Cultural Diversity: meeting the Challenges Forum
A recent forum organised and sponsored by the Queensland Justices Association and the Logan City Council was held in Logan city, one of the most ethnically diverse communities in Australia with over
54 nationalities and over 11 major languages spoken. Over 26% of the Logan residents were born overseas and approximately 37% of those born overseas speak English.
Access Community Services, an affiliate member of NCWQ, gave an overview of the wide range of services they provide to new arrivals. These new residents are referred to Access by the Department of Immigration when they are granted residency, to help them settle in. They assist them with housing, services, Centrelink, English language education, obtaining work qualifications or the necessary technical education. As well, they must provide the most basic information, e.g. obtaining a driver’s licence and registering a car – something that is not strictly required or enforced in some countries!
A presenter recounted his journey of a child refugee who escaped the Congo with his family, enduring several years in a refugee camp in Tanzania with very basic facilities and food. Luckily he was able to secure a scholarship to attend university in Dar es Salaam His qualifications enabled entry into Australia on a refugee visa where 10 years later he now has a migration services business. Truly an amazing story that while good for the heart had a sad side because his siblings are scattered around the world. Compared to even those living in America, he considers he has ‘won the jackpot’. One interesting comment he made was about domestic violence. ‘Smacking’, ‘beating’, ‘bashing’ mean the same in African languages and as it is regarded as ‘discipline’ so the nuances plus the fact it is breaking the law is not understood. As well, the language barrier, using reliable interpreter services, especially if using family members is a challenge. There is a fear of government authorities, particularly police, believing that bribery is expected. Most do not understand the concept of JPs, thinking they have to pay them. When so many documents these days must be witnessed this presents added delays and complications. Although many come on refugee, asylum or family, partner, or children reunion migration visas, others come for work. Assistance for any of these categories, especially work, can be costly and time consuming.
Attendees at the forum also heard of the wonderful work undertaken by the Queensland Police liaison Unit (PLOs) who work with Access explaining general laws including driving licences, domestic violence laws and other regulations. This handful of multilingual members of the QPS attempt to bridge the gap in the Logan community, while training other police with understanding the different, diverse cultures with whom they may need to interact. They try to identify and defuse problems through local initiatives in an attempt to counter the little publicised anti-social behaviour problems, truancy, gang mentality, bullying and lack of respect in that community, though not unique to Logan.
QPS liaison officers and Access Community Services are making a difference in people’s lives in their daily endeavours in that colourful yet complex community.