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Stronger together – Developing resilience in the face of adversity

If our shared experience this past year has taught us anything, it must be the importance of working together as a community. One of the year’s main multicultural events that celebrates the connectedness of community is MacKillop Family Services’ annual Family Relationship Centre Community Dinner.

A casualty of last year’s Covid-19 restrictions, the dinner had to be cancelled in 2020, but celebrated its thirteenth year on 31 March when members of multicultural groups came together to advocate societal respect, understanding, acceptance and harmony.

The theme of this year’s dinner was 'Developing resilience in the face of adversity' and guest speaker Dr Dalal Smiley, spoke about the importance of community support and collaboration.

As CEO of Wellsprings for Women, a women-only specialised organisation that offers services, supports and programs for women to improve education, employment, health and wellbeing and to live life safely and free from violence, Dalal sees resilience and strength through adversity every day.

Supporting each other when times are hard is something that women have done for centuries and to see the wider community step up to work together and learn from each other here in Melbourne can only be positive.

– Dalal

The annual dinner brings together community leaders, cultural leaders, and community service organisations to listen, learn and connect on themes relating to families and relationships.

“2020 was a hard year for all the community, we had to dig deep, to reserves we didn’t know we had. I believe we will all be better for the experience and the eventual outcome will see enhanced cooperation and shared wisdom,” Dalal said.

The event provided a platform for Melbourne’s Northern suburbs to share this wisdom and reflect upon how we can all work together to enhance community outcomes.

MacKillop’s Family Relationship Centre in Broadmeadows has developed collaborative relationships with cultural and faith groups and service agencies including local community legal services with the aim of addressing and meeting the needs of culturally diverse families in the community.

Dalal reflects on the outcomes of the women she supported, and the long-term educational benefits that shone through the adversity of the past year:

“Many of our members are migrants with limited English language skills and limited access to technology. At first, the idea of online education seemed like a huge challenge, but we used our contacts and relationships and accessed new and refurbished laptops and PCs which were provided to women and which helped them and their children to continue their education pursuits.

“The benefits of increasing literacy for women trickle down through the whole family and we’re delighted that so many women understand how important it is that their children remain engaged in education,” added Dalal.

Dalal’s life experience, before and after arriving in Melbourne from war torn Lebanon in the 1970s, and her passion for supporting women and families in the community through her work are a tribute to the resilience that flows through her attitude to every challenge she meets.

“It can be a slow, painstaking road to recovery when you have experienced trauma in the past, but to have a safe space where people hear you, care about you and want to help you, provides the all important first step,” Dalal said.

Family Relationship Centre

Based in Broadmeadows, the Family Relationship Centre supports parents, children and young people going through the difficult stages of family disputes and breakdown. The Centre primarily works with separated parents, to assist them in managing their parenting arrangements during, and post separation.

Family Futures, a program that addresses the impact of family violence, working specifically with families from the Turkish, Arabic speaking and Indian communities also works out of Family Relationship Centre.

The Family Relationship Centre offers an outreach service in Craigieburn, Epping, Sunbury and Wallan.