Deputy Chairperson: Dr Ian Harmstorf OAM
Born and raised in Adelaide, Ian is a third-generation German after his grandfather migrated to Australia in October 1882. He however moved to Germany between 1960 and 1967 as he felt he ‘did not fit in’ by the local community; he did not feel comfortable with his German name as he was a target for abuse as during his school days Australia was at war with Germany.
“I was influenced by the ill-treatment by fellow Australians during my school days in the second world war and this shaped my future,” he said.
“SA has proportionately three times as many people of German descent than any other Australian state and their vilification during the war left many deep scares.
“The contribution of Germans to SA society had been swept under the carpet during the world wars including the changing of 69 SA German placenames.”
This lead him on a journey to search for his German roots in north Hamburg, where he taught English. On returning to Australia he received an MA on his work on German migration to SA from Hamburg and in 1987 he completed a PhD looking at the assimilation of Germans in SA.
Languages teach culture as well as language, he said. Organisations such as the MCCSA, whom he has been a member since 1999, have an impact on the wider Australian perspective; more people of Anglo background are often not aware of the contributions of non-English speaking persons and background.
A long-term contributor in the field of ethnic affairs, both in the academic and administration aspects, he has widely published on migration and multicultural positions in SA. He is a respected authority on the German contribution to SA and has lectured at The University of Adelaide, and taught overseas including United Kingdom, Italy and Germany, including the American Air Force School System, in Germany.
Ian was awarded the BVK, the German Order of Merit for his contribution to German-Australian understanding. He is currently the vice Chairman of the MCCSA and Chairman of the German Speaking Aged Care Services. Ian has previously been President of the SA German Association, Chair of the School for the German Language and a member of the Multicultural Education Coordinating Committee.
Treasurer: Silvio Iadarola
Silvio, who was just 7 years old when he arrived in Australia from Campania, Italy, says mainstream Australia is now a blend of cultures as we are all migrants.
Bringing people together is important and especially within the health care industry, he said. Silvio, his mother and older sister arrived in Australia 5 years after his father as he could not afford to buy airline tickets for the entire family. He worked tirelessly at Holden’s car factory to bring his family here.
“My aim through the MCCSA is to highlight the importance of health and to see the equality for all in accessing mental health services which is language, culture and linguistic appropriate,” he said.
Silvio has a wealth of knowledge in this area having experience on the board of Bene Aged Care and on the board of the Coordinating Italian Committee of the Italian community volunteers.
“A separate unit needs to be set up to deal with multicultural issues to focus and work as a cohesive team,” he said.
As a former nurse and mental health care professional, he aims to highlight the importance of needing to establish a multicultural hub in the psychiatric unit of hospitals – a transcultural mental health unit for mental health patience.
“This service would help people who have suffered from cultural change and trauma from war-torn countries,” he said.
“The unit should have health professionals who are linguistic appropriate and integrate with mainstream services.”
Multicultural Health Units have been proven to assist with decreasing the pressure on mainstream services as they offer programs appropriate for CALD communities.
“There are already people in the workforce who are bilingual, so this service would simply encourage them to do interpreting and they would get a small payment for it, just as First Aid Officers,” he said.
“This is a human rights issue and we need to keep up with the way we treat people.”
Dr Daniela Costa
Dr Daniela Costa has been contributing to the Australian public health system from the day she arrived in 1970. She arrived in Australia when her husband Professor Marcello Costa, now Professor of Neurophysiology at Flinders University, was offered a job in medical research.
Dr Costa had returned to Italy alone to complete her medical degree and then returned. She has worked in the public health system since then, including the Flinders Medical Centre and Repatriation Hospital, the Drug and Alcohol services, Women’s Health Centre and Migrant Health Service, until moving to private practice in 2013.
As a board member of the MCCSA she would like to contribute and relay the importance of culture and language in the health system structure.
Dr Costa said: “I saw a need in covering multicultural issues in women’s health. It is important to develop programs to make the health system equitable and work with more women of diverse backgrounds. In my work I have been engaged with many different health promotion activities. At the MCCSA I hope to continue to place emphasis on this important aspect of health care through my community networks.”
“It is important to go to community venues and workplaces to inform women, whose main language is not English, on preventative health issues such as cervical cancer and breast cancer, as well as in early intervention for mental health issues,” she said.
Language and culture are important to connect, communicate and collaborate to share health knowledge, Dr Costa said.
“Addressing cultural and language barriers enables sensitive issues to be communicated. In my experience addressing women’s health issues is an important doorway for women to talk about themselves and their personal and social issues. It is also a way to uncover the experience of migration,” Dr Costa said.
