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Wandana connecting local community

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Whether it is an organised walk around the neighbourhood, learning how to use a computer, or spending some time with others nurturing a garden and orchard – the Wandana Community Centre at Gilles Plains offers plenty of activities to bring together a wide cross section of residents.

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Run by Centacare Catholic Family Services, the centre is a hive of activity on weekdays when members of the local community participate in a variety of classes. Many of those attending are also utilising the centre’s resources to connect with others from their home countries.

As recently appointed centre manager Dijana Karaahmetovic explains, the centre is popular among new arrivals, with more than 10 nationalities represented in classes. They include people from the strong nearby Uyghur community, those who have come from Afghanistan, India, Poland, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, China, Iran, Turkey, Vietnam, Nepal and beyond.

“Community centres are the first point of contact for people wanting to connect with a community service,” Dijana said.

“It’s not so ‘in your face’, you can come, ask for help – or just come in and participate.

“It’s about offering a range of activities to get people to engage. We want to make it subtle, safe and ensure people are comfortable and feel welcome. This might open up avenues for further forms of support.”

Dijana knows firsthand the challenges faced when arriving in a new country. When she was 11 she and her family left Bosnia, arriving in Australia on a humanitarian visa.

After finishing school she studied to be a social worker, starting her career working with youth. Over the past decade she was with the Australian Refugee Association working in community development, youth services and with humanitarian arrivals.

Since starting at Wandana, Dijana said she had been delighted to get to know the many people who attend classes and said the centre was fortunate to have some “amazing” volunteers who help to run the crèche, as well as a family support worker.

Open five days a week, the centre provides a range of classes, some of which are accredited and can lead to further education and training. There are a raft of English speaking and writing courses, a dedicated band of people who tend to the centre’s garden and orchard, a patchwork quilting group and senior’s fitness class.

On Mondays a walking group meets at the centre and sets out on a 45 minute walk around a nearby lake, returning for a coffee catch up. There are also children’s dance/drama classes, a playgroup, women’s social support group, craft group and a digital literacy class. Costs are kept to a minimum, with some free or requiring only a gold coin donation. A crèche is available upon request.

While COVID restrictions changed the way courses were delivered in 2020, Dijana said she hoped in 2021 it would be possible to start up community lunches, using produce from the centre’s garden and the commercial kitchen onsite.

The facility is also available for hire by community groups, which Dijana said was another great way for people from the same cultural backgrounds to connect.

For more information about the centre go to www.centacare.org.au or contact 8215 6330.

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