Taking Mandurah off the map for new migrants: Support service faces a tumultuous future

Peel Multicultural Association president Virginia Pitts said she may be forced to return to the Philippines for work after she was told her contact wouldn't be renewed. Photo: Caitlyn Rintoul.
Peel Multicultural Association president Virginia Pitts said she may be forced to return to the Philippines for work after she was told her contact wouldn't be renewed. Photo: Caitlyn Rintoul.

Services to support migrants living in Mandurah face a tumultuous future, which has caused deep concern within the city and driven fears that the Peel region could be overlooked by those about to call Australia home. 

The region’s leading migrant support service Fremantle Multicultural Centre has lost federal government funding and the bid to maintain a Mandurah-based settlement officer after November 2018. 

The centre employed Peel Multicultural Association president Virginia Pitts to help service migrants in Mandurah but he position will be cut after November 30. 

Under the guidance of the Fremantle Multicultural Centre, the association has helped local migrants escape domestic violence, tackle employment struggles, and find a sense of community. 

During her time in the role, Ms Pitts has been providing settlement and community capacity building services.

While those services will continue for migrants who have been in Australia for under five years, it is still unclear whether they will be located in Mandurah. 

From January 1, Fremantle Multicultural Centre and Communicare will be joint service providers of settlement services, according to a federal Department of Social Services spokeswoman. 

Fremantle Multicultural Centre will be the solo service provider of community capacity building services from July 1.

The changes mean from November 30 to July 1, their support will be dormant in the Peel region.

Ms Pitts said the gap of more than six months without support was devastating for her clients and could affect the decision of those deciding whether to call Mandurah their new home. 

After moving to Australia from the Philippines 14 years ago, Ms Pitts undertook a volunteering position at the association until she was employed part time.  

“The funding has stopped. So they wont be having the settlement services in Mandurah anymore,” Ms Pitts said. 

“[My clients] are worried about where they can find services or where they can tell their problems. 

“Where will they go now to contact someone who will represent them?”

Where will they go now to contact someone who will represent them?

Peel Multicultural Association president Virginia Pitts

Ms Pitts said she had poured her heart into the local multicultural community and it was disappointing her clients would have to travel to access services.

“I feel so devastated because this has given me the opportunity to help. With the Peel Multicultural [Association] we’ve been holding social events and doing the services in Mandurah,” she said.  

“Fremantle [Multicultural Centre] has given me all the chances to help these ladies. To be with them it gives me a lot of challenges but I still wanted to continue doing some services for them.” 

Ms Pitts said she would like to hold additional services for local migrants, however, would struggle without funding. 

“This might push me to have to go back to the Philippines [for work],” she said. 

The association hasn’t given up hope and is attempting to acquire funding to employ an officer through the federal government’s Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship Program - Fostering Integration Grants. 

Australian Bureau of Statistics data has revealed that Mandurah has been a hotspot for migrants. 

In Mandurah 27 per cent of residents were born overseas and 32.7 per cent had both of their parents born overseas, according to the 2016 Census. 

Data also shows that 7.8 per cent have only their father born overseas and 6.1 per cent have only their mother born in another country. 

The City of Mandurah provide the Peel Multicultural Association with financial support, however, the bulk of the funding is on the federal government to provide. 

Peel Multicultural Association aims to understanding cultural diversity, the nonprofit organisation provides support, opportunities and activities for the states mixed ethnic background. 

Follow Caitlyn Rintoul on Twitter via @caitlynrintoul.