ON TUESDAY Harmony Day was held at the TAFE Illawarra Bega campus, which was attended by international migrants to the community and Bega TAFE Tourism and Hospitality students.
As a course requirement Tourism and Hospitality students must find out about different foods and customs from different cultures, and his year Harmony Day was incorporated into this requirement.
This was done by having migrants studying the English as a Second Language course (ESL) at the campus cooking recipes from their native countries and having the two groups of students talk about different foods and cultures.
The message that Harmony Day aims to publicise is that “everyone belongs.”
The 14 migrants who attended the day have came from all over the globe, from such diverse places such as Thailand, India, Russia, Ethiopia, China and the Philippines.
Kate Todd, a full time teacher in general education at Bega TAFE, believed that the day was a success.
“It is a really, really worthwhile thing,” she said.
“It opens doors, and takes away the isolation that many non-English speakers feel.
“They [the migrants] have a lot to offer.”
There were benefits to both groups, Todd said, as it allowed the Tourism and Hospitality students to explore cultures and customs different to their own, and allowed the migrants an opportunity to talk with native English speakers.
Emma Benton is the Bega Valley Shire’s Community Development Officer, and also overseeing the Migrant and Multicultural Services.
“[The day] went really well,” said Benton.
“I think it was a great idea to incorporate Harmony Day into the Hospitality and Tourism arms of TAFE.”
According to Benton there are about 20 different cultural groups in the Bega Valley at the moment but while the ethnicities are diverse, overall they are not numerous in number.
“A lot of migrants don’t stay in the Bega Valley for a long time,” Benton said.
This is due to the cultural isolation, having difficulty in finding employment, and religious reasons, such as there being no mosque to pray at for some.
Groups around the Bega Valley which provide migrants with support are the women’s resource centre, Bega Valley library and Bega TAFE, as even coming to class allows migrants to form friendships.
As part of her position Benton aims to encourage migrants to be active members of society, and foster partnerships between the Migrant and Multicultural Services and other organisations in order to perform workshops with the migrants in the community.
For instance, cooperating with the Healthy Communities program Benton organised swimming lessons for migrants which was a success, as many did not know how to swim.
After sewing workshops Benton organised to have short legal workshops, as many migrants come to Australia because they have married older Australian men, so need to be informed about Australian law.
As the Tourism and Hospitalisty students discovered the migrants that come to the Bega Valley are from all over the world and have fascinating stories.
Usa Poolkwan from Thailand owns the Thai Noodle House in Merimbula with her husband, and has been in Bega for about 5 years.
The rest of her family is still in Thailand, and she is waiting for a visa for her mother and son to be approved so they can join her in the Bega Valley.
Victoria Lemesheva is from Russia, and has spent a year in Australia after marrying an Australian man.
She learnt English at TAFE and is “happy here.”
Also from Thailand, Nok Saovanee-Puccetti moved to Australia in 2010 as she married an Australian, and so began to learn English.