Unity in Diversity Festival 2023

30 October 2023

Despite less than favourable weather conditions, the Southern Migrant and Refugee’s Unity in Diversity Festival was a resounding success bringing warmth and celebration to the multicultural community of southeast Melbourne.

What we lacked in sunshine we made up for with fantastic performances on our main stage, engaging interactive activities, dedicated service providers and businesses sharing information and wares, passionate sports aficionados, and all-round smiles to the over 1500 attendees!
We had 40+ stalls filled with smiling representatives from the health, community, settlement, youth, emergency, political and business sectors. We were ecstatic to be able to strengthen our connection to diverse sectors and facilitate other community connections.

The seven vibrant cultural tents showcased just a taste of the passion and dedication of community members who are eager to share their culture. Nearby, the crowds seeking refuge from the rain under the cover were delighted by our main stage with 17 beautiful performances on stage representing more than 14 cultural groups. We were also honoured to have seven speeches from Members of Parliament, local Council and the Victorian Multicultural Commission.

Our event sponsor representative from Chery Dandenong drew our major raffle prize winners who now get to enjoy a $1000 travel voucher, $750 Good Guys voucher and a $500 car detailing voucher!
We ignited 11 interactive activities and three talented roaming performers which brought warmth, excitement and laughter to crowds who braved the weather. And of course, a delicious BBQ, popcorn machine, smoothie bike and tea/coffee was enjoyed by all.

While we couldn’t control the weather, we were blown away by the number of people who did come out to enjoy the activities on offer and showcase cultural diversity and celebrate 30 years of service delivery of SMRC.
SMRC wishes to thank and acknowledge the support of the following event sponsors:

We’d also like to thank our generous donors and festival raffle prize providers: Procal Dairies, TJ Travel, DIKA Automotive, Hyatt Place Caribbean Park, Ultra Tune Dandenong, Dandenong/Cranbourne RSL, Coles Dandenong, Woolworths Dandenong, Reading Cinema, Dandenong Plaza Lotto.

Thank you to our business, community and health sector stallholders, speakers, performers, entertainers, emergency services and representatives of multiple sporting codes. We could not have brought together such a Festival without you. We would also like to acknowledge our Board members, staff, and volunteers at SMRC who dedicated their time and efforts to bringing Unity in Diversity to life.

Safa’s strength as a carer

3 October 2023

Safa* arrived in Australia from Afghanistan a few years ago and was a full time carer for her mother and her sister.

When SMRC staff visited her in her home, she was grieving the loss of her mother who recently passed away and expressed she had to stay strong and continue caring for her sister. She shared photos of her late mother with staff, recalling pleasant memories and providing details of her role as a carer. Safa shared that she was feeling overwhelmed in her caring role suffered from back pain from the physical strain.

Following this visit, staff referred her sister to the Access and Support team to assist her with My Aged Care registration and other support services which were put in place soon after. Safa joined the Support for Carers Program (SCP) where she attended outings and connected to support meetings. By connecting to other carers, she was able to feel supported and understood by her peers. The program also offered respite for Safa to support her needs and provide a well-deserved break from her caring role.

“I have never visited Melbourne Zoo and Koala Conservation Park before and I really enjoyed it!” she expressed after a recent outing.

Safa tells the SCP team that she appreciated the welfare check calls and that since she joined the program, she developed friendships with other carers and feels less stressed. “I am grateful that I was introduced to SCP,” she shared.

*Name has been changed as per client’s request

Teresa and Mar Reya’s cross cultural connection

27 September 2023

Teresa Szin is from Hungary, she speaks good English and is from Christian background. Mar Reya is a young Burmese student, she wants to practice her conversational English and is from Muslim background. Mar Reya visits Teresa once a fortnight at her home. The pair were connected through SMRC’s Aged Care Volunteer Visiting Scheme (ACVVS) where they were matched based on their interests.

