History – The Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia

In South Australia the Good Neighbour Council (GNC) was established in 1949 and sought to assist migrants to settle in Australia. Its policies would be seen these days as somewhat assimilationist, not aggressively so, but new arrivals were expected to fit into all aspects of Australian life both in their public and private lives. However in the 1970’s changing attitudes led the dropping of the so called White Australia Policy and as a result a greater diversity of new migrants arrived on Australian shores. This called for a different response. A new more flexible attitude, encouraged migrants to continue their cultural traditions where they did not conflict with Australian law, integration was now seen as more acceptable.

The new diversity in Australian society meant that new arrivals needed assistance in settling into their new home. With the increasing number of migrants and their changing needs it was considered that a new approach was necessary and in 1975 the Ethnic Communities Council (ECC) of South Australia was established, although the Good Neighbour Council continued in a diminished role until 1989.

The ECC expanded the service role that had been so admirably carried out by the GNC but to its mandate were added advocacy powers. Unfortunately, due to divergent views, five years later the United Ethnic Communities of South Australia was established and this duopoly was to continue until August 1995 when the merger of these two Councils, renamed the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia.(MCCSA), was to continue unbroken the work of the previous Councils.

At first the MCCSA was located in Gawler Place, eventually moving to 113 Gilbert St in the City where it has been based for over 15 years. The MCCSA has, with the funds available, tried to balance the practical service needs of the communities with advocacy so that the Government of the day is aware of the changing needs of migrant communities, both of recent arrivals and the long standing, but aging communities. At present (2019) MCCSA is running 15 different programs for a wide range of communities. These programs fill niche needs but also act where the Government considers a non-government organisation can achieve an objective more readily. In recent years the MCCSA has grown rapidly and as the peak body now represents 115 ethnic organisations.

With a history of service to migrant communities going back forty five years and inheriting a tradition of seventy, we observe the changing nature of a multicultural South Australia and nation. The needs of recent migrants differ in many respects to those of previous generations, and so in its role in reflecting and transmitting to governments the changing needs of immigrant communities and where necessary meeting these needs the MCCSA remains critical for the immigrants’ and our society’s well-being.

The needs of migrant communities change in an ever changing world, but the MCCSA remains a steady friend and source of support to all multicultural communities

Dr Ian Harmstorf OAM BVK
Deputy Chairperson and Historian
February 2019