Hunter Multicultural Service Expo breaks down barriers for local migrants

Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre Inc manager Amany George with representatives from various Hunter service organisations.

Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre Inc manager Amany George with representatives from various Hunter service organisations.

COMMUNITY services were out in full force last week when the Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre held its annual Hunter Multicultural Service Expo.

About 200 people flowed though the gates of the Lambton centre last Wednesday for the expo's fourth showing.

Among the exhibitors were JobQuest, Mission Australia, the Salvation Army's Oasis Youth Network, Northern Settlement Services and Hunter TAFE.

Local police and fire crews were also on hand.

The aim of the day was to break down any barriers newly settled people may face when they move to Australia.

Hunter TAFE's multicultural education co-ordinator Zac Ekandi said his stall was set up not only for potential students, but existing students as well.

"We want to expose the students to other services, such as the police, fire, the libraries, the Salvation Army," he said.

He was promoting TAFE's English-speaking classes, as well as their mainstream classes, such as an associate degree of accounting and a bachelor of early childhood education and care.

He said some people who migrate to Australia cannot read or write in their native tongue, let alone a second language.

The government provides 510 hours of free English classes to new migrants and refugees to help out.

Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre manager Amany George said the annual expo allowed service providers and government agencies to come together under the same roof.

She said part of the role of the centre was to build tolerance and acceptance in the community, as well as building up people's skills.

"A lot of these people are dependent on public transport and can only speak a little English. When they walk in here for the first time they are not sure what to do or where to go for help," she said.

"It's a very rewarding job to see them a few months later with more confidence."

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