SIXTY years since the first Spanish-speaking people arrived in the Illawarra, a new group has formed to give them one united voice. The South Eastern Spanish-Speaking Action Group is a new social network initiative, officially launched in Shellharbour recently.
It has been formed by the Spanish and Latin American Community Organisation, Warilla-based CAPAH Multicultural Association, Illawarra Chilean Association, four representatives of the Spanish community of the Illawarra, Consejo Consultativo de Illawarra - Dept. 20 and the Latin-American Social and Sport Association.
This group is consolidating leaders and delegates of multiple Spanish-speaking organisations and social groups to become one, in an effort to empower and strengthen the Spanish-speaking community and inspire the broader community through understanding of their culture.
It seeks to showcase and preserve their rich and colourful cultural characteristics, such as language, music, arts, social habits, cuisine and folklore.
Mount Warrigal resident Ximena Hendry is of Chilean descent, and is a representative for CAPAH Multicultural Association.
Mrs Hendry arrived in Australia 35 years ago and has been living in the Illawarra for 29 years.
"It makes me feel proud of what we have achieved; this is history," she said.
"Sixty years since the first Spanish-speaking people arrived in the Illawarra region, SESSAG have people from 21 different countries and to achieve the unification of all the organisations is history in the making.
"This achievement will allow SESSAG to develop an umbrella co-ordination to facilitate multidisciplinary approaches and address the complex needs of our community.
"SESSAG provides a harmonious open communication between these organisations, community groups, service providers and government departments for the benefit of the Spanish-speaking community."
Mrs Hendry said services for the elderly and engagement of young people were key issues facing the region's Spanish population.
"There's a lack of information in the area about the services provided for Spanish-speaking people," she said.
Mrs Hendry said IRIS Research indicated that from 2006-2011 the Spanish-speaking population of the Illawarra grew by 56 per cent for those aged 70 years and older.
She also said projections for 2011-26 showed it would be the third-largest culturally and linguistically diverse community.
For more information, call 0434 548 991 or
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