The power of community conversations

Posted on 21 November 2016 by Khairy Majeed

Earlier this year, our Family Relationship Centre (FRC) at Broadmeadows held its annual community dinner. The dinner brings together community leaders from a wide range of sectors, including representatives from diverse cultural, ethnic and religious groups; representatives from a range of Government Departments; Victoria Police; local councils; and recently-arrived migrants and refugees.  

The aim of the dinner is to promote respect, understanding and acceptance, and to foster harmony within the community. The dinner also provided the opportunity to have a community conversation on a local topic of interest. This year, the theme was “The impact of trauma on children, families and the society”.

The night commenced with a traditional Welcome to Country message introduced by Uncle Tony Garbey; a Wurundjeri elder. This was followed by a brief welcome and introduction by Suzie Nesbitt, Manager of the Family Relationship Centre, who highlighted the importance of bringing people together and developing connections within the community to deliver culturally-appropriate services to families needing support.

CEO of MacKillop Family Services, Dr Robyn Miller, followed with an inspirational and moving account of some of the insights she has learned from her deep experience working with families, young people and children who have experienced trauma.

“I do this work because I meet people who are heroic every day. They teach you so much about what it is to be human, to be brave, to be resilient,” Robyn said.

“You cannot help but be inspired by the children we work with every day”.

To emphasise this point, Robyn concluded her presentation with a video that shared the story of one of the young people we support. This young woman has experienced severe trauma and through her work with MacKillop, she has begun to heal. By embracing Sanctuary, MacKillop’s trauma-informed framework, she has been able to understand the impact of her trauma on herself and on others. Her transformation has been incredible. There were very few dry eyes in the house.

Professor Joseph Camilleri, a retired academic from Latrobe University, provided a considered insight into both individual and community responses to trauma. He covered a range of experiences that lead to trauma including the refugee experience, and trauma in the context of family violence. Professor Camilleri’s presentation is available at: www.josephcamilleri.org/content/trauma-violence-and-its-prevention

The closing remarks were delivered by CEO of Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre, Stelvio Vido, who acknowledged the partnership with MacKillop Family Services in managing the FRC, and thanked staff for organising such an important gathering. Stelvio delivered a powerful and timely statement, in which he emphasised that community gatherings and open conversations are more important than ever as an anecdote to polarising and divisive anti-migration dialogue.

Over 180 guests from diverse backgrounds enjoyed a great night out, listened to inspiring speakers and appreciated a variety of delicious entrées and main courses. The feedback from the event was extremely positive, and acknowledged the important role the annual dinner plays in strengthening social connections within the community.