Our Blog

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‘Nothing is more valuable than listening and understanding the stories of a migrant or asylum seeker especially when working out what services are right for them,’ says Hayley Bryant who started her student placement with ADS in January 2020 and will conclude it at the end of May.

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

When going through the interview process at uni I stated that I was open to anything. My main aim during placement is to learn as much as I can about different things. I am fortunate that with ADS I get to experience in a lot of different areas.

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

I am studying a Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Wollongong. From my background, and the area I live in, I have not been exposed to the inequities that people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds experience. Because of this, I have had to use more of my social work background to inform my work.

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

I have assisted with the SETS program and also aged care. Both have encouraged me to work in a teamwork environment and understand policy, community engagement and advocacy.

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

Working with clients one on one was very challenging! I had not had that experience before so it was very daunting. I had so much to learn and a lot to work on – but it helped me immensely.

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your placement role?

COVID-19 has not affected my role overly much. I am fortunate enough to continue to support the staff at ADS from my home and from the office. The physical distancing requirements have limited a little of the experience – in the sense of attending client assessments – but overall ADS has adapted really well to the changes required, ensuring everyone remains safe.

What strengths have you brought to your role and placement?

I’m not really sure on this one, I think having a social work background has helped me. From everything I have learnt thus far at university I can apply these skills at ADS and also share my knowledge with the staff.

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

One of my biggest achievements has been working on the Multicultural LGBTIQA+ Support directory. I have been working on this project since I started my placement and seeing it develop, over time, has been great. I am excited to see it in its finalised form.

‘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?

ADS has provided me with the opportunity to be a part of LGBTIQA+ training which has allowed me to broaden my knowledge. Our work with allied organisations and LGBTIQA+ specific groups has also allowed me to work in an inclusive environment.

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?

The government does not provide enough support, resources or funding to migrants and refugees. Having English as their second language limits a person’s access to a variety of information, so I believe more in-language materials are needed as well as more visibility of services in the community.

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 is to work with children who’ve lived with domestic and family violence or been involved in drug and alcohol abuse. ADS has allowed me to take a different perspective when working with clients and to understand how culture is important in many people’s lives. Nothing is more valuable than listening and understanding the stories of a migrant or asylum seeker especially when working out what services are right for them.

I love ADS because it does extraordinary work for the CALD community that does not get the recognition it deserves. They are an incredibly supportive and kind team.

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Marie Eve Santi Amantini began as a volunteer with ADS in October 2019 and went on to complete a student placement with ADS from January 27 to April 3, 2020. She says these experiences have been invaluable in equipping her to contribute to the community and assist people in need.

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

I am passionate about helping refugees, new migrants and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities. Advance Diversity Services (ADS) is a community organisation that specialises in this area.

What are you studying and where? 

I am studying a Diploma of Community Services with 4Life College.

What strengths have you brought to your volunteer role and student placement?

My own migration journey from France to Australia taught me the intricacies involved in navigating a new life. This has informed my work and helped me to understand issues related to separation, trauma, conflict and the orientation required to build a new and supportive community.

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

When I work towards assisting clients with complex needs I have a deep sense of accomplishment. I previously wrote the case management plan and coordinated the referrals for a refugee client newly released from a detention centre in order to support his safe settlement in the Australian community, and was feeling good about it.

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 supported the Emerging Communities team in three programs: Specialised Intensive Services (SIS); Settlement Engagement Transition Support (SETS); and Community Capacity Building (CCB).

I assisted the community workers with coordinating the Positive Parenting program with Bangladeshi and Nepalese families, which aims to improve health and wellbeing, and participated in the Waste Wise project that helps new migrants to learn recycling practices. I also assisted case managers in the Specialised Intensive Services program (SIS) which supports humanitarian entrants who have complex needs.

Through these programs, I was encouraged to use the skills I learnt during my diploma, including case management and case work, project and event management, and collaboration with service providers. Magdaline Shenton-Kaleido, as Community and Settlement Team Leader, provided thorough supervision and reviewed my day-to-day work, which assisted me to develop my skills. Furthermore, I received regular training opportunities, including LGBTI-inclusive practice and a Child Safe Workshop.

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

English is my second language, so it can be challenging to write reports or important emails in English. Even more, communicating in professional English can sometimes be tricky.  

“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 completely accepted for who I am by the team. In fact, I only eat vegan food and it can be challenging to have different behaviours than the broad community. The team members have been accepting and provided vegan food options when needed.

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?

The government could support migrants and refugees by providing more funding to community organisation to offer orientation programs to all new migrants and refugees on arrival. This would support better access to services and equal opportunities.

Also, many government policies are designed for the general Australian population but do not consider the special challenges that migrant and CALD populations confront in early settlement. These newcomers, especially from emerging communities – Rohingyans and Mongolians for example – would benefit from a more consultative and inclusive approach to policy making. Without this, policies focus on culturalism and differences, rather than taking a real problem-solving approach.

