Refugees have extra support

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 27-Sep-2017

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Bendigo Community Health Services has confirmed it will continue providing support for refugee families.

After the initiation of the humanitarian settlement service program in 2010, settlement services team manager Martine Street said the future of refugees in Bendigo looks bright.

“We hope to see more people arrive and that Bendigo will still be recognised as a great location,” she said. 

The new tender with AMES Australia will continue to support the program and will start on October 30.

The goal is to keep up with providing help to refugees engaging in community services.

“We are continuing support with a case management model, but connecting them into the services that they need, community and social participation,” Ms Street said. 

“We are just grateful and privileged to continue the work and just build on what we have been doing.”

The refugees are welcome to stay in the program for up to 18 months and are then encouraged to transition to gain further support for up to five years. 

“We want them to gain independence and self-reliance, to have functional English and to be able to navigate the systems, like the law, education and public transport,” Ms Street said. 

For 21-year-old Karen refugee Lwe Pree, the humanitarian settlement service program has been a vital part of her feeling welcomed in Bendigo.

“Since I came to Bendigo they have been supporting me with everything, sometimes with emotional support, if I felt sad I would come here to seek some advice,” she said. 

Ms Pree came to Australia in 2015 and is studying and working weekends with the help of the guidance from the program. 

“I still remember when I first came here I didn’t know how to adapt to the whole culture and they provided orientation classes, they came to my home and helped me with how to cook and how to use the dishwasher, Ms Pree said. 

The program has opened up a new pathway for Ms Pree and she commends the support of the staff at Bendigo Community Health Services.

“They have guided me in a good way and help me with how to get into the right pathway to achieve my goals,” she said. 

The 2011 census results stated there were 282 Karen speakers living in Bendigo, which had grown to around 1000 by 2015. 

With the Karen community now quite established in Bendigo, both Ms Street and her team are looking forward to future settlements and hope that others can share the same positive experience as Ms Pree. – Grace Evans

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