Melbourne (Press Release from the office of Multicultural Affairs Victoria, 28 July, 2016);

The Andrews Labor Government is building on Victoria’s reputation as a leader in multicultural affairs and social cohesion by bringing together three key agencies to form one dedicated office.

The new Multicultural and Social Cohesion Division will work to address the needs of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and the wider community into the future.

The new division builds on previous work to enhance the independent role of the Victorian Multicultural Commission and brings together the Community Resilience Unit, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, and the Office of Victorian Multicultural Commission.

This will allow the offices to share information and work closely together in a more coordinated way.

The change will reduce the duplication of services and provide both the Government and the Commission with greater access to streamlined information. It will also allow government to improve the way it shares knowledge, research and intelligence.

It will provide greater clarity about the role of the Victorian Multicultural Commission in the community and help it to inform government policy.

With the rise of extremism, there are growing perceptions of threats to our safety, and changing attitudes towards multiculturalism, race and faith. The new group will work to support the community and maintain harmony in society.

A review, carried out by former Victorian public servant Warren McCann, found that while Victoria has a rich multicultural heritage, the state needed to take a new approach to meet the needs of the community.

The review involved extensive consultation, which included multicultural leaders, Commonwealth and State officials and staff in the existing branches.

Victorian has a well-earned reputation as an inclusive and welcoming state and this new group will further strengthen the leadership and coordination of multicultural and social cohesion policies. 

Minister Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott says, “In Victoria we don’t merely tolerate difference but celebrate it. However we must never rest on our laurels and these changes mean we are well placed for the future…. the new division will ensure that Victoria continues to be a strong, welcoming and vibrant multicultural community.”

According to the Multicultural Affairs Review Factsheet July 2016; in late 2015, a review of DPC’s Multicultural Affairs portfolio was undertaken by a former Victorian civil servant, Warren McCann. Currently, DPC has three main agencies, which focus on multicultural policy and services in Victoria: the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMAC), Office of the Victorian Multicultural Commission (OVMC) and the Community Resilience Unit (CRU).

It was commissioned in response to the emerging complexities facing Victoria, Australia and the region. The rising tide of extremism at a global level brings new challenges to the Victorian Government. Solutions to these challenges require robust, evidence based policy and streamlined decision-making processes for effective and responsive service delivery, particularly to communities feeling marginalised by current social and economic trends.

A key recommendation of the review was to establish a new Multicultural Affairs and Social Cohesion Division to strengthen policy development, better lead and coordinate whole-of-government policy development and ensure better outcomes for the Victorian community.

Victoria has been, and continues to be, regarded as the national leader amongst State and Territory jurisdictions in the management of multicultural affairs and social cohesion. The purpose of the review was to build on this strength, and seek ways for further improvement.

DPC recognises that the collective knowledge and experience of the people working in this field is a valuable State asset. A capability review of staff formed part of the review to look at ways in which DPC can better support staff to develop their capabilities, particularly in policy development, to effectively respond to the needs of diverse communities in an increasingly complex multicultural environment.

The review was a consultative process, consisting of interviews with the agencies’ senior leadership in relation to strategic priorities, and with 67 government and community stakeholders.

Key recommendations

Overall the review had 24 main recommendations, pertaining to capability development, improving performance, the grants program, data collection and analysis, and structural reforms. The majority of recommendations were related to improving the structure for effective policy formulation and service delivery.

The review recommended the streamlining of organisational units occupying the multicultural space into one coherent Division. Changes to reporting and staffing structures will ensure better alignment across the strategic, policy, research and operational levels of the Government’s multicultural affairs portfolio.

A more focussed and integrated approach will strengthen opportunities for policy dialogue across Government service delivery departments, and with the business sector, creating improved economic outcomes for Victoria’s diverse communities.

The new division builds on previous work to enhance the independent role of the Victorian Multicultural Commission and brings together the Community Resilience Unit, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, and the Office of Victorian Multicultural Commission. This will allow the offices to share information and work closely together in a more coordinated way.

The change will reduce the duplication of services and provide both the Government and the Commission with greater access to streamlined information. It will also allow Government to improve the way it shares knowledge, research and intelligence. The division will provide greater clarity about the role of the Victorian Multicultural Commission in the community and help it to inform government policy.

Key recommendations for reform can be summarised as follows:

  1. Bringing in the CRU with the OVMC and OMAC into the new Multicultural Affairs and Social Cohesion Division;
  2. Provide Division staff with capability development opportunities, particularly in key areas such as evidence-based policy making (including secondments in central DPC, and vice versa);
  3. A high level whole-of-government coordination mechanism to provide strategic leadership and direction on the government’s multicultural and social cohesion agenda.

The new Division of Multicultural Affairs and Social Cohesion will consist of the VMC Secretariat and three Directorates: Settlement and Communities; Social Cohesion and Community Resilience, and Policy Coordination. This means the major change will be in team structures. There will be no job losses.

The immediate steps for transition to the new structure will take place commencing in July. The transition to the new Division will include the restructure of all three units at the same time. This will ensure that social cohesion initiatives are effectively integrated and well-coordinated across the teams from the outset.

A steering committee will be established to ensure effective governance of the implementation process, and will be led by the Secretary and made up of key DPC Executives.

To ensure the transition to the new Division progresses in accordance with the consultation timeframes in the VPS Enterprise Agreement 2016, there will be a comprehensive consultation process with staff from the affected teams.