Teresa (left) and Mar Reya (right)

Teresa was keen to learn how to use Instagram particularly to explore beautiful photos and videos of flowers, birds and lakes. Volunteer Mar Reya offered to teach Teresa digital skills with her knowledge of being on the internet. She was patient in guiding Teresa through all the learning curves such as connecting to a Wi-Fi Network and downloading and accessing Instagram. As a result, Teresa is now able to log in to Instagram and enjoy viewing and exploring her passion for all things nature.

Recently, Teresa expressed that she is overjoyed and thankful to Mar Reya for this meaningful support and assistance. She now feels empowered to explore more digital skills and is excited to discover more beautiful views!

Interested in making some valuable cross cultural connections? Apply to be a volunteer through a 30-second expression of interest.

Term 4 2023 Program Guide

20 September 2023

See below our program guide for Term 2 2023, 2 October – 20 December

You can download the guide here.

Najma’s journey from SMRC client to Community Development and Bicultural Program Support Worker

19 July 2023

“My experience has impacted who I am and will always influence the choices I make.”

Najma and her family left Afghanistan in 2011. Granted permanent humanitarian visas after four years living in Malaysia, the family of 10 arrived in Australia in 2015.

It was a unanimous decision made with input from each family member. Afghanistan was no longer considered safe for the family, and the opportunity to get an education, particularly for the females in the family, drove them to seek a new place to call home.

“We came out of Afghanistan to find a place that my sisters and I can have a life with access to good education,” Najma says.

“We had opportunity to come to Australia for education and a better, safer life.”

Knowing little about Australia beyond the many spiders, bugs and animals they were told to avoid, Najma set her sights on studying law at Monash University. She achieved part of that dream, completing a Bachelor of Science and Art at Monash University, however a stint volunteering with the Southern Migrant and Refugee Centre sent her career aspirations in a new direction.

“Seeing the work being done by SMRC inspired me to work with the community – especially women of all backgrounds – to provide a small window to these girls who haven’t had a chance to get the education I’ve had,” she says.

“I can make an impact with Law, but when I saw how much impact English classes and education can have on a person’s life, I realized that I can make a bigger impact through the work that I do now.

“I definitely feel good about being here and doing what I do.

“Having the freedom to pursue the education I want … as a woman … is everything. Freedom to access what you need to feel like a human and the hope that I can do something for the community. I hope to work on myself, and become better every single day.

“Never lose hope. There’s always hope. You have everything – as long as you have hope – you can do anything.”

Najma works as a Community Development Program Support Worker for the Southern Migrant and Refugee Centre, where she facilitates SMRC’s Learning Space and she’s also a bicultural worker supporting women taking part in SMRC’s Learn and Grow family violence program.

Festival of Ideas highlights financial support services for carers

19 July 2023

Financial Counselling Victoria’s (FCVic) Festival of Ideas in June included a celebration of the Standing Strong Project, delivered in partnership with SMRC. The purpose of the project was to engage carers in a conversation about financial challenges and where there are gaps in supports that need to be filled. It aimed to ensure that older Victorians know about and can connect with the free, confidential and independent support provided by financial counsellors. You can find our more about the Standing Strong Project that includes resources on how to find a financial counsellor on the FCVic website.

SMRC was integral in facilitating and supporting a number of focus groups and discussions with our Support for Carers, Carer Respite and Saturday Centre-Based Respite clients to find out more about their concerns and pain points when it comes to financial issues. These focus groups were integral for the Standing Strong Project to create support and resources that would accurately reflect the support services and resources needed.

The Festival of Ideas built upon this project and was a celebration and networking event for related service providers who can assist with carers and their financial worries. Guest speakers included Financial Counselling Victoria’s Interim Executive Officer, Michael Brown. SMRC was part of the over 20 service providers engaged in the networking event, including but not limited to Little Dreamers Australia, Australian Multicultural Services, and Polaron Language Services.

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