10 Feb, 2010 Last updated: 27 Jan, 2015

Greater Shepparton City Council has been awarded a major new program by the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation aimed at improving community acceptance of cultural diversity.

Greater Shepparton City Council has been awarded a major new program by the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) aimed at improving community acceptance of cultural diversity.

The new trial program, called LEAD - Localities Embracing and Accepting Diversity - will be run by two local governments in Victoria, Greater Shepparton and the City of Whittlesea.

VicHealth Chief Executive Officer Todd Harper said: “Communities that support cultural diversity have been found to have better health outcomes.”

“Greater Shepparton is being funded $250,000 a year for three years. The City has been chosen because of its strong history of supporting cultural diversity and Shepparton’s Aboriginal heritage.”

“Research shows that race-based discrimination is clearly linked with mental health problems, particularly depression.”

“It is vital to promote diversity and reduce discrimination in order to build productive, socially cohesive and inclusive communities,” Mr Harper said.

Greater Shepparton Mayor Cr Geoff Dobson said: “Greater Shepparton City Council is embarking on a three year program, which could become a model for all Australian local governments.”

“The difference between what we are doing now and what we will do under the LEAD program is the focus on our community as a whole, not just on people from migrant, refugee and Aboriginal communities affected directly by discrimination or racism.”

“We will be working across a number of areas including sport and recreation, employment, education, the media and local government to strengthen our communities.”

“Greater Shepparton communities, organisations and businesses are overwhelmingly supportive of this new initiative.”

“I’m looking forward to being involved in this program and to Greater Shepparton’s involvement in making our communities healthier, happier and safer,” said Cr Dobson.

Mr Harper said that it is ground-breaking for local governments to be working in such a comprehensive way, right across their local communities for better health and acceptance of diversity.

“Research shows that around Australia 47 per cent of all people from non-English speaking backgrounds report having experienced discrimination.”

“Up to three quarters of the Indigenous population report experiencing race-based discrimination,” Mr Harper added.

The LEAD program will also be evaluated by a University of Melbourne team to build on the model for Victoria. 

LEAD is formally being launched by Jeanette Powell, State Member of Parliament for Shepparton District, Shadow Minister for Local Government and Aboriginal Affairs at Rumbalara Football and Netball Club, Mercury Drive, Shepparton at 3pm Wednesday 10 February.

The Federal Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and beyondblue are funding partners in LEAD.

The Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the Municipal Association of Victoria are implementing partners.

This announcement coincides with a VicHealth Board forum being held in Shepparton today with community leaders to discuss health, planning and community wellbeing issues in regional areas.