Dr Costa became increasingly more aware of the link between mental health issues and the complexity of the migration experiences, for instance in the context of refugees.
In 1999 Dr Costa took the initiative to start a communication channel with women of Italian origin to share their life experiences and network together, via the website www.australiadonna.org.au
Other accomplishments include representing the Australian-Italian community at the Council General of Italians Abroad (CGIE) for 14 years, being appointed to the Premier’s Council for Women in 2001-2003 and been awarded the Community Award for International Women’s Day for the recognition of her work in women’s health.
Through the MCCSA Dr Costa hopes to lobby to have a dedicated Multicultural Mental Health unit within the SA Health Department. By having such a unit, it will address a few issues which relate to mental health: women’s health, aged care, refugee suffering, social isolation, language barriers, feeling disconnected.
Malgorzata (Gosia) Skalban OAM
A Polish migrant who arrived in Australia in 1968, Gosia has spent many years offering her experience and skills in multicultural community work, specifically within the aged care industry.
With an extensive higher education background – with a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Social Administration and a Master of Business Administration – Gosia has served on a range of community and state government committees and is now employed with RDNS SA Dom Care part of the Silver Chain Group as a Multicultural Consultant.
One of her achievements was to set up a link and advocacy service in the metropolitan area, Whyalla and Riverland. Aside from the aged care industry work, Gosia has also worked with refugees and domestic violence victims.
Within her own Polish community, Gosia has been actively involved for decades and is currently the President of the Polish Women’s Association of SA, a member of the Dozynki Harvest Festival and Polish Hill River Church Museum. Aside from her involvement in the Polish community, Gosia is also on the Council for Women of Diverse Cultural Backgrounds and was a member of SA Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission for 14 years.
“I want to give back to the community, my experience, knowledge and expertise . Whether we are Asian, European, non-Christian we all have the same humanity and all of us need to link and integrate,” she said.
“When I was growing up in pre-multiculturalism culture it was assimilation. I was forced to Anglo-Saxonise my name and that is how I became Margaret.”
Gosia is on the MCCSA Board with the determination to contribute her knowledge to enrich the future so the bad experiences of the past are not repeated.
“We have a new stream of migrants and it will be ongoing if we are to grow as a nation. We need to assist new arrivals to feel part of mainstream society,” she said.
“We need more educational programs to have a cultural exchange amongst our existing communities,” she said.
“Cultural awareness will end stereotypes and negativities in our diverse communities and we need to have diversity in all workplaces and to reflect our population in all spheres.
“We need a leap not a step and it must become mandatory to acknowledge the benefit of diversity by having diversity in the workforce.”
Gosia’s hard work has been acknowledged and the Polish Government awarded her the Gold Cross for services to the Polish community in 2000. In 2009 she received the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland for services to the Polish community.
The Australian Government also recognised her hard work and in June 2005 she was awarded an OAM for services to the community.
Having an understanding of how war and conflict impacts people’s lives, being empathetic towards refugees and knowing first-hand how to rebuild lives and maintain culture in a new homeland are all the virtues and strength Margota brings to the MCCSA board.
The Latvian school teacher was born in a bunker in East Germany just after her father was killed. At just 3 days old her mother jumped on a train to escape from the Russian army as it invaded Germany as it was obvious that Germany had been defeated. For about one year her mother lived on a farm and worked as a farm-hand.
With the defeat of Germany, the United Nations was responsible for organising the thousands of displaced people now residing in Europe. They organised temporary accommodation in refugee (or sometimes called Displaced Persons) Camps so that they could do the paperwork in order to place these people permanently elsewhere more permanently as Germany was unable to look after so many refugees. The next 3 years of her life were spent in a displaced camp for refugees and that is where her mother remarried.
Eventually Margota, her mother and step-father made their way to Australian shores by boarding ‘Wooster Victory’, a refurbished American warship in Naples, Italy, arriving in Adelaide and were then taken by train to Woodside in the Adelaide Hills where she lived for the next 4 years.
Margota left Woodside and arrived in her new home in Plympton in 1954. By then the Latvian community had created several organisations so that like-minded people could meet and socialise in their own language. One such organisation was the Latvian language school, which was held every Saturday morning where classes taught the Latvian language, history, geography and singing.
About 1955 the Latvian community purchased a property in Wayville and that became the community centre for Latvians in Adelaide, which is the cultural centre for the Latvian community in SA. Margota completed the Latvian primary school and so did her 2 children and her 2 grandchildren as well.
In the mid 1970’s Latvian language was taught at high school level and taught as a matriculation subject. Margota taught Latvian until 1990. Margota continues to organise cultural projects for primary aged children at the school.
