MELS Train the Trainer Program Narrowly Escapes Notorious COVID-19

by Daniel Parkinson Jr – MELS Train the Trainer Program Graduate 2021

Trainees celebrating the successful conclusion of the training amidst another sudden outbreak of Corona in surrounding Sydney.

Had it not been for the swift and charismatic leadership of our training coordinator, the last day of our training program would have been reverted to one of the popular phrases coined from Corona – work from home, which is now a common global legacy of COVID-19.

On the evening prior to the last day of our training program, while relaxing in my sofa and looking forward to meeting prominent facilitators at yet another colossal and posh building with mouth-watering tea breaks and luscious lunch at the Legal Aid NSW Office, my phone popped up with this message on the group forum, from the training coordinator.

Unfortunately, we are unable to have the training day face to face at the Legal Aid office tomorrow. I am looking for an alternative venue outside the hotspot areas. If you know of any venue –library or community halls that can accommodate us, please let me know. Alternatively, we must do the training online.

By that time, Yasmeen Ahmed suggested Lakemba Library and I was thinking of Bankstown Library where I do my volunteering teaching. Again, another message popped in from the MELS coordinator.

Week 8 Training Day tomorrow, Wednesday 23 will be held at Community Room 1, Level 2 Bankstown Library and knowledge Centre/Bryan Brown Theatre and Function Centre 80 Richard Road Bankstown NSW 2200. The venue is a four minutes walk from the train station.

We all wore our masks on at the library the following day amidst the Covid threat. Before the last session commenced, I overheard colleagues wondering whether the last training session was going to be as interesting and informative as most of the previous sessions.

The program commenced with a presentation from the Co-director of Migrant Worker Justice Initiative and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology, revealing high-astronomical empirical research figures of job exploitation among migrants. She discussed the common challenges that prevent migrants and temporary visa holders from enjoying their human and labour rights and accessing redress for violation.

Professor Laurie Berg lauded the effort of MELS for training community leaders who will in turn educate their community members about their work rights and show our disadvantaged people where to seek help, noting that their doors are always open when community educators need them to assist in information sessions to alleviate migrant workers from employment exploitations. She recommended that the 40 hours working right granted to students should be normalised.

Participants also expressed their resentments over the high percentage of wage exploitations and promised to coordinate with all meaningful organisations in alleviating wage exploitation through collaborative community engagements and outreach programs.

A cross section of staff from Legal Aid NSW also briefed participants about the organisation’s mandate and functions in the society noting that they are also a pro-bono organisations that seek the interest of vulnerable and disadvantaged people and stand for social justice and trumpet the rule of law. “We also deliver services in the areas of underpaid wages, and unfair dismissals”, reiterated Lawyer Jenny Hansen of Legal Aid NSW.

At the end, participants practiced their presentation skills with the help of the Legal Aid Community Legal Education Team and Coordinator Tu Le. We went through mock presentations on all the topics of discussions during the eight weeks of training.

Khanddorj Uranchimeg, one of the participants in the Mongolian community said that these are essential valuable information that will be of interest to her community members. For too long, our community members, especially on temporary visas have been suffering and continue to suffer in silence.

Nancy Tam and Michele Savicki elaborated that although the presentations from the representatives of the Migrant Employment Legal Service and program partners were highly informative, they were able to put to rest a lot of misconceptions they were holding about accessing the law.

Eric Torgbenu and Noel Zihabamwe noted they left the program feeling very fulfilled that they learnt so much.

“That is why I commend MELS for such a wonderful and informative Train the Trainer program that has left us with a wealth of knowledge on employment laws to reach out to our communities,” Feroza Yasmin declared from the Bangladeshi community in Lakemba.

Bich-Thuy Pham, expressed commitment on behalf of her colleagues that they will do their level best to put out into the public all the relevant information they have received during the eight weeks of training.

Overall, we have all learnt so much from the Train the Trainer Program and we are all excited to share our knowledge to our own communities and networks.

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