By NSW Minister for Multiculturalism John Ajaka
With Premier Mike Baird currently on a historic visit to Israel and the West Bank, it is my great honour to write the weekly Column.
We are blessed to live in a harmonious, prosperous and diverse community. If Australia is the so-called ‘Lucky Country’, then those of us who call New South Wales home are the luckiest of them all.
But we cannot take our social cohesion for granted.
Community harmony takes commitment.
It demands a concerted, collaborative effort across our society. Put simply, we all have a role to play in safeguarding our peaceful and harmonious way of life against the forces of hate and division.
Last year, I travelled around the state listening to the views of community leaders, academics and law enforcement about what works, and what doesn’t work on the ground, when it comes to engaging with young people and strengthening our communities.
The feedback I received was clear – violent extremism is a social problem, long before it becomes a law enforcement problem.
Recently, I was pleased to announce the successful recipients of the NSW Government’s highly successful Community in Partnership, Taking Action, or COMPACT, Grants Program.
In response to strong demand, the NSW Government doubled funding for the innovative program from $4 million to $8 million over four years.
Under the program, an alliance of 14 experienced community organisations working with their 23 partners will deliver local solutions-based projects that bring young people together, and engage constructively on issues impacting on social cohesion and community harmony.
Importantly, the COMPACT Program compliments other Multicultural NSW Grants, like the Unity Grants. The recently announced 2015/16 Unity Grants will help combat racism, support refugees to settle into the community and bring culturally diverse communities together.
Among the many funded projects there are projects that will help vulnerable female refugees in the Hunter region, support multicultural leaders in Wagga Wagga and address social isolation in young people in the local Auburn community.
Furthermore, the 2015/16 Support Grants are currently open. The Grants provide up to $10,000 in funding to help communities and individuals participate fully in community life and build community capacity.
Now in its second year, the Support Grant Program has supported 27 organisations, totally more than 235,000 dollars, and has assisted non-for-profit organisations to fund new employment opportunities, hold educational workshops, sporting events and projects that assist disadvantage youth.
Only not-for-profit community organisations are eligible to apply and applications close 15 April 2016. I encourage organisations to submit applications and work with us to become community harmony partners.
For more information about the Multicultural NSW Grants Programs, including the COMPACT Program, visit www.multicultural.nsw.gov.au.