Support for multiculturalism earns Bendigo Kangan Institute top accolade

Bendigo Kangan Institute’s strong support for culturally and linguistically diverse students has earned the TAFE a top accolade at the 2021 Victorian Multicultural Awards for Excellence.

Bendigo Kangan Institute (Bendigo TAFE and Kangan Institute) was named winner for the Victorian Multicultural Award for Excellence in Education - Vocational Education and Training Accredited Education & Training last night in a ceremony hosted by the Governor of Victoria, The Hon Linda Dessau AC, at Government House.

Bendigo Kangan Institute chief executive Sally Curtain said it was an honour to be recognised at the ceremony.

“We’re thrilled to be recognised at the 2021 Victorian Multicultural Awards for Excellence and we congratulate all the winners and finalists who have demonstrated an incredible passion for strengthening multiculturalism across Victoria,” said Ms Curtain.

“The awards highlight the importance of incorporating social cohesion and cross-cultural understanding in everything we do – we all can and must play a part in this as individuals and as organisations.”

An all-encompassing Wrap Around support program for newly arrived migrants and a virtual campus community for international students are amongst a suite of initiatives designed to support students at Kangan Institute and Bendigo TAFE, which Ms Curtain notes is a key priority.

“Our students are the central focus of what we do and supporting their emerging needs is always a top priority,” said Ms Curtain.

“Often this means looking beyond education and looking into how we can provide the extra help that some of our students need to thrive, like access to essential services, social connections and community engagement.”

The Wrap Around program brings specialist services like healthcare, legal and youth programs direct to students, with providers invited to work at Broadmeadows campus or provide regular information sessions for students undertaking the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), a free course for eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants.

The program features partnerships with Services Australia, Arabic Welfare, Northern Community Legal Centre, Asthma Australia, Spectrum, Brotherhood of St Laurence and Foundation House, plus recent collaboration with Hume City Council and DPV Health to deliver COVID-19 and vaccine specific information sessions

In 2021 the program assisted 750 students who were predominantly newly arrived refugees from Iraq and Syria.

“It’s about reducing barriers to entry – the program acts as a one-stop-shop for students to access education and other essential services so they can focus on building a new future here in Australia. The program continues to evolve in line with current needs so it’s always fit for purpose,” said Ms Curtain

A different approach was developed to support Bendigo Kangan Institute’s international students during COVID-19, with virtual communities funded by Study Melbourne created to foster peer-topeer connection and provide a platform for students to express their difficulties, an outlet much needed during the global pandemic.

To date more than 110 international students have engaged with the virtual platform.

“The impact of COVID-19 on our international student community has been and continues to be immense,” said Ms Curtain.

“Through our virtual campus we were able to identify several wellbeing challenges faced by our international students and implement vital support, including a virtual food relief program, an internship program, virtual fitness sessions, establishment of a Student Working Group and more.” Kangan Institute graduate Berat Kaya is one of many English students to benefit from the TAFE’s Wrap Around program. He currently works at Brotherhood of St Laurence as a youth advisor supporting other young people with connecting to society, a job he attained following an initial connection established through his Certificate IV in Spoken and Written English studies.

Bendigo Kangan Institute CEO Sally Curtain and Executive Director Hemant Kokularupan with Minister for Multicultural Affairs the Hon. Ros Spence at the ceremony.

“Kangan has really friendly teachers and students and it helped me a lot,” he shared.

“When some community workers from the Brotherhood of St Laurence visited our classes, it changed my life in a good way. I started to participate in their workshops and events, which made me more confident about being myself and speaking English.”

Giving back to the community is top on Mr Kaya’s mind.

“I work with young people and try to motivate, encourage and connect them with society. I also create workshops and projects for youth,” said Mr Kaya.

“I love being able to help people. When I first arrived in this country, I was lost, but with the help of youth workers I found my path and now I can stand on my own feet. With this work I can give back to the community.”

The 2021 Victorian Multicultural Awards for Excellence was coordinated by the Victorian Multicultural Commission on behalf of the Victorian Government. The annual awards recognise people, groups and organisations that foster cross-cultural understanding, build social cohesion and support people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to participate in all aspects of life.

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