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Multicultural services and social cohesion

City of Merri-bek – a welcoming city for newly arrived migrants and refugees

Merri-bek City Council promotes respect for diversity of cultures, religions, and languages. We celebrate the benefits migrant and refugee communities bring to Merri-bek.

  • International students are valuable members of the Merri-bek community. We support international students living in Merri-bek by providing services, programs and information to assist with housing, employment and health. We also provide opportunities for students to participate in the community.

    Legal clinic for international students 

    The Northern Community Legal Centre (NCLC) provides legal support for international students. The clinic has a dedicated lawyer who is able to provide international students with advice about:

    • Housing and rental advice 
    • Employing 
    • Managing debt 
    • Getting financial support 

    You can find out more about this organisation on the NCLC website. Appointments for this service can be made by emailing or calling 9310 4376.

    Services and resources for international students

    There are a number of resources and services available to assist you if you are an international student.

    Study Melbourne Student Centre - free support for international students

    The Study Melbourne Student Centre (SMSC) is a free and confidential service for international students studying in Victoria. At the Study Melbourne Student Centre (SMSC), international students in Victoria can access a range of free support, information and welfare services.

    You can find out more about this organisation on the SMSC website. You can find the SMSC at 17 Hardware Lane, Melbourne or on 1800 056 449.

    Merri Community Health Services

    Merri Health offers support services including:

    • victim assistance
    • counselling
    • family services
    • integrated family violence service
    • relationship and family therapy.

    You can find out more about this organisation on the Merri Health website. You can find Merri Health in Brunswick, Coburg, Fawkner and Glenroy.

    Australian Federation of International Students

    The Australian Federation of International Students (AFIS) is a non-profit incorporated association addressing issues important to international students.

    You can find out more about this organisation on the AFIS website.

    Principles to promote and protect the human rights of international students

    In October 2012 the Race Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Helen Szoke, launched the Principles to promote and protect the human rights of international students (PDF).

    If you work with international students, we encourage you to read and understand these principles, so that you can work towards them at all times.

  • We want to make sure that our community can access and understand Council information, which is why we provide it in the following languages:

    • Arabic
    • Chinese
    • Greek
    • Hindi
    • Italian
    • Punjabi
    • Turkish
    • Vietnamese.

    We also provide Language Link services, which will connect you with an interpreter.

    Language Link telephone service

    Language Link is a telephone interpreting service for Merri-bek’s community languages. Language link will help you communicate with Council whenever you need to speak with us 

    Phone the Language Link contact number for your language. An interpreter will contact Council and interpret for you as you speak with a Council officer.


    9280 1913 - Arabic


    9280 1910 - Cantonese


    9280 1912 - Greek


    9280 1918 - Hindi


    9280 1911 - Italian


    9280 0750 - Mandarin


    9280 0751 - Punjabi


    9280 1914 - Turkish


    9280 1915 - Vietnamese


    9280 1919 - Other

  • Working with local settlement services to address key migrant settlement issues

    The Merri-bek Multicultural and Settlement Services Network: 

    • builds relationships between settlement service providers
    • provides an opportunity for service coordination in the multicultural sector
    • discusses settlement issues and settlement planning updates, and
    • shares settlement news, data, and new developments.

    Merri-bek Multicultural and Settlement Services Network membership

    The Network meets every two months. Membership is open to all multicultural service providers that service the City of Merri-bek. Invitations are extended (but not limited) to representatives from the following organisations:


    If you are a service provider organisation and want to join the network you can get in touch with us using the details on our Contact us page.

    You can read the Victorian Government’s Multicultural Policy Statement (PDF) for more information on how it supports multiculturalism in Victoria.

  • Victims Support Agency

    The Victims Support Agency (VSA) is part of  the Department of Justice and Community Safety. It is the official Victorian Government Agency helping people in Victoria manage the effects of violent crime.

    You can find out more about this organisation on the VSA website. Call the Victims of Crime Helpline on 1800 819 817.

    Removing discriminatory graffiti

    You can report discriminatory graffiti to have it removed on our Graffiti page.

    Report discriminatory media

    To make a complaint about something you have seen on television, heard on the radio, or have seen online, contact Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). You can submit your complaint in the following ways:

    You can find out more about this organisation on the Australian Communications and Media Authority website.

    Report unfair treatment in Victoria

    Many people want to stand against racism but aren’t sure how. You can watch VicHealth’s video on how everyone can play a role in preventing racism on the Australian Government's It stops now website.

Reporting racism and discrimination

When someone sees or experiences racism, they should be able to report it. You can do this on the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission website.

