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Launching the new Multicultural Community Action Network

Sep 11, 2015

On World Refugee Day, we launched the new Multicultural Community Action Network (M-CAN) to help improve the sexual health of people from refugee and migrant backgrounds.

Refugee and migrant communities are more vulnerable to blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections and generally experience poorer health outcomes compared to the established Australian population. The idea behind the Network is that communities are more powerful when they work together and support each other.

The Network will bring together members from refugee and migrant communities to help like-minded people work towards improving the sexual health of their own communities. High-risk sexual behaviour can be a consequence of stress-factors related to the migration experience, exposure to new sexual cultures and loss of social networks.

Many of the members who make up the network have previously volunteered with the Centre as ‘peer educators’. They conduct group education sessions with their community on sexual health. Peer educators are trained by the Centre’s staff so that sexual health messages are correct and delivered appropriately. They are respected members of their community and are seen as a credible and trustworthy sources of information. This makes peer educators ideal candidates to be positive influences on their communities.

As a group, members of the Network will become advocates on the health issues which they believe are important.

They will develop community-driven campaigns to raise awareness and promote change. The Centre will support the Network by offering professional development workshops to improve communication skills and show members ways they can make their voices heard.

On the day, guests enjoyed dance performances from Doors of Opportunity and Nersian Pearl. Our guest speakers, Samuel Sakama, an M-CAN member, and Pastor Samuel Smith spoke passionately about the purpose of M-CAN and how it would help their communities. Associate Professor Edwina Wright from the Department of Infectious Diseases Alfred Health, Monash University and the Burnet Instititue officially launched the Network. After the official proceedings, members of the Network took part in the first M-CAN forum.

Participants worked in groups and discussed the question ‘What are some of the barriers affecting multicultural communities in discussing sexual health?’. The second part of the forum gave rise to discussions around the role of media in advocacy. The next M-CAN forum will take place later this year. For more information, please contact Tapuwa Bofu at tapuwab@www.ceh.org.au.

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