Special Articles / Kalpana Goel / Community Work : Theories, Experiences & Challenges
It has been well acknowledged in the literature that successful settlement of new arrivals (both international and interstate) and their families is crucial for theirintegration and well-being in a host society. This will also result in population sustainability and meetingindustry requirements in regional areas. This chapter posits that community-based organisations (CBOs) are in a unique position to provide settlement services which are socially inclusive and evolve community participation under immigration department policy guidelines. Thechapter illustrates how a community development approach is a useful theory/constructto guide the practice of a community-based organisation that isproviding settlement services to new immigrants. This is demonstrated by using a case study of the ‘Settling our Future’ program provided through one of the community-basedorganisations in aregional city of South Australia.The author demonstrates that community development principles and approaches are the backbone of providing effective servicesto meet the needs of new arrivals in the regional town. The chapterfurther examines the role of the community development worker as a facilitator in establishing, developing and sustaining these initiatives which have a community basis.
In the last four to five decades, there has been a greater realisation that modern development efforts and the socio-economic and political order of the modernised world arefailing to meet human needs. Ife(2002, p. xi) says that the current system is failing to meet the two most important needs of human society, ‘the need for people to be able to live in harmony with their environment, and the need for them to be able to live in harmony with each other’. It is indicative of the failure of structural and institutional arrangements made thus far by the developed world around the capitalist market-oriented economy and welfare system to reach out to the poor, disadvantaged and marginalised sections of the society.
Community-based services are being suggested as an alternative to the failing welfare mechanism (Ife, 2002; Kenny, 2011).The roleplayed by the local community in the health, well-being and safety of its members is well known. Community-based servicesthat have their roots and base in local organising efforts take various forms that could include voluntary associations, citizens’ group, arts group, local groups that are voluntarily organised to meet specific purposes of people in the community,such as a women’s group, men’s group, youth group, refugee and migrant group, to name a few. While these can be informally organised, there are other formal organisations that can beeither ‘autonomous or semi-autonomous from government… control,’ and promoted to implement various programs and servicesto meet community-specific need (Kenny, 2011, p. 229).Such organisations are also called community-based organisations (CBOs). Social workers or community development workers are largely employed in theseCBOs where they are accountable to both the funding organisation and the community for whom they work. We also need to be mindful that community development practices do not take place in a vacuum, but are affected by the existing socio-political and cultural environment both positively and negatively. The system can place constraints and facilitate development effort by its policies and legislations.However, the current practice of the federal government in Australia rests on a partnership approach where government develops partnerships with not-for-profit organisations, businesses and non-governmental organisations/CBOs to overcome the problem of marginalisation and exclusion of certain groups of people in the society (Australian Government, 2009).However, managerialism and accountability to funding organisations is not unheard of in current funding regimes. Most of the community development projects are time bound with specific outcome expectations. A community development worker is constantly under pressure to reach the goal/outcome of the project and is less worried about the development processes. This could in turn lead to disenchantment amongst the community who do not feel part of the process of their own development.
Australian government immigrant settlement services are governed and controlled by a peak government body such as the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). It works closely with other key organisations such as the Australian Social Inclusion Board to formulate policies and programs to settle new migrants in the country. This chapter focuses ona community developmental approach that adheres to community development principles and processes while working with the migrant community through a community-based organisation. The author’s experience of involvement for two years (2009-2011) with the ‘Settling our future’program, run by a CBO, as a participant observer, reflective practitioner and as an academic teaching ‘Working with community’ demonstrates that community development principles and approaches are the backbone of providing effective services to meet the needs of new arrivals in the regional town.
The author does this by first focusing on the context of need for settlement services, and examines the needs of newly arrived migrants in regional Australia. Secondly, the chapterlooks at Australian government settlement policy and thirdly, it illustrates how a community development approach is most suitable to work with migrants (new settlers) who will require culturally appropriate services to successfully settle in a host society. The author also contends that social workers are equipped with knowledge and skills to facilitate the processes of community development in a CBO.
