By DI BARTOK
IN its 25-year history, the Community Migrant Resource Centre has helped more than 600,000 refugees and migrants settle into their new lives in Australia.
So it was fitting that the milestone was celebrated at a gala event at Olympic Park’s Waterview venue in February.
Parramatta Lord Mayor Donna Davis and Parramatta State MP Geoff Lee were among the guests who heaped praise on CMRC, which has been helmed by the much-heralded Melissa Monteiro for the past 20 years.
The forerunner of today’s CMRC, the Hills Holroyd Parramatta Migrant Resource Centre, was born in 1996, but the genesis of the centre goes back to 1977 when it was launched as a pilot project by the Department of Immigration.
Then headed by Lawrence Dimech, the centre focussed on all communities, which then was dominated by Greeks, Italians, Maltese, Spanish, Lebanese and former Yugolavians.
These days, an emphasis is on resettling refugees and migrants from war-torn or traumatised countries, notably the Middle East and Africa.
Services include settlement information to build self-confidence and integration into the community, migration advice, education and employment guidance.
Headquartered in Parramatta, CMRC also operates offices in Ryde and Castle Hill.
Apart from its practical help to migrants, CMRC is proud of how it has influenced government policy on immigration and refugee resettlement.
Ms Monteiro said Australia is a nation built on immigration, celebrated for its ability to include people from diverse backgrounds.
“We at CMRC see the real challenges that vulnerable groups face in establishing their lives in Australia,” Ms Monteiro said.
“This directly impacts Australia’s migration program. Once new and emerging communities have effectively settled, their progress will positively impact upon Australia’s economy, society and environment.”
Ms Monteiro said diversity and creating a sense of place and belonging for migrants was important for CMRC.
“We believe that when people are comfortable and can express themselves in an authentic way, they are more likely to perform better, which increases engagement and contributes to the community as a whole,” she said.