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New mental health training for culturally and linguistically diverse volunteers

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Canberra is increasingly reflecting the multicultural community Australia is known for.

However, with this increasingly diversified population comes associated challenges and opportunities when it comes to communication.

We can all agree 2020 was a difficult year with COVID-19 and its associated impacts on our personal and professional lives. This challenge has presented the opportunity for many CALD (Culturally And Linguistically Diverse) community organisations to reach out and collaborate with each other to support the Canberra community at large.

Two such organisations are SiTara’s Story (STS) and Mental Illness Education ACT (MIEACT), who partnered to deliver webinars on mental health and now, for the first time ever, are providing the opportunity for people to join a pool of skilled volunteers to provide Mental Health Support to CALD community members, meaning that you can sign up to become a trained volunteer educator for multicultural communities.

So who are these organisations and what are they about?

SiTara’s Story is a non-profit charitable organisation registered in Australia that believes strong women build strong communities and nations. SiTara’s Story started its journey in 2017, with the aim of advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.

SiTara’s Story seek to build the self-esteem and self-worth of women within the community and beyond by changing their outlook on life, broadening their horizons, and helping them to empower themselves.

SiTara’s Story in partnership with Perinatal Wellbeing Foundation, Headspace and MIEACT have organised workshops on women’s mental health, women’s physical health and adolescent mental health, and run creative writing competitions and cooking workshops with MasterChef contestant Rashedul Hasan all for the purpose of creating mental health awareness within CALD communities in Australia.

SiTara’s Story also tries to create a bridge between Canberra and developing countries, especially Bangladesh, where vulnerable groups such as women and children require early education and intervention.

SiTara’s Story works with mental health professionals on the ground to conduct mental health awareness workshops in underprivileged schools in rural Bangladesh where they do not have any access to any support system.

These activities include: Mental Health First Aid Training for teachers and students, positive parenting workshops, and trauma management workshops for approximately 1500 students and hundreds of teachers and parents in underprivileged schools.

This is the only mental health intervention program in underprivileged schools in Bangladesh. SiTara’s Story has also supported women labourers returning from the Middle East who suffered mental and physical trauma from their employers.

Mental Illness Education, ACT (MIEACT) is the primary local mental health and well-being education provider for workplaces, community groups and secondary schools across the Canberra region and surrounding area. Since 1993, MIEACT has delivered evidence-informed programs, partnered with lived experience stories that increase mental health literacy, promote early intervention, reduce stigma and emphasise recovery.

What makes MIEACT unique is that they bring small audiences into direct positive contact with Volunteer Educators. Such face-to-face contact is a proven, powerful stigma reduction model, importantly guided by a safe and non-triggering DoNOHarm framework (c) for both story-teller and viewer. MIEACT’s programs ensure participants leave not only with an increased knowledge of mental health, but practical tools to manage, support and practice positive help-seeking behaviours.

These two wonderful local community organisations are working together to build a pool of skilled volunteers to provide Mental Health Support to CALD community members.

Applications are now open to become a trained volunteer educator. If you are interested in applying, please send your expression of interest to sitarasstory@yahoo.com by 15 January 2021.

This program is supported by Canberra Multicultural Women Forum (CMWF)

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