Thursday, June 20, 2024

Liverpool migrant hub triumphs amid pandemic

Liverpool City Council’s Community Hubs Program has given vital support to refugee and migrant community members during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 217 families accessing the hubs programs across the Liverpool Local Government Area in 2020.

The National Community Hubs Program (NCHP), an initiative of Community Hubs Australia, was established in Liverpool in 2019. It aims to support refugee and migrant community members, particularly women with pre-school aged children, connect with their community and gain access to education and employment opportunities.

In Liverpool, the Program is delivered in partnership with three local schools – Hoxton Park Public School, Heckenberg Public School and Marsden Road Public School – with participants hailing from backgrounds including Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, India, Bangladesh.

Throughout 2020, adults and children attended Liverpool Community Hubs activities more than 13,000 times from parenting and English classes to skills development courses. Eighty-six per cent of these activities were delivered remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Mayor of Liverpool, Wendy Waller said Council was extremely proud of the way the program had continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering essential services and programs to some of the most vulnerable members in the community.

“For many of the women who participate, our school community hubs are the connecting link between themselves and the outside world,” Mayor Waller said

“Despite living in Australia for many years, many of the migrant and refugee women who comes to our hubs for help still struggle with English because they have been busy raising their young families. This can be a very isolating and lonely experience.

“Without the tireless support of the Community Hubs leaders and staff, many participants would be unable to do simple everyday tasks we all take for granted such as applying for a library card or booking a doctor’s appointment.”

An important objective of the hubs is to help participants become more job ready and confident through building up their English language skills. Across the Liverpool network, English language and conversation classes were attended more than 595 times with the majority conducted online to ensure participants could continue to learn and practice amidst physical distancing restrictions.

Dunya* moved to Australia as a refugee from war-torn Iraq a decade ago. She has attended the Community Hub held at Heckenberg Public School for the past two years and credits her vast improvements in speaking and reading English to the program.

“I found out about the hub because my children go to Heckenberg Public School. I enjoy being able to practise communicating in English in a fun environment while cooking or over a coffee,” she said.

For Dunya, the Community Hubs represent more than just a language class.

“My four children are now older and at school, and I was starting to feel lonely. I have been able to make many friends by being around and speaking to people like me,” she said.

Dunya is now in the process of completing a Certificate II in Basic English for Speakers of Other Languages at Miller Tafe with the prospect of moving onto Certificate III. She said her goal is to eventually gain employment as a teacher’s aide.

Like Dunya, adults at Liverpool’s Community Hubs have attended formal training course on 260 occasions and informal training courses or sessions on 162 occasions.

“Seven participants found suitable employment which is a remarkable achievement in a year when job security was uncertain for many,” Mayor Waller said.

Liverpool City Council serves as the Community Hub Support Agency for the Liverpool network providing operational support, strategic leadership and guidance including professional development to hub leaders within the local network.

“We also work with Community Hubs Australia to further develop the NCHP including providing vital input into the development and implementation of a new quality framework for the national network.

“We are delighted with the number and strength of agency connections and collaborations our Community Hubs have built with local services to continue to deliver and support access to programs and services.

“For example, we have recently developed a program to educate refugee and migrant women in swimming, water safety and CPR. We hope this will encourage refugee and migrant families to better engage with aquatic activities such as local swimming pools and beaches which increase social cohesion and reduce isolation,” Mayor Waller said.

Liverpool’s Community Hubs Program results for 2020:

  • 217 families engaged with hubs across the Liverpool network.
  • Adults and children attended hub-facilitated activities 13,420 times – 86 per cent of these activities were remote.
  • English language and conversation classes were attended over 595 times.
  • Families access language and literacy programs for children 954 times.
  • Families accessed playgroups and early years education sessions 4,605 times.
  • Adults attended a formal training course on 260 occasions and an informal training course or session on 162 occasions.
  • Hubs in the network engaged 19 volunteers and provided 512 volunteering opportunities.
  • Seven jobs were found as a result of connecting with a hub.
  • 100 referrals were made to additional services, such as family support and emergency aid services.
  • Hubs created 28 working partnerships including food services and family support.

*Has requested her surname not be included.

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