Maureen O'Keefe

After a delicious dinner of Rice, Vegetable curry and Dahl we were treated with an eloquent and informative address from Maureen O’Keeffe — Support Services Manager (and acting co-manager) of Diversitat.

Diversitat is a non-profit organisation promoting harmony, cultural diversity and social diversity in our society.

It was founded by The Geelong Ethnic Communities Council during the 1950’s to cater for post-war immigrants to Australia.

It operates 11 sites in Geelong and Colac with outreach services to Ballarat.

Lately much of its resources have been directed to Asylum Seekers and Refugees resident in the area.

There are about 60 million displaced persons and refugees in the world of which about 250 find their way to Geelong each year — and half of those are under 25 years old.

Displaced persons are defined as Refugees only when they find their way to a second country and their plight is recognised — and counted — by UNHCR.
People who transgress borders without that recognition are counted as Asylum Seekers.
The major sources of displaced persons and asylum seekers are East Africa and the Middle East.
They flee drought, famine, and most importantly violence.
Many of the arrivals are ‘women at risk’ — separated and widowed women supporting children alone fleeing from violence and persecution.
Diversitat accepts Federal Funding to care for these new arrivals educating them to new concepts such as Human Rights and educating them to navigate the Australian Government, its services and simple things like road laws and banking.
Diversitat is supported by a professional staff and over 200 volunteers; the volunteers contribute to transport, driving practice, homework assistance for students, one on one coaching for adults and children and most importantly teaching English.
Support to Diversitat can be made by volunteering and/or donations.
Donations can be of cash, fabrics for their sewing classes and non-perishable foods for their food bank.
Shopping at Whole Foods also supports Diversitat.
Recently Diversitat took over an OP-Shop in Belmont which will provide a clothing store for their clients and cash flow for the organisation.
President Judy Beasley thanked Maureen for her enlightening coverage of the plight of asylum seekers and refugees in Geelong and the work of Diversitat.