Category: News

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A new website launched in Water Safety Week (December 7 to 14) offers crucial water safety tips to help save lives this summer as people head to Sydney’s beaches and waterways.

The website and the week are the work of South East Sydney Multicultural Water Safety Committee, a group consisting of water safety education organisations, local councils, education providers, and local community service providers.

The Water Safety Directory Website shares a wealth of water safety messages on its homepage and offers a search function, which allows people to select the type of resource they are after (online, flyers, or courses) and filter according to language, location, and type. 

The site was put together by a team of UTS students who volunteered as part of the UTS Shopfront program. Individuals and organisations can still submit relevant resources to be included in the site through a form on the homepage.

Jenny Tang, Community Development Worker at Advance Diversity Services (ADS), said the website grew from a directory, first published in 2018, which helped workers to understand what resources around water safety were available to multicultural communities, and where the gaps were.

‘This multicultural focus is still important given that two populations identified to be at greater risk for drowning are ethnic minority populations and migrants.

‘The website is vital in helping service providers and community groups to find appropriate aquatic services and water safety resources for the communities they work with.’

Water Safety Week gives culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, including migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, a chance to hear from fishing, boating and water safety experts about a range of topics, including rock fishing and fishing safety, staying safe in boats, identifying dangers and hazards at the beach, spotting and surviving rip currents, and more.

Salvin Kumar, Youth Worker at ADS, said the timing of the week-long event was important because Royal Life Saving research shows that the largest number of drowning deaths occur in the summer months and that there is an increased risk of drowning during public holidays and school holidays.

‘We also know drowning deaths mostly occur during recreational or leisure activities,’ he said.

‘Our aim is to increase awareness and education to ensure people know how to enjoy the water safely, and to respond appropriately if someone’s in trouble.’

Water Safety Week sessions are free online via zoom. Participants can register using the link in the flyer on the ADS Facebook page

The session on Thursday December 10 will be offered in English in the morning and then in Arabic in the afternoon. Details of the Arabic session will be sent to participants who register and identify Arabic as their language spoken at home.

Additional background …

Water Safety Week is a collaboration between: Advance Diversity Services (ADS), Asian Women at Work Inc, Bayside Council, Department of Primary Industries, Georges River Council, Gymea Community Aid and Information Service, Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW, Royal Life Saving New South Wales, Surf Life Saving New South Wales, Sutherland Shire Council, Transport for NSW and Waverley Council. 

The South East Sydney Multicultural Water Safety Committee includes representatives from Surf Life Saving NSW, Royal Life Saving NSW, Randwick City, Waverley, Bayside, Georges River, Sutherland Shire Councils, ADS, Gymea Community Aid and Information Service, Kogarah Community Services and TAFE NSW.

The committee was an initiative of the St George Multicultural Network and led by ADS to address growing concerns about drownings among newly arrived community members, and based on a similar group in the Illawarra. It has gradually grown as a grassroots initiative and is now led by Surf Life Saving NSW and Royal Life Saving NSW, who have replicated this model across two other parts of Sydney. A NSW-wide network has also been developed. This shows the strength of local community organisations like ADS to kick start action around emerging issues.

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Wendy Huang from Advance Diversity Services’ (ADS’s) Rockdale Office has been chosen as a volunteer of the Year in the Banks Volunteer Awards 2020.

Federal Member for Banks, David Coleman MP, presented Ms Huang with her award on November 13 in a COVID-safe event at Olds Park Sports Club in Beverly Hills (the ceremony was broken into four half-hour events across the day).

Ms Huang works three days a week for ADS as a receptionist and admin clerk and also volunteers as a coordinator for ADS’ Learn to Drive Program.

CEO Antoinette Chow said ADS had nominated Ms Huang for the award for her outstanding contributions to local newly-arrived families, aged and disability services, and especially for her coordination of the Learn to Drive Program, which helps newly arrived migrants and refugees gain confidence behind the wheel.

‘The program provides English-language driving support and driving practise with volunteer mentors for learner drivers to help them obtain their NSW driving licences,’ Ms Chow said. ‘Wendy works with a team to make it all happen. We are so grateful for her enthusiasm and expertise.’

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Health services, councils, community service providers, government agencies and utility providers are taking their messages for migrants online in a first for the St George region.

Migrant Information Day (MID) has been an annual event in St George for more than 20 years featuring stalls, activities and multicultural performances.

However, this year, when the coronavirus pandemic dashed hopes of holding the event face-to-face, its organisers had to think laterally.

The result is an online video festival, to commence on November 9, which will help newly arrived migrants and refugees find the support they need to settle effectively.

