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Albury-Wodonga ethnic council to provide a focus

The Border’s ethnic communities will soon have a new voice.

Wodonga Council will receive $137,278 from the state government over two years to establish an Albury-Wodonga Ethnic Community Council, in conjunction with Albury Council and federal government departments.

It’s hoped to be launched on Harmony Day in March next year, followed by a public meeting in April.

Council founding member Teju Chouhan, a Bhutanese refugee settled in Wodonga, said the council would help ethic communities to access the different levels of government.

“This is going to give a voice to the various ethic community groups in Albury-Wodonga,” he said.

Wodonga Council settlement co-ordinator Rachel Habgood said there was great excitement at the announcement.

“The ethnic community council will advocate for change, not only at a policy level, but also at a practical level working with community organisations and charities,” she said.

Mr Chouhan and Ms Habgood said in regional areas ethnic communities faced issues with representation, employment, education, health and access to services.

Skilled migrants, promised work in Australian, often found themselves jobless, while refugees found their qualifications unrecognised — which is what happened to Mr Chouhan.

“It’s appalling the polices across the board for skilled migrants,” Ms Habgood said.

The new council would be able to address these issues.

Mr Chouhan, who serves on the board of the Federal Ethnic Community Council, said the council would lead to increased social cohesion and harmony.

Member of Benambra Bill Tilley said the funding would enable Wodonga Council to guide the ethnic community council to become an effective advocacy body within the region.