Australia regards itself as a world leader in settlement service provision for newly arrived migrants and refugees.A message from Senator Kate Lundy describes Australia as
a nation built on immigration and shaped by the settlement experience. Since 1945, more than seven million people have migrated to Australia to help form one of the most linguistically, culturally and religiously diverse nations on earth.(Department of Immigration and Citizenship [DIAC], 2012, p. 1)
Historically, Australia is a country made up ofpeople who migrated and populated this land. The historian Geoffrey Blaineycommented that Australia’s history of migrationfrom the mid-19thto the last quarter ofthe 20th century has beenguided by its visionthat ‘All of the vast continent had … to be developed and peopled’ (Cully &Pejoski, 2012). The share of migrant population was 10% of the total population in 1947(Cully &Pejoski, 2012), whereas in 2011 the overseas-born population was estimated to be 27% of the total population (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2012). This enormous increase in migrant population became possible with the abandonment of the White Australia policy in the 1970sand a developing migration program that wasinclusive of people coming from developing countries. It is evident from the ABS data that Australia’s population growth in a given year is mainly (60%) from net overseas migration (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2013b).
Although there has been asubstantial increase in the population of overseas-born people, it has been noticed that they tend to settle in metropolitan areas rather than in regional and rural areas. According to Withers and Powell (2003,p.3) ‘almost 60% of settlers seek to locate in Sydney and Melbourne’. Besides immigrants’choice of where they want to settle, there are other factors such as the low fertility rate, which has halved from 3.5 to 1.7 since 1960 for Australia overall (Cahill, 2007); and out-migration of youth for employment and education, the choice of the aged population to live in a peaceful environment and ‘sea changers’ have impacted upon the demography of regional areas (Withers & Powell, 2003). One of the policy initiativesofthe Immigration Department to address this population deficit in regional areas and to meet the growing need there forpeople of working age has been through promotion of regional settlement of immigrants with various visa categories. The introduction of the State Sponsored Regional Migration (SSRM) visa in 1996 to populate regional areas hasbeen mainly in response to lobbying by states and territories thatwere faced with skill shortages constraining their economic and social development (Hugo, 2008).Thus states that were faced with challenges of low population growth and struggling economies adopted a population policy that channelled immigrant settlement into the regions. With the introduction of the SSRM scheme, the state, local government and employers could sponsor immigrants who were failing to meet the requirements of the Australian points system (Hugo, 2008). A number of visa categories that were included in SSRM were: Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS), State and Territory Nominated Independent scheme (STNI), Skilled Designated Area Sponsored Visa Categories (SDAS), Skilled Designated Area Sponsored Overseas Student Category, Skilled Onshore Designated Area Sponsored New Zealand Citizen Visa Category, Regional Established Business in Australia(REBA), and Skilled Independent Regional (Provisions) Category (SIR).
Issues and Needs of Migrants in a Host Society
The report of the Australian Social Inclusion Board (2012),Social inclusion in Australia: How Australia is faring,identifies factors that are affecting the social inclusion of Australian people on parameters such as education, work, employment, social participation and having a voice. The data related to people who were born overseas or spoke a language other than English at home (who were not proficient in speaking English) found that they generally fared low as compared to people who spoke English well or were born in Australia. ABS social survey data (cited in Australian Social Inclusion Board,2012, p.45) clearly state that adults with low English proficiency (23%) were less likely to be employed compared to those (65%) who spoke English fluently. They were twice less likely to go to university and compared to English-speaking people (83%),people less proficient in speaking English (53%) are less likely to report health as good or bettercompared to all people(83%). Overseas-born and those less proficient in English also reported comparatively low overall life satisfaction. Their participation in social and community activities was low (87%) compared to those proficient in speaking English (96%).People who were born overseas and whose English speaking was at a lower level also reportedly felt marginalised and having less say in family matters(68%) compared to those who were born overseas and spoke English well (79%), whereas Australian-born adults’ percentage was higher in having a say(85%). Moreover, the same report highlights that ‘attitudes towards people from different cultures have worsened from2007 to 2011’ (Australian Social Inclusion Board, 2012, p.3).
The factors that affect the social inclusion of immigrants remain the same even after a decade. A study undertaken by Colic-Peisker and Tilbury in 2003with refugee settlers in Australiareported that limitation with English language was an important reason for isolation ofresettlers who were categorised as passive resettlers (2003, p.73). Besides this ‘lack of opportunities for social inclusion – primarily because of non-recognition of skills and lack of jobs apart from the “3D”jobs may lead refugees toward passivity’(Colic-Peisker& Tilbury, 2003, p.81).
