A helping hand

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Multicultural Liaison Officer Richard Dover talks about his amazing experience facilitating engagement between police and culturally diverse communities here in Wyndham. It is part of the services offered by the Victoria Police to the community. He describes how the emerging communities that receive extra support are able to solve big issues, feel integrated and start afresh. Find out about his strategies and achievements.

Victoria Police sustains a network of Multicultural Liaison Officers (MLO) based in a range of metropolitan and regional areas. Richard Dove is one such officer and the importance of his work cannot be underestimated.

Richard assists with information and advice on policing diverse communities in local government areas – like Melton, Hobson Bay, Maribyrnong, Wyndham City and Brimbank City. He describes with passion the main goal of his job — being worthy of the trust of new and emerging communities because only then is it possible to break down barriers and help them.

“We tend to focus on groups that need assistance. Newly arrived refugees couldn’t have opportunities in the past, especially those who feel compelled, due to persecution or economic circumstance, to migrate abroad. It is so important to create an environment of confidence for them. We want to help them integrate, be accepted, so they feel welcome and equal,” he says.

An inclusive Australia is one where all the multicultural communities have the capabilities and opportunity to learn, work, engage and have a say. The progress in some areas is expected to lead to improvement in others.
Nevertheless, it is a process that develops over time. Dove says there is a paradox with some policies, trying to settle people too quickly, and then as a result, bigger problems appear in the long term. “Remember that some of them are born in refugee camps. They have never seen a freeway, or even a multi-storey building their entire life.”

The turning point

“Everyone has a different turning point. And that is where I say my job, politician´s job, Council´s job, interdenominational organization’s job. Everyone´s job is to ensure that people who have just arrived can get extra support in the early stages. That way, we don’t have problems in the later stages.”

Richard is not talking about giving hand outs. The idea is to prepare the newly arrived migrants step by step and to protect them until the moment when they are capable of looking after themselves and have been integrated into the community. “With the extra support the communities come alive and they get out and start building their lives. They are hopeful again,” he says.

In his experience, if the communities feel there are too many barriers and give up, it is extremely hard to bring them back. “We want to provide wellbeing and support by keeping the family´s balance. The family is the thermometer. It is the first place where people turn on each other when something is going wrong,” said Richard adding that one of the biggest causes of family dysfunction are the feelings of not belonging, not having opportunities or the unemployment that generates hopelessness and furthermore, it could be the root of crime in a future.

The latest available data provided for Specialist Homeless Services Collection

(SHSC) 2012 Australian report, states that women and children are the main groups seeking homelessness services and the main reason are domestic family violence, followed by housing crisis and financial difficulties. Over the years, Richard has seen various problems faced by refugees. Moreover, once they are living in the community they have to fight with lot of new problems.

As a result, they start turning to alcohol, gambling, drugs, inter-generational fighting and this leads to a lot of isolation.

Yet despite such inevitable problems, it seems likely that these new migrants will, one day, become embedded in the new culture. At the same time the natural process of integration through jobs, schools, media and the political process should allow these newcomers, like previous generations of immigrants, to adapt to the Australians standards that have made this society so attractive in the first place. “But each culture has its own rhythm to integration,” the officer states.

Some strategies and achievements

Richard’s work is based predominantly in the creation of programs and projects that will create significant interest and impact within the multicultural communities. In Wyndham, for instance, he is close to Werribee Housing support, Wyndham Legal Services, Ames, WCLEC, Wyndham Humanitarian Network Sudanese Subcommittee, AKO, and others. He has been in hundreds of presentations as speaker, in ESL classes and workshops, creating strategies to provide assistance.

But he not only collects the problems and needs that immigrants express through the community leaders, he also personally attends multicultural events where people gather and tries to find, from his cultural perspective, other problems that maybe have not been addressed by their own cultural groups. “I am able give my input or my opinion where I am thinking the organizations need to improve.”

Richard’s dedication enables a community that is diverse in culture and faith to have access Victoria Police services and it has borne fruits. Since 2009, Richard has organised for the Karen community to march in ANZAC parade in Watton Street to recognise their support of Britain in World War II.

“The biggest victory I ever had,” Richard says, “was a Report of the Wyndham

Sudanese Community. It was the first time that more than 160 South Sudanese men, women and children joined together. It was designed to empower them by providing a means to have their voices heard.” The Wyndham City Council nominated the program for the National Crime and Violence Prevention Award and also the National Local Government Award.

Richard also won a “Friend of Africa” award at African Australian National Awards in Canberra. He received that award from His Excellency Mohamed Mael-Ainin – Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to Australia at Parliament House.

And then there is his role as an author – related to but very different from his day job. Richard wrote a book named “Us Karen” with illustrations by the Karen artist, Tha Do. “It is an amazing story of the Karen people’s journey, as refugees, and how they have adapted and integrated. The idea is to encourage teachers and children all over Australia to use this book to build a better understanding, acceptance and pride in the Karen people’s culture by crossing the rivers and mountains alongside them…”

The former Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, described this book as a
“Lovely, eloquent and a simple, a story of hope”

Contact Details: Leading Senior Constable Richard Dove
Werribee Police Station
130 Princess Hwy.
Werribee 3030
Phone: 9742 9454

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