If you're having problems viewing this email, please click here to view the web version

WHAT does multiculturalism mean to you?

That was the question put forth by Victorian Multicultural Commission Chairperson Helen Kapalos at her first public lecture for the Commission, Multiculturalism or Mainstream?

Held on 26 November 2015 at the Drill Hall in Melbourne’s Multicultural Hub, the lecture engaged more than 100 Victorians in a new conversation on multiculturalism and the right to belong.

Ms Kapalos brought a fresh angle to the discussion of multiculturalism, exploring whether the term is socially inclusive or whether it creates barriers.

With some audience participation, Ms. Kapalos demonstrated that every Victorian has a personal link to multiculturalism in some way - either through their family tree, friends, colleagues, travel or cuisine.

Suggesting that multiculturalism is in fact an intrinsic part of the broader Australian identity, she explained that the statistics show just how multicultural we are.

Almost half of Victorians are born overseas or have one parent born overseas, while one quarter of Victorians speak a language other than English at home (Census 2011).

With Victoria’s diversity ever increasing, Ms Kapalos said there is no better time to discuss how we can create a sense of belonging for all Victorians.

“We will always encounter differences. What makes us all the same is that each and every one of us has the fundamental right of all humans – the right to belong,” said Ms Kapalos.

Ms Kapalos referred to a range of scholars and international policy approaches to unpack the meaning of multiculturalism and how it is interpreted abroad.

A new VMC video that captures the voices of everyday Victorians  was previewed  on the night.

Asked about multiculturalism from all angles, the voices in the video echo sentiments from the recent social cohesion report from the Scanlon Foundation, which found that 84% of Australians think multiculturalism has been good for Australia.

Ms Kapalos said that while these insights indicate strong support for multiculturalism, they also raise other important questions.

“We need to ask if we truly see ourselves as part of the multicultural community, or if we are merely partaking in it.  If cultural diversity is so embedded in the Australian identity, is it time for us to see the similarity of our differences? ” she said.

Multiculturalism or Mainstream? was the first in a series of lectures by the Commission to engage the community in a new conversation about multiculturalism to push thinking forward.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Join our conversation about multiculturalism on social media - #RightToBelong.

Connect with us at Twitter.com/multiculturevic and Facebook.com/multiculturevic.

To join our mailing list for future lectures please email rsvpvmc@vmc.vic.gov.au.

Women lead the way

WOMEN often lead the development of communities, and Victoria’s culturally diverse communities are no exception.

Last week, 28 inspiring women from a broad a range of cultural, linguistic and faith backgrounds across Victoria were among the first to graduate from a new program that fosters stronger leaders with deeper community connections.

Leadership Victoria’s New and Emerging Communities Womens’ Leadership Program involves workshops designed to empower culturally diverse women through reflection on practice, learning skills, developing personal strengths, building networks and identifying goals

One graduate, Neeti Aryal Khanal of Monash University, said the chance to share experiences led to the discovery of new approaches.

“We discussed common issues in our community and also reflected on solutions. It was surprising to see that most of the issues were common. That made us wonder about the possibilities of forming interorganisational alliances,” said Ms Khanal.

The Victorian Multicultural Commission has been a proud supporter and advisor on the program’s content, and Chairperson Helen Kapalos presented certificates to graduates on the day.

“Culturally diverse women face very unique challenges in their community roles. I’m so proud to see their achievements today will guide their leadership and help to strengthen the fabric of our multicultural communities.”

“Programs like these reveal not only the capacity of women to lead change in their communities, but their ability to lead social cohesion between communities,” said Ms Kapalos.

To get involved in the program, you can apply to participate, volunteer as a mentor for program participants or tell your networks about the program and encourage current or potential leaders to apply.

Click on the link below for more information.

more >  
Awards recognise diversity heroes

VICTORIA’S cultural diversity heroes were celebrated at a prestigious awards ceremony held at Government House last week.

More than 300 people attended the special ceremony which recognised the achievements of 75 inspirational Victorian community organisations, businesses and individuals.

Now in their 14th year, Victoria’s Multicultural Awards for Excellence honour Victorians who strive to support cultural diversity and promote community harmony.

Coordinated by the Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC), the awards were presented across 10 categories  including media, local government, education and police service.

VMC Chairperson, Helen Kapalos, said the awards shine a spotlight on the state’s unsung heroes.

