In this guest post, Elizabeth Drozd the CEO of Australian Multicultural Aged Care Services (AMCS) – a role she has held for more than 20 years — discusses the rich 40-year history of the organisation that has played such an important role in the lives of so many Australians from diverse backgrounds.
Australian Multicultural Community Services (AMCS) is based in Melbourne and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month. AMCS has an extensive and proud record of service provision to multicultural communities in Melbourne and Geelong.
From humble beginnings in May 1983, the organisation has grown to be a key multicultural service provider in Victoria and a mentor to many other ethnic communities.
Its services have changed over the years; initially, the main purpose was to support newly-arrived Special Humanitarian Entrants from Poland. The organisation also looked to establish positive ageing activities for the earlier wave of Displaced Persons (currently known as refugees), who arrived in Australia after WWII as part of the populate or perish federal government policy at the time.
This focus remained until 1991, which was then followed by obtaining funding to establish a volunteer program for seniors and other home care services for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) seniors who were living in their own homes. The focus was to support seniors to continue to do that for as long as possible. This support included Home Care Packages, Social Support Groups and Pilot Service Access projects.
In addition to the practical assistance to seniors and new immigrants, AMCS has always had a focus on documenting community needs and publishing them as reports for the purpose of sharing that information with relevant decision-makers. This includes state and federal government departments, charitable foundations and other service organisations. Community needs reports were also aimed at contributing to systemic changes to the existing services (which were identified as needing improvements) to achieve service equity for CALD communities.
Overall, throughout its history, AMCS has officially published over 30 reports and books including migrants’ stories.
AMCS also has a long track record in initiating community engagement and community development projects, for example, a Moving for Life project which aimed to encourage 2500 CALD seniors to become more active in the community including participation in physical activities and exercises. A number of signature initiatives such as the Multicultural Leadership Course, Financial Literacy for the purpose of preventing elder abuse and digital inclusion for seniors proved particularly helpful during COVID-19.
One of the aspects of AMCS’ reputation is being known as an organisation that has mentored and supported other smaller organisations and communities. For example, AMCS helped to establish IndianCare and provided support to the African Women and Families Network.
In the early 1990s, its staff established numerous senior citizens clubs which are now celebrating their own 30th anniversary of mutual support of senior fellowship. A highlight has been working together with Ninti One, an organisation that builds opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and
people living in remote Australia.
Part of its commitment to making a real and positive difference to immigrants and refugees has been AMCS’ work in helping migrants secure jobs. Its Employment Team is particularly effective in assisting job seekers to secure employment, despite many barriers and challenges like having Australian work experience. For the last 40 years, AMCS has often been the first employer for newly-arrived immigrants and provides guidance and support to people who can establish or re-establish their careers in Australia.
AMCS currently employs 240 staff and over 100 volunteers that support various programs. Earlier this year, AMCS merged with Volunteer West and we look forward to scaling up the work undertaken by Volunteer West to date.
AMCS services continue to be in high demand and the agency supports approximately 1800 clients in any given week. Workforce shortages result in AMCS continually recruiting new staff including direct care staff. We welcome enquiries from anyone who would like to work for us.
AMCS looks forward to many more successful years and is excited to celebrate the re-opening of the community centre, due to be completed in May 2024.