May 30, 2024

Deep listening: recent insights from our communities

Making time to listen

Visiting the Spectrum offices, you’ll hear a lot of conversation – whether it’s our bubbly receptionists greeting a client, enthusiastic welcomes to a colleague returning from holidays, or our social support groups chatting about this week’s activity.

However, we also know that there’s another, important part of these conversations: listening. Listening; to grow and maintain our deep roots in multicultural communities, personalise our programs and services for each client, and uplift and advocate for the diverse groups we support.

We understand that it’s not always easy for people to share their story – but when they do, it creates significant impact and positive change. Sihem Sayoud, Spectrum Group Facilitator, agrees. “Sharing stories in a group setting is very beneficial for everyone involved. When individuals or parents share their personal experiences, it allows for collective learning and valuable discussions.”
Making time to listen deeply to the needs, hopes, and stories of our communities is always a priority for our team.

In recent weeks, we’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to listen through community events and feedback from our program clients.

Pictured: Spectrum Group Facilitator Sihem Sayoud, and spending time with PINC group alumni


Last week, an incredible group of multicultural seniors gathered with Spectrum Northern Federation of Senior Citizens Clubs at the “I’m a Senior – Ask Me!” Forum – an opportunity to share stories, workshop ideas, and pose tough questions to a panel of experts on matters that impact older people in their communities. You can read more about the Federation Forum here.

At our recent Aged Care Information Session, we welcomed hearing the contributions – and frustrations – of many of our attendees regarding the Aged Care system in Australia. You can read more about our Aged Care Information Session here.

In our Settlement team, our programs for newly-arrived migrants also produce vital insights about the experiences and needs of new Australians. Participants in a PINC (Parenting in a New Culture) program recently opened up about the complex challenges they’ve faced throughout their settlement journey in Australia.

The isolation of migration

It may be easy to assume that for migrants arriving through the Skilled Migration Program, the process of starting a new life in Australia is straightforward and immediately rewarding. For these groups, there is greater independence in navigating those early months or years than those who arrive on humanitarian visas. However, for many migrant women who arrive on Partner Visas, the absence of structural support, dedicated programs, or advocates to assist in their settlements creates a sense of isolation and uncertainty. This was a sentiment shared by many participants in our PINC group, with far-reaching impacts.

Education and career

For some women, this isolation particularly affects their education and career prospects in Australia. They reported experiencing barriers in having their overseas qualifications recognized, understanding whether their prior University major applies to particular roles, or obtaining clear information about work and further study options available to them here. In several cases, these barriers have resulted in a postponement or backward step for skilled and educated women with much to contribute professionally in Australia.

Health, safety and wellbeing

For others, this isolation has challenging health implications. For anybody experiencing fertility troubles, it can be incredibly taxing, stressful, and lonely. In several instances for our PINC participants, these physical and mental impacts were compounded by having to navigate medical processes without outside help or support and lacking the comfort of family or friends in Australia. Some mothers recalled battling postpartum depression, again, made even harder through their isolated circumstances.

In some cases, lack of awareness could have harmful implications, particularly for vulnerable women and children. In discussions around family violence (FV) and child safety laws, many PINC participants were described as ‘surprised’ to learn what comprised FV and how, if experiencing violence, there were support services and options available to them. With more light being shed in recent months on the urgency of addressing gendered violence in Australia, it is clear that social isolation and language barriers make migrant women and children particularly vulnerable. This also underlines the importance of community partnerships between organisations that support CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) families, to create as many touchpoints as possible for those seeking help who may be otherwise isolated.

Shared hopes – and challenges

Through these discussions, it is evident that despite their unique challenges, these mothers share the same needs and hopes as all Aussie mums – to learn new parenting skills, to enjoy watching their children thrive and flourish, and to build supportive friendships with other parents in their community. And like many mothers juggling multiple roles, they also share the challenges of maintaining a sense of identity, ambition, and personal development while supporting the needs of their families.

Across all life areas, a key point highlighted by our PINC group is that the isolation experienced as new migrants in Australia is often self-perpetuating. Without an advocate or case worker to develop their awareness of community services, many migrant families continue to navigate without knowing what services and supports are available or how or where to access them. Sihem, who facilitates the PINC program, says “It’s crucial to acknowledge this gap and find ways to engage and support these families in prospering in their new environment.”.

Personalised support for diverse communities

She reflects that for facilitators of groups and programs, the simple act of listening has huge impacts on being able to create tailored and culturally-appropriate services within our diverse communities. “Listening to these stories can reveal the need for extra support, which is provided through one-on-one sessions, case study approaches, or referrals to internal programs and external services.”. It also ensures that our work at Spectrum remains innovative and responsive to community needs as they evolve. Says Sihem, “It helps us to reflect on our program content and [develop] regular updates and relevant resources to address new issues.”.

At Spectrum, we’re proud that our services and programs like PINC provide a starting point for migrant families to gain a foothold in building a sense of belonging in their new Australian lives. Through friendship, education, information, and support, new Australians are better equipped to settle safely and become active, productive members of our community. And by listening to the authentic experiences bravely shared by these women, we can better advocate for their needs – ensuring that everybody feels at home, and fewer migrant families ‘fall through the cracks’ of settlement systems.

Whether to a Mum of a young family navigating a new life in Australia or an older person from an established ethnic community navigating the aged care system, it’s clear that listening is a vital first step – and only the first step – to being effective advocates for our multicultural community. We’re grateful to be entrusted with these stories and proud to continue to create safe, supportive spaces to listen. Over the coming months and years, we remain committed to turning these learnings into effective action in partnership with our clients and community.