Hopes for cohesion amid $74 million commitment

MULTICULTURAL communities in the Latrobe Valley hope that a $74 million budget commitment from the State Government will be equitably distributed to culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds service providers in the region.

On Tuesday night State Multicultural Affairs Minister Robin Scott announced the budget allocation aimed to bolster multicultural affairs and social cohesion in the region – a place where 47 per cent of its people were either born overseas or have at least one parent born abroad.

“Diversity is our asset, and we’re working with multicultural communities to make our society and our economy stronger,” Mr Scott said.

Mr Scott said the budget would fund community initiatives across Victoria that foster inclusion, participation and equality of opportunity for the region’s migrant and refugee communities.

Gippsland Multicultural Services director Lisa Sinha welcomed the announcement, but suggested consultation across the region should first be accomplished to ensure funding would be directed where it was needed.

“If a transparent, rigorous and evidence-based method of disbursing these funds is used, and if proper consultation in regional Victoria firstly takes place, then the community can be confident that these funds will be able to meet the identified needs of CALD communities in each region including Latrobe Valley,” Ms Sinha said.

Part of the budget would also include funding for the various regional ethnic communities’ council, enhancing community capacity and participation of newly-arrived migrants, building cultural precincts including Victoria’s first Indian precinct and addressing domestic violence.

The government has also pledged a $25 million budget to reinforce the state’s social cohesion and community resilience to “prevent radicalisation and extremism”, an apparent reference to increasing Islamic radicalism being experienced across the country.

Ms Sinha said she was happy with this component of the state budget, adding that recent anti-Muslim events in the Valley showed the need to ensure migrant and refugee young people felt they belonged and could contribute to society.

“Projects that work towards addressing causes of disengagement and alienation are crucial and we are pleased to see these funds being committed,” she said.

“In the Latrobe Valley, recent damage to community relations means it is crucial that we now embark on a number of projects to ensure enhanced understanding and acceptance.”