‘This year has forced us all to think of new ways to connect with the community,’ said Jenny Tang, Community Development Worker at Advance Diversity Services (ADS). ‘Happily, these new methods have also opened up opportunities for us and made our services and communities more resilient and adaptable.

‘One positive development has been gathering short videos from local agencies that offer insights into their services.’

Ms Tang explained that a number of community service providers, including ADS, had for the first time focused their attention on online marketing and invested money to create new videos to adapt to the lack of face-to-face promotional opportunities available.

The MID committee supported these marketing initiatives through the provision of subsidies.

‘This first-time video-fest is the fruit of these efforts,’ Ms Tang said. ‘A promotional blitz in November and early December will help to ensure the videos reach newly arrived refugees and migrants.’

Local services in the line-up include ADS, Kogarah Community Services, Rockdale Children and Families Hub, St George Community Transport and 3 Bridges Community. The South Eastern Sydney Local Area Health District and the NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service have also provided videos which cover COVID-safe information, Quitline, the Liver Clinic, and mental health services.

Migrant Information Online videos can be accessed through a single convenient link on YouTube (bit.ly/mio-2020) and the videos will be available for one year.

The MID committee is comprised of representatives from Bayside Council, Georges River Council, Kogarah Community Services, Advance Diversity Services, TAFE NSW, South East Sydney Local Health District, Services Australia and St George Police Area Command.

ADS Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/advancediversityservices/

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Advance Diversity Services (ADS) is partnering with the University of Wollongong (UOW) to enhance the ability of the settlement and community services sectors to serve the needs of CALD LGBTIQA+ communities.

The joint research project, funded by UOW’s Community Engagement Grants Scheme, aims to understand gaps in the knowledge and skills of diversity service workers when servicing culturally diverse LGBTIQ+ communities in the context of COVID-19.

‘This is a wonderful opportunity to pilot a collaborative approach to understanding the level of LGBTIQA+ acceptance, knowledge and skills of ADS’s service workers,’ said Anthony Scerri, ADS’s Manager for Settlement and Community Services.

‘Once we identify gaps, we can effectively target staff training. Our ultimate aim is to ensure people from CALD LGBTIQ+ communities receive the services they need and feel welcome and included.’

Dr Quah Ee Ling Sharon, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, is leading the research project. Dr Qua is a Singaporean-Chinese queer migrant woman academic whose work draws from decolonial, transnational and intersectional feminist perspectives and centres round community-based research, inequalities and social justice.

She said she was happy to be collaborating with ADS on the project to bring better outcomes for CALD LGBTIQA+ people.

Three innovative projects were chosen for UOW’s 2020 Community Engagement Grants Scheme launched at a virtual celebration on October 22.

Monique Harper-Richardson, Director of Advancement, UOW, and President of the UOW’s USA Foundation, said the quality of this year’s applications for grants was ‘at the highest level’ and all projects funded focused on resilience and recovery for communities affected by COVID-19.

‘These are extraordinary projects and I’m incredibly excited. I also extend my sincere congratulations to the three recipients.’

Special guest at the celebration Dr Belinda Kathlyn Gibbons, Senior Lecturer Faculty of Business, Sydney Business School, UOW, said the grants would help to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals ‘to care for all things and to leave no one behind’.

Mr Scerri said the pandemic had been hard on many in the community and especially marginalised people from diverse backgrounds.

‘This research will help to ensure LGBTIQA+ people from CALD backgrounds receive the best and most appropriate service possible.’

Caption 1: Dr Quah Ee Ling Sharon, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Wollongong (UOW) at the virtual launch of a new UOW-ADS research project.

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On October 19, Advance Diversity Services (ADS) was presented with two major awards in the 2020 Australian LGBTQ Inclusion Awards held at the Hyatt Regency in Sydney.

ADS was chosen as the HWEI Gold Employer and HWEI Service Provider of the Year – great tributes to the work it has been doing to improve its services and practices to support people who identify with a diverse gender and/or sexuality (LGBTIQA+).

Anthony Scerri, Manager, Settlement and Community Services, and Michael Cheung, Corporate Services Manager, were proud to receive the awards on behalf of ADS.

Mr Scerri said COVID-19 restrictions meant award recipients were initially announced during a virtual ceremony on June 11, so it was great to attend the more recent ‘live’ ceremony to celebrate ADS’s achievements.

‘In my speech, I was pleased to communicate how just far ADS has come in its journey towards inclusion of LGBTIQA+ people and of our desire to be a lighthouse to other CALD providers.’

Mr Scerri said one example of ADS’ educational leadership was the Pride in My Faith video project ADS is producing to help illustrate how for many people from CALD backgrounds faith and religion are entwined in culture.

‘The project features interviews with CALD LGBTQIA+ people who have embraced their queerness and faith and aims to help service providers make their policies, practices and environments safe and visibly accepting of LGBTIQA+ people.’

