ACT Government Work Experience and Support Program graduation


I enjoyed meeting the graduates and presenting graduation certificates for 20 Canberra migrants at a  special ceremony for this year’s Work Experience and Support Program (WESP).

The graduates hail from Bangladesh, China, India, Iran, Japan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Sudan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam – reflecting Canberra’s diverse multicultural community.

They boast qualifications, including Masters in Business Administration, IT, Economics and Accounting.  WESP is structured around four weeks of formal training in office skills and administration and eight weeks of voluntary work placement in an ACT Government agency.

The ACT Government Work Experience and Support Program (WESP) has helped launch the careers and fulfil the dreams of skilled migrants since its inception over a decade ago.  WESP provides training, skills development and work experience in the ACT Public Service building knowledge, confidence and attributes as potential employees.  It’s about assisting people who are experiencing significant barriers to meaningful employment by providing an opportunity to update their skills and experience, and to build a network of contacts in the ACT Public Service.

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Canberra Lions turn on tourism to help kids at risk

Westwood Lions 1 Westwood lions 2

Congratulations to Canberra Lions for turning to tourism to help local kids at risk.

Canberra Lions clubs recently opened Westwood Lodge, a $650 000 accommodation centre for school, teams and community groups visiting the ACT.

The new Lodge sits on a 200ha farm in the Tuggeranong Valley. The farm has hosted Lions’ youth programs for 20 plus years.

The new Lodge will meet a gap in Canberra’s tourism market and help Lions finance future youth programs at the farm.

Canberra has a shortage of affordable accommodation for students visiting the national capital, a situation which the new building will help ease. It can sleep 70 people with catering and laundry arrangements and comes with a spacious outdoor recreational area. Rooms have rural views across the Murrumbidgee Valley.

Westwood Lodge also has a fund-raising mission. Revenue from bookings will help Lions continue and expand their youth programs at the farm.

In the past four years over 500 students, many in trouble at school or at home, have attended farm education and training programs.

One day a week they received a taste of farm life, learning environmental science, sustainable agriculture and animal handling. The rural environment provided work experience and taught the kids valuable life skills like teamwork and self-confidence.

Lions across the country, the ACT Government and corporate supporters in Canberra contributed funds to build the Lodge.

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That’s not a crossbow, THIS IS A CROSSBOW!

Dr Chris Bourke - Copy

I had the honour of firing this huge crossbow (a replica ballista dating back to Roman times) to open the 20th National Crossbow Championships at Lyneham Archery Centre over the Queen’s birthday weekend. Congratulations to Stuart Atkins of the Canberra Archery Club who emerged the winner and national champion after three days of competition.
Winning the tournament qualifies Stuart to represent Australia at the 2015 World Championships in the USA.
While crossbow shooting is a small sport in Australia, arbalests (crossbow shooters) make up for numbers with their passion for the sport.
Canberra Archery Club has a long tradition of hosting major events, which includes the 1977 World Target Championships, the 2012 World Field Championships and National Junior Championships in the 1990s.

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Men’s mental health in focus at key conference

IMG_7833 Men's Health Conf 11-6-14

The Men’s Health and Suicide Prevention Conference 2014 I opened at Southern Cross Club Woden yesterday focussed on ways to increase men’s awareness of mental health issues and suicide, and how organisations can assist men to seek help.

The conference workshops explored strategies for men in the workplace, older men, young men, men in the justice system and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.

The conference is organized by OzHelp, Menslink, Mental Health Community Coalition, ACT Health, Australian Federal Police, Lifeline and SupportLink.

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Christopher Van Leeuwen Asthma Foundation

IMG_7831Christopher Van Leeuwen Asthma Foundation Fund Afternoon Tea1

Cutting a birthday cake with Joyce Van Leeuwen on Tuesday.  Joyce’s son Christopher would have been celebrating his 55th birthday had he not suffered a fatal asthma attack aged just eight.

In his memory, his family established the Christopher Van Leeuwen Asthma Foundation Fund that Chief Minister Katy Gallagher launched at Duffy Primary School in 2011.

The Fund has already raised more than $5,500 to provide accredited Emergency Asthma Management training to ninety preschool teachers and supply preschools with an Asthma Emergency Kit.

The afternoon tea was to acknowledge the supporters of the fund and improve asthma awareness in Canberra.

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A Place to Call Home? Migrant hostel memories

Scheyville Migrant centre

The National Archives in Queen Victoria Terrace continues to create wonderful pocket exhibitions drawn from their enormous collection.  The latest A place to call home? Migrant hostel memories, evokes the post war migrant hostel experience.  It gives another take on the creation of modern Australia though photos of daily life in the hostels.  It is well worth a look, the exhibition is on until 30/9/14.

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Melba Shed Reconciliation Week talk


At the Melba Men’s Shed last week I was the invited speaker at their regular Friday morning gathering, their choice of topic was Reconciliation.  I’m here with Melba members, John Edge, Kevin Stone, and President Harry Redfern.  The Q&A after the talk was lively with members offering their insights and experiences.  Harry said the Reconciliation Week discussion continued around the lunch table afterwards at the Belconnen Soccer Club, McKellar.
The speech I gave in the Legislative Assembly in May about Melba and other Men’s Sheds is on the Melba Shed home page under general items and notices.

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Reconciliation week celebrations at IBA


Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) had a lot to celebrate on the Wednesday of Reconciliation week.  Reconciliation Australia Chair Leah Armstrong launched their latest Reconciliation Action Plan and they had a smoking ceremony and morning tea for the opening of the new IBA offices at Majura Park.

Around Elder Aunty Ages Shea cutting the cake are myself, IBA CEO Chris Fry, Alison Page interior designer of the new offices and IBA Chair Dr Dawn Casey.

Indigenous Business Australia describes itself as, “a progressive, commercially focused organisation that promotes and encourages self-management, self-sufficiency and economic independence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.

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Harmony Sports Tournament

IMG_7634MARRS Harmony Futsal team

The Annual Harmony Sports Tournament brings together young migrant and refugee  men and women in teams sponsored by the Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services of the ACT (MARSS).

I’m here with the Futsal team of players from around the world, MARSS CEO Dewani Bakkum, second from the left, and the AFP liaison team. There were also Harmony basketball teams at the Australian Institute of Sport enjoying the day.

MARSS has been welcoming and bringing people together and helping them make a new happy and safe home over the last 30 years. From helping with housing and settlement grants, organising social occasions and sports teams, even helping people learn to drive, MARSS does such a great job.

The MARRS Cultural Dictionary & Directory is a quick guide to the diverse community backgrounds of Canberra’s migrants and refugees.

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National Sorry Day Bridge Walk


The annual National Sorry Day Bridge Walk across Commonwealth Avenue Bridge is growing each year.  You can see the large crowd behind Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service CEO Julie Tongs and myself as we were interviewed by ABC TV.

The walk organised by Winnunga and the National Sorry Day Committee included a welcome to country from Aunty Agnes Shea, a smoking ceremony, dancers and healthy food choices.  More and more schools are taking part each year and Lanyon High School won the school banner competition in a big field.

As a guest speaker, I noted the importance of never forgetting the stolen Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander children and the families torn apart by government policies. I also spoke of the damage emerging from the federal budget with half a billion dollars taken from Indigenous programs.

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