Help for new migrants

RACHEL ASKEW IN BALCLUTHA
Last updated 11:56 13/03/2014

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A forum for new migrants held in Balclutha in February is already producing results, with a commitment to hold English language classes for new settlers in just a few months' time.

The forum, attended by about 40 people, was organised by council community support and development advisor Jean Proctor to help people settle into the Clutha District.

People had been telling her about the needs of new immigrants for a couple of years, including the demand for English classes, she said.

''We knew what the issues were but it was to confirm those and get migrants, the community, employers and interested people all in the same room.'' 

It was an opportunity to discuss the needs of new settlers, assess current resources and identify any gaps, she said.

Following the forum a group of about 20 people was established, who were now working to address the three main problems identified, Mrs Proctor said.

Those were language barriers, accessing local services and employment.

Difficulties accessing services could be as simple as knowing where to buy coal or how to find a doctor, Mrs Proctor said.

Newcomers with limited English often battled to communicate with their employer as well as understand their rights and the expectations of their employer, she added.  

''Migrants constantly have to assess everything, it's such a challenge.''

Progress had already been made to overcome the language barrier with a 10-week 'English for Employees' course confirmed in Balclutha for July.

It will be run and funded by the Dunedin-based English Language Partners.

The only requirement was the students needed to be residents.

Mrs Proctor already had numerous people keen to attend, she said.

The district was home to a wide range of ethnicities including Filipino, Chinese, Turkish, Chilean and British settlers, with Clutha Valley School alone teaching children from 12 different countries, she said.

She cited isolation as a significant issue for settlers especially given the large, rural area.

Dunedin City Council migrant settlement support co-ordinator Fi Mackay told the forum the two main reasons migrants did not stay in a place was if they could not find work or if they struggled to make social connections.

Mrs Proctor was organising a 'migrant needs survey' to identify the demographic of migrants, where they were living and why they were here.

People keen to know more can contact Mrs Proctor jean.proctorqe@cluthadc.govt.nz

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- The Southland Times

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