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 is to contribute to the community by assisting people in need. ADS has been assisting me to develop the skills I need by immersing me in all aspects of community work, and with intensive team support. I am very grateful for this.

I love ADS because of its commitment to provide a high level of expertise in its provision of CALD services.

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INFORMATION FOR SERVICE PARTNERS AND COLLABORATORS

As the COVID 19 situation develops, we would like to take this opportunity to inform you of how ADS is responding. The health and safety of our staff, clients, service partners and collaborators is a priority. 

We are continuing to provide services with health and safety in mind

  • To keep our service consumers, staff and the public safe during the coronavirus pandemic, we are restricting public access to our offices.
  • We are minimising face to face client contact and using alternative means of providing services to our clients where possible and with funding requirements in mind.
  • We are continuing to provide services but by appointment only or over the phone (9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday). Please know that the ADS team is here to help.
  • All ADS run group based activities have been postponed for the time being to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus in group settings.
  • We have postponed all ADS organised community events e.g., festivals, information sessions. 
  • We have postponed ADS hosted inter-agency meetings where alternatives to conducting in person meetings cannot be arranged.
  • We have instructed our staff to not attend in person external interagency meetings until further notice. Staff can participate in meetings via electronic means.

Minimising the risk of transmission

  • We have processes for staff to notify us if they are unwell or have had exposure to the virus.
  • We have instructed staff on good hand/cough/sneeze hygiene, and social distancing measures.
  • Provided hand sanitizers in all our offices and to staff visiting clients in their homes.
  • Introduced arrangements to maximise social distancing e.g., interim working from home, postponement of internal training.
  • We have written to clients about COVID 19 and how they can help us minimise the risk of transmission in their interactions with us.

These are difficult times for our clients, service providers and the community as a whole.  We will continue to work in solidarity with you to provide needed services as best we can with health and safety being front of mind. We will provide updates as the situation unfolds.  

Antoinette Chow

Chief Executive Officer

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A waste-wise initiative offered by Advance Diversity Services (ADS) in 2020 will help new arrivals in the Barton electorate match their good intentions and commitment with responsible recycling practices.

The Waste Wise Project, which received funding from the AusIndustry Business Grants Hub on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Energy in December, will extend ADS’s existing involvement with Clean Up Australia Day and have a strong a strong focus on reducing waste and litter in the local environment through practical activities.

‘ADS clients are new migrants and refugees who’ve often had no past recycling experience or knowledge of different recycling systems outside their country of origin,’ said Anthony Scerri, Manager of Settlement and Community Services for ADS.

‘They want to do the right thing but, for people who are learning English, knowing what to put in which bin and what’s recyclable can be a struggle. We want to help them with this.’

Mr Scerri said the Waste Wise Project will involve Nepalese, Bangladeshi, Arabic, Thai and Chinese local community members in a Clean Up Australia Day activity in Hogben Park in Kogarah, and provide information about recycling and waste collection in people’s language of origin. Support from ADS’s bilingual staff will also be crucial to fostering their understanding of responsible waste management.

Participants will be given a two-compartment bin (general waste and recyclable items) to help

them apply what they’ve learnt from the Clean Up Australia Day event. A follow-up phone survey will determine how effective the learning has been, and ADS will offer people further education if needed.

Bus trips to the Rockdale Resource Recovery Centre or similar centres will give participants further insight into recycling and the opportunity to ask questions or clarify their new understanding of responsible waste disposal.

‘We’re happy to be sharing practical knowledge with new arrivals about managing household waste, recycling, and “living with less”, said Mr Scerri. ‘Our ultimate goal is to reduce litter and waste in our local community.’

Caption: Members of the Nepalese community who took part in a in a Clean Up Australia Day activity in Hogben Park in Kogarah in 2018. Advance Diversity Services is planning a similar event in 2020 as part of its Waste Wise Project.

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Advance Diversity Services (ADS) has joined forces with Auburn Diversity Services Inc. (ADSi) to explore innovative ways to provide migrant and refugee settlement services to the Nepalese communities in the Auburn (Cumberland Council) catchment area. ADS and ADSi whose core business has been the provision of settlement services, are keen to learn from this partnership.

A $50,000 grant announced in November activated the working partnership, which will test a new, collaborative, service-delivery model that builds on the local connections of each partner to maximise reach and impact.

ADS was awarded this funding as an initiative of the NSW Settlement Partnership – a consortium of community organisations, led by Settlement Services International, delivering settlement services in NSW.

Community Services Officer, Rishi Acharya from ADS – who has a strong history of working with the Nepalese community – has been appointed to drive the project, which aims to extend into the Auburn area core settlement support now offered to the newly arrived Nepalese community residing in the St George area.

‘Auburn now has the largest population of Nepali-speakers in Australia followed by Rockdale,’ said Mr Acharya. Hurstville is currently in third place. Both are in the St George area where I’ve spent the last 8 years building strong and supportive pathways for new Nepali-speaking arrivals.