Migrants who arrive in a new country come with certain expectations about lifestyle for themselves and their families; however, when they settle in a new place they find a gap betweentheir pre-arrival expectations and the reality ofthe new location, which impacts on their well-being in the initial settlement stage(Department of Trade and Economic Development, SA Health and Multicultural SA, 2010).Besides language difficulty, lack of job opportunity and non-recognition of skills, families were important to migrants in settlement. For some immigrants, seeking a job for their spouse was also a challenge as they found few job opportunities for their spouse in the region: ‘Only 25% of spouses of primary applicants were absorbed in job market’(Goel& Goel, 2009, p. 9). The findings of the survey conducted by Hugo (2008) also highlight that availability of jobs for partners is an important factor considered by immigrants in settlement. Families are more likely to settle in regional towns than single migrants(Department of Trade and Economic Development, SA Health and Multicultural SA, 2010, p.13)and thus focus on spouse jobs has significant importance in the settlement experiences of migrants.
A study conducted by GoelandGoel on settlement experiences of immigrants in regional South Australia highlights that ‘nearly fifty per cent of them lacked awareness on welfare provision, had difficulty in accessing health services, found rental and cost of house more and complained of non-availability of native food’(2009, p.9). The same study also pointed out ‘the absence of jobs here or better job opportunity elsewhere could drive them out from the region’ (Goel & Goel, 2009, p. 8).
Based on the results of a survey of SSRM migrants in South Australia, Hugo commented that ‘factors such as life style, availability of suitable employment for partners, availability of appropriate schooling for children and the appropriate provision of a range of services and social and economic opportunities [were] crucial in the decision to migrate to peripheral areas’(2008, p.142).According to Hugo (2008, p. 143), in order to reduce the risk of migrant population movement from South Australia to another state, it is important that both state and local government assist migrants in getting appropriate work, housing and schooling for children.
These factors highlight that considerable efforts are required at the local government and community level to ensure that new immigrants in the host community feel welcomed and accepted (Hugo, Khoo,& McDonald, 2006).Thus this gives clear indication that involvement of state government and communitysupportformigrants is needed to have an inclusive society.
Federal and State Policy on Settlement of Immigrants
Department of Immigration and Citizenship1 (DIAC) is the peak body that is entrusted with the responsibility of managing ‘Australia’s future through the well-managed movement and settlement of people’ (Richmond, 2011). DIAC runs various programs to help the initial settlement of new arrivals, especially within the first six months to one year period. The focus of humanitarian services is to provide early practical support to new entrants through their initial settlement phase.Australia’s settlement policy envisions a socially inclusive society that values multiculturalism and promotes social, economic and cultural integration of its members. The government’s social inclusion agenda has also been a key driver for change, influencing both the design and delivery of settlement programs.
The settlement policy framework that was prepared in 2009 set out the following direction for reform in settlement policy (DIAC, 2012). This policy was prepared after consultation with community organisations, government agencies, former migrants and humanitarian settlers. As a result of the consultation some priorities were set for reform that included:
The settlement program is based on aconceptual framework that outlines settlement outcomes for new migrants in the following domains: ‘social participation’, ‘economic well-being’, ‘personal well-being’, ‘independence’, and‘life satisfaction and being connected to the community’ (DIAC, 2012, p. 13). Participation is valued as a key driving force for successful settlement. A migrant who is involved in ‘the social and cultural life’ of the host society and active in seeking ‘education and employment’will be able to enhance their ‘self-esteem and economic well-being’ (DIAC, 2012, p. 12). The settlement policy also stresses enhancing independence amongst migrants. This can be achieved by linking them with government and non-government services to have equitable access. The participation and involvement in various community events and social life will bring happiness and help overcome the feelings of isolation (DIAC, 2012).
To provide settlement services government departments work in partnership with non-government organisations and community-based organisations. The Australian government has developed a ‘National Compact’ with settlement service providers and this partnership approach is built around trust, mutuality, respect and collaboration (DIAC, 2012,p.14).
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship provides settlement grants such as ‘Settlement Grant Program’ (SGP) to community-based organisations to deliver services which assist eligible clients to become self-reliant and participate equitably in Australian society as soon as possible after arrival.Other grants are for the Adult Migrant English program and translating and interpreting services (DIAC, n.d.).
Social workers are working under this policy framework. They are employed in Migrant Resource Centres as resettlement facilitators, project co-ordinators, policy planners and in local council as multicultural officers.
