Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with a great number of people while travelling around my electorate. While I enjoy meeting with stakeholders and councils, it is meeting constituents and touring the community based organisations they support, which I most enjoy.

While having a coffee with constituents, John and Margaret Millington in Nhill, explained the great work of Paw Po which was across the road. Located half-way between Melbourne and Adelaide, on the Western Highway, Nhill has become a centre of re-settlement for Karen people, who now make up about 10 per cent of the population, or around 200 people in all. The business of Paw Po, meaning ‘little flower’ in Karen, is a truly a labour of love. Founded by Nhill Learning Centre, the Federal Government and the Nhill Learning Centre each contributed $10,000 to the Paw Po shop to turn the dream of creating a business into reality. The group of Karen women drawn from the refugee camps on the Myanmar-Thai border, have breathed new life into the main street of Nhill which is full of chatter as the women weave, sew and work on their ever-expanding, handcrafted range.

After just a few minutes of speaking with the program coordinator, Tracey Deckert, I got a sense of her enthusiasm for the work of Paw Po. Tracey explained how the women who help make the handmade goods, have done remarkably well to grow and be a part of the community. There is no doubting that rural Victoria is vastly different to parts of Asia, but with the help of people like Tracey and the broader local community, the women and their families have settled into the Australian way of life.

Learning new skills and the local language while importantly feeling a sense of community. I wish Tracey and the team and Paw Po the best of luck and look forward to returning in the future!