City of Ballarat has announced it will launch its first Intercultural City Strategic Plan in the coming months to provide direction on the needs of diverse community groups, individuals and organisations.
The plan, which has been formed in consultation with the community and stakeholders, spans the next five years with a focus on inclusive community, celebrating diversity and welcoming people of all cultures.
It will also aim to build social inclusion through the enhancement of the social, economic, cultural, health and wellbeing of the city’s culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.
The plan comes as Ballarat celebrated its breadth of multicultural communities and organisations at the Intercultural Cities Gala Dinner as part of Harmony Festival.
The dinner recognises and celebrates the City of Ballarat as a member of the Council of Europe’s Intercultural Cities Network – Ballarat was the first Australian city to join the network and be named an intercultural city.
City of Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh said Ballarat had greatly benefited from building sister city relationships and strong networks around the world.
“Having been the first signatory in the country, you can see what has been created as a result of that,” she said.
“There is a great deal of confidence in our community and a great deal of joy and coming together of all those different cultures.”
Cr McIntosh said one of the city’s main goals was to ensure people from all different backgrounds who decided to settle in Ballarat were able to embrace and share their past, their religion and culture with the rest of the community and do so with “a great deal of pride”.
This, she said, was equally as important as sharing their knowledge, skills and innovative ideas, and would provide a better way for Ballarat in the future.
The intercultural cities strategy will take Ballarat’s multicultural approach a step further and ensure communities come together to celebrate difference rather than work as separate entities – which can already be seen through events such as Harmony Week.
“We have an enormous volunteer community from a cultural diversity perspective and to have such strengths in volunteerism is a really positive message – it’s a message of confidence,” Cr McIntosh said.
“The strategic plan will be a really important document, a guide and a vision of an inclusive community.”
Training support to address regional skills shortage
A training program providing support for disadvantaged community members will aim to address a regional skills shortage and underemployment of skilled migrants.
The Intercultural Employment Pathways program has received a $334,575 grant from the state government’s Regional Skills Fund.
It will provide training and mentoring to 120 disadvantaged community members with a focus on youth and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups, enabling them the self-esteem and financial security derived from employment.
Buninyong MP Geoff Howard said the support from the fund would bring together the region’s leading multicultural organisations, training providers and employers to ensure everyone had an opportunity to secure a job.
“With a long history of immigration of people from different cultural backgrounds, Ballarat has a great record of embracing diversity,” he said.
“This makes Ballarat a place where everyone, irrespective of their culture or religion, has an opportunity to shape our community.”
Organisations involved include Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council, Ballarat Community Health, Centre for Multicultural Youth, Rotary, McCains, Ballarat Health Services, St Laurence Community Services, Ballarat Neighbourhood Centre and Ballarat Group Training.