Opening the conversation for new Australians
IMAGINE being a person from a faraway country. Imagine you speak English as a second language (if you can speak it at all) and imagine you arrive in a small, close-knit town of our region where everyone knows everyone but you only know the immediate family or friend you emigrated with, or even worse, nobody at all. How would you feel?
This is the lonely scenario Conversations in English (CinE) group leader, Zita Stark, found herself in upon her arrival from Hungary only a few years ago and which, she explains, motivated her to devote herself to helping other new arrivals to the Western Downs and Australia.
"CinE emerged from the need to strengthen English levels and, even more importantly, self-confidence. Everyone deserves to understand the Australian way of life, connect to locals, form human relations and enjoy a quality life," Ms Stark said.
"During CinE gatherings, members talk in English, learn the language; share their own stories, culture and knowledge of the world; and through guest speakers and local volunteers they learn about Australian history, culture, customs, values and the Aussie way of life.."
The CinE group started up in Chinchilla in early October 2014 but didn’t “go public" until March 2015 through a Harmony Day event at the Chinchilla Library.
In a very short amount of time, Ms Stark said she was contacted by locals in Dalby, Miles and then Tara wanting help learning English and assistance with integrating into the community.
The most recently formed group was established in Tara in March this year. A move which was initiated by Filipino-born Leandra Ashwell who moved to Australia in 1993 and has called Tara home with her husband and children since 2014.
“She is a warm-hearted, lovely lady who connects to many people in the Tara community. When she noticed the need for a CinE community in Tara,” Ms Stark said.
“Leandra loves this little town and enjoys the company of many other Filipinos and her Australian friends.”
In just four months the CinE Tara group has gained 30 members with two Australian-born locals helping as volunteers.
The four CinE groups operate independently from each other but have regular large social meet ups where family and friends are all invited, Ms Stark said.
“(Our) third big meet-up..will be a most enjoyable picnic at Jimbour House (in) early July, where some keen Filipino members...have already offered traditional singing and dancing,” she said.
“It is great to see how love between people of different cultures can foster personal development.”