Doors set to slam shut after funding cut

The ACFA team of Dieudonna Haragiriwnona, Kate Riley, Nyandeng Ayul, Prosper Sebafundi, Ary Lyimo and Jose Gonsalves. 135575 Picture: KIM CARTMELL

By CASEY NEILL

A SUPPORT service for African families will close its doors within months after losing Federal Government funding.
African Communities Foundation Australia (ACFA) in Noble Park has joined a growing list of Greater Dandenong relief agencies that missed out on Department of Social Services (DSS) grants.
The Journal previously reported that Springvale Benevolent society would lose $70,000, Dandenong Benevolent Society $58,000 and Cambodian Association of Victoria $75,000.
ACFA chairman Ary Lyimo said the organisation, which serves the south-east, accessed funding from other sources.
“They only supplement what we do really and they are not guaranteed,” he said.
And he said the grants generally couldn’t go towards wages.
“We’re relying on the Federal Government to employ staff,” he said.
“We do rely heavily on volunteers, but they still need someone to co-ordinate that.
“The funding has been going down over the last couple of years, from $400,000 to $300,000, to $200,000 and then to zero.
“Our services have not declined.
“We’ve had to replace staff with volunteers, but the number of programs we’ve run haven’t gone down. They’ve stayed the same or increased.”
ACFA offers employment services, computer literacy classes and homework classes, and help with issues around settlement, alcohol abuse and family violence.
It helps people with advocacy and court appearances, runs a radio program and engages with youth to foster positive community relationships.
“We are seen as the only go-to organisation, really,” Mr Lyimo said.
“We work with a range of other agencies who also deal with Africans but they come to us because of our cultural sensitivities.”
Mr Lyimo hopes the Federal Government will reconsider or even offer reduced funding.
“All this year we’ve had several students from TAFE on placement, learning how to run a community program,” he said.
“That’s going to disappear as well. There’s a chain reaction there.”
Isaacs MP Mark Dreyfus said organisations like ACFA improved social cohesion and helped often-marginalised community members to get on their feet and contribute.
He said many groups that are no longer being funded delivered niche or culturally-specific services.
“The organisations tasked with taking over these services, despite their best intentions, simply do not have the history or the resources to take on many of these projects,” he said.

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