TREE – Using Diversity to Promote Health

“Diversity: The art of thinking independently together”  – Malcolm Forbes

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What makes Robinvale unique? When the TREE committee gathered to discuss how to promote health and wellbeing in the community, this was one of the first questions that emerged. The consensus yielded three words than beautifully captured the uniqueness of this town – People, Diversity and Health. Robinvale is a town of more than 4000 people and houses people from over 40 different cultures. Yes, Robinvale is as diverse as rural towns come. This town also prides itself in the importance it places on health and wellbeing, across age groups, gender and cultural groups at both the micro and macro levels.

One such venture that Robinvale District Health Services (RDHS) has undertaken this year is the ‘The Ripple Effect of Ethnicities’ Project or more commonly known as the TREE Project, which aspires to bring together the unique facets of Robinvale as a soft entry point to promoting and advocating mental health and wellbeing. The TREE Project, which is a pilot project, aims to create a safe and comfortable platform for people from different cultures to engage and participate in the community.

The TREE Project is planned to be delivered in two parts – a skills exchange program and a multicultural festival. Given that one of the key objectives of the TREE Project is to empower the voice of the different cultural groups in the community, at several points in the project development, representatives of the cultural groups in the community were consulted to make this a project that is relevant, relatable and transferable to the community members. As part of this process, two focus group meetings were held with the community representatives to introduce the project, recruit participants for the skills exchange program and provide updates on the project. Through this, community representatives provided constructive feedback and advice on the quality and development of the project.

The skills exchange program, which is the first part of the TREE Project, commenced on the 1st of July with nine participants from different cultural backgrounds. For this 18 week program, each participant was requested to nominate a skill inspired by their culture and teach it to the rest of the participants.  This then provided the participants with an opportunity to learn about different cultures and develop their social circle, transcending language barriers. Since the inception of this program, the participants have been exposed to a range of cultural skills including – Arts and crafts (Tapa painting, Fijian basket weaving, Indian art), cooking (Fijian, Italian, Indian, Malaysian, Thai cuisines) and fashion (saree tying techniques). The success of this program thus far was aptly reflected in a statement made by one of the participants, who commented, “This a fantastic program (for me to get to know the health service and make friends) given that I am new to Robinvale.”

The Multicultural Festival is the next phase of the TREE Project which is to be held on Saturday, the 5th of November, 2016, at the Robinvale Community Centre. This festival is designed to be a public celebration and a platform for the community to exhibit and view the ethnic cultures of the Robinvale residents. This will involve multicultural food stalls, market stalls, cultural performances and many other surprise elements. If you are interested in contributing to the Multicultural Festival by holding a cultural market stall or performing on stage, please contact Poorani Balasundaram at (03) 5051 8160.

More information about the Multicultural Festival will follow in the next few weeks. So watch this space!

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