Victorian Multicultural Commission appoints Shepparton leader to speak for the Hume region

New role: Neha Samar has been appointed to the Victorian Multicultural Commission Regional Advisory Council.

Neha Samar has been appointed to the Victorian Multicultural Commission Regional Advisory Council as a Hume region representative and she is eager to hear from migrants, refugees and asylum seekers about the key issues affecting their communities.

“It’s really important for me to really listen to people and the issues that they’re facing,” Ms Samar said.

Regional representatives such as Ms Samar, who lives in Shepparton, are the “eyes and ears” of Multicultural Commissioners, keeping them informed about what matters to Victorians from diverse cultural and faith backgrounds.

As a committee member for grassroots movement Voices for Nicholls, Ms Samar regularly runs ‘kitchen table conversations’ with migrant community members in Shepparton.

It was these talks that inspired her to apply to the Multicultural Commission’s Regional Advisory Council.

“It wasn’t enough to sit here and talk and put it on a sheet of paper to give to the federal member and wait for them to respond to that,” Ms Samar said.

“All these people were telling me their grievances and I felt I could be doing more and I could be talking to somebody directly about this and getting real results.”

Problems relating to visas, housing, employment and healthcare are at the top of Ms Samar’s agenda.

“The top one is the visa issues, right now,” she said.

“Someone who is on a temporary visa pays taxes and it’s compulsory to have a job, yet they’re not able to access any kind of Medicare or childcare benefits ... It’s very unfair.”

Ms Samar said finding work and a house or rental property was harder for people from diverse backgrounds, particularly those new to the area.

She knows because she lived the experience.

“This was six years ago and that hasn’t changed, in fact it’s only gotten worse,” she said.

“When someone comes to me and says they have faced this issue, I completely understand.”

Since arriving in Shepparton, Ms Samar has become involved in an array of volunteer and community work.

She runs a non-profit mentorship program for women leaders, The Flamingo Project, and is a member of two greater Shepparton advisory groups — the women’s committee and the LQBTIQA+ committee.

Ms Samar is also a project co-ordinator at the Goulburn Murray Local Learning and Employment Network, working to help young people harness opportunities in the region.

Her appointment to the Multicultural Commission’s advisory council is a two-year commitment, starting in early 2022.

Having observed fear and hesitancy among migrant communities to speak up about their needs, Ms Samar is offering her ear and the promise of anonymity to anyone who has an issue to raise.

“Being in Australia is an opportunity to speak up, if you approach people here they listen to you,” she said.

“My experiences have more good than bad ... I feel it all comes down to being heard.”

To contact Victorian Multicultural Commission Regional Advisory Council Hume region representative Neha Samar email