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Annual General Meeting 2012

VASS’ Annual General Meeting 2012 was held at VASS’ Broadmeadows Head Office, C2, 1- 13 The Gateway, Broadmeadows on November 15, 2012. The primary role of the Annual General Meeting is to inform stakeholders, funding bodies and members, as well as the broader public, of VASS’ work and spending for the past financial year. To discharge this obligation, the Annual Financial Report was distributed and the Board of Management for 2012 – 2013 was announced. Mr. Ali Mustapha retained his role as Chairperson, and Ms. Leila Alloush remained the Public Officer/CEO.

The keynote speaker for the night was Ms. Maria Vamvakinou, MP for Calwell who reflected on her own migration experience and raised concerns about the many issues faced by the diverse Arabic Speaking Background (ASB) communities of Australia, especially within her own electorate. Furthermore, Ms. Vamvakinou delivered a message from the Prime Minister of Australia, Ms. Julia Gillard. We once again thank her for her attendance.

Furthermore, Mr. Frank McGuire, Member for Broadmeadows attended and delivered a supporting message, and VASS is happy to continue an ongoing relationship with Mr. McGuire. Ms. Bronwyn Halfpenny, Member for Thomastown also delivered a message of support and reflected on her experiences with VASS.

Following this, a cultural events ensued with both the Darebin Arabic Women’s Group delivering a cultural dance performance, drawing inspiration from Kurdish culture. This was followed by our own staff member, Yousif Aziz, conducting a singing choir and his own compositions, from traditional Arabic music, to gospel fusion. This illustrates the achievements of the ongoing work from the re-vamped A.R.A.B. program at VASS.

Finally, a cultural feast was offered to all attendees. VASS thanks all funding bodies, personnel and community members for their ongoing support. We are proud to have concluded yet another successful year and look forward for what will hopefully be an enriching year ahead.

Curbing Radicalisation Through Youth Resilience and Community Partnerships Project (Conclusion)

The Curbing Radicalisation Through Youth Resilience and Community Partnerships Project was an initiative by VASS, funded by the Australian Government, Attorney-General’s Department and ran between 2011 and 2012. The project was made up of a number of smaller projects and activities that address particular issues with a focus on achieving a number of objectives. This was undertaken in the following way:

-Monash University research workshops, including staff from the Faculty of Arts, such as Dr. Peter Lentini
- Introduction to media productions
-United Nations Youth Ambassadors Program
- Soccer leadership camp
-First Aid Course
-Resume writing
-Cyber-bullying workshop

The program’s central aim is to address the negative effects of disempowerment, anger, helplessness and frustration within the Australian Speaking Background (ASB) communities. The project supported the strengthening of communal bonds within the social, cultural and economic life of Melbourne, and actively engaging ASB youth in programs and interventions designed to re-instill connectedness and belonging.

ACHIEVEMENTS & FINDINGS
Many of the youth who engaged in this project discovered programs and presented interest with joining other youth groups. Examples are joining VASS’ Kalam TV program, a television program on Channel 31 which airs once a week, allowing youth to experience broadcasting, writing and production within screen media. Also, interests were experienced to join VASS’ radio program, ‘3al Hawa’ at the 3CR Radio Station.

SUSTAINABILITY
A report of this project has been formally produced and distributed as well as presented to an audience attended by community professionals, prominent personnel and staff from the Attorney-General’s Department. This report has allowed VASS to continue its ongoing membership with the Victoria Police Muslim Community Reference Committee in its voluntary capacity and VASS relies on volunteers to regularly attend meetings. These meetings were documented through questionnaires, surveys and other forms of information collection and collation.

CONCLUSION
In line with the recommendations mentioned for each initiative and the objectives for the focus group, VASS identified a number of broad areas of target concern to work on and develop in the coming financial year:

1. PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
Developing the leadership capacity of the Arabic Speaking Background (ASB) youth through creating opportunities for increased self-esteem and self-confidence and skills in teamwork, independent living skills, communication and negotiation and to develop into positive role models with broader Arabic and Islamic communities.