Community Orientation in Settlement Services
The settlement services can be best managed by building strong communities and increasing their self-help capacity. Immigrants look for lost community bonds and relationships that they have had in their place of origin. The literature on refugee settlement has clearly projected the value of community orientation, ‘community ties’ and ‘traditional bonds’ in certain communities (Colic-Peisker& Tilbury,2003, p.69). Tomlinson and Egan (2002) and Potocky (1996, cited inColic-Peisker& Tilbury 2003, p.69)suggestthatcommunity empowerment and self-help strategies be used while working with immigrant population groups. Studies conductedwith Africans and ex-Yugoslavs revealed that these communities rely on the social support of their communities in the early stages of settlement and it is this ‘mutual support’ that is offered by their own community that helps build ‘social cohesion’ in these communities. Colic-Peisker and Tilbury (2003, p.81).Colic-Peisker and Tilbury (2003, p. 64) cite literature that affirms that the focus of settlement services is on a social inclusion approach with its emphasis on social adaptation and integration of newly arrived migrants in the society. It relies on human and social capital to integrate people.
Role of Community-Based Organisations
Community organisations can play a powerful role in providing initial support and help to new immigrants settling in a new place. Needs of new settlers such as housing,finding jobs and schooling for children, knowledge and access to health and welfare services, knowledge about market places, acquisition and understanding of language spoken in the host society, and knowledge about the locality,can be met by associations of people with each other. It is the connection and networking with others in the community that facilitate and help them know the facilities in the community. Community members develop a sense of achievement and sense of belonging by engaging and participating through community-based organisations.
CBOs also provide intermediary services to the community on behalf of government departments such as the Immigration Department (DIAC); it meets policy requirements through program implementation. CBOs are the vehicles to implement social service programs that are designed to meet community needs. Programs are made more sustainable by encouraging community participation, involvement of community people in volunteering, building capacity of community members, providing leadership training, resource buildingand encouraging social advocacy/social action and research.
Social workers as part of CBOs are deemed to be working with migrants, refugees in their lifetime in a number of different practice settings such as educational settings, services for children, youth groups, women’s groups and health settings. They are project co-ordinators and program managers where they need to manage volunteer groups working with immigrants and refugees and thus require a special skill set in monitoring and supervising volunteers’ work (Cahill, 2007). For programs to be successful, it is important to have a holistic approach where support is available from government resources along with business and entrepreneurship andthecommunity (Cahill 2007).
The following case study presents work done by a community-based organisation in a regional town in South Australia.
Whyalla, the second-largest regional city in South Australia,had a total population of 22,580 in 2011, of which 25.8 percent were overseas born (ABS, 2013a). This regional city has observed a continuous inflow of immigrants over many decades due to its industrial and mining-related activities. Settlement of immigrants and retention in the region has been the key focus of settlement service provision byone of the local community-based organisations.
Settling our Future Program
The mission statement of this program states that‘Settling our future will make new residents feel at home and welcome in Whyalla with a whole of community approach’.The program originated with initiatives of the Whyalla Economic Development Board (now known as Regional Development Authority – RDA) considering population growth in the region and identified needs. It was run by a community-based organisation ‘Advancing Whyalla’ in collaboration with volunteering SA & NT. The main objective of this program was to provide support services to newly arrived families to settle in a new place and therefore improve their retention. The unique feature of this program was the involvement of both participants and volunteers in the program. It promoted inclusion of new migrants and strengthened ties of existing residents with newly arrived people in the town. A major focus was on settling families and making them feel comfortable as this could result in greater stability of employees for the local employers. This goal was achieved by organising a number of activities and programs such as a town tour, regular fortnightly coffee mornings, ameet and greet service, English classes for beginners, intermediate English classes and scrap-booking. Volunteers took charge and were involved in four major strands of services such as meet and greet, community involvement through coffee morning, organising events – multicultural nights/social nights – tenpin bowling, drinks and a meal at restaurant, barbecuesand visits to attractions in Whyalla, and as a media representative who designed promotional flyers. The organisation also prepared a welcome pack, which included a guide for new residents called Whyalla bound2. This contained, in one place, information on major services including health, education, real estate agents, accommodation options, industry, attractions, work-related matters, banks, and investment.The focus of this program is building social networks of similar ethnic groups as well as with other groups. An attempt has been made to introduce program participants to meet other networks across Eyre Peninsula.(Adapted from Tieman, 2010)
Application of Community Development Principles
Besides immediate goals of settling new migrants, the CBO also envisioned creating a sustainable model for settling new migrants and continuation of service.The benefit of implementing this program through a CBO was that it has already established wide networks with social services, industry and government organisations in the region.
