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Engaging with multicultural communities is a central part of what we do every day. We work directly with communities to understand the issues they face and foster collaboration with government and other key stakeholders to find solutions and pathways forward.

In 2019-20, the VMC has continued to fulfil its legislative objectives to:

  • promote full participation by Victoria’s diverse communities in the social, cultural, economic and political life of Victoria
  • promote access by Victoria’s diverse communities to services made available by governments and other bodies
  • promote community service as a principle that builds a stronger society

Regional Advisory Councils

Our eight Regional Advisory Councils (RACs) are our eyes and ears on the ground across Victoria, providing us with critical information and intelligence to inform the advice we provide to government.

With more than 250 members across eight regions, the RACs provide a local platform for communities to directly provide information to the VMC on matters relating to health, education, employment, personal wellbeing, relationships, and community harmony.

Each RAC is chaired by a VMC Commissioner, who works closely with up to 50 members representing diverse cultural backgrounds, faiths, sectors and ages. Members include local community leaders and representatives, local government representatives, business people and service providers from ethno-specific, faith-based and mainstream non-government organisations.

Appointed through a public expression-of-interest process, RAC members are volunteers who serve for three years. The current members were appointed in October 2019. The VMC thanks its past and present RAC members for their commitment and contributions.

New engagement model

In late 2019, the VMC introduced a new engagement model to strengthen the effectiveness of the RACs. Building on a longstanding history as a key source of information and perspectives specific to culturally diverse communities at a local level, the focus of the RACs was sharpened through the introduction of a feedback cycle that encourages continuous improvement.

With more opportunities for meaningful engagement, the new model fosters greater collaboration between communities, service providers and government departments and agencies. This has been further supported through the introduction of VMConnect, an online engagement platform where RAC members can connect with the VMC and each other, share information and resources, seek advice and find new ways to work together.

Through the new model, the VMC has begun to transform dialogue, community capacity and engagement at local and regional levels. Over time, this is expected to improve public services, programs and policies in a way that captures the current needs of communities within the respective region. The VMC is pleased to report that RAC members who have served for a second or third year have also said that they have never before felt so empowered and connected with the VMC and the Victorian Government.

Victorian voices

In 2019-20, the VMC held 29 RAC meetings across the state, building strong relationships with members that have proven invaluable throughout the challenges of 2020.

Members of each RAC placed issues of concern in their local area under the spotlight and determined up to three priority issues. This approach provided a clear focus for each RAC and helped drive the identification of possible solutions and actions to respond to the issues.

Consistent issues raised among RAC members included employment, family violence, mental health, housing, education and the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The VMC then facilitated dialogue about each priority issue with RAC members, communities, government and relevant stakeholders to document a collective action plan that described how to improve responsiveness and enhance access to services and programs in their region.

Feedback throughout the pandemic

As a vital point of contact for the VMC, RAC members provided continuous feedback and recommendations around the needs of communities throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. RAC members participated in numerous meetings, roundtables, conversations and surveys, where they:

  • raised concerns and highlighted issues faced by communities
  • provided feedback on the Victorian Government’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • made recommendations to assist government agencies in meeting the needs of diverse communities; and
  • identified language needs and gaps in communication and information

RAC members also played an important role in the timely dissemination of health information and resources through their communities and networks. Many volunteered to assist with a variety of coronavirus (COVID-19) related activities including ambassador videos, checking translations and supporting the Department of Health and Human Services with doorknocking activities to share information and encourage testing.

Importantly, by staying closely connected with the VMC and each other, our network of RACs demonstrated unity and promoted harmony between communities. Some members also spoke with media to elevate community voices regarding the increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) fuelled racism.

Community Support Fund

In 2019-20 the VMC’s Community Support Fund provided more than $200,000 towards the delivery of events and initiatives that promote and support diversity, unity and belonging. Designed to respond to urgent needs within Victoria’s culturally diverse communities, the fund supports important activities which were either outside of the scope or the timelines of the Victorian Government’s portfolio Community Grants Program.