“As the voice of Victoria’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities, we look to each of our award recipients as role models who champion and embrace cultural diversity and provide an inspiration to all Victorians,” she said.

Ms. Kapalos joined the Governor of Victoria, the Hon. Linda Dessau AM, Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Robin Scott, to present the awards to recipients representing 23 different cultural backgrounds.

Among this year’s recipients were two extraordinary women who make a difference in the lives of culturally diverse Victorians.

Carmel Guerra, founder of the Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY), was presented with the highly esteemed Premier’s Award for Community Harmony, and Roshan Bhandary, program manager at InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence, was awarded the Victorian Multicultural Honour Roll, which recognises the outstanding achievements of a newly arrived migrant or refugee.

Ms Guerra said she was surprised to receive the award, but encouraged by what it signifies.

“This award is a recognition of the work we have been doing for the past 25 years in developing community connections and harmony and for being a positive voice for young people who can often be surrounded by quite negative dialogue.

“It’s a privilege to help steer young people from a migrant and refugee background who have been at risk and watch them become change agents and leaders in the community in their own right,” said Ms Guerra.

Ms Bhandary said she was excited, honoured and very happy to receive an award.

“It is a great recognition of my work and the work of InTouch, but it is also a great achievement for someone who has migrated to this country only seven years ago. Personally for me it is also a highlight of my migration and settlement journey and a confirmation that I made the right decision to migrate to Australia,” said Ms Bhandary.

Over the past 14 years, 1775 individuals and 459 organisations have been recognised in the awards.

For a full list of award recipients and more about our #DiversityHeroes, click on the link below.

Pictured, Left to Right: CEO of Centre for Multicultural Youth Carmel Guerra, VMC Chairperson Helen Kapalos, VMC Commissioner Teresa De Fazio.

more >  
New Indian Cultural Precinct for Victoria

VICTORIA'S newest celebration of Indian culture is official.

The Minister for Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott and Member for Dandenong Gabrielle Williams announced Victoria’s first ever Indian Cultural Precinct.

‘Little India’, a historic quarter for the Indian community in Foster Street, Dandenong, will be transformed into the new precinct with a Victorian Government investment of $500,000.

The precinct will support the vibrant culture of the Indian community and give other Victorians and tourists more opportunities to engage with its unique tastes and traditions.

“This precinct will become a hub of activity – hosting festivals, a drawcard for tourism, supporting small businesses and boosting the local economy in Dandenong,” said Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Robin Scott.

Victoria hosts more than 111,700 Indian-born Victorians, representing 40 per cent of Australia’s Indian population.

While the Greek community celebrates in Lonsdale Street, Chinatown exists in Little Bourke, Italian flavours feature in Lygon Street and the Vietnamese community has Little Saigon in Footscray, Australia’s largest Indian community does not have a Precinct of its own.

Dandenong was selected as the location of the new precinct following wide community consultation and an independent feasibility study.

The precinct highlights the significance of Victoria’s Indian community and encourages greater social cohesion in our state.

Minister Scott said a second Indian Cultural Precinct or community centre is also planned for the City of Wyndham under the Victorian Government’ s new commitment.

Click on the link below to read the full story and the Minister’s media release.


Pictured: Punjabi Bhangra Folkloric Indian Dance perform at Cultural Diversity Week 2014.

New VMC social cohesion initiatives for Bendigo

THE Victorian Multicultural Commission will soon undertake new initatives to help strengthen community relationships in the Bendigo region.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC) Chairperson Helen Kapalos joined local members Jacinta Allan and Maree Edwards on 4 December to announce the new social cohesion initiatives for the Bendigo community.

The Commission will deliver a research project to better understand local community attitudes and inform positive multicultural engagement programs, in addition to education programs to support intercultural understanding in Bendigo.

The VMC will deliver the initiatives in partnership with Believe in Bendigo, Bendigo Community Health and City of Greater Bendigo Council to further social cohesion in the region.

Watch the Commission website for further updates.


Grants and funding

Community Grants Update

THE Victorian Government is consolidating and streamlining grant programs in the Multicultural Affairs portfolio to better meet the needs of the community.

It is anticipated that a number of these new grant programs will open in 2015-16. 

Registrations for the grants information session to be held on 10 December, 2015 have now closed. A media presentation will be available on the website early in 2016.