2. FAMILY RELATIONSHIP DEVELOPMENT
To equip parents and guardians with the knowledge and skills to recognise ‘at risk’ behaviour in their children and equip them with the tools and ability to address it before it escalates to radicalisation.

3. EDUCATION
To educate parents and community leaders on human rights in Australia and the adverse effects of early marriage on young women (as supported by international scholarship), and how it may impact on empowering women and family dynamics, ultimately preventing radicalisation and extremist behaviour.

‘Teeth Tales’ Program Conclusion

‘Teeth Tales’ Program

ORAL  HEALTH & COMMUNITY AWARENESS
The last financial year saw the ‘Teeth Tales’ program initiated which included VASS and a number of other health and welfare organisation. It was inspired by an academic study at the University of Melbourne which identified migrant and ethnic communities and their lack of understanding and access to oral health. The main communities identified were Iraqi, Lebanese and Pakistani communities, however the program as welcome to many other communities. The program was focussed on young children and toddlers as well as babies developing teeth problems.

The program was run with a project team staff from the McCaughey Centre and Merri Community Health Services (MCHS) along with VASS, Arabic Welfare and the Pakistan Australia Association Melbourne Inc. as cultural partners. Study partners included members from Moreland City Council, North Richmond Community Health Centre, the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health (CEH) and Yarra City Council. Furthermore, a number of members from the University of Melbourne, who lead the research and project management, as well as scientific investigation, were joined with other science academics from Deakin, LaTrobe and Cardiff Universities as well as the University College in London and Dental Health Services Victoria.

The first element of the program was a test screening, in which VASS and other organisations sought voluntary participation from a number of community groups for an oral health assessment. There was a healthy response from many participants, and VASS had identified an overarching language accessibility barrier in participants from Assyrian and Arabic speaking communities from diverse countries such as Turkey, Iraq, New Zealand, Canada, the Middle East and of locally from Australia. The second stage of testing was done with a comparison group which further progressed into an oral health education program including an emphasis on existing health projects such as Smiles4Miles, Eat Well, Drink Well, Clean Well, Play Well and Stay Well, which educated participants about how daily activities such as eating can have an impact on oral health and dental hygiene. Furthermore, a child oral health education session was run which provided an opportunity for both parents and grandparents of children aged 0-5 years to recognise the importance of oral health in relation to general health, increase parental knowledge about such health issues and link parents to local cultural networks and develop parent support networks.

VASS has seen a remarkable amount of success in increasing access to health and identifying gaps in existing health services. Offering a social based understanding of oral health, many people from non- English speaking backgrounds have been able to be educated about oral health, especially for children in early years of development. The mutual findings between the education and scientific institutions and ethnic-based social services has benefited all participants and organisations greatly, and VASS is proud to have been part of a broad community engaging program, which it believes has set the framework for future understandings of access to health and barriers in understanding the importance of oral health and accessibility to its services.

On conclusion of the program, toothpaste, both adult and child toothbrushes and information kits in Arabic were distributed to attendees – to foster increased oral health care.

Thank you to all who attended and supported the successful program.

Tax HELP Program

Through the Tax HELP Program assistance has been successfully provided to the ASB Community the ability to understand their obligations in the area of taxation, and the knowledge to complete them. One of the goals emphasised by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is to the ability for taxpayers to understand such obligations and the need for them to discharge them.

As a result, the Tax HELP program provided by VASS through the ATO seeks to educate the community in an end goal that members wishing to complete their own tax obligatiosn can do exactly that through this program and other online services such as E-Tax. These services are free to use and the community are encouraged to take advantage of these services so as to gain an understanding of the often complex tax system in Australia.

Tax HELP is a state-wide program and volunteers are sought and trained by the ATO to assist communities in completing their tax obligations. The program runs over a period of four months, and over the past years it has grown and assisted the ASB community. Today it continues to healthily grow. The program illustrates some of the many drawbacks that the ASB community has faced with language barriers; however it stands as a confirmation of increasingly accessibility to services for such people. VASS and the Tax HELP program continue to overcome the series of set-backs in further helping the ASB community.