Since Diversitat’s inception, the Community Development Department has remained a part of the organisation’s rich history. The Community Development Team is currently located at Diversitat’s Northern Community Hub in Norlane, where they offer their many services to newly arrived migrants and refugees. Prior to this, the Team was situated at the Geelong West Town Hall, and consisted of only 4 people. Today, the Community Development Team now has 12 employees, approximately 400 volunteers, and have developed strong relationships with the migrant and refugee communities.
The overall aim of the Department is to ensure that all new arrivals settle safely and securely in Geelong. This is achieved by working within 3 distinct areas. These include influencing service providers within the Geelong region to be culturally competent; working with clients to encourage participation and strengthen their capacity to engage within the community; and influencing the broader community’s perception of the newly arrived migrants and refugees.
The Community Development Team offers a wide array of programs and services to meet the various needs of their clients. Such programs include the Refugee Action Program, and the Driver, Bike Education, Women’s Safety, Parenting, and Food and Nutrition Programs.
These programs are primarily funded through the State and Federal Governments, such as the Department of Immigration, Health, and Social Services, and through philanthropic trusts, churches, and community clubs.
The most popular Programs amongst clients include those that involve social inclusion within the community, and the Driver Program, as many new arrivals express a strong desire to obtain their drivers licence.
Success stories amongst the Department’s clients include witnessing women, with no formal education, come through the Department and learn English, and then enter into program areas, such as Gender Equity and Women’s Leadership Groups, and speak of their life story and experiences with the clients. Additionally, new arrivals who start out with Diversitat, who then go on to volunteer or work with Diversitat as a bilingual support or community guide worker, and then go on to gain further education and employment outside of Diversitat, remains as incredibly successful stories which occur quite often.
When staff members see this success, they feel “beside themselves”, as it demonstrates their loyalty, and incredibly caring and diligent work ethic towards their clients. Approximately one third of the Department’s employees have come through a refugee background, so they can understand and comprehend the types of challenges that the new arrivals are facing.
The challenge for the Community Development Team is to reach out to the new arrivals who do not seek support, often due to a lack of confidence and trust in new systems, and hence, the settlement services. The challenge is to ensure that those less confident engage with the settlement services that are available, so that the Team can offer their support and programs to all people in need, including those with disabilities, the elderly, and especially the Women at Risk Group.