New migrant help becomes group focus

Last updated 12:33 03/04/2014
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Some of the people involved in trying to form a multi-cultural council for Clutha, from left, Maria Hill, Alison Stirling, Jean Proctor, Chris Shaw and Suzana Adenan.

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A group of keen Clutha people are working to establish a multi-cultural council to give a voice to new migrants settling in the district.

Following the Settlement Support Forum in February, various initiatives were being developed to support newcomers to the region.

A group of about 20 people was established, with members working to address the three main problems identified - language barriers, accessing local services and finding employment.

Clutha District Council community support and development adviser Jean Proctor said the problems could be as simple as knowing where to buy coal or how to find a doctor.

The overall purpose of the council would be to act as a formal entity that could apply for funding and provide cohesion to the different work being done for migrants, she said.

"It's about the community doing this for the community on one hand and on the other it's about establishing something quite formal."

There was a "huge amount of stuff" being done for migrants outside the district and the plan was to use as much of that information as possible, she said.

She believed a reasonable goal was to have the council set up within three months, even if it was not actually operating by then.

One of those working to establish the council was Chris Shaw from Clutha Valley, who said a survey was being prepared to gauge the interest in such a body.

There were 15 different cultures in the district and she would like to see as many of those as possible represented on any council, she said.

Suzana Adenan, who settled in Balclutha from Malaysia, said the goal was to see the community and newcomers learn more about each other's culture and allow people to integrate more easily.

It will now also be easier for new migrants to learn how to speak English after conversational language classes were established in the Clutha Valley and there was a commitment to run a formal 10-week course in Balclutha starting this month.

The English classes at Clutha Valley School were being run by volunteers with 23 migrants and nine volunteers at the first session. Besides that, English Language Partners, a Dunedin-based organisation, was also preparing to run a 10-week course in the district beginning on April 28.

At this stage it was for people with permanent residency only.

The district was home to a wide range of nationalities including Filipino, Chinese, Turkish, Chilean and British settlers but newcomers with limited English often battled to communicate with their employer as well as understand their rights and the expectations of their employer, Proctor said.

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Those wanting to volunteer or learn more about the planned migrant needs survey could contact Proctor at jean.proctor@ or (03) 419 0247.


- The Southland Times


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