Ecological principle: ‘Settling our future’ program embraced aholistic approach to work with migrants and their families.The principle of holism that directs attention to bringing change in the whole system (Ife, 2013),rather than having a piecemeal approach, was evident in the processes of working with the migrant community. The program had a family focus and the majority of the activities involved children and parents together. It is recognised earlier in the literature that settling the whole family is important to retaining migrants in the regional areas.
Social justice and human rights: A community development approach ensures that people’s rights to civic life are valued. It is also concerned that each individual has both rights and responsibility. People have dignity and worth and their identity as human beings entitles them to socio-economic and political rights. People need equal opportunity to access various resources and their full participation in social and civic life is warranted. Participants of the settlement program were valued as people having equal worth and dignity; their need forbelongingness and feeling part of the community were recognised; and programs were developed to meet such needs through providing them opportunity to participate and engage in community events and services. There were specific programs for children and housewives such as bowling club, skate park activity for children and coffee mornings for the women’s group. This also means that the principle of diversitywas valued to acknowledge differences in needs and context of human living.
Principle of self-determination: This principle guides community development processes where community members take control of the decision making process and are conscious of decisions that affect their life. It also means that workersaresensitive to their own practice and consciously recognise different forms of power that may affect decision making processes. This principle was evident when the migrant community group actively participated in identifying their needs such as the need for language classes, knowledge about existing services, a tour of the town and familiarity with recreational opportunities.
Community Development Approach
The settlement program involved community engagement and participatory approaches. It was based on a ‘whole of community’ approach that included working with migrants, their families, schools, workplaces and service providers. Community members, service providers, council members, University representatives and other key persons from the community were stakeholders in all decision making processes. Partnerships were developed with the University department of social work to enhance students’ knowledge and build their skills in community work. A two-way process helped link University with community service and enriched delivery of social work education and service delivery to the migrant community.
Developing Informal Social Support Networks
Studies have generally agreed that immigrants prefer to seek support from informal social support networks (Aroian, 1992; Hernández-Plaza,Pozo, & Alonso Morillejo, 2004). The needs of immigrants vary from seeking information about services such as education, health, employment, housing, visa and citizen procedures, to legal assistance to social and emotional support that is culture-specific. The factors that could impact on specific needs of the immigrant population will depend upon their age at migration, gender, nationality, education, employment experiences, visa category, and availability of existing social networks, family and friends, and duration of living in a host country.It is evident that not all needs can be met by informal support networks as some of the issues that are faced by immigrant populations are complex, such as seeking a job, language acquisition, specialised health services, equitable access to social servicesand legal assistance. This has its basis in thebroader social, political, economic and cultural context of the host society. Thus it may require a macro-level approach to bring about institutional reforms and policy level changes.
However, the role played by social support networks in settling new immigrants and helping them maintain their psychosocial well-being is well documented (Hernández-Plaza, Alonso Morillejo, &Pozo-Muñoz, 2006,p.1154). These support networks play a vital role in providing emotional support, social interaction, participation in cultural and ethnic events, emergency housing and food, shared accommodation, information about services and relevant contacts and moreover a‘we’ feeling and sense of belonging that binds them together as a community.The program participants benefited fromsuch informal coffee mornings, get-togethers which helped them form support networks. It helped them overcome their isolation, feelings of depression and loneliness. The author herself came to know many immigrants from her ethnicity whom she met for the first time in such gatherings and it helped form relationships with them and other communities.
‘Immigrants or ethnic minority professionals are also perceived as part of the informal social network’ (Hernández-Plaza, 2003, as cited in Hernández-Plaza et al., 2006, p.1160). One of the benefits of having them as part of the informal networks could be that it helps in building trust, reciprocity and allows people to seek help and share their experiences because of the shared language, cultural norms and affinity theymight have. This was also evident as many migrant community members felt at ease discussing education options for them and their families with the author because ofher affiliation with an educational institution.
