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Diversity Management Strategies: Community Driven Employment Initiatives - Congolese Experience in Shepparton

  • Year: 2007
  • Author: Nsubuga-Kyobe, Apollo; Hazelman, Chris
  • Journal Name: Migration Action
  • Journal Number: Vol. 30, No. 2
  • Country: Australia
  • State/Region: Victoria

A Review of Re-Settlement Services for Migrants and Humanitarian Entrants by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, May 2003, recommended seeking further opportunities to settle humanitarian entrants in regional Australia. Key recommendations of this and other reports included: While deemed structurally correct, the system of bringing and supporting Refugees and Humanitarian Entrants required improvements in implementation. This was to be achieved by liaising more closely with relevant stakeholders regarding suitable regional locations and identifying where appropriate services and community support may exist or be developed. Noted was the complex nature of the refugee experience and the substantial disavantages experienced by humanitarian entrants, requiring targeted approaches to resettlement service provision. Given these recommendations, a decision was made to develop a pilot program to receive refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into the Shepparton region with the close involvement and support of various interest groups and the City of Greater Shepparton. Around the same time, Sudanese and other refugees, notably Afghanis, moved to the region mostly from metropolitan areas adding to the Albanian, Turkish and substantial Iraqi refugee populations in the region. The Congolese settlement project marked for the first time the selection of refugees directly from overseas camps to rural Australia/Victoria without first settling in major metropolitan cities. This paper critically evaluates the development of the pilot program from the perspective of the Ethnic Council of Shepparton and Districts (ECSD), with emphasis on the experience of assisting new arrivals into successful settlement. The role of the ECSD included the provision of information on where to find various services such as accommodation, education, employment and health and preparing the local community. The paper focuses more on community initiatives to facilitate employment for the Congolese families than on other support and assistance provided by the ECSD. The positive outcomes achieved are the result of community ownership of the pilot project, commitment from the broad community, receptiveness to new ideas and working as a team. Fundamental to the successful re-settlement of the refugees and humanitarian entrants were positive attitudes, diligence, gaining and giving respect to others, collaboration at all levels and the building of trust.

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