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Subject: Sociology »


Migrant Resourse Centres - Interview for making Multicultural Australia (Excerpt)

Helen Meekosha.

Helen Meekosha speaks on Ethnic issues and migrants.



Date Added:

25 June 2002


Making Multicultural Australia


mov (Quicktime);

File size:



1min 2secs


Coordinator, Illawarra Migrant Resource Centre, Wollongong, NSW, 1979-84; School of Social Work, University of New South Wales.

I was constantly told, “Oh you can’t reach migrant women” and I was saying why? Obviously they were some of the most isolated women - the Turkish women or Yugoslav women at the time rather than the... the older, established Eastern Europeans, like the Polish, the Finnish, who were quite involved in the Ethnic Council. So I wanted to go beyond that to the newer arrivals... and I guess the more working class...


I tried to sort of hang out in the places they would hang out, which meant going to - which unfortunately was only a way of contacting the men - so I did actually go to things like Turkish gambling clubs and so on, which was all a bit difficult really. And the whole issue to do with your gender and relating to migrant men was very difficult, when I went down to Port Kembla and Cringila and places like that. I also tried to go in through the union movement, but when I went to talk to people involved in the Labor Council, they’d say “Oh yes, we get on very well with the Ethnic Council”. So there was very little awareness in the late seventies within the union movement of immigrant issues really. They identified the people who were really quite anti-union, as people that they knew, as if that was all right, so the Anglo union movement looked at the ethnic communities sort of as a homogeneous block. But they didn’t see that there would be right, left, pro-union, anti-union within the ethnic communities. So I was quite surprised that those sorts of guys hadn’t picked up the nuances.

There were Pinochet supporting Chileans, Greek colonel supporting Greeks, etc, involved in some of the mainstream ethnic organisations. And yet you had the labour movement, on the other hand, who would be supporting resistance in Chile, resistance in Greece, etc, but they hadn’t actually picked up that there were those sorts of political dynamics in their own town. So I felt that was rather difficult... I made some contacts with Labor Party people, and there were quite a few Greek activists in the Labor Party.

And the other area was looking at things like Chile solidarity and so on. But they weren’t anything to do with the Illawarra Ethnic Council. They were very much on the margins. And there were quite a few cultural groups coming out of South America... from the Chilean song movement area and so on. So I started to make some links with immigrants who actually worked in the steelworks, mainly - mainly the husbands. In terms of the women, that was far more difficult. And I started... to visit women doing outwork in their homes, via sort of contacts, like a rolling snowball effect. And there was no real sort of community organisation for them in a sense.

Interview for Making Multicultural Australia, 1994.