The National Community Hubs Program is a network of place-based, family-focused community hubs that are embedded in primary schools and community centres in neighbourhoods with high migrant and refugee populations.
The City of Greater Dandenong is home to people from more than 150 different countries of birth, making it Victoria’s most culturally diverse community.
Dandenong Primary School principal Daniel Riley explains: ‘We are a unique community here with a high proportion of new arrivals, and each culture has different norms.’
Through Dandenong PS community hub, parents from all backgrounds have a gateway to connect with each other, with their school, and with existing services.
‘Having the hub breaks down barriers, so parents can build trust in the school,’ says Daniel.
During hub sessions, parents learn how to find and access services they need, improve their English language skills, receive jobs training, and benefit from health and wellbeing initiatives.
The Step Into Kinder educational program is a particular focus at Dandenong PS to smooth the transition to school for parents and children alike.
Many parents arrive in Australia with little understanding of the Australian school system, so the hub added an information session so that parents could learn about the structures in an informal setting.
Community Hubs Australia CEO Dr Sonja Hood said there should be hubs in every community that needed them.
‘It’s challenging being a mother anyway, but being a mother without language and necessary community connections around you can be very isolating,’ she says.
Alison, a community hub team leader, says the community hub isn’t just about parents and children.
‘It’s social and emotional wellbeing, it becomes about the whole community … feeling welcomed and wanted builds strong connections and confidence,’ she adds.
Without a hub to visit, many migrant women can spend most of their time at home and miss out on opportunities to meet other people or receive support, and their children can arrive at school without English language or social skills.
‘It’s a safe place to share and make friendships,” says Dandenong PS community hub leader Alison Rogers.
Dozens of community hubs operate under the National Community Hubs Program, which is recognised as a leading model to engage and support migrant women with young children.
This program is supported by the Victorian Government Department of Premier and Cabinet along with philanthropic supporters and the Commonwealth Government.