June 2020

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Advance Diversity welcomed 86 people to a Facebook Live Refugee Week event hosted jointly with Georges River Council and the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (also known as RACS) on June 18.

Three local refugees shared their lived experience in short films shown during the event. Hani from Somalia said the past was tragic but she was glad she’d made it to Australia where she was now studying journalism so she could ‘tell unheard stories’. Ebad from Afghanistan said he had not been safe from the Taliban, so he fled to Australia in 2013, where he was no longer in danger but missed his family. Sajeda, a Rohingya refugee originally from Burma, said she’d delivered 46 boxes of food to needy people during COVID-19, and her dream was to set up a Rohingya Women’s Organisation.

The films were made by cinematographer Bebi Zekirovski and his wife Liz Zekirovski who had visited the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh in late 2019. They said seeing the resilience of the people who had journeyed from Myanmar to the camp where day-to-day living still held myriad difficulties had been ‘life-changing’.

Hannah Gray, a Senior Solicitor at RACS, spoke of the challenges for refugees who arrive by boat to Australia. Refugees on Temporary Protection Visas were particularly vulnerable, she said, and this had been exacerbated by COVID-19.

Ms Gray outlined practical ways people could provide refugees with support, which included listening to people with lived experience and raising awareness through sharing positive stories. People could also donate to RACS and sign the RACS petition calling for the urgent expansion of financial support during COVID-19 to include refugees and people seeking asylum.

‘Thousands of people are facing extreme poverty and destitution because they are unable to access critical support,’ she said.

The petition calls for three changes to ensure Australia’s most vulnerable receive support and that the nation is ready to grow and rebuild once the COVID-19 crisis is over. They are: financial support for people seeking asylum; access to the Job Keeper wage subsidy for all; and continuous access to Medicare for all.

In his greeting, Councillor Kevin Greene, Mayor of Georges River Council, said in the last five years Georges River Council had welcomed over 100 refugees into the area, and was proud to be a Refugee Welcome Zone.

Anthony Scerri, Manager of the Settlement and Community Services division at Advance Diversity Services, said that Refugee Week offers a chance to raise awareness of the plight of refugees around the world and of the efforts to protect their human rights.

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To maintain social distancing and keep people safe during the Covid-19 pandemic, all Refugee Week events in 2020 were held online from June 14 to 20.

For more information about the RACS petition see https://www.racs.org.au/petition

Read more about Advance Diversity Services’ work with asylum seekers and refugees here.

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Advance Diversity Services (ADS) has released a new edition of its Welcome to Australia New Arrival Kit and the kit’s fresh design and updated information make it even easier for people to find the services they need to help them settle and thrive in Australian society.

The kit has been translated into Arabic, Bengali, Nepali, Thai and Simplified Chinese. It is also targeted to ensure newly arrived migrants and humanitarian entrants in St George and the Sutherland Shire have the information at their fingertips that will help them to build self-reliance and confidence, and to connect with mainstream and settlement-related services as soon as possible after arrival.

Purna Dawadi from Nepal used the kit to build skills and find work in Australia. “The early days were isolating,’ he said. ‘Thanks to ADS’s New Arrival Kit in Nepali I found a free English class and enrolled at St George TAFE where I completed Certificate III in aged care. I also joined ADS’s Nepalese Fatherhood Support Group, which led to my full-time job – and my family is settled, with a great group of friends.’

The kit contains information about: finding English classes and employment services; enrolling children in school and contacting universities and training colleges; accessing housing and health services; locating interpreters, translation, and legal services; connecting with churches, mosques and synagogues, and more.

Community workers can also use the kit as a trusted resource in referring clients to services for assistance.

‘Adjusting to a new country and its customs can be intimidating and overwhelming,’ said ADS Manager for Settlement and Community Services Anthony Scerri. ‘The kit helps newly arrived people to find their feet – assisting them with their search for employment, a place to live, health services, schools and language acquisition.

‘It’s a very accessible resource for them.’

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Download the Welcome to Australia New Arrival Kit here https://advancediversity.org.au/resources/

Advance Diversity Services is a leading non-profit services provider that assists migrants and refugees in the St George and Sutherland Shire to thrive in Australian society. It supports people in these areas who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and all minority sexual and gender identities, including atypical biological sex (LGBTIQA+).