Another example of ADS’s commitment to inclusion was its recent partnership with the University of Wollongong in a COVID-19 / LGBTIQA+ research project, which will help ADS target effective inclusiveness training for its staff, Mr Scerri said.

The LGBTQ 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.

The awards are run by Pride in Diversity, a social inclusion initiative of ACON.

In 2020, the Covid-safe awards ceremony attracted over 750 CEOs, dignitaries, senior executives, HR and diversity practitioners, employee network leaders and members of LGBTQ employee networks and allies. It was hosted by SBS World News presenter, Ricardo Goncalves, and featured the winner of The Voice 2016, singer/songwriter Alfie Arcuri. 

Caption: Anthony Scerri and Michael Cheung, Corporate Services Manager receive Advance Diversity Services’ HWEI Gold Employer and HWEI Service Provider of the Year awards at the 2020 Australian LGBTQ Inclusion Awards in October.

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Vulnerable temporary visa holders who live in southern Sydney and are adversely affected by COVID-19 can access greater support from Advance Diversity Services (ADS) thanks to a $40,000 grant received last month from Multicultural NSW.

Temporary visa holders from South East Sydney, St George, Sutherland or surrounding areas who are facing financial hardship can receive emergency food and supplies, medical support, telecommunications, transport and essential housing (i.e. crisis accommodation and rent payment) via ADS.

CEO of ADS, Antoinette Chow, said the funding is critical to ensuring the wellbeing of vulnerable temporary visa holders who have increasingly been at risk of hardship since the onset of the pandemic.

‘ADS and other specialist migrant and settlement services have been doing what we can to assist these people with essentials, but the grant makes it feasible for us to offer dedicated emergency support.’

To receive this support from ADS, people must:

  • Currently reside in NSW  
  • Demonstrate hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Not receive any income assistance (regular living allowance payment) from the Commonwealth Government
  • Currently hold a temporary visa which may include (but is not limited to) one of the following:
    • Temporary Working Visa Holders
    • Provisional Visa Holders 
    • Partner and/or Prospective Marriage Visa Holders
    • Bridging Visa Holders (excluding people seeking asylum) 

This includes all visa sub-classes who are deemed as temporary visa holders with the exception of asylum seekers* and international students** as they have been covered in previous funding measures.

Those seeking emergency support must also make an appointment with ADS by phoning its office on (02) 9597 5455. Please also phone for further information, if required.

Ms Chow said ADS was pleased to receive this NSW Government funding from Stream 1 of the Vulnerable Temporary Visa Holders Funding Tranche 2 Grants Program.

‘The $40,000 grant has boosted our capacity to provide essential services and emergency relief to people at the margins who are struggling in these difficult times.’

Extra support during COVID

Migrant Resource Centres, such as ADS, have been at the frontlineof providing extra support to members of the Australian community during COVID – and particularly to international students and asylum seekerswho have had limited overall support from the government. 

ADS is grateful to have received a number of grants to support this work from:

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*Asylum Seekers should be referred to one of the following funded organisations:

  • The Salvation Army
  • Settlement Services International
  • St Francis Social Services – House of Welcome
  • Asylum Seekers Centre
  • Jesuit Refugee Service
  • Australian Red Cross

**International Students should refer to the Study NSW website for further support.

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A newly revised training and employment directory, which offers information to new arrivals to help them develop effective job-seeking plans, was launched online by Advance Diversity Services (ADS) on July 17.

A joint project of ADS and the St George Sutherland Shire Employment, Training and English Action Network (SSETEN), the Directory: Employment and Training Pathways is particularly useful for new migrants settling in the St George and Sutherland Shire areas.

Alex Hu, who is a recent migrant from China, believes the employment directory will help new migrants find the right training pathway to increase their skills to get a job.

‘Language and lack of understanding of how the systems work here are the major barriers to most new migrant job seekers,” he said. ‘The employment directory provides comprehensive information on English classes, training, applying for a job and the Australian workplace. I think every new migrant would find it very useful.’

ADS Manager for Settlement and Community Services Anthony Scerri: ‘the directory is a vital resource and guide for ADS Community Services Officers when they provide clients with knowledge about training, employment, recognition of overseas qualifications and English classes.’

‘The directory assists our staff to help people find the right training organisations and courses, the appropriate job-search agencies, and the best options for voluntary work to gain local experience.”

Mr Scerri said the updated version of the directory in English will be helpful to new migrants in the local area and funding was being sought to get it translated it into a variety of community languages.

­See the Directory: Employment and Training Pathways online here https://drive.google.com/file/d/1h0Wf6FMJK-YLKb8_efnedJBUCJApGJ0J/view

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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.