Bonding and Bridging Social Capital
The concept of a social support network as discussed above is linked with what has been termed in the literature as ‘social capital’ (Putnam, 2002). Kenny (2011, p.8) ‘refers [it] to certain type of social relationships that…are based on trust, mutuality, sharing and cooperative effort’. Such social relationship isthe genesis for creating social networks that enhance mutual cooperation, trust and solidarity amongst its members. According to Jochum(2003, as cited in Kenny 2011, p.125), ‘the social capital is a resource that can be developed through particular types of social relationships. It can be drawn on, increased or depleted’. Providing opportunities to meet other people from the community through coffee mornings, social tours and event participation workstowards developingsocial capital that members could use to tapinto various types of support such as general information, contacts, material aids, seeking enjoyment and connectedness.
Putnam (2002, p.11) describes two types of social capital, ‘bonding and bridging’, that are relevant while making sense of work undertaken by the community-based organisation. When immigrant communities come close to their own ethnic community people and form close-knit social relationships, it is termed as bonding social capital. The benefit of bonding capital is that people are connected based on similarity, homogeneity and shared experiences and reciprocate with each other with a sense of rights and responsibilities.
A study conducted by Fanning, Hasseand O’Boyle(2011, p.20) on immigrants in Ireland found the relevance of social relations in immigrants’ well-being and integration.Social capital is considered to be important in building social cohesion and integration within the host society, however, it is also being recognised that ‘temporal aspects’ are crucial: ‘the social networks crucial to integration are difficult to build and take considerable time to achieve’(Fanning, Hasse,& O’Boyle, 2011, p.20).
Compton and Galaway (1999, as cited in Pawar, 2004, p. 440) state that ‘In the 21st century, we must work toward a social work practice that focuses on the development of…communities in which people are supportive of one another’. They postulate that a community’s informal care and welfare systems are those systems in which individuals, families and communities come together, without any formal requirements and without any professional intervention, to meet felt or expressed needs and/or to resolve issues in a self-reliant and sustainable manner (Pawar, 2004,p.439).
As described in the literature, community capacity building can take various forms. It can be a top-down approach where government bodies or funding bodies decide on capacities that need to be built to sustain the program or for its effective delivery. The bottom-up democratic approach to community building is where members themselves can identify their needs. It increases people’s capacity to build their self-esteem, self-confidence and capacity to work. Gaining English language ability can open doors to work integration with the host society where the majority speak English and that is the main medium of communication. Increasing the capacities of immigrants and ethnic communities means that their competence is increased to function better in a host society and achieve their desired goals. Regular English classes were conducted for families and children of new immigrants in the town by the ‘Settling our future’ program. This was considered important to raise the level of self-esteem through increased self-confidence in speaking English.
According to Kenny (2011, p.259) volunteer participation aligns with the concept of active citizenship or citizen participation where citizens could be involved in multiple ways to help those who are in need without patronising. Volunteers are those who are willing to contribute their time voluntarily for the benefit of the community. According to Omoto and Snyder (1995, as cited in Hernández-Plaza et al., 2006, p. 1161) volunteers provide support without having self-interest andpayment for their services. They work for the benefit of the community and can be involved in previously planned social programs. In this case scenario, a number of people who were involved in organising and running different activities under the settlement program were themselves migrants who either arrived a few years back or were recent migrants willing to share their time and knowledge to support incoming members of the society.These volunteers provided meet and greet services to new immigrants and accompanied them to the supermarket; helped them seeking housing; introduced them to other families from their nationality and ethnicity; held regular weekly coffee mornings and provided opportunity for social interaction, friendship, information sharing and assistance to meet specific needs. Volunteers also actively took responsibility fororganising culture-specific events and celebrated a multicultural evening. This type of social support is important in promoting self-help and mutual aid.In the self-help form of community development, ‘community’ is being conceptualised as‘where people associate with each other while building meaningful relationships critical for the community’s subsistence’ (Matarrita-Cascante& Brennan, 2012,p.299). It also encourages people’s participation and ‘self-mobilisation and ownership of the processes’ [of community building] (Kenny, 2011,p.188).A community of people are the key ‘stakeholders’ who take charge of the development process and take responsibility for‘promoting a program’(Matarrita-Cascante& Brennan, 2012,p.299).Such processes are important in building community capacity that can help achieve the major goals and needs of the community. The approach adopted by the community-based organisation is one of recognising knowledge, skills and capacities of the community members and strengthening them by providing opportunities formutual aid. Thus it embraces principles of asset-based community development as pronounced by Kretzman&Mcknight (1993, as cited in Kenny, 2011, p.190), where the community development worker recognises existing strengths, skills, knowledgebase of community members and helps them develop these further through appropriate training and additional resources. ‘Settling our future’ offered training sessions to volunteers in effective volunteering, communicating with culturally and linguistically diversepeople, and an introduction to mentoring. These training sessions helped build on existing strengths and maximised their potential and gains from volunteering efforts (Tieman, 2010).
