The many different faces that make up the communities we call home should always remain protected from hate and extremist division.
We are blessed to live in such a diverse and prosperous community. But we cannot take our social cohesion for granted. Community harmony takes commitment. It demands a concerted, collaborative effort across all facets of our society.
Put simply, we all have a role to play in safeguarding our peaceful and harmonious way of life against the forces of hate and division.
Last year, I travelled around the state listening to the views of community leaders, academics and law enforcement about what works and doesn’t work on the ground when it comes to engaging with young people and strengthening our communities.
The feedback I received was clear. There are no simple solutions, no quick fixes. These are complex social issues which need a sophisticated social response long before they become a problem for law enforcement.
It was also clear that we are not talking about one community. We are talking about the entire community. We are talking about all of our kids. As such, we need a whole-of-society response which brings the community, government, religious leaders and non-government organisations together.
Recently, I was pleased to announce the successful recipients of the NSW Government’s highly successful Community, in Partnership, Taking Action (or COMPACT,) grants program.
In response to strong support from the community, the NSW Government doubled funding for the innovative program from $4 million to $8 million over four years. Projects have been awarded large grants of between $150,000 to $750,000 in funding, and will run for between two-to-four years.
Under the program, an alliance of 14 experienced community organisations working with their 23 partners will deliver local solutions-based projects that bring young people together and engage constructively on issues impacting on social cohesion and community harmony.
Among the many funded projects, there are innovative projects that will encourage young people to volunteer and help the people affected by violent or humanitarian crises, break down barriers stopping young people from getting involved in sport in their communities, and critically engage in a positive manner with extreme views using technology.
Importantly, is that we are not simply “setting and forgetting”. There will be a rigorous monitoring and evaluation framework in place. All COMPACT partners will be subject to monitoring and evaluation by Multicultural NSW. Partners will receive funding based on key milestones, with opportunities for interim evaluation and adaption. Furthermore, an overall evaluation plan will be developed by independent experts in consultation with Government.
Finally, the COMPACT program will complement other grants offered by Multicultural NSW, like the Unity Grants, as well as the NSW Government’s other measures to counter violent extremism.
By working with people, families and communities through the COMPACT program, I am confident we can better engage young people to safeguard them from extremist influences as well as make our community more resilient.
John Ajaka is the NSW Minister for Multiculturalism.