By Cam Lucadou-Wells
In its first six months, a Community Support Group has quickly become a “trusted place” for Greater Dandenong, Casey and Cardinia’s South Sudanese youth.
With the support of Centre for Multicultural Youth, the community-based group aims to engage youths and link them and their families to programs, such as education and employment pathways.
It will succeed because it’s run by the community itself, says Deng Kur of the Federation of South Sudanese Community Associations in Victoria,
“No one knows the problem better than we do.
“We want to be part of the solution.”
Mr Kur is also a member of the Local Reference Group, which will guide the CSG’s work.
Since November, about 100 families have received services, such as casework and outreach, from the CSG. Seventeen young people have been guided into jobs.
The group has also offered financial help for school uniforms and books, community events and sports, It has also run homework clubs and school holiday activities.
Young people faced complex issues including alcohol and drug abuse, family violence, dropping out of school, homelessness, and a lack of awareness of mainstream social services, Mr Kur said.
“The solution is to provide services.”
At a launch of the CSG office on 18 April, Centre for Multicultural Youth chief executive Carmel Guerra was joined by Youth Minister Gabrielle Williams as well as Local Reference Group and CSG members.
Ms Guerra said the group supports families to become more resilient and thrive in Australia.
“Strong families help create more grounding and support for the youth.”
It has also been recruiting staff for culturally-appropriate services as well as building links with existing services, schools and sports clubs.
Young people feel isolated while facing the challenges of moving to a new country on top of past traumas, family separation, racism and discrimination, she said.
“There’s immense sadness at the misrepresentation of the community by the media.
“Young people are struggling with the discrimination and racism that this brings with it. There’s mistrust and feelings of hurt on either side of the cultural divide.”
Ms Williams said the CSG had quickly become a trusted place for the South Sudanese community to find “support and companionship” and “great services that help them achieve their goals”.
“We’re helping young people from all backgrounds as they make their journey to adulthood – they all deserve to have access to every opportunity our state can offer, from help with education to jobs.”
The recent Victorian election result clearly rejected a political scare campaign against the South Sudanese community, Mr Kur said.
“We feel more than welcomed by the community and we’re enjoying life in Victoria.
“The Victorian election made it clear that the people support us and the Government support us.”
The State Government has provided $5.5 million for three CSGs – in the South East, Melton/Brimbank and Wyndham.
The CMY said it would push for continued funding in the upcoming State Budget.
“We’re hoping we are allocated funding for a longer period, say three years, so that the we can continue to build on these strengths and better support the community,” Ms Guerra said.