From left to right: CALD program past and current participants Lida, Emma, Baki, Murtaza, Syed Moiz, Liiban, Javed, Elaha, Asif, and Helbert.
Rabia (Emma) Qumbri, 20, is a young Afghan woman who proudly stands pool side at the YMCA-managed Dandenong Oasis as a lifeguard.
Emma came to Australia with her family in 2010, and once her two sisters began working as surf lifesavers she knew she wanted to follow in their footsteps. However, pathways to work in the aquatics and recreation industry aren’t easily accessible for newly-arrived Australians.
In recent years, the YMCA has teamed up Life Saving Victoria (LSV) to train and employ groups of young people from the CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) community to become lifeguards at City of Greater Dandenong (CGD) aquatic centres. The program is funded by YMCA Open Doors and LSV.
Supported by Council, the CALD Aquatics Pathway Program has recently undertaken its second intake of four members.
The initial pilot program saw five participants from African, Asian and Middle Eastern backgrounds successfully complete the training over two months. Emma was one of these participants, alongside Syed Moiz Mubashir (21) from Pakistan, Greg (Krikor) Ashnaklian (31) from Armenia, Asif Mehri (20) from Afghanistan, Baki Dayanadan (27) from Sri Lanka. All of the inspiring young people are now employed by the YMCA.
“I joined the program and completed the training and now work at Dandenong Oasis and have also done shifts at Noble Park (Aquatic Centre) and Casey ARC,” Emma said.
Emma is a Muslim and wears a hijab. With the Dandenong community being one of the most diverse in Australia, she has become someone that Muslim women and others feel comfortable to approach.
“It’s really good. Other women and Muslims sometimes feel more comfortable talking to me than they would someone else and they often ask me questions. I am able to help and that is very satisfying.”
“I like talking to people and helping them and that is a big part of this job,” she said.
Emma added that her family and community were very proud and that the position was one where she felt equal and was treated that way by everyone.
Dandenong Oasis Manager Trudy Micallef said it was still evolving and having new elements added.
“The aim of the program is to have participants ‘pool deck ready’ when jobs come up,” she said.
“Cultural and language differences can sometimes mean there is confusion and even a lack of trust between pool users and lifeguards. Having access to lifeguards from the same background with the ability to explain and communicate in the same language is a huge positive in these situations.”
Participants of the program are identified through various means, as LSV Multicultural Projects Manager David Holland explains they survey classrooms, local communities and even on the beach.
“They are typically people who show an interest in aquatics and aspire to be role models or leaders within their communities,” he said.
“The program is designed to provide training according to each participant’s needs,where they become proficient in each area, before practicing their skills through volunteering then entering the workforce.”
“It encourages inclusion and recognises diversity. The results in the City of Greater Dandenong have been outstanding and we are very keen to extend this to other CALD and multi-cultural communities.’
The next intake will see four 17 year-olds Afghans Murtaza Naseri and Sarah Qumbri, Hellbert Pemba from Malawi and Sudanese born Nya Gach Loch join the YMCA as volunteers with a view to gaining employment.