Victoria’s multicultural advocate to serve second term

GRATEFUL: Dr Sundram Sivamalai is looking forward to reprising his role as community representative commissioner for VMC. Picture: Luka KauzlaricSundram Sivamalai feels both excited and fortunate to continuehis rolein promoting peace and harmony.

Thecommunity representative commissioner for the Victorian Multicultural Commission, which acts as a voice and the mainlink between the diversemigrant communitiesand the state government, has beenreappointed for a second term.

“I am passionate and I put my hand up because I love doing it, I sincerely believe in doing it,” Dr Sivamalai said.

“You don’t come here because you want an accolade, you come because you seriously believe in it and you want to deliver the message.

Dr Sivamalai, who lives in Ballarat, said commissioners wereselected for their background,experience andknowledge of the issuesthey representedin order to lobby and advise government.

The formerfoundation chair of the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council believed regionalareas were more disadvantagedcompared to metropolitan areas.

“I’m very passionate about regional areas, the reason being if you are in metro you find there are alternatives… whereas in the region you are limited,” Dr Sivamalaisaid.

One of the biggest issues affecting migrants in the region was employment.

Dr Sivamalai saidmigrants took on positions far below their education and experiencebecause of difficulties matching qualifications to overseas equivalents and lack of local work experience.

He used the example of a qualified doctor with a Muslim background who took on a position working in a bacon factory out of desperation.

Transport in regional areas can also poseproblems for migrants entering the workforce without a car or licence, with the jobs availableoften requiring travelling long distances.

Finding suitable housing was another issue, especially for migrants with large families not suited to the standard rental size, along withaffordability and difficulties in getting reference checks.

Intergenerational gaps could be hard on children, who oftenhad to balance the expectations at home with the cultural differences presented to them at school.

DrSivamalai is also eager to focus on education, including more flexibile adult English classes and more support for children in school, retirement, ensuring migrants know their rights and options, and the health sector, such as finding interpreters or having bilingual culturally-sensitivestaff.

But he believed some regionswere already doing a good job supporting multiculturalism, including Ballarat with its range of groups, initiatives and policy of welcome, and was optimistic about an inclusivefuture.

The Courier, Ballarat

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