I am immensely proud of the way we worked with diverse communities through the highs and lows of 2019-20. And despite the unprecedented circumstances Victorians faced, it was our collective and enduring community spirit that resonated deeply with me and gave me hope for the future.
Our success as a multicultural society hasn’t been attained by chance, and nor can we take it for granted. Maintaining unity and social harmony takes work, and it needs champions across all areas of society. On behalf of the VMC, I thank everyone who has championed diversity in Victoria this year. Your efforts do not go unnoticed, and our whole community is stronger because of you.
Promoting diversity has continued to be a central theme of our work. In my first year as Chairperson, it was a great honour to formally recognise the outstanding achievements of so many Victorians who strengthened multiculturalism through paid or voluntary work at the Multicultural Awards for Excellence.
We also enjoyed some highly successful events including the inaugural International Women’s Day Breakfast where we celebrated women of all backgrounds, and a wonderful Cultural Diversity Week sponsor event in late 2019 where we launched our exciting plans for 2020.
Of course, we were extremely disappointed to postpone our much-loved Cultural Diversity Week events in March. I acknowledge the hard work by everyone involved and thank our sponsors, suppliers and communities for their continued commitment and support.
With so many events, celebrations and faith observances not possible in 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many Victorians have found it a particularly difficult year. It was therefore inspiring to see community and faith groups embrace technology and find innovative ways to stay connected and mark dates of significance online.
The VMC also held numerous online events including a memorable virtual iftar for women and well attended forums for Reconciliation Week and Refugee Week.
Our role as a conduit between multicultural communities and government has truly come into its own this year. With a strong focus on meaningful engagement with communities, we have elevated their voices and drawn on their insights and ideas to inform our ongoing advice to government on a range of matters.
We forged and strengthened our own relationships across government and brought department and agency representatives directly together with communities to deepen their understanding of current and emerging challenges.
By enhancing our Regional Advisory Councils across the state, we not only gained vital intelligence on local issues, we also fostered new connections and collaborations that helped improve social cohesion at a local and state level. This network has also proven critical during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by assisting the VMC with the timely dissemination of important information and maintaining two-way communication.
Throughout the year, we investigated issues that affected Victoria’s multicultural communities and provided recommendations to government. This included three significant submissions regarding early education engagement with culturally and linguistically diverse communities, anti-vilification legislation in Victoria, and the Australian Government’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19).
I am particularly proud of the way the Multifaith Advisory Group demonstrated leadership and unity in times of crisis. When our state experienced the tragic bushfires of early 2020, we brought political and faith leaders together on the steps of Parliament House where we paid our respects to the people who lost their lives, and acknowledged the devastation caused to homes, property, flora and fauna.
I would like to recognise the extraordinary efforts of firefighters and emergency services and thank those community members who selflessly volunteered and supported those in need. Your acts of kindness and compassion continue to inspire us, and we thank you for demonstrating the strength of our state’s multicultural, multifaith community.
Our priorities since March 2020 have been firmly centred around the health and welfare of multicultural communities. We held a series of consultations with culturally and linguistically diverse communities, provided ongoing advice on the provision of in-language information, and disseminated regular, timely and accurate information and resources through our communication channels and networks.
We also assisted with response efforts on the ground, including mobilising community leaders and representatives to volunteer alongside the Department of Health and Human Services with doorknocking and other localised activities aimed at keeping Victorians safe.
None of our work would be possible without the support and assistance provided by our advisory groups and extensive networks. My heartfelt thanks to all the members of our Regional Advisory Councils, the Multifaith Advisory Group and our Multicultural Chambers of Commerce Group.
I also wish to thank every single person who joined us for a meeting or roundtable discussion to voice their views and concerns, and everyone who called or sent us an email to share their perspectives and feedback.
Your participation made all the difference in highlighting critical needs for communities this year.
My sincere thanks to the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, the Hon. Ros Spence MP, for her continued support, and to former Minister for Multicultural Affairs, the Hon. Richard Wynne MP. I would also like to thank our colleagues at the Department of Premier and Cabinet for their ongoing collaboration in serving Victoria’s multicultural communities.
I am honoured to lead an inspiring group of Commissioners, each with their own lived experience, passion and community connections. My thanks to each of the Commissioners for their continued commitment and vision for Victoria. It is a privilege to work alongside you. I would especially like to express my gratitude to the Deputy Chairperson, Maria Dimopoulos AM for her expertise and strategic lens across everything we undertook. And last, but certainly not least, I thank the VMC staff for their unwavering dedication and extraordinary work.
I look forward to continuing our endeavours in the coming year. I have no doubt that the hard work undertaken in 2019-20 will support Victoria through its recovery phase and beyond.
Reviewed 02 November 2020