More information sessions will also be held in 2016.

To register your interest or make further enquiries, please contact the Community Strengthening Team at community.grants@dpc.vic.gov.au or on 9651 0636 or 1300 366 356.

If your organisation is hosting larger events, seminars or workshops to provide an update on grants, the Community Strengthening Team may be able to make a presentation. Please contact the Team to check availability.

Please check the website regularly for grants updates. Information will also be sent out via the fortnightly VMC E News.

To receive the VMC E-News please email info@vmc.vic.gov.au to have your name added to the subscriber list.

Grant Programs Open

The Multicultural Festivals and Events Program will open on Friday 11 December, 2015 for events being held between January and June 2016, which includes the former Unity Through Partnerships Program.  

See updates on the website on Friday 11 December, 2015 for information about the program and how to apply. Applications will close at midnight, 24 January 2016.

Recent Grant Programs

Applications for Senior Citizens Organisational Support Grants are now closed.

Applications for Multicultural Media Grants are now closed.

Forthcoming Grant Programs

The Community Infrastructure and Cultural Precincts Program is anticipated to open early in 2016 for small capital infrastructure projects.

The Promoting Community Harmony Program is anticipated to open early in 2016, which includes the grant programs formerly known as Promoting Community Harmony and Multifaith and Interfaith Initiatives.

The Capacity Building and Participation Program is anticipated to open in early 2016, which includes the grant programs formerly known as Strengthening Multicultural Communities, Organisational Support Grants, Community Language Schools Program Grants, Refugee Action Program and Asylum Seeker Support Program.

Multicultural Festivals and Events Program, which includes the former Unity Through Partnerships program, is anticipated to open in early 2016 for festivals and events to be held between 1 July 2016 and 30 June 2017.

Please note that the Multicultural Festivals and Events Program is being streamlined into one major round, rather than two rounds in 2016.

For more information about the Community Grants Program click here.

Events Calendar

Forty Acts of Remembering - 9 December

Moving exhibition marks the end of the Vietnam War.


2015 African Music and Cultural Festival

Federation Square is transformed into Africa for this one-day festival.

  more >

Swing into Xmas - 12 December

Join the School of Hard Knocks and dance into Christmas for a good cause.

  more >

Christmas By The Pier - 13 December

Enjoy a full, fun-packed day of FREE Christmas cheer.

  more >

Transform Your Life

Free public talk with Buddhist teacher.

  more >
Community Noticeboard
Victoria Against Violence

THE Victorian Government’s Victoria Against Violence campaign aims to raise awareness of what individuals, families, organisations and government can do to prevent family violence.

Coordinated with the United Nations 16 Days of Activism against gendered violence and the Say No - UNiTE campaigns, the campaign will encourage the community to participate in activities and support those who have experienced family violence

The campaign will finish on Thursday 10 December 2015.

Find out below how you can get involved or share your event at the Victoria Against Violence website.

Alternatively, support the campaign on social media using the hashtags #16days and #UniteandChange.

The power of football

SPORT is a universal language that anyone can speak, and now a unique youth program is harnessing the power of football to tackle social inclusion.

‘I Speak Football’, is a Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY) program which uses football to connect isolated young people from diverse cultural backgrounds, and provides them with leadership skills and a sense of community and belonging.

Project leader James Dawood, said football was a game that united young people from diverse backgrounds in a very special way.

“This project will give young people the opportunity to participate and be included in the community, irrespective of their cultural background or whether they speak English or not,” he said.

The program is part of the global charitable football initiative, Cityzens Giving, which supports young leaders in six international cities to tackle the challenges affecting their communities through football.

A $780,000 charitable fund has been split between projects in Cape Town, Kuala Lumpur, New York, Manchester, Barranquilla and Melbourne, and fans decide which projects receive the most funding by voting for their favourite.

In Melbourne this year, ‘I Speak Football’ reached over 100 young people. Over a period of six months, 20 young leaders ran weekly football sessions in Dandenong and Sunshine addressing local issues such as racism and discrimination, access and equality and participation. The young leaders also receive accredited referee and coaching qualifications.

You can help CMY reach more young people and boost social inclusion in Victoria by sharing this link www.cityzensgiving.org/melbourne and encouraging other people to get involved.

For more information, cick on the link below.

