Communities in Cultural Transition (CiCT) Program
CiCT assists non-funded associations and groups from newly arrived, small and emerging communities from refugee backgrounds to help develop their leadership and governance skills. The program aims to reduce the dependence of these small groups on large community service organisations by empowering them to manage their own affairs. CiCT uses a strength-based approach to provide support for communities from refugee backgrounds to take control of their own development in building and running organisations in Australian context. This helps ease the pressures of settlement and leads to a sense of inclusion in the wider Australian society. It also facilitates building of new connections and strengthening of those already existing to ensure the community groups are able to engage and mobilise their strengths. These relationships contribute to community’s Social Capital.
Strengths-based practice is a collaborative process between a person and group supported by services and those supporting them, allowing them to work together to determine the outcome that draws on the person’s strengths and assets. This approach values the existing capacity, skills, knowledge, connections and potential of the communities while building new abilities (Pattoni, 2012).
Pattoni, L. (2012, May). Strengths-based approaches for working with individuals. Glasgow: Iriss.
Social capital refers to social relationships, connections, networks and resources that exist within and outside of a community, as well as the ‘norms’ and formal or informal rules found in these relationships, such as trust and cooperation (Rostila, 2010).
Rostila, M. (2011). The facets of social capital. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 41(3), 308-326.
CiCT Program Services
One of the core services of the CiCT Program is to provide free consultancy sessions for community groups and organisations. Consultancy sessions cover but are not limited to: governance, legal requirements for incorporated associations, project implementation & management, leadership, training, submission writing, etc. Participation in this service is driven by the community. The Project Officer receives a request from a community, followed by a detailed assessment of the group’s strengths and needs. Thereafter, the CiCT Project Officer works to match the group with the most appropriate consultants.
Agem Akot came to Australia as a refugee from South Sudan. Agem reached out to STARTTS in May 2020 seeking support to strengthen his efforts in helping the South Sudanese communities locally and back home. Agem’s original idea was to establish two organisations. One to provide financial literacy and another to provide sport opportunities for South Sudanese in both Australia and South Sudan.
The Senior CiCT Project Officer had initial brainstorming and consulting sessions with Agem, which resulted in Agem deciding to set up one organisation in Australia that provides both financial education and sporting activities.
The Project Officer connected Agem with a consultant who specialises in Not-for-Profit registration process. Agem worked with this consultant on building a constitution including naming and registering the organisation. In the meantime, Agem also recruited additional members for the organisation.
Afterwards, Agem was linked with a second consultant who assisted him to build a website for the organisation and provided a brief website management training. Click here to visit the website.
Agem’s ideas have become reality. The Future Community Strength’s constitution has been well established. The organisation is officially registered. They also have their own website, which they are able to manage by themselves.
*Note: This case study exemplifies a typical CiCT engagement with a community or group.
Yassmen Yahya, the former President of the Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA), partnered with the CiCT program in 2019. With approximately 10,000 Mandaeans living in Australia at the time, SMAA worked in conjunction with STARTTS-CiCT program to secure funding from the Department of Home Affairs which enabled the employment of a part time capacity building officer.
Assessment & Action
Upon establishing a partnership, SMAA and CiCT began the process to recruit a part-time capacity building officer to assist in supporting the Mandaean community. Following the successful recruitment of a part-time capacity building officer, the CiCT project officer visits the SMAA centre weekly to provide ongoing support to the staff member and the SMAA board. This includes providing mentorship for the officer and recruiting volunteers to work alongside the officer.
The Mandaean community were also featured in the 2019 and 2020 CiCT forum to help share the Mandaean culture and history to the wider community. See here for the SMAA video featured in the CiCT 2020 Online Forum.
CiCT continues to support SMAA as their needs change and remains in contact with the capacity building officer.
In partnership with the CiCT Program, SMAA secured funding for three years to employ the part-time capacity building officer – a goal the organisation had been working towards for several years. In a partnership evaluation conducted by a STARTTS Evaluation Officer, the SMAA boards revealed that that consultancy sessions between SMAA and CiCT helped address underlying challenges within the organisation and create a sustainable future for the community.
Since the year 2015, the CiCT Program has been holding annual forums to create a platform for individuals, groups and communities from refugee backgrounds to share their stories of resilience and successes. The forums are also opportunities to recognise and appreciate the voluntary and invaluable work of refugee community leaders and representatives in facilitating the resettlement of their communities. CiCT forums is a bridge that connects communities of refugee backgrounds, services, governmental agencies and mainstream society so that they can learn from one another, and work hand in hand to support communities from refugee backgrounds to heal and thrive in Australia.
From 2019, the CiCT program has organised residential Leadership and Advanced Leadership Courses for community leaders and emerging leaders from refugee backgrounds. The courses aim to build on the communities’ strengths and capacity by developing the leader’s knowledge and skills such as community facilitation, conflict resolution, negotiation, mentorship, advocacy and many more. The residential training format has been shown to help the participants create a strong bond with one another while learning to enhance their leadership knowledge and skills. This bond later grows into a solid community network among communities from different refugee backgrounds. The Leadership Courses program is developed and delivered in collaboration with Dr Wayne Fallon – Senior Lecturer in Management, Western Sydney University. Watch a video on the Leadership Course here.
I think the best thing is if we are going to do something and if one of the other communities has done that, we have the connection now to go and talk to them and find out how it works, pitfalls to look for instead of reinventing the wheel. Before I wouldn’t have known whom to go and ask or what to do. So this has so many possibilities for the future.