New multicultural hub

Latrobe English Language Centre was launched as Latrobe Valley’s “one-stop shop” for recent arrivals to the country with the centre inviting local service providers to conduct programs in its spare room.

The centre at Liddiard Road Primary School in Traralgon provides full-time intensive English courses for newly arrived primary and secondary school-aged migrants and has helped more than 70 students to then go onto mainstream school.

Centre coordinator Di Stephens said in an effort to make it easier for recently arrived families to access much-needed support services the centre’s third room had been opened to service providers such as Centrelink, Legal Aid, Latrobe Community Health Service and Neighbourhood House.

Ms Stephens said she hoped the centre would become a multicultural hub, housing programs which helped migrants learn new skills such as how to pay bills, use computers, understand the citizenship test and aspects of Australian culture.

“We hope it can also give them a place to feel like they are part of the whole community… and learn what being an Australian is all about,” Ms Stephens said.

“It’s in its early stages, but I already have two service providers who are interested in running some of their programs here.”

The launch event was also a chance for students to demonstrate aspects of their culture to their teachers, service providers and visitors.

Students from Thailand, Ukraine, Sudan, Cambodia and Afghanistan drew henna temporary tattoos and made jewellery, paper flowers and bookmarks as gifts for guests, who also enjoyed a feast of traditional dishes from some of those countries.

State Member for Morwell Russell Northe, who attended the launch, spoke about the “fabulous environment” the centre provided and commended staff on their idea to help ensure new arrivals can access the support available to them.

“It is difficult to get around to all the different service providers. Bringing them into one room is a great concept and I have no hesitation in saying I’m sure it will be a success,” Mr Northe said.