Coffee with… Jessica Bishop, Manager, Migrant Information Centre (Eastern Melbourne)

Jess Photo

Jessica, you’ve just taken on the role of Manager with MIC. Can you describe your work?

The Migrant Information Centre (Eastern Melbourne) (MIC) works with people from refugee and migrant backgrounds who live in the eastern region of Melbourne to help them settle into life in Australia. The MIC also assists people who have a disability and older people who face barriers due to their diversity to access services to meet their needs. My work involves overseeing the many diverse programs, services and activities run by the MIC, associated staff and budgets as well as sourcing new funding, reporting on existing funding and overseeing the various work plans for MIC programs and activities. This ranges from casework services with individuals and families to playgroups, homework support programs for children and young people, women’s and men’s groups, information sessions, family violence counselling and capacity building programs and leadership training for community leaders to name a few.

What sort of experience have you had prior to starting with MIC?

I have worked in the community sector supporting people from refugee, asylum seeker and migrant backgrounds for over 12 years.  Before taking on the Manager role at the MIC I was the Executive Officer of The Social Studio, a not for profit social enterprise based in Collingwood that uses the fashion and hospitality industries to provide training and employment opportunities for people from refugee and migrant backgrounds.  This vibrant grass roots organisation provided a fantastic opportunity to learn about running a social enterprise and to see the positive impact it can have for participants. I also worked as a co-ordinator in the Casework Program at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre for several years, as well as at the MIC as a Community Development Worker across a range of diverse programs.

What opportunities do you see for MIC in the future? What are you excited about?

The MIC has always been successful at implementing new and creative approaches and initiatives to best meet the changing needs of the diverse individuals, families and communities who we assist. As new communities move into the area, sector and funding changes arise and our clients face new challenges in their lives, I’m excited about working with our fantastic team to develop new, innovative programs and initiatives to best address these needs and produce positive outcomes for our clients.

What strengths do you see in the communities you are working with?

I am often humbled by the strength and resilience shown by people who come to Australia as refugees and asylum seekers. For many of us, it is hard to imagine being forced to flee our homes, our communities, our families and everything familiar to us and start a new life in a foreign place. Many clients who come to the MIC do just this, often with very limited knowledge and understanding of the culture, language, social systems and structures in Australia before they arrive, not to mention the experiences of persecution and trauma they bring. Not only do people merely survive as they navigate this new environment, many thrive and go on to lead incredibly fulfilling and meaningful lives in Australia. For some, this may be getting a job and gaining financial independence, for others it might be learning English, finishing a TAFE qualification or seeing their kids make friends and do well at school. It’s a privilege to be in my role and to watch individuals and families go through this transition over several years and I am always moved by the determination and strength that our clients show in doing so.

What’s the first thing you do when you sit down at your desk in the morning?

I don’t sit down at all – in the interest of a healthy workplace, many of us at the MIC have stand-up desks!

If you could change one thing about the world right now, what would it be?

A greater empathy towards and understanding of the plight of people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds across the globe.

If you weren’t working with MIC right now, what would you be doing?

Continuing to fight the good fight somewhere! Or sitting on a beach with a good book or two.

We acknowledge the Wurundjeri people and other peoples of the Kulin nation as the traditional owners of the land on which our work in the community takes place. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.