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Media Contact

Anthony Scerri, Manager, Settlement and Community Services

Advance Diversity Services

Phone: (02) 9597 5455

Email: anthonys@advancediversity.org.au

Caption: Purna Dawadi from Nepal (pictured here with his family) said ADS’s New Arrival Kit in Nepali helped him find an English class, skills training, work and belonging.

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Migrants and refugees who identify as LGBTIQA+ will find it easier to locate support thanks to an expanded Multicultural LGBTIQA+ Support Directory produced by Advance Diversity Services (ADS) and other leading service providers across Sydney and NSW.

ACON, ADS, ANTRA, Georges River Council, the NSW CALD Gay Men’s Action Group, the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, 2Connect Youth & Community, Kogarah Community Services, ConversAsians and SocialisAsians contributed to updating the directory and/or funding its production. A generous grant from Pride Foundation Australia also subsidised printing costs.

University of Wollongong Social Work student Hayley Bryant played a lead role in expanding the directory, which was first produced in 2018. She said the new version would be an important referral tool for organisations and a critical reference for Sydney-based LGBTIQA+ people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, including newly arrived LGBTIQA+ people who are migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless or internally displaced.

“LGBTIQA+ people from these groups face a complex array of challenges and threats,” Ms Bryant said, “so, it is critical they can find the right support when they need it.”

Searching for support will be easier now, she said, thanks to the comprehensive range of counselling services, legal support, festivals, media services, university groups, aged care, youth services and professional associations the updated directory includes.

ACON, which plays a vital role in fostering the health and voices of LGBTIQ+ people in NSW, is also leading the development of a website which will work in tandem with the PDF-printable version. The website address is in the directory and the link will be made live when the website is complete.

“The expanded directory contains information about health services, religious groups, cultural groups, social activities and more, which makes it an excellent resource for organisations and individuals,” Ms Bryant said.

“Whether people want to locate clinics, seek economic assistance, find shelter from violence, join a sporting team or gather socially with others who identify as LGBTIQA+ the directory and accompanying website will offer the contacts that can meet their needs.”

*Details of the launch of the Multicultural LGBTIQA+ Support Directory will be announced on ADS’s Facebook Page soon. See the directory here https://advancediversity.org.au/resources/ 

Advance Diversity Services is a leading non-profit services provider that assists migrants and refugees in the St George and Sutherland Shire to thrive in Australian society. It supports people in these areas who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and all minority sexual and gender identities, including atypical biological sex (LGBTIQA+).

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Media Contact

Anthony Scerri, Manager, Settlement and Community Services

Advance Diversity Services

Phone: (02) 9597 5455

Email: anthonys@advancediversity.org.au

Caption: University of Wollongong Social Work student Hayley Bryant played a lead role in expanding the Multicultural LGBTIQA+ Support Directory produced by Advance Diversity Services and other leading service providers across Sydney.

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Advance Diversity Services (ADS) has been awarded HWEI Gold Employer and HWEI Service Provider of the Year in the Australian LGBTQ Inclusion Awards announced on June 11 in a virtual ceremony hosted by ACON.

ADS staff will be presented with the award at a live ceremony on October 19.

The inclusion awards celebrate Australia’s top organisations for LGBTQ inclusion based on the results of the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) and Australian Health + Wellbeing Equality Index (HWEI). They also acknowledge leaders, individuals and networks that have made a significant impact on LGBTQ inclusion within their workplaces.

ADS entered the awards under the HWEI and scored 85/100 – which is a very high score for a first-time entry.

ADS Chief Executive Officer, Antoinette Chow, said, ‘It is great to receive both HWEI Service Provider of the Year and HWEI Gold Employer which acknowledges the work ADS has been doing to improve our services and practices to support people who identify with a diverse gender and/or sexuality (LGBTIQA+).

‘Our efforts have included rolling out our marketing campaign BE YOU WITH US, playing a lead role in developing the 2020 edition of the Multicultural LGBTIQA+ Support Directory, establishing our LGBTIQA+ Working Group, partnering to educate and inform community services staff who work with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities about best practice, and becoming a member of the Welcome Here Project.

‘We’re proud of how far we’ve come. We also know there is more work to be done in our services and across our region to ensure LGBTIQA+ people feel included and safe to pursue the services they need.