Community members gathered ata coffee morning identified existing talents in the community and formed social support groups that could help new migrants settle. Some people who hadextensive knowledge of the local places and community services voluntarily joined the meet and greet group and welcomed new arrivals in the town by helping them look for accommodation and services and transported them to places of need in the absence of a car. Another group got engaged in organising a cultural night where the migrant group could intermingle with the host community and vice versa, utilising their talents in cultural activities.
Participation and Engagement
Community participation and community engagement is a meaningful activity that develops solidarity and the sustainability of the program/project. Community members participate when there is space for their inclusion, flexibility, and they perceive that their participation will bring meaningful results. People need real options and choice in order to participate. Thus a community worker needs to create these spaces and options. The ‘Settling our future’program encouraged members to participate in various programs and activities according to their interest, choice and level of skills. Immigrants participatedin activities such as a town tour, scrap-booking, craft, English language classes, coffee mornings and meet and greet. Many of them took responsibility forimplementing and carrying out various services with the help ofthe community organiser. Participation also means partnership (Kenny, 2011, p. 188).A key partnership with TAFEto run English language classes, consultation and involvement of University staff and students, local council, and with the Regional Development Authority were developed for smooth functioning of settlement services and to link migrants with other service providers.The processes that a community development worker adopts include abottom-up approach. This approach focuses on empowering community members so that they can make decisions about the things that affect them most. This is generally achieved by focusing on a local level of knowledge, skills and cultural practices with which people are familiar. A planning day was held with volunteers in a community restaurant with the aim of engaging them in identifying the needs of new migrants in the community. Having this program run by a community-based organisation and actively planned and coordinated by volunteers from the community can be claimed as devolving power to the grassroots, what Ife (2002, p.101) claims as change from below.
Social Inclusion, Integration andAdaptation
The social inclusion agenda of government rests on the premise that there are certain groups of people in the society who are excluded, such as the Indigenous population, refugees/migrants and people with a disability,whothus become marginalised; therefore policies and services need to be in place to include them in the mainstream of society by making employment, volunteering, work opportunity, schooling and health services available to them. Although this form of social inclusion involvingconformity to the norms of the host society is considered to be important, it is equally important to consider the social inclusion agenda of the affected/marginalised population. For example, the immigrants might consider community support, acceptance and social connections as their goal of social inclusion (Kenny, 2011,p.68).
Community development workers recognise and validate diversity amongst the immigrant population, which is not a homogeneous group and requires cross-cultural practice. The community development worker needs to consider diversity in views and ways of working among people. The ‘Settling our future’ program had a strong focus on inclusive practices and upheld the principle of diversity that was evident in various programs and activities such as a ‘Family Hungi3 Night’, cultural evenings and sharing of cultural foodincluding a barbecue, an Australian way of cooking food.
The case example of a ‘Settling our future’ program run by a community-based organisation discussed in this chapter demonstrates the effective role played by aCBO to work with communities. Anheier and Leat (2002 cited in Kenny, 2011, p. 261) describes key elements of creative organisations as ones which are resourceful and have problem solving capacity with an open mind.
It is evident that when people are involved in decision making processes and participate as active citizens then life is transformed for them. Such programs have value in meeting both the government social inclusion agenda and creating a society that is inclusive and valued by its members. The chapter has also illustrated how a community development approach is a useful theory/construct to guide the practice of a CBO that is providing settlement services to new immigrants. Building the capacity of migrants and local community members sets an example of empowering approaches that are important for active citizenship and mutuality and self-help. The discussion also revealedthat partnership with key community stakeholders is crucial in sustaining the program in the long term. Lastly, it demonstrated that the community development worker is in a unique position to provide holistic services to new settlers as they are equipped with knowledge and have skills in working with communities.
The author wishes to thank Kara Tieman and Cathy Hutchinson of Advancing Whyalla for collaborating and sharing valuable experiences with her and her students. She also thanks Abraham Francisand Bronwyn Ellis for reviewing the paper andproviding feedback and editing inputs.
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