Searching for Solutions in Melbourne
Submitted by United Way Australia, 9 May 2012
Our Community Impact work in Melbourne is focused on improving the lives of young people in the outer south-eastern region of the city. This is a region where statistics show high levels of concentrated disadvantage and social exclusion that carries over through the generations. In a series of community conversations and a ‘Search for Solutions Seminar’ we heard of the issues facing the community and also heard the interest, passion and innovative ideas by local community members to improve their communities.
We spoke with Afghan women in Narre Warren and parents of pre-school children in Doveton and heard the challenges of racism, isolation, depression, lack of meaningful employment opportunities and a divided community. These were not dissimilar to the issues raised on ABC’s Q&A program held in Dandenong on Monday night 30 April.
At the same time it became apparent that, with the right resources and support, there is enormous potential for migrant women, many of whom have highly under-utilised skills and face a range of barriers to engage in income producing work, to take control over their own futures and move beyond the challenges they face.
We conducted a ‘Search for Solutions’ seminar in Dandenong on a very wet and miserable Tuesday in late April. A broad group of stakeholders across the education, business and not-for-profit sectors, all with an interest in the region and young people, starting exploring joined-up collaborative solutions and cross sector support that have the potential to create lasting positive change in the conditions for residents.
In both the Seminar and the community conversations, participants were asked basic questions that focused on:
What makes for a vibrant and healthy community?
- What are the key barriers to achieving a vibrant and healthy community in the region?
- What solutions would the participants propose that would assist United Way in maximising its community impact in the region?
Solutions proposed by the community representatives included cultural awareness campaigns, multicultural events and service delivery that integrated communities rather than activities that disintegrated the community along ethnic lines or generational lines. We heard about ideas for education for parents and specific services for newly arrived migrants and refugees.
A key solution identified using local schools as community hubs – as a space for a range of initiatives to assist young people in the areas of education, income security and mental health. Using the school outside of the traditional school hours for a range of community events and projects could utilise the school’s resources 7 days a week and make a real difference to the lives of many community members.
United Way is now exploring how a coalition of individuals and organisations could develop the concept and create what may well be a unique response to the region’s evidence-based need.
Penny van der Sluys,
General Manager, Melbourne