Accessing Migrant Communities
At a broader level there are a number of established channels through which to access migrant communities :
A great way to make contact with people from a range of backgrounds is through English as a Second Language classes run by Centres of Further Education. ESL teachers are often keen to have guest speakers or to involve students in excursions and other activities. Their focus is educational so there are clear opportunities for collaboration with schools and community education programs.
Ethno-specific groups are groups of people with a common background or language who get together to socialize and support each other (eg. Vietnamese Senior Citizens and Spanish Speaking Women's Group). These groups often meet in community (health) centres, neighbourhood houses, and Migrant Resource Centres. Groups can be accessed through community workers at these centres; through ethno-specific welfare agencies (eg. Russian Ethnic Representative Council) or through your local council. Working with these groups is a way of accessing people who are more difficult to reach through more commonly used mediums of communications.
Religious centres such as churches, mosques or temples are key meeting points for many communities and can be useful way of developing networks with community minded people.
Generally it is more effective to proactively approach group and invite them to participate rather than sending out information and waiting for their response. They may not see the benefit of being involved or may not understand your intentions. Trust can be developed through face to face contact, which can overcome misconceptions and dissolve barriers.
Groups have nominated leaders who can provide the `key' to working with their community. Often they are chosen because of their familiarity with societal structures (they know how to get things done) and the community trusts their judgment and ability to represent their needs. Building a relationship with community leaders can encourage greater and participation and ownership within the community.
The benefits of getting to know the people you are working with cannot be underestimated. This may involve finding out about the culture, norms, migration patterns of a group. This may happen informally over a cup of tea or by formally approaching agencies that represent those communities. This will mean that activities are more likely to meet the needs and interests of the group and that the people involved will have a clearer understanding of your objectives. Gradually trust will develop and the opportunities for involvement will gradually unfold. It is important to be flexible - what sounds like a great idea to you might not be relevant for the community involved.
It is important to be sensitive to different language needs. This is a way of showing respect and recognizing that just because their English is limited does not mean that they do not understand environmental issues. Avoid jargon without simplifying concepts, and use an interpreter when necessary. Non-verbal communication is a particularly powerful tool for explaining concepts, especially in the natural environment where there is so much to explore.
As educators it is important to remember that for the lay person environmental issues can often appear somewhat remote to their everyday experience. To help people understand where you are coming from you need to give them a chance to experience marine and coastal education for themselves. Invite them to
Simple activities like these can overcome the language barrier because they rely on doing things together rather than just talking. They will give you a chance to get to know each other better and will stimulate some interesting discussion and ideas.
Each State should have a Multicultural Resource Directory which lists ethnic communities councils, community organisations, elderly organisations, media, interpreting and translating services, migrant resource centres, multicultural organisations, and relevant government departments in your area. Available through Multicultural Affairs Unit of State Government
Migrant Resource Centres
Migrant Resource Centres are non-government organisations that assist with the settlement needs of migrant communities as well as informing the general community and mainstream service agencies about the issues facing migrant communities. Inquiries should be directed to the Executive Officer or Director. There are MRCs in every state and territory, with 35 nationwide. For contact details call directory assistance.
Ethnic Community Organisations
Federation Of Ethnic Communities Council Of Australia is the national umbrella group for ethnic community organisations (Women's organisations not necessarily covered).
English As a Second Language Centres
Adult Multicultural Education Services (AMES) and centres for further education offer English as a Second Language classes for migrant communities and newly arrived adults. State Education Departments can put you in touch with Language Centres which run ESL classes for children.
Multicultural Environmental Projects
Laura Stuart, Coastal Project Worker, Inner Western Region Migrant Resource
Centre, 41 - 45 Pickett St, Footscray, VIC 3011. Ph : 03 9689 2888.
Genuine learning opportunities:
The Sea In Mythology and Literature
The folklore and legends of coastal and seafaring cultures have similar
themes : heroic voyages, mermaids, sea spirits and a cast of marine characters.
They give meaning to the mysterious and often unpredictable nature of
the sea and were passed down between generation in the form of story telling.
Sense Of Place In A Local Environment
Presenting environmental concerns in a global context has great power but its impact is limited if not connected to the reality of our local environment. We talk about the global village, yet how many of us even know our next door neighbours? The character of our urban fabric is being eroded by the mono-culture of brand name convenience stores, fast food outlets and anonymous tilt slab dwellings. A sense of place is different for every person, but essentially it is about knowing where you are in space and time. If we feel we belong to our environment we are more likely to care for it.
Design a local history project for your coastal town that will :
Your product will be a map or maps of your local area including natural features and historic landmarks (eg. fishers coop, mangroves, original pier). Use My Place by Sally Morgan for inspiration and ideas. Your project will be the major focus for a full semester unit of Year 7 history, and you have support from an Art teacher who has allocated class time for the development of the creative product.
Celebrating the Fruits of the Sea
Eating food goes far beyond filling our tummies! Sharing food is a reflection of pride, trust and acceptance. It is an opportunity for people to express their culture in a truly personal way. Food brings together people from all ages and backgrounds, and is a fun way to introduce cultural awareness into a classroom setting.
Your community has an annual food festival every Autumn and this year the theme will be Fruits from the Sea. Design a project for your Year 9 students that will: