Wyndham Community & Education Centre Inc and the Karen Men’s Group project

Starting a new group - metropolitan area

Background

The City of Wyndham has one of the largest settlement programs for refugees and humanitarian entrants. Multilingual case workers for the settlement program identified a group of socially isolated men from the Karen (Burmese) community. One of the case workers was also a respected Pastor for the Karen community with strong connections within this community. A consultation between the settlement coordinator, case worker and 12 seniors from the Karen community was held over a sausage sizzle and a round table discussion. The group identified activities they wished to be involved in and agreed to commence a regular men’s meeting and support group. The Wyndham Community and Education Centre Inc then approached the local Bunnings Activity Coordinator, who agreed to attend the new group once a month to facilitate hands-on activities and supply materials. The overall project included a series of information sessions, excursion and social activities.

The Project

The project is facilitated through the settlement team at the Wyndham Community and Education Centre Inc. Regular fortnightly events include information sessions delivered by a wide range of local service providers, hands-on activities in partnership with Bunnings, community walks and gardening activities, and excursions to places of interest.

Activities are based around consultation, however, the men’s ideas must have a focus on education, social inclusion, health and well-being.

Successes

A men’s group of between 12 and 15 isolated Karen men now meets fortnightly.

The project has enabled these men to interact with other marginalised men, make new friends and support each other. These men are now connected to mainstream service providers, including emergency services. The group has received education and information on healthy eating, exercise, men’s health, the public transport system, banking, driving laws, safety and insurance.  The men have participated in a community garden where they learnt horticultural skills and could take home fresh produce. The men’s regular attendance, a noticeable increase in their self-reliance, confidence and self-esteem have been pleasing outcomes of this project.

Challenges

Originally, the project planned to also target isolated men from Middle Eastern countries and the Indian sub-continent, however it was difficult to connect with these target communities. The Karen community will be the focus of the group, however, there is a capacity to increase the numbers and people from other communities will continue to be encouraged to attend.

What next

The Karen Men’s Group will continue to meet fortnightly. New and ongoing partnerships are continually developing, which enables this group to continue. The new partnerships include Victoria Police, Country Fire Authority, Bendigo Bank, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries (Fisheries), and the Western Bulldogs Community Development team.