Settlement Hub opens in Shepparton

By Ashlea Witoslawski

New arrivals will find a second home in Shepparton as Uniting Vic.Tas opens the doors on its first Settlement Hub in the region.

Located on Maude St, Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum, Uniting Vic.Tas chief executive Paul Linossier, Uniting Eastern Victoria general manager Angela Forbes, Uniting Goulburn North East chief executive Jennifer Sleep and Uniting Goulburn North East resilient communities programs manager Sara Noori opened the hub yesterday.

The Settlement Hub will provide a space for clients from newly arrived communities to access holistic, co-ordinated support including intake and assessment, case work, access to mainstream services and the opportunity to participate in needs-based group activities.

‘‘(The hub is) a gateway to access and open services as well as pathways to resilience, self-reliance and independence,’’ Mr Linossier said.

‘‘It’s about making hope real.’’

Mr Linossier spoke of his father’s own experiences as a migrant and the importance of supporting people as they established themselves in our community.

‘‘Much of what he had learned had to be re-learned and that’s the experience for so many new arrivals in this country,’’ he said.

‘‘But walking through this doorway, people will enter a place of welcome, a gateway that will open many more possibilities.’’

Mr Linossier also spoke of the expected growth of the region and the 1300 new arrivals who settled in the region between 2013 and 2017.

Supported by the Federal Government, Uniting received a $798341 Settlement Engagement and Transition Support grant in October last year for refurbishments and program support.

Mr Drum stressed the importance of supporting new migrants to navigate their new country.

‘‘We have to do everything we possibly can to give our immigrants hope, give them a purpose, have them educated to make sure they know they are welcomed,’’ he said.

Ms Sleep said opening the hub had been on their radar for quite some time to develop the capabilities of new arrivals across the region.

‘‘It’s really about preparation for education and preparation for employment,’’ she said.

‘‘Sometimes accessing mainstream services is difficult if you don’t speak the language or aren’t familiar with the processes.

‘‘I hope that this service provides all those things with the comfort of knowing they have support.’’

Ms Noori said her team was delighted to finally open the hub.

‘‘Over the years Uniting has been involved with the community and the constant need that has been arising is a one stop shop where they would present and be supported with all their needs,’’ she said.

‘‘Most of the community have been advocating for a space like this where they can come and have a space where they belong, a place where they can come whenever they need support, where they know people.

‘‘It’s also the first stepping stone to the start of their life.’’

Involved with Uniting for 14 years, case manager Fatima Al-Qarakchy said the hub was a much-needed space for the local community.

Ms Al-Qarakchy said staff would often have to use their own computers and laptops at the office, unable to give the clients enough support and time.

She said she was looking forward to helping with services such as visas, citizenship and employment, as well as delivering group programs including English language classes.

‘‘The hub is like a perfect child, it’s still at the beginning but I think we are able to achieve a lot.’’

The Settlement Hub opens today at 138-140 Maude St, Shepparton, from 10am to 4pm and will be open each week, Monday to Friday.