You can also make a complaint to the Commission about:

  • discrimination
  • sexual harassment
  • victimisation
  • racial and religious vilification.

You can submit your complaint online using the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission's online complaint form.

You can also contact the Commission’s Enquiry staff on 1300 292 153 or (03) 9032 3583

You can also report anything you think is a racially motivated hate crime to Victoria Police. You can report:

  • physical assault
  • property damage
  • harassment
  • verbal or written abuse
  • threats
  • offensive graffiti

If it is an emergency, you should call 000. If you are the victim of the crime, you should contact your local police station which you can find on the Victoria Police website.

Alternatively, you can also contact Crimestoppers Victoria on the Crimestoppers Victoria website.

Merri-bek Social Cohesion Plan

We have a number of projects in the community that help to promote social cohesion. A socially cohesive community is one in which people from all backgrounds are welcome, have positive relationships and social connections, and feel a strong sense of belonging.

In September 2020, we approved the Merri-bek Social Cohesion Plan 2020-2025 (PDF 855Kb). You can also see the Social Cohesion plan visual version (PDF 145Kb) for more information. This plan explains what we will do to promote social cohesion in Merri-bek over the next 5 years.

We will focus on 5 key themes:

  • Social and cultural connection
  • Learning and economic participation
  • Civic and political participation
  • Inclusive places and spaces
  • Diversity and discrimination

Merri-bek Social Cohesion Projects

  • 2019 - ongoing

    Merri-bek Democracy Lab is a partnership between Merri-bek City Council and The Public Value Studio. The Merri-bek Democracy Lab helps people get involved in the community through a series of workshops and networking sessions. 

    Groups meet weekly to discuss and plan ways to build greater participation in the community life of Merri-bek.

    Interested in finding out more about the Democracy Lab? Email The Democracy Lab or phone 0423 533 144.

  • Connecting Women in Merri-bek
    2019 - June 2023

    This project was run by VICSEG New Futures, a Coburg based not for profit, community organisation.

    The project set up 4 intercultural women’s groups in the north of the Merri-bek. They included women from newly arrived backgrounds and existing communities. The New Futures Training and Second Stitch Refugee Enterprise provided training and employment pathways.

    For more information contact:

    The Great Idea Program: Glenroy 
    March - June 2022

    Run by Merri Health, The Great Idea Program (TGIP) supports community members to bring their ideas for improving their local community to life. Rather than a traditional ‘service delivery’ model, these projects are community-led, which ensures the projects have relevant and lasting impacts at the local level, whilst simultaneously empowering local residents. 

    The Great Ideas that were funded in this round were Glenroy Walking Club; Meet and Greet Women's Social Group; Glenroy Carnival and Revitalise Your Body and Mind

    The Social Cohesion outcomes achieved through this project in Glenroy:

    • Social and Cultural Inclusion 
    • Civic and Political Participation
    • Learning and Economic Participation 

    Fawkner Grows Fawkner Eats
    2019 - 2022 June

    This project was run by Fawkner Food Bowls - a group of residents who grow food, share skills and socialising in a family-friendly space.

    Fawkner Food Bowls promotes social cohesion across Fawkner by:

    • Inviting newly arrived diverse communities to Fawkner Food Bowls
    • Promoting intercultural connection through gardening, cooking and sharing food and food knowledge
    • Holding food events, activities and workshops organised with residents from multicultural communities

    For more information contact:

Back Your Neighbour and Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS)

We believe that in a community, you look after each other. That’s why we are proud to be part of Back your Neighbour.

Back your Neighbour is a group of 30 Councils across Australia who are advocating for people seeking asylum living in our community left destitute by the cuts to the Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) program. You can find out more about this program on the Australian Department of Home Affairs website. The SRSS program provides basic cost of living support to individuals and families living in the Australian community waiting for a decision on their refugee status.

There are over 5,000 people seeking asylum and their families living in communities across Australia awaiting a decision on their claim for asylum without any financial support and little or no opportunity to work. This situation has been made worse by COVID-19. Many families have lost work, and they are not able to get Centrelink payments.

Every person has the right to food, shelter, clothing, education, and healthcare. We want the Federal Government to support people who are waiting for a decision on their asylum claims by providing them with an income to live on. We also call on state and territory governments to put up their hand and provide financial support. 

Merri-bek is a Refugee Welcome zone, and more information about this can be found on the Refugee Council of Australia website.

As part of our Merri-bek Human Rights Policy, we are committed to welcoming and supporting refugees and those who are seeking asylum. You can learn more about this policy on our Community wellbeing and human rights page.