Diverse advice: Vic gets 6 new multicultural commissioners

By David Donaldson

October 28, 2015

The Victorian government has made six new appointments to the Victorian Multicultural Commission, it announced Wednesday.

They join chair Helen Kapalos, a former TV presenter, who was appointed in July, and five other multicultural commissioners. The VMC acts as a conduit of information and communication between government and different culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse communities.

Helen Kapalos
Helen Kapalos

The new appointments include Peter Khalil, Tsebin Tchen, Sonia Vignjevic, Mimmie Claudine Watts, Sundram Sivamalai (Community Representative Commissioner) and Tina Hosseini (Youth Commissioner).

Established in the 80s, the commission provides independent advice to the Victorian government to inform the development of legislative and policy frameworks, as well as the delivery of public services to culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse community groups.

In the last year the commission undertook 21 consultations with core community groups including young people, women and service providers. It also completed research to identify options for improved child protection data collection with CALD groups, made a submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence and is expected to release a report on social cohesion on the multicultural regional centres of Shepparton and Mildura. Issues raised in consultations are often handed on to other government agencies.

Minister for Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott welcomed the new commissioners.

“Each will play an important role in providing advice to the government on services and programs for diverse communities, as well as on any emerging issues,” he said.

“Each commissioner boasts a great diversity of skills, a passion for multiculturalism, and experiences and community connections to draw upon that will no doubt help us embed positive change.”

Kapalos said she looked forward to finding solutions to the benefit of Victorians.

“As the Victorian Multicultural Commission embarks on a new strategic journey, I look forward to working closely with my fellow commissioners to lead a new, constructive dialogue on multiculturalism, to advocate on behalf of our multicultural community and to provide honest and independent advice to the Andrews Labor government.”

Refugee resettlement coordination

VMC chair Helen Kapalos will also lead the committee charged with coordinating the resettlement of refugees from recent addition of 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi to the 13,750 humanitarian intake.

The Syrian and Iraqi Refugee Intake Planning Committee chaired by Kapalos is made up of senior planners from Victorian government departments, community organisations and not-for-profits including resettlement agency AMES Australia, the Centre for Multicultural Youth, New Hope Foundation, and Foundation House.

The committee will discuss the coordination and resettlement of the new arrivals.

“It’s about every agency being prepared and creating practical pathways to help new arrivals settle in,” said Kapalos.

In addition to prioritising language, education, and health services, she said the committee is focused on identifying employment paths and was eager to work with the corporate sector.

“We’re very keen for the corporate sector to join us as stakeholders and we’re also exploring how the new arrivals might be integrated into the arts and sports organisations so we’re engaging with soccer and other social clubs,” she stated.

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