Q & A with a Commissioner

07 June 2017

Appointed on 9 May 2017, VMC's newest Commissioner brings a lot to the role - a passion for community service, improving lives, celebrating difference and generating a sense of belonging.

We spoke to Mr Dinku to find out what inspires him and what he thinks the issues are, in between discussing his wealth of experience in securing employmnt for people from diverse backgrounds, formally recognising African Australian achievements and liaising with the African Union. 

What is your cultural/religious/linguistic background and how has this influenced your personal journey?

I was born and grew up in a country with its own unique identity, known as the origin of humankind, the birthplace of coffee, a place famous for its own alphabet, unique language and its own calendar with “thirteen months of Sunshine”. I was born in the Horn of Africa in a place previously named Abyssinia, now called Ethiopia. My understanding of cultural diversity is a journey that begins at a personal level among the culturally and linguistically diverse groups of my home country, and my own family.

I came to Australia as a migrant 11 years ago in the hope of securing my dream job as a lawyer to advocate and serve the community. Unfortunately, I was unable to achieve that due to the differences between the UK legal system and Australian legal systems. After two months and many job applications, I gave up and started searching for jobs in another profession. One month later I got my first job interview in Australia and landed a job which gave me the chance to serve and empower others by assisting settlement - finding jobs and improving lives for skilled migrants.

I was employed as a workforce participation consultant under a Victorian Government program called Workforce Participation Program (WPP) and was actively involved in establishing and delivering a specialised service for migrants and employers, aimed at equipping newly arrived migrants to compete in the local labour market. Since then, I’ve gone from role to role in different organisations. Despite many challenges, my experience in finding employment was one of the best compared with others – something that helped me to build the confidence to help others among multicultural communities.

My understanding of the needs of culturally diverse clients has developed from my own background, but also from the experience I gained in different parts of the world. For example, when I had the opportunity to live and study in Europe and learn so much about cultural, social, psychological, political, economic, and historical factors of diverse multicultural communities across the world.

What are the most critical employment issues for people from diverse backgrounds?

The most challenging issues for multicultural communities are competing in the current labour market and struggling during settlement. Having the right skills sets and academic knowledge doesn’t guarantee a job offer. Most employers require Australian work experience in addition to soft skills which fit well with the existing workforce. To satisfy all these requirements, understanding of the local labour market is essential and up-skilling and participating in work experience activity will provide more opportunities.

We need to facilitate better community education and engagement to raise awareness of legal rights and responsibilities and available services. We need to address the shortage of affordable housing by making suitable private rental accommodation available and minimise long wait periods for public housing. We also need to facilitate training programs with opportunities to contribute to the workforce. Employment services need to be culturally sensitive, they need to support those who have health and mental health issues, and provide culturally appropriate aged care and home care services for diverse communities.

Recognising multicultural community services for their contribution and supporting their future role is also the least we can do to bring about change that will improve people's lives. We also want to plan for the future together and collaborate through partnership service delivery models.

What are you most excited about in your new role as a VMC Commissioner?

I feel incredibly honoured and privileged to have been appointed as a Commissioner. It is a very competitive position which comes with great responsibility and accountability in advising policy makers about issues concerning Victoria’s diverse communities.

Throughout my career, I’ve been privileged to work with and learn from grassroots community members, develop an understanding of their needs and find solutions to their concerns - so I’m looking forward to bringing this to the role. I’m also excited about what we can achieve when we work together collectively, it’s important to encourage harmony and active collaboration among diverse communities. Last but not least, I want to also focus on promoting opportunities for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds –and support younger generations to access those in particular.

Your community involvements range from AFL community ambassador to Chairperson of the African Union Delegates Liaison. Which of your current activities are you most passionate about?

For me, it’s all about active participation and community engagement in positive ways, it’s an overall chance to give back to community and society, without any particular priorities or focuses.

Raising awareness about AFL as a Multicultural Community Ambassador is equivalent to creating opportunities for new and emerging communities, as sport is a platform for skill-based participation without discrimination.
I also have been very involved in the African Australian community, bringing people together to learn from each other, to recognise role models who can serve others by example and to host events which focus on inspirational community values and recognise the contributions of African Australians to this great nation. It is a long journey for any community to arrive at this stage, and I am proud that as a result we are working together closely with a lot of trust and integrity.

While I’m passionate about community service, it’s also important to build a roadmap between Victoria, Australia and the African Union by facilitating engagement. Launching the Pan African Australasian Diaspora Network (PAADN) is among the international activity I have engaged to achieve this. I believe it has equal value to community service and develops those meaningful relationships among stakeholders.

What gets you out of bed in the morning? What motivates you on a personal level and in your work?

Once you’re in a position to help others it brings you a great inner satisfaction. I have been given an opportunity to share and contribute to society - which motivates me to do more. While I’m engaging in community activities, I have the perfect job - every day helping others, finding jobs and improving lives by increasing income for families. I’m passionate about promoting multiculturalism and celebrating our differences and I like to encourage understanding among communities about how celebrating diversity begins at home, among family members.

I also believe the more we acknowledge valuable community leaders, the more inspiration and incentive it brings to their work. I think this is incredibly important - working for community is about active participation, which gives you sense of belonging.

And I get great satisfaction out of feeding my family and paying the bills!

See Mr Dinku's formal bio on our Commisioners page.

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