Panel 8: The Welcoming Community
The local community’s response to the new migrants was mixed. There was some apprehension from some locals but many individuals and organisations sprang into action to provide much needed support and friendship to the new arrivals. Enterprise residents were often overwhelmed by the kindness of these strangers.
The Springvale Branch of the Good Neighbour Council had for many years welcomed newly arrived migrants and helped them to settle. The Council continued its work for the first few months after Enterprise opened.
After surveying the community in 1970 to gauge support the City of Springvale established the Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau (SCAAB), which was to provide a wide range of community services with an emphasis on services to migrants. The Mayor, Andrew Ericksen stated:
'Such a service will further unify the people of Springvale, making the older residents more secure and the new residents welcome in our community.'
One of the first services SCAAB established after it opened in 1971 was the Migrant Host Scheme. In the first 18 months 384 families were hosted. Some migrants became very close to their host family and remained friends for years.
Later SCAAB helped establish a number of agencies for different ethnic groups, including the Springvale Indo-Chinese Mutual Assistance Association and a number of Salvadoran groups.
SCAAB also developed many innovative information strategies. Every Friday Sherron Dunbar, a social worker walked with residents from Enterprise to SCAAB so that they would become familiar with the service. On the way they learnt about the community. After an information session she walked back to Enterprise with them.
The Springvale Neighbourhood House was established on a very different Neighbourhood House model. It became the incubator for many ethnic groups, always encouraging combined intercultural group activities.
Monash University students formed their own social club to welcome residents and provide opportunities to practice English.
In 1978 Lila Rheinberger, a St Vincent de Paul worker with the help of Nellie Mattill, an Enterprise Welfare Worker, established a women’s sewing group in a portable classroom at Enterprise. They began with five sewing machines and one 40-year-old overlocker. The purpose of the sewing group was to give women skills, make clothes for their families and form friendships. The group remained at Enterprise until 1988 and then moved to a shop in Lightwood Road. Women from many countries attended.
"The family became very homesick. We decided to take them to Rosebud for the day. This was the turning point for the family. They then decided to stay in Australia." - Les Lester, host family
"She is my Australian Mum."- Be Ha, Vietnam whose family was hosted by Nina Saul
"They have more than repaid us. They have shown us so much love. I’m here for her and she is here for me. It only takes one step of kindness." - Nina Saul, Be’s host
" In 1979 I noticed all the Vietnamese women were looking at my fund-raising stall from afar and felt they needed befriending. I talked to social worker Nellie Mattill and we decided that a sewing centre needed to be established to give women work skills and encourage them to form friendships." - Leila Rheinberger, volunteer
" I would stand at the middle of the room, or at the front, with groups clustered round their interpreters. This was always exciting, being part of this information giving and exchange." - Sherron Dunbar, social worker
Top: SCAAB and AMES organised essential information sessions.
Left: Lila Rheinberger started a sewing group.
Right: The Saul family hosted the Ha family from Vietnam and they became close friends.