At cohealth, we are proud of our culturally diverse staff and communities and strive to make our health services culturally safe and inclusive. Cultural Diversity week, coinciding with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and Harmony Day on 21 March, celebrates inclusiveness, respect and belonging for all Australians, regardless of cultural or linguistic background.
This week, we spoke to some of the people from cohealth’s Bi-cultural Worker Hub, a network of highly skilled, multi-lingual bi-cultural workers. While we may come from different cultural backgrounds, our shared humanity becomes clear when we share our stories. Here’s a snippet of theirs:
I was born in Khartoum, Sudan and moved to Australia in 2005. My first exposure to community-based work was in high school where I volunteered as a mentor for recent migrants. I would visit kids once a week and engage them in social activities to help them feel more comfortable and adjust to Australian life.
At the start the kids were not quite sure how to interact. I understood, because I felt the same way when I first arrived. By the end of the six-week program, I saw how happy and lively they were. It was a big change. This experience has stayed with me for over ten years. It felt like a small gesture at the time, but looking back at the outcomes of the experience, I can see I had made a real positive impact on their lives.
South Sudanese and Sudanese people are all about community. Putting value in the community by creating programs or environments that are positive and safe, ensures a better outcome for society as a whole. I want to do further studies in psychology one day, and whatever journey it leads me on, I know that it will be rooted in community. Because I know how important this work is and the difference it can make in people’s lives.
I have a history of working closely with communities, going back to my time as a National Consultant at the Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan in 2009, where I worked in health promotion programs providing information and training on maternal and family health, water sanitation and disease prevention.
Having seen some of the suffering and issues first hand, I was driven to continue working with local communities when I came to Australia. My familiarity and understanding of the Afghan culture helped me build close connections with Afghan communities across Melbourne.
These connections are vital in addressing some of the issues that arise for migrants and refugees. Many come from countries that are experiencing conflict, and they may also be dealing with mental health issues, trauma or family conflict. When they come here, they also face issues relating to settlement, language and stigma. These are issues they aren’t familiar with and I’m in a position to help make it easier.
Outside of community work, I like to spend quality time with my family, make delicious Afghani food and swimming.
Many people don’t know the history of Tibet. As a Tibetan you are born a refugee and an activist. You are born into the peaceful fight for your freedom and basic human rights. With this comes a sense of community and an understanding of the important role it plays in our lives.
I grew up with the teaching ‘others before self’ and it is a motto that I live by. This has led me to be an active member of my community, initiating projects and programs to support and give back. Most of my time and energy is dedicated to making sure that the newly arrived Tibetan refugees in Melbourne settle in smoothly and are able to start their new life with the right support.
I’ve also had the opportunity to work with organisations, like cohealth, to organise community events such as ‘Refugee Week Presented by Tibetan Refugees’. Events like this are great because not only do they celebrate the resilience, community spirit and culture of Tibet, they also illuminate the plight of Tibetan refugees around the world to the wider community.
My passion is helping others and supporting communities. This is what I will keep doing.
If you are interested in contracting a bi-cultural worker for a project you are working on, or if you would like to learn more about cohealth’s bi-cultural workers, check out the Bi-Cultural Worker Hub.