Moving to a new country is a huge undertaking. For a lot of recently arrived African Australians, life has been particularly hard. But, in their new home in Western Melbourne, the Brotherhood of St. Laurence African Australian Community Centre is working to make life a little easier.

Project Coordinator and Manager for the African Australian Community Centre, Abraham Mamer, knows exactly how hard it can be for new arrivals to the community, whether they’re migrant families or refugees. “Settlement is an issue for Africans, and for all new migrant communities,” said Abraham. “It’s not easy to settle just like that, it takes a lot of effort and energy.”

Abraham points out that when you come to a new country, your most immediate concern is getting the basics together. “The first thing they think about is getting a place, getting their kids to school, sort their health issues out, and that takes a bit of time,” he explained. “They’re not thinking about themselves in the first place, they’re thinking about their families. But, when the time comes, you’ve got to think about yourself.”

New migrants are given five years worth of community support that includes English language lessons. Through a program called Settlement Facilitator, the African Australian Community Centre helps migrants develop their confidence and participate in the community.

Along with continued free English language lessons, the centre provides advocacy, speaking to landlords and real estate providers, utility companies, and schools, while referring people to job centres, health centres, financial literacy programs. “People may live in a small house, and in the long-term they’ll need a three or four bedroom house. We’ll speak to real estate agents so they’ll have better accommodation,” explained Abraham. “Kids who are missing out on a good education, we talk to local schools and provide cultural support if they need our help.”

Through a grant from Coca-Cola Australia Foundation, the centre is establishing an African Social Club to target the area’s young people. The club’s main target is to foster engagement with the local community by providing an inclusive and welcoming space in which young people can socialise with their peers – and also their elders. “We want to engage other people who are professional in the community to connect with young people,” explained Abraham.

For more information on the Brotherhood of St. Laurence African Australian Community Centre, visit their website.