Exhibition Unpacks Migration

THE suitcase is an evocative item encapsulating the hopes, dreams and aspirations of every migrant.

A new exhibition, Low Cost Diplomatic Bag, is using the humble suitcase as an artistic metaphor to unpack the migrant experience.

Devised by the Spanish Government, the project involved artists in 16 different countries transforming a diplomat’s suitcase into an artwork and delivering it to their nearest Spanish Embassy.

The first exhibition was held in Madrid before opening in 16 other countries where the suitcases originated. Now, it is due to arrive at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne on 17 December 2015.

Victorian-based artist, Peter Burke, created the Melbourne exhibit using a battered attaché case complete with handcuffs and key – a historical homage to the traditional mode of travel for diplomatic documents.

Mr Burke converted the bag into series of compartments containing tiny artworks by refugees from 24 different countries including Columbia, Iran, Vietnam and Poland, some of whom are still living in Melbourne detention centres.

“The refugee situation is a really well-publicised thing, but the voice of refugees isn’t always heard so I thought this would give those people a voice,” said Mr Burke.

The ‘Low Cost’ title  reflects the reduction in spending for the exhibition as the artists did not travel to Spain, just the artworks, a statement on Spain’s ongoing austerity measures.

more >
Focus on racial discrimination

RACIAL discrimination continues to affect many Australians, according to a new report by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane launched Freedom from Discrimination: Report on the 40th anniversary of the Racial Discrimination Act.

The report, launched at the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils Australia’s 2015 National Biennial Conference, includes key findings of the Commissioner’s national consultation to mark the 40th anniversary of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

“Despite our success as a multicultural society, many Australians continue to face racial discrimination, whether it be discrimination in employment, racial vilification or social exclusion.

“Over the past four decades the Racial Discrimination Act has been the foundation of racial equality and multiculturalism. Even so, the Act on its own cannot guarantee that every member of our society can enjoy freedom from discrimination,” said Commissioner Soutphommasane.

The consultations found strong support for the Act and educational measures aimed at reducing discrimination.

However, there were also community concerns about limited protections against anti-Muslim discrimination and significant institutional racism against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The report sets out the future work of the Race Discrimination Commissioner, including convening an annual national forum on racial tolerance and community harmony, advocating for the national school curriculum to ensure adequate education about racism and exploring work to improve the treatment of cultural diversity in the media.

The Commission has also released a short, educational video to promote public understanding of the Racial Discrimination Act.

For more information about the report, video and the Commission’s activities to mark the Act’s 40th anniversary visit, click on the link below.


2nd Conference of World Religions

A NEED for peace and a recognition of the common ground between all religions was a major topic of the 2nd Conference of World Religions held in Melbourne last month.

More than 350 delegates attended the conference, one of the largest of its kind, including leaders representing six major faiths, politicians, police officers, academics and community leaders.

Hosted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association of Victoria at Bait-ul-Salam (House of Peace) Mosque in Langwarrin, the theme of this year’s conference was ‘Role of my religion in promoting peace’.

Faith leaders discussed  the place of religion in providing peace, harmony and justice in today’s work. The host organisation’s president, Imam I.H Kauser, delivered a keynote address to answer these questions in light of Islamic teachings.

“I assure you that if the political leaders and the religious leaders get together, talk about peace and do their best to promote peace, then peace can be achieved,” said Imam Kauser.

Imam Kauser concluded his address by urging people of all religions to make special efforts to pray for peace.

Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Robin Scott MP, and Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Inga Peulich MP, congratulated the organisation on behalf of the Victorian Government for hosting the conference.

“I commend the Ahmadiyya community for hosting events which promote intercultural dialogue, for being leaders in our community and on building communication and understanding,” said Ms Peulich.

The conference concluded with a silent prayer led by Imam Kauser.

more >
Feedback and contribute

We love to hear your comments on how we can improve our communication with you. To send us your thoughts please email info@vmc.vic.gov.au.

If you would like to register your community event with us, please email us and we will add it to our online Community Noticeboard and Events Calendar. Selected listings will be included in the VMC Update each fortnight.


To subscribe please email info@vmc.vic.gov.au or to unsubscribe please press 'unsubscribe' on the bottom bar of this newsletter.

Connect with us on social media

For the latest news and information make sure you 'like' us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.