Steps to Success program supports migrant women

By Ashlea Witoslawski

Creating strong community connections and support networks are some of the key initiatives addressed in the Women’s Health Goulburn North East’s Steps to Success project.

Launched on Friday last week at St Paul’s African House in Shepparton, the project aims to support Sudanese and South Sudanese women to actively participate in their community by accessing transition to work opportunities.

Created as a partnership between Women’s Health Goulburn North East and the Greater Shepparton Sudanese and South Sudanese Women’s Group, women will receive the support of two project co-ordinators to ensure the individuals and their families can safely settle into the community.

Women’s Health Goulburn North East project co-ordinator Lorna Gillespie said the volunteer organisation was developed about three years ago.

She said herself and project co-ordinator Chris Nunn were always on call, helping the participants with a number of tasks such as funding grants, passport applications, legal support, Centrelink, health support services, work experience and education.

‘‘We work with a number of service providers to improve support for our migrant populations,’’ Ms Gillespie said.

‘‘We’re trying to make people independent.’’

Ms Gillespie said one of the major issues for migrants in the community was financial instability, especially in regards to the high cost of general household utility bills.

She said an important part of her role had involved forming relationships and negotiating contracts to ensure these services were affordable and sustainable.

Ms Gillespie also said a large focus of the Steps to Success project was supporting the women involved to gain meaningful education for greater employment opportunities.

She said there was an issue a few years ago in which ‘‘metro-based RDOs were providing training courses in a non-genuine way, now leaving local migrant women in difficult positions’’.

‘‘We want their training to be genuine,’’ she said.

‘‘We want the women to be skilled, giving them the pathway to achieve what they really want to achieve.’’

On Friday, the women attended an English language class where they were asked to bring a newspaper clipping.

Antonita Kuol, one of the participants, brought in a story about her children’s soccer success.

‘‘Antonita wants to be a nurse,’’ Ms Gillespie said.

‘‘She is a big supporter of her community and speaks four languages.

‘‘We want to support her to achieve her goals.’’

Ms Gillespie said she was thankful to all the organisations that had offered support for the project so far.

She also emphasised the importance of embracing the multicultural community.

‘‘People should be inquisitive and present and treat people the way they want to be treated,’’ she said.

Women’s Health Goulburn North East is hoping to train eight bi-lingual educators to deliver better health education for the community.