Shymaa Khalifa: ‘ADS is equipping me to be a case worker’

Shymaa Khalifa: ‘ADS is equipping me to be a case worker’

Shymaa Khalifa began as a volunteer with ADS in February 2020, went on to complete a student placement, and then returned to volunteering. She says the friendly and educative environment at ADS frees her to be her best self – and is assisting her to achieve her goal to be a DV case worker.

What drew you to volunteer and/or to do your student placement with ADS?

I heard about the programs ADS provided for new migrants and was really keen to be a part of them. I started as a volunteer, then applied to have my work placement with ADS. After finishing my hours as a student, I was back to being a volunteer. The friendly yet educative environment was what encouraged me the most. As a new migrant myself, being a part of ADS diverse staff is a great opportunity to learn more about community without the fear of being judged or belittled.

What are you studying and where?  How has your personal history and/or your cultural background informed your work with ADS?

I’m a Diploma of Community Services student with TAFE St George. I came to Australia in 2018. Starting to familiarise myself with professional work places was an intimidating step for me. So, coming to volunteer with ADS and being able to be myself was a gift.

I have been always interested in community services (CS) but with no chance to practise my interests in my country, so coming to ADS and working in inspiring programs such as Specialised Intensive Services (SIS), Settlement Engagement and Transition Support (SETS), and the Domestic Violence (DV) pilot is considered my actual first opportunity to put my deep interest in CS in action.

What ADS programs have you assisted with and how have you been encouraged to apply your studies and expand your skills in your role?

I assisted with SIS, SETS, Emergency Relief (ER)and DV pilot. Under the constructive supervision I was able understand more about grants, funding, different visas and more and more about refugees and asylum seekers. As a diploma student, just studying case management was at some point not enough to see the whole picture. Assisting in the SIS program practically expanded my vision on what case management actually means. I saw that to have a client with complex needs, SIS addresses these needs elaborately. I also learnt how the case worker can work with the client on a case management plan to achieve the client’s goal before the Exit stage.

What has been the most challenging work you have done with ADS during your time as a volunteer and student on placement?

One challenge for me was understanding the limitations of every service, mostly due to funding.

What strengths have you brought to your role / placement?

My strengths are: being a keen learner who wants to know more about community services in Australia from different views; my lived experience as a new migrant; and being a bilingual person

What has been your proudest moment, greatest achievement, deepest connection in your time at ADS? 

I still remember my first meeting with a client who identifies as LGBTIQ+ and she looked at me with doubt but how, now, she would answer my calls with enthusiasm and discuss anything with me with trust.

‘Be You with Us’ is ADS’ tagline, and it reflects the organisation’s commitment to welcoming and accepting everyone of all ages, gender, culture, sexuality, and religious beliefs. How have you been encouraged to ‘Be You with Us’ during your time with ADS?

I felt so supported all the time to express my ideas, practice my prayers and ask if I don’t understand anything. As a parent, I’m always able to put my family and my children first and never worry about work when I’m home.

What more should the Australian Government be doing to welcome migrants and refugees and to ensure they find the support they need to adjust quickly and well to life in Australia?

It is a priority for the government to provide more relevant and comprehensive orientation programs for newcomers on all kinds of visas.

What is your ultimate goal and how has the work you’ve done with ADS equipped you for what you would like to do next?

My goal is to work as a DV case worker. Working with ADS and with its SIS and DV pilot programs gave me a lot of relevant experience in this area.

I love ADS because … I can be the ‘best me’ there.

Sharon Yuan: ‘I’m now a confident advocate thanks to ADS’ support’

Sharon Yuan: ‘I’m now a confident advocate thanks to ADS’ support’

Sharon Yuan began as a volunteer with ADS in June 2019 and went on to complete a student placement from August 10 to December 4, 2020. She says these experiences have been instrumental in helping her to develop confidence, skills, and understanding as a future social worker who will serve migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and other people in need in Australian communities.

What drew you to volunteer and/or to do your student placement with ADS?

I was drawn to ADS as I wanted to understand more about the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers and the barriers and challenges they face during their settlement journey in Australia.

What are you studying and where?  How has your personal history and/or your cultural background informed your work with ADS?