‘For the rest of 2020 we aim to have a strong focus on staff training, educating staff about gender and sexuality diverse clients. This award assures us we’re on the right track.’

ADS is a proud member of ACON’s Pride in Health + Wellbeing, a national program that provides support, training and guidance in LGBTI inclusive service delivery. It also administers the HWEI as part of Pride Inclusion Programs, a suite of social inclusion initiatives run by Australia’s leading LGBTI health organisation, ACON.

Launched in 2019, the HWEI is a benchmarking tool which provides health and wellbeing organisations the opportunity to assess, measure and improve their practices to better include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTIQ) people in their services.

To participate in the index and the awards an organisation must provide evidence of their inclusiveness across a number of key areas.

These areas include: access to LGBTIQ expertise and how often working groups are consulted; understanding of the health disparities of LGBTIQ people and how this influences service provision; inclusion strategies and implementation; inclusive and supportive care assessment, care planning and/or case management documents; visibility of LGBTIQ people in marketing and media content, understanding of how language can impact LGBTIQ people health care settings, and sensitivities around disclosure.

The information gleaned from organisations allows the HWEI to benchmark LGBT inclusive service delivery identify, map any gaps that exist, and allow for continuous quality improvements to be made. The knowledge gained from the HWEI will result in better experiences of LGBTIQ people when accessing health and human services across Australia.

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Media contact for more information: Anthony Scerri, Manager, Settlement and Community Services, 9597 5455, anthonys@advancediversity.org. au

Caption: Advance Diversity Services receives HWEI Gold Employer and HWEI Service Provider of the Year at the online ceremony on June 11.

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Local refugees have shared their stories of courage and resilience in a series of video clips produced by Advance Diversity Services (ADS) in partnership with Georges River Council and Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) to be screened on social media during Refugee Week from June 14 to 20.

Filmmakers Bebi and Liz Zekirovski shot the three short videos aware of the complexities of refugee issues and informed by a recent trip to Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, where more than a million Rohingya refugees are living in cramped and unsanitary conditions after fleeing violence and abuse in neighbouring Myanmar.

The Zekirovski’s will feature as part of a Facebook Live event hosted by ADS on Thursday June 18 at 4pm in which the videos of the refugees’ stories will also be shown. Join the event live via the ADS Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/advancediversityservices/ (registration not required).

Sydney-based Rohingyan refugee Sajeda Bahadurmia, who appears in one of the videos, said, ‘Refugee Week is very important for me. I am happy to speak out. The world needs to know what is happening to my people.’

ADS Chief Executive Officer Antoinette Chow said refugees across the world were facing the danger of displacement exacerbated by the global coronavirus pandemic.

‘We hope that the videos and the Facebook Live event will raise awareness in the community of the reasons refugees flee to Australia,’ Ms Chow said ‘We also want to show people how they can make refugees feel welcome.’

Councillor Kevin Greene, Mayor of Georges River Council, said in the last five years, Georges River Council has welcomed over 100 refugees into the area.

‘Every refugee seeking safety brings their own story of why they left home and their journey to find safety here. The sharing of stories is an opportunity to not only remember and honour their journey, but also to raise awareness to better understand the contribution that refugees make in society.

‘Georges River Council is proud to be a Refugee Welcome Zone. We are committed to welcoming refugees into the community, upholding the human rights of refugees, demonstrating compassion, and enhancing cultural and religious diversity in our community.’

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To maintain social distancing and keep people safe during the Covid-19 pandemic, Refugee Week events in 2020 will be held online from June 14 to 20.

Read more about Advance Diversity Services’ work with asylum seekers and refugees here.

The Refugee Advice and Casework Service is a strong, independent public voice for the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum.

The Georges River Local Government Area is an official Refugee Welcome Zone and supports the annual Refugee Week event and celebrations.

BebiZekirovski’s A Silent Agreement (2017) was the first Australian feature film to showcase Auslan (Australian sign language). Liz Zekirovski appeared in the film.

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Media contact for more information:Jenny Tang, 9597 5455, jennyt@advancediversity.org.au

Caption: Refugee Week 2020, Year of Welcome

(image source: https://www.refugeeweek.org.au/refugee-week-resources/)