Case study: Middle East Communities Council
The Middle East Communities’ Council of South Australia (MECCSA) was formed in 1999 as an umbrella body representing eight communities in South Australia – the Iraqi, Iranian, Afghan, Uzbek, Qatari, Kurdish, Turkman and Syrian communities. All are financial members of MECCSA. MECCSA elects its office bearers from a Committee comprising leaders elected by the respective communities it represents. MECCSA has been receiving SGP funding since 2007.
This funding supports a coordinator responsible for day-to-day management of MECCSA activities and an office located within the Migrant Resource Centre of South Australia (MRCSA). MECCSA has received some one-off small grants from a range of state government bodies for its cultural and youth activities. The majority of MECCSA’s activities, however, are not externally funded and are run by its 100 or so volunteers.
Some of the key activities undertaken by MECCSA include:
- Advocacy and negotiation with agencies and government on behalf of member organisations. This includes preparation of funding applications. Communities have distinctive cultures so the emphasis is on activities which bring communities together such as joint celebration of religious festivals and New Year with the broader community.
- Sports and other activities focusing on young people, many of whom are left behind by the education system. MECCSA supports 10 volleyball and 9 soccer teams and basketball teams.
- MECCSA and member organisations have played a key role in helping community members find employment. The majority of jobs held by members in meat processing, fruit picking and construction work are organised through the MECCSA community network rather than through the Job Services Australia network.
- Providing mentoring, support and advice to improve leadership skills of member organisations.
- The Council implements a very effective volunteering program. Volunteers are recruited, trained and utilise their skills within MECCSA settlement, cultural and social services.
- MECCSA conducts regular consultations with Middle Eastern communities to identify issues, evaluate services and recruit new volunteers.
- Casework services provided to eligible clients from the Middle Eastern background within their first five years of arrival to Australia.