Now serving her second 5-year term at the MCCSA board, she has assisted in setting up aged care groups for carers and co-ordinate respite for Latvian seniors. Margota is pleased to now see the next generation stepping up and taking on the leadership positions in the Latvian community.
Main areas she wants to focus on while serving on the MCCSA board is addressing the importance of learning English. Teaching English to different cultures is vital, as many migrants are illiterate in their own language and need to access Government departments that provide assistance and information relevant to these new arrivals whose culture is very different from the established community in SA. At the same time it is important to maintain their culture so that they can enjoy and participate in festivals and activities that they were born into, she said.
“Once they have enough English language skills they then can communicate with other cultures and promote their culture,” she said.
“This is where MCCSA is able to provide a facility giving an opportunity for all diverse cultural groups to meet, exchange information, create new friendship and have a sense of belonging, rather than being alone and isolated.
“It is important to have programs in our communities which allow people to express themselves and connect – to enable cultural activities to continue to the next generation and embrace their inherited culture.”
Arriving in Australia in 2012 as a skilled migrant, Rajendra Pandey instantly got busy volunteering with St John Ambulance and local council.
He wanted to make a difference in his new homeland and use his skills gained from working for the Australian Government, between 2005 and 2012, as Team Leader in the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, which has an office within the Australian High Commission in New Delhi.
“I identified the need for improving coordination between community organisations and took up the position of state president of Vishva Hindu Parishad of Australia Inc. (World Hindu Council of Australia),” he said.
Rajendra is busy with serving as a Lieutenant in the Australian Army Reserves, Area Manager with St John Ambulance SA, working as a professional accountant and auditor, President of the Vishva Hindu Parishad of Australia Inc. (SA) and Convenor of the, Hindu Organisations Temples and Associations (HOTA) Forum.
Aside from now being a public servant in South Australian as a contract management and compliance specialist, Rajendra joined the MCCSA as he is committed to helping women and children and young families migrate to Australia and to fulfil their “full potential”.
“I am passionate about bringing various ethnic communities together so that they can collectively contribute to a stronger Australia,” he said.
René was born in 1948 in France of Frisian-Dutch parents. He studied in France and worked in special education. In 1970 he immigrated to Australia and worked in various jobs while learning English in Sydney and Melbourne.
He came to Adelaide in 1971, worked in disability as an educator, than director of services in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide, for State and Commonwealth Governments. He returned to clinical work in 1988, as the Senior Clinical Psychologist with the SA Mental Health Service for Older Persons, working mostly with older immigrants, as well as doing pro-bono work for individuals and various NGOs. He retired from paid employment in 2016.
René is also a linguist specialising in the neuropsychology of language. He is perfectly fluent in 4 languages and functionally fluent in 5 more, which has facilitated communication with his patients in assessment and treatment. He has broad and in-depth practical multicultural experience.
René maintains his professional concerns, and his interest in transcultural psychological adjustment but now also concentrates on the contemporary challenges of multiculturalism in the context of history and geopolitics.
René has tried to put his experience and insights to the service of the values, mission and goals MCCSA.
Having a nursing, events management and aged care background for over 30 years has given Patrizia insight into what diverse communities need for cultural and language appropriate services.
People need to be empowered and some are not articulate in their own language so knowledge and background of culture is needed to allow people to have choices. Many elderly needing aged care services want to stay home and there are home care packages which encourage this, so culture is a must and language is also important to have choice and be empowered.
Patrizia joined the MCCSA board as she saw the need for people to have appropriate resources to make decisions and choices about lifestyle and the need for culture and language.
She understands the complexity and experience of the migration process on a personal level as she migrated to Australia from Italy with her parents at a young age but felt she did not feel part of the community and moved back to Italy as a young adult.
Patrizia returning to Australia, after living in Rome for three years, with an understanding of the power of advocacy and acknowledging that information and knowledge is power, as it encourages an individual to make choices and to enrich the diverse Australian community.
It is this level of personal experience which puts Patrizia in a position to promote and advocate information which is uniquely ‘culturally and linguistically’ necessary.
“I encourage and support advocating in specific languages to have the messages delivered in a culturally appropriate way,” she said.
Integration is important and not assimilation, whereby culture and history are not lost, and Australia becomes a richer nation. Through MCCSA she hopes to advocate for the community to be more integrated to add further value to our nation.
Patrizia said: “I would like to see decision-makers embrace full participation within the diverse communities in social, economic and cultural lifestyles. Understanding culture and language removes barriers and allows us to integrate.”