SHORTFALLS in serving the needs of Gippsland’s growing migrant, refugee and asylum-seeker community is presently a top local priority for the Department of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship.
State Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship Minister Nicholas Kotsiras was in Traralgon last week to launch the inaugural meeting of the Gippsland Regional Advisory Council and spoke to The Express about the priority area.
“We want to fill in the gaps to find out where people are falling between the cracks; we have allocated $1.3 million in our budget for this,” Mr Kotsiras said, adding he was pleased the state budget for his department had increased to $21.4 million for 2012-13.
He said the RAC, which would oversee the needs of the multicultural communities in the six Gippsland municipalities, would advise the Victorian Multicultural Commission, which would in turn advise him.
“I want outcomes,” Mr Kotsiras said.
“Gippsland is still a priority area; there is a huge influx of migrants to Gippsland in general.
“We want a level playing field; we are not giving them special privileges.”
Gippsland RAC chair Elizabeth Drozd said some issues raised by the council included access to services and barriers to jobs.
“We’ve heard of some migrants and refugees having trouble accessing interpreters, and are not sure how to access funding grants that may be available,” Ms Drozd said.
“Today’s meeting will be the first of at least three meetings a year.”
Ms Drozd said she was “in awe” of the breadth of experience of the council members, who included prominent local figures like Latrobe City councillor Sandy Kam, Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Dr Ali Khan and Gippsland Multicultural Service director Lisa Sinha.
Ms Sinha said she believed the initiative would help produce tangible outcomes for the region.
“Previously, there was only one RAC; we can now bring much more local expertise and address key access issues,” she said.
“We will be looking at areas of service delivery, cultural competency, where we can provide service development and also look into the national racism inquiry.”