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NESB Women's Multicultural Access Project Report 2004-2005

Project Officer: Mitra Khaleghian

The NESB Multicultural Access Project began in November 2004. It was established to undertake community development activities to build a support network among Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) women from new and emerging communities and women holding temporary protection visas (TPV) in Auburn, Blacktown and Parramatta. The project aims to build a network that will become a venue for self-help activities. Ultimately the goal being to empower women from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds, to facilitate capacity building programs for the newly formed support network, to raise awareness regarding the rights and responsibilities of women, and to build the grassroots base of the Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association of NSW.

Laying the Foundation

Central to the NESB Multicultural Access Project was organising focus groups and initiating consultations with various stakeholders in order to identify the ‘new and emerging’ communities and TPV holders. Organisations and individuals within the community were contacted to form a statistical understanding of the groups and to access these communities and their existing networks. This was then followed by a series of community consultations with organisations and women from the communities identified. Through this process it was ascertained that new and emerging communities in Auburn, Blacktown and Parramatta are comprised of women from Liberian, Sudanese, Somali, Ethiopian, Sierra Leone, and Eritrean backgrounds, while those with TPV’s are chiefly of Iraqi and Afghani origin.

The research component of the project also highlighted the issues that these communities face and while community consultations are an ongoing aspect of the project at this stage, the universal concerns raised by women to date were related to health, education, housing, parenting and isolation.

The project aims to work with these communities in order to address these identified areas in the coming months.

Community Development Activities

Using the information from the community consultations, and utilising the contacts and networks made during this process, various activities were planned and are now being implemented to meet the needs of women from these communities. Since coming to the project in May of this year, the focus has been on the Liberian and Sudanese communities with initiatives now extending to the other communities highlighted in the research process. Examples of community development activities to date have included, assisting Liberian women to

design and implement fundraising initiatives in order to fund their own community development activities, developing plans for after-school programs for children from new and emerging communities based on the Virtues Project International - a program that delivers empowering strategies that inspire the practice of virtues in everyday life, building safe and caring schools, families and communities - and the bringing together of northern and southern Sudanese women to support each other in the exchange of English language and technical skills.

Leadership Program

The NESB Multicultural Access Project also maintains, as one of its central goals, the empowerment of women from new and emerging communities, and the training, encouragement, and utilisation of women leaders in implementing long-term development activities within their communities. In the past months this project has mentored Shams for Women Skills Development - and community initiated group of Sudanese women - mentoring and assisting them in accessing services available to their organisation, as well as working with the Executive of the United Liberian Womens Association in establishing and implementing standards of operation. Within the leadership aspect of this project, training programs are being developed in consultation with community groups wanting to establish themselves, including topics such as, creating policy and procedures, consultation, roles and responsibilities and conflict resolution. The Australian Bosnian Womens Cultural Association – that is currently under the auspices of Speakout – has been working closely with the project in the development of a program specific to their needs and as such will be the first to undergo training.

Where To From Here?

The NESB Multicultural Access Project is now in full swing with an increasing number of community groups becoming actively involved in the process, and I would like to Toni Palombi and Amelia Galao for their work in the initial phases of this project.

As for the immediate plans of the project, they include the continuation of community consultations, the increased independence of support groups, and the introduction of a performing arts based initiative with women from African communities.

“The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the sexes, is essential to human progress and the transformation of society”. It is the leading goal of this project to strengthen this transformation in Auburn, Blacktown, and Parramatta.