I am completing a Bachelors of Social Work at the University of Sydney. As I grew up in a Chinese speaking family, I am able to speak basic Cantonese and Mandarin. Because of this I was able to provide basic Cantonese interpreting to clients of ADS and build rapport with Chinese clients through a sense of relatedness and understanding of Chinese culture.

What ADS programs have you assisted with and how have you been encouraged to apply your studies and expand your skills in your role?

During my time at ADS, I have been a part of the Specialised Intensive Services (SIS) Program where I developed skills in providing case management to clients with complex and compounding needs, and providing support to clients through education and capacity building. Through this program, I have gained a greater understanding of the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers, who are forcibly displaced and arrive in Australia with a history of trauma and complex circumstances but are also met with multiple barriers and challenges during settlement.

I have been managing the Emergency Relief (ER) Program at ADS where I have developed the skills to assess and identify client needs to provide financial aid and to make relevant referrals to services. The ER program has allowed me to see the direct impacts of COVID-19 on many families and has helped me to develop my ability to analyse and evaluate complex situations, to think quickly on my feet and adapt to a variety of new situations.

The impact of COVID-19 has changed the way we interact and communicate with each other. I have been providing support to our community officers in the Settlement Engagement and Transition Support (SETS) Program to co-host Zoom sessions, which help them stay connected with their reference groups. My time at ADS has allowed me to understand the importance of community in building social connection and a sense of belonging for many migrant groups.

What has been the most challenging work you have done with ADS during your time as a volunteer and student on placement?

One of the most challenging cases during my time with ADS would have to be advocating on behalf of the client but being unable to reach a common goal with the other party. This was challenging as I felt the other party was not willing to accommodate to the needs of the client who required language support when being talked to. Through discussions with the ADS team, I was able to connect with another person from the service that was able to assist with this matter.

What strengths have you brought to your role / placement?

Strengths that I have brought to my role while on placement include communication skills, my ability as a team player and my openness to learning. The values that underpin the way I work with people include compassion, respect and inclusivity.

What has been your proudest moment, greatest achievement, deepest connection in your time at ADS? 

I came to ADS with no experience in advocacy and, from the support and guidance from my field educator, I was able to gain confidence in advocating on behalf of a client. One of my proudest moments was when I was able to effectively communicate the complex needs of the client to an anaesthetist and get a large medical bill reduced for the client who was in financial hardship.

‘Be You with Us’ is ADS’ tagline, and it reflects the organisation’s commitment to welcoming and accepting everyone of all ages, gender, culture, sexuality, and religious beliefs. How have you been encouraged to ‘Be You with Us’ during your time with ADS?

Through my time at ADS, I have seen the extraordinary work the organisation does with CALD communities and their ongoing commitment to inclusivity. I have been welcomed by the team since the day I arrived and seeing the way the ADS team works inspires me to always strive to deliver care that is collaborative, respectful and inclusive.

What more should the Australian Government be doing to welcome migrants and refugees and to ensure they find the support they need to adjust quickly and well to life in Australia?

I feel the Australian Government should treat refugees and migrants equally as people and provide more opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers to settle in Australia. There also needs to be more funding into settlement services for refugees and migrants so they are able to develop knowledge and skill to access services to improve wellbeing and life outcomes. Also, since the impact of Covid-19, there needs to be more support for international students and those on temporary visas to access assistance as they have become one of the most vulnerable groups during the pandemic.

What is your ultimate goal and how has the work you’ve done with ADS equipped you for what you would like to do next?

My ultimate goal was to become more confident and prepared as I enter the social work field – and I have achieved this. Through my placement at ADS I was able to further develop my skills as a future social worker, understand the key issues that affect newly arrived migrants and refugees and gain knowledge on how I can work in a culturally responsive and inclusive manner.

I love ADS because … of the amazing team! I have been welcomed by the whole team since day one and I am endlessly thankful for the support I have received during my time here at ADS.

New website launches in Water Safety Week

New website launches in Water Safety Week

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.

Wendy Huang awarded Volunteer of the Year for Banks

Wendy Huang awarded Volunteer of the Year for Banks

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.’

Migrant Information Day heads online in 2020

Migrant Information Day heads online in 2020

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/

Research to probe CALD LGBTIQA+ service provision in COVID-19 context

Research to probe CALD LGBTIQA+ service provision in COVID-19 context

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.