This year, the VMC funded community initiatives and projects that:

  • supported inclusion and full participation of emerging and growing communities
  • responded to the Royal Commission into Family Violence
  • established leadership and employment pathways for young people
  • addressed emerging issues or community concerns where a swift, localised response was most appropriate

Funded projects included:

  • North Sunshine Football Club’s NAIDOC Week celebration game
  • United Through Football Cultural Festival in Kensington
  • Youth Activating Youth’s summer camp for participants of their youth justice programs, and
  • Latrobe Valley Maltese Museum for its showcase of Maltese memorabilia brought to Australia by Maltese migrants.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Community Support Fund response

As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, the VMC was unable to deliver some of its events and projects originally planned for 2020. With community needs front of mind, the VMC repurposed some funding to support projects that enhanced social cohesion and connection during the pandemic.

The 2019-20 Community Support Fund Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response Round supported projects that aimed to:

  • bring communities together via innovative means
  • utilise technology to strengthen and harness connection amongst communities
  • highlight the positive contribution of individuals from multicultural backgrounds to Victoria; and
  • highlight social cohesion or social connectedness

Funded projects included:

  • professional development for early career refugees and people seeking asylum in regional Victoria
  • an online mental health hub for multicultural and multifaith Victorians
  • refugee and asylum seeker emergency food relief
  • training for multicultural frontline workers to respond to family violence; and
  • a skills and support program for women impacted by abuse, trauma and isolation

Community Grants Program

Our commitment to promoting and enhancing the social, cultural and economic benefits of diversity includes supporting and promoting the Victorian Government’s Community Grants Program.

We are proud to promote a range of grants for individuals and community that:

  • assist Victoria’s multicultural communities to celebrate and share their traditions
  • foster cross-cultural awareness, understanding and respect
  • showcase the vibrancy and contribution of Victoria’s multiculturalism
  • build the skills and knowledge of smaller or emerging community groups; and
  • improve community infrastructure for cultural organisations

As members of the assessment panels, our Commissioners play an important role in selecting grant recipients. In 2019-20, the VMC supported the grant programs outlined below.

The Multicultural Community Infrastructure Fund offers grants to multicultural communities across Victoria to support upgrades to community facilities. The program supports communities to feel connected with their traditional culture and identity by increasing the safety, accessibility and condition of existing community facilities.

The Indian Community Infrastructure Fund offers grants to improve and enhance facilities that Victoria’s Indian communities use to gather, celebrate and share their traditions. Our state is proudly home to nearly 170,000 people of Indian heritage, making it the largest Indian community in Australia.

The Community Innovation Grant Program provides funding to African community organisations and groups to deliver innovative community projects that support the inclusion and participation of Victoria’s African communities. The program supports African communities to have a strong sense of belonging, connection and inclusion.

The Multicultural Festivals and Events Program supports the whole Victorian community to celebrate our cultural diversity. Funding is provided to festivals and events that foster cross-cultural awareness, unity and intercultural relationships, build capacity and partnerships between community organisations, and encourage the participation of all Victorians.

The Hindu Festivals and Events Program offers grants to support and highlight Hinduism within Victoria through celebrations, festivals and events across the state.

The Sikh Celebrations and Events Fund was a one-off grant that supported local community celebrations and state-wide events in celebration of the 550th birthday anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, founder of the Sikh faith, during October and November 2019.

The Capacity Building and Participation Program fosters the participation, inclusion and contribution of multicultural and multifaith communities to everyday life in Victoria. The program funds projects and activities that build knowledge and skills, the program supports priority groups including regional communities, refugees and asylum seekers, multicultural young people, women and seniors.

The Security Infrastructure Fund for Multicultural and Multifaith Communities provides support for upgrade and installation of security infrastructure to multicultural and multifaith community facilities. The fund seeks to ensure that every Victorian can thrive in a peaceful and prosperous society with a shared sense of safety, belonging and respect.

The Multicultural Sports Fund Program increases access and participation in sport for culturally diverse communities, by supporting partnerships between sporting organisations, local communities and clubs, that build connections between multicultural communities and the wider Victorian community.

The VMC also provided advice to the Department of Premier and Cabinet regarding the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19) on communities in relation to grants and the changing needs of organisations.

Food Next Door Community Demonstration Farm

The VMC continued its support of the Food Next Door Community Demonstration Farm in Mildura for a second year. Funded by Regional Development Victoria, the three-year project matches newly arrived migrant and refugee farmers with under-utilised farmland, supporting regenerative farming through traditional foods and cultivation methods, and building local community cohesion.

Reviewed 01 November 2020

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