “I love what I do and I do what I love”, she says matter-of-factly of the in-home support role she’s been doing for the past year as a Diverse Care Worker. Having worked in residential care for more than 15 years, Karen joined SMRC’s Diverse Care so she could spend more one-on-one time with the people she cares for.

While she currently juggles both in-home and residential care roles, it’s clear that her preference sits with the in-home care she provides to her Spanish-speaking clients. “[Going into] their homes is better, because, you get to know them, you get to know their routine better. Also, the culture, you know, I look after all Spanish people, so they feel more comfortable with me. And also me with them, because I know their background.”

Originally from Chile, Karen says the matching of culture and language between worker and client is an important value add. “It’s the cultural experience, right? This cultural experience you can already see ahead of time. How someone may want something or what they might want because that’s familiar to you.” She says, “culture and language are two things that if we can match those, it means that you are able to know ahead of time; you are able to assist in a way that someone else from a different culture could come in and not have any understanding.”

Karen says the secret to being good at a role like hers is being happy, optimistic and keeping things light with clients. “I love making them laugh, because why cry? We’ve got so many issues in our everyday life, we have to go through so many bad things, you might as well laugh at work, you might as well make it better.”

Spending the time to get to know and understand her clients is also an essential part of the job. “I make sure every time I get someone new, I make sure I read [their history]. Because I have to know how to treat that person. How to look after that person better. And where they’ve been or what they’ve done, if they’ve had kids, what signals so I know how to approach the person … that’s important.”

She is also passionate about showing her clients the respect she believes they deserve. “These people now, it was us back then. They’ve done so much. And they’ve done their bit, you know, now it is time for us to look after them.” She says she treats her clients in a way that she’d like to be treated or how she’d like her own parents to be cared for. “I respect them. I’m going into their home. I have to respect them.”

It’s easy to see that Karen has found her calling; “I love this. I love taking care of people. I can’t see myself doing anything else. That’s why I just love it.” And the work is paying off for her too; “this job is really rewarding”, she says, “I feel so happy. I feel happy because I make someone’s life easier. I make someone’s everyday life better.”

Aged Care Reform Updates

29 March 2023

The Australian Aged Care system is going through a major reform that will place older Australians at the centre of how aged care is delivered. These reforms will provide greater transparency of services, easier access to services, quality improvements, safety, and consumer choice.

SMRC has started providing our aged care consumers with regular updates on these changes that will assist them in understanding how these changes will affect them. Some of these changes commenced on 1 December 2022 and below is a summary of the changes that SMRC has adopted.

New Code of Conduct for Aged Care

As of 1 December 2022, a new Code of Conduct for Aged Care was released and while the Commonwealth has indicated that the Code of Conduct does not apply to CHSP (Commonwealth Home Support Programme) providers, SMRC has adopted this new Code of Conduct as best practice.

Serious Incident Reporting Scheme – SIRS

Our consumer’s safety is our priority and as of 1 December 2022, all aged care providers are required to report any serious incidents directly to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. In line with this change, SMRC is reviewing our policies and procedures, and we are ensuring our staff are across how our reporting processes reflects and adheres to the new requirements. Nothing changes for our consumers, as SMRC continues to ensure we provide you with high-quality, and safe services.

Behind the scenes with the Healthy Mind, Healthy Life podcast team

2 March 2023

Sitting down with members of SMRC’s settlement team Malahat, Mirwais and Jesse, you can immediately feel the passion, enthusiasm and hope they have for bringing to life the Healthy Mind, Healthy Life (ذهن سالم. زندگی سالم) podcast for Dari speaking communities across Australia.

Speaking about the wellbeing and mental health challenges of settling in a new country can be difficult for many newly arrived groups. Mirwais, a Bicultural Program worker overseeing development of the podcast has a personal connection to some of the challenges raised throughout the series, having been in Australia for only five years. “Before being part of the podcast, I didn’t know what mental health is. And I learned lots of things from each episode”, he shares. “We invited different people from different backgrounds, different professional specialists like psychologists, religious scholars and other community leaders who can speak about their experience.”

Malahat, a Bicultural Settlement Caseworker, has seen first-hand the sensitivity surrounding mental health, particularly in the Afghan community where she says people don’t feel comfortable talking about it.  Having hosted a number of podcast episodes, Malahat invites the community to lean into the conversation. “This is a very safe space and a very accessible space [where] members of the community sit in a very casual manner. They’re talking about mental health and their own experiences with mental health issues. Real stories of life have been brought up and a lot of people have connected to it.”

Senior Settlement Coordinator Jesse says a key aim of the podcast is to normalise mental health as something that everyone experiences. “Trying to reduce the taboo. Normalising just having a conversation about mental health and reducing things like drug and alcohol use, gambling, suicide or family violence.”

Mirwais (left) and Malahat (right)

The team chose a podcast as the best medium for accessibility, shareability and reach. “It’s a medium where people can listen to it wherever they are, in their own time. And it can be a private thing as well, you can just have it,” Jesse says.

The team is proud of the final product and were pleased to learn some new skills throughout its development. “Sometimes you don’t know that you’ve got some of those skills until you have to present them or use them. It freshened my Dari writing at the same time, because I was writing [notes] in Dari, and [I used] a bit of interpreting because there are technical words in English that we had to convert to Dari” first-time host Malahat says. For Jesse, it was practical skills; “I built skills in podcasting and making things myself, so that was fun”.

Having knowledge from his studies in Mass Communication, Mirwais lead the editing and post-production. “I didn’t have the experience to edit, but I’m learning through these podcasts. This was a big experience for me. It’s a valuable thing that I’m learning.”

The trio also share a deep appreciation for what they’ve learnt through getting to know and hear from a wide range of professionals in the Afghan community. For Malahat, it was realising just how in demand mental health support is, particularly services in language, especially Dari, and that these specialists exist and are available to provide supports.  Mirwais speaks on the impact of learning about mindfulness. “I learned a lot about mindfulness, which is a meditation on how to take care of yourself. And the short and practical [skill] which sometimes I practice when I’m alone. So it helps me a lot.”

Jesse (left) and Mirwais working hard to edit and finalise the episodes.

The team is confident people will find value in the series. “It’s always valuable to listen to new things. And knowledge is power. It’s out there for you. [there is] evidence-based material that you can use in your day-to-day life, Malahat says” Mirwais agrees. “These podcasts give you a little bit of information on how to take care of yourself. And you will get to know that sharing mental health is not shameful.”

For Jesse: “I see that if we can do some work in this space, then that may help to create happier, healthier communities.”

“There is value to be gained from just having these conversations more publicly. I think you’ll enjoy it. Give it a go.”

Listen to the episodes on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Music or Anchor FM.

The Healthy Mind, Healthy Life podcast is brought to you by the Southern Migrant and Refugee Centre, Better Place Australia and the South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network.

The Healthy Mind, Healthy Life (ذهن سالم. زندگی سالم) Podcast artwork
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