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Support for region’s rich multicultural tapestry


Townsville Multicultural Support Group staff pictured with Australia’s only Sango interpreter, Justin Kanga. Picture: SUPPLIED

North Queensland has a diverse, multicultural community with people from all backgrounds, nationalities, religions and walks of life.

The Townsville Multicultural Support Group (TMSG) aims to connect this diverse community with each other and with special services who may be able to assist in maintaining physical and mental health and wellbeing for all.

Support Group manager Meg Davis said a growing number of humanitarian entrants were moving to Townsville, with about 320 migrants or refugees coming to the region last financial year.

Ms Davis said most of Townsville’s humanitarian entrants came to live in Australia from various countries in Africa including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Chad, the Central African Republic, Somalia or cities like Nairobi in Kenya and others.

“The Humanitarian Program is for those people who have had to escape from their country of origin due to war or fear of persecution and they can’t go back because of those fears,” she said.

“Migrant groups who are coming might be connected with a family here or coming for jobs, out of India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Sometimes we come across those families voluntarily, referred by a contact, or by TMSG programs.”

Ms Davis said the TMSG provided a wide range of assistance to refugees and migrants who relocated to Townsville, encouraging wellbeing through transition.

“People who have survived refugee camps are obviously very strong,’’ she said. “They’ve lived under intractable conditions of survival and have incredible strength, however increasing evidence is showing that the experience of resettlement and the demands of cultural transition is not easy and can cause stress on wellbeing aside from any previous experiences of trauma.

“There’s grief from missing people back where they lived before, they may be separated from family on their journey and hoping they can be reconnected as soon as they arrive in Australia and that can take time.

“There is a specialist service in torture and trauma for people who have come under the refugee program, the Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma. We have a very good relationship with QPASTT, we refer people we think may benefit from the support they offer. We also deliver a program with them around families in cultural transition.

“Most of those who come here have no link in Australia, or it’s because Townsville has been chosen by Australia as the place to start settlement of a new group. That’s the case of the Central African Republican group. We are also a site that has a lot of experience with single women at risk with children.”

Ms Davis said the TMSG aimed to connect with many other agencies around North Queensland to offer migrants and refugees support to assist with their mental wellbeing.

“Wellbeing is very much a marker of the settlement process, that includes both physical health and access to support around any other issues that may be of concern.

“All of the programs are trying to promote health and wellbeing through either community engagement connections or being strongly involved in networks with other services.’’

Ms Davis said the wider Townsville community could benefit from getting involved with the TMSG, helping out with things like English classes, connecting neighbourhood groups or linking clients with potential employment or volunteer opportunities.

“We are an organisation built on the dedication of volunteers, that’s how the group got started over 25 years ago now. For our people who have maybe been settled here all their lives or have newly moved from another town, it’s a way for them to engage with the community, make friends and connections, and feel that they have a sense of purpose.

“There’s a two-way, mutual growth in wellbeing there for our clientele and the general community, and we see that regularly.’’

The Townsville Multicultural Support Group is at 63 Ross River Road, Mundingburra. Call 4775 1588 or email for more info.

Heidi Hatherell