Karen Organisation of Bendigo

Partner Profile

The aim of the Karen Organisation of Bendigo Inc.  is to preserve the Karen cultural identity through teaching the Karen language and cultural traditions (particularly to the young) while also helping others to gain the support they need to settle and integrate successfully into the Bendigo community.


Karen Community Hub and Language School
Feb 2017 - Mar 2020

The Karen are an ethnic minority group from Myanmar (formally Burma). The first seven Karen refugees came to Bendigo in 2007. 12 years later, there are now over 1,000 members of the Karen community living in Bendigo, most coming from refugee camps in Thailand. Karen is now the second most spoken language in Bendigo.*

Most Karen refugees come from small mountain villages. With the Greater City of Bendigo having a population of only 100,000, it is more suitable for Karen people than life in a big city. Maintaining a person’s cultural, ethnic and faith identity is known to be a strong, positive factor for settlement.

Funding from our Community Program has helped to establish a community hub to hold classes for young people to learn the Karen language as well as other important cultural traditions such as music, dancing and weaving. These classes will help to preserve the Karen cultural identity, improving self-esteem, well-being and positive mental health.

The community hub also brings an opportunity to teach these traditions to non-Karen, raising awareness of the minority group, which enhances integration.

The language classes are being held by a qualified school and TELSO teacher (teaching English to speakers of other languages), and all classes have been a great success so far, being attended by both the Karen community, as well as non-Karen.

The hub was officially opened in March 2019 by the City of Greater Bendigo Mayor Councillor Margaret O'Rourke, with Federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters attending. There were several non-Karen community members who also attended to support this vibrant community.

*Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 census, https://quickstats.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2016/quickstat/2004?opendocument, viewed 13 June 2019.











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