Gippsland woman Kerryn Carpenter has always wanted to travel the world – now the world is coming to her.
When newly arrived refugees and migrants settle in the area, she is one of the first people they meet. Her job is to welcome them and help them establish their lives in Australia.
“They want to be welcomed and be happy, and they often wish for a better life for their children than they had,” Kerryn said.
“I enjoy meeting new people, I love hearing their stories. Some of them are really sad and tragic, and I really feel for the journey they’re on in Australia.”
Kerryn is a Multicultural Service Officer at the Department of Human Services. She travels around Gippsland to work with people from all over the world, including countries like Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan. She provides crucial support and access to government services at a time when everything can seem overwhelming.
“I listen to their stories to understand where they’ve come from and what they want to achieve,” Kerryn said.
“I can be part of that and help them connect with other providers and start to give them that sense of community.”
This year marks 30 years of the Multicultural Service Officer program. When the program started, there were only a few specialist staff working mainly in Sydney and Melbourne.
Now, 70 officers work in cities and regional areas around Australia. Last year they helped more than 185,000 people. They also have strong links with more than a thousand community organisations which also support refugees and migrants.
Scott Mitchell from Gippsland Employment Skills Training said Kerryn visits his students every couple of weeks to make sure they’re being supported.
“She’s able to interact with them and understand their needs. Without that service being available to us we wouldn’t be able to support our students get back out into the community and working,” Scott said.
Kerryn said one of the best parts of living and working in Gippsland is seeing the families she’s helped enjoying life in the local community.
“My son plays basketball and last year he played against a boy I’d met, and I spotted him on the court and I thought, ‘I know that family’ and that made me smile,” she said.
- You can find more information about our Multicultural Service Officers here.