‘I’m excited to be using my knowledge and collaborative skills to ensure Nepalese communities in the Auburn area will be well supported by the Australian Government’s Settlement Engagement and Transition Support Grants (SETS) program.’

SETS supports humanitarian entrants and other eligible permanent migrants in their first five years of life in Australia. The program focuses on social participation, economic wellbeing, independence, personal wellbeing and community connectedness.

Mr Acharya will collaborate with ADSi and the Nepalese Australian Association to tap into the needs of recently arrived Nepalese migrants and refugees, identify gaps in service provision, and offer practical face-to-face support to community members.

Mr Acharya said the Nepali speaking population in Australia had increased significantly with 62,002 members counted in the 2016 Census compared to 27,155 in the 2011 census. There had also been a huge upsurge in Nepali students in recent years.

‘We were awarded the grant from the NSW Settlement Partnership’s Settlement Innovation Fund because our project clearly promotes service experimentation and improvement across its network of partners,’ he said.

‘Our goal now is to be innovative with purpose!’

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.

Media Contact

Anthony Scerri, Manager, Settlement and Community Services Advance Diversity Services

Phone: (02) 9597 5455

Email: anthonys@advancediversity.org.au

Caption: Cultural perspectives on gambling offered by Nepalese community members in a November focus group will inform an Advance Diversity Services project that aims to reduce gambling harm in the community.

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Advance Diversity Services (ADS) has been awarded $20,0000 funding for a Gender and Sexual Diversity project, which aims to ensure newly arrived migrants and refugees who identify as LGBTIQA+ receive inclusive settlement support.

‘LGBTIQA+ individuals from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities need non- discriminatory settlement support – and we all have a role to play in supporting inclusive service delivery,’ said Anthony Scerri, Manager of Settlement and Community Services for ADS.

‘This project will ensure staff from CALD suppliers are trained to recognise what’s needed and to offer this without prejudice to LGBTIQA+ people as they settle in Australian society.’

ADS was awarded funding for the project in November as an initiative of the NSW Settlement Partnership – a consortium of community organisations, led by Settlement Services International, delivering settlement services in NSW.

ADS will use the funds to build on a successful pilot LGBTIQA+ forum it ran in partnership with ACON, Settlement Services International and Georges River Council at Georges River Civic Centre, Hurstville on October 21, 2019.

More than 50 people attended the 2019 forum, which included a panel of five LGBTIQA+ CALD community members sharing lived experience and a comprehensive introduction to issues faced by LGBTIQA+ communities.

Project funding will enable ADS to run a second forum in 2020 and to offer further inclusive- practice training for LGBTIQA+ client service delivery – with the overall aim of providing education to and raising awareness among staff.

This training will also offer ADS and the settlement sector opportunities to: build knowledge about and increase the visibility of the CALD-specific LGBTIQA+ community and their needs; build referral pathways; foster relationships with LGBTIQA+ organisations; and develop inclusive practices.

‘It is critical for LGBTIQA+ people to find the right support they need, when they need it,’ said Mr Scerri, ‘as we know this can make the difference between them thriving and surviving.

‘This project will help the sector get it right, and extend ADS’ work in this important area.’ ADS has also:

  • Formed an LGBTIQA+ Working Group to improve access and equity for LGBTIQA+ clients.
  • Become a member of the Welcome Here Project.
  • Ensured staff representation on the GLISTEN Steering Committee; the Settlement Services International Gender and Sexual Diversity Working Group; and the LGBTI Ageing Network Meeting.
  • More here.

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.

Media Contact

Anthony Scerri, Manager, Settlement and Community Services Advance Diversity Services

Phone: (02) 9597 5455

Email: anthonys@advancediversity.org.au

Caption: ADS has placed a Welcome Here Project Sticker and Welcome Here Project Charter in prominent locations across its four office sites to assure people ‘at a glance’ that they are welcome regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

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Advance Diversity Services (ADS) will use $30,000 funding awarded by Transport NSW to roll out a driver education program for recently arrived refugees and migrants in the St George area.

The Learn to Drive Program recognises that learning to drive in a new country can be an important pathway for new arrivals in terms of mobility and economic and social participation.

It also supports learners to overcome barriers they face learning to drive in Australia, including language skills to comprehend licensing authority information, costs of training, access to cars and supervising drivers to prepare for tests, and learning different road rules from their country of origin.

Developed by Gymea Community Aid & Information Service, the program helps learners to pass their driver knowledge test, improve their English skills and gain driving practice with volunteer mentors.

‘While driving lessons aren’t part of the humanitarian settlement support package provided to refugees once they arrive in Australia, for a new migrant or refugee, being able to drive can mean the difference between successfully settling into a new community or being isolated,’ said Anthony Scerri, Manager of Settlement and Community Services for ADS.

‘Having a licence gives people independence. It also opens up opportunities for employment.’

The Learn to Drive Program is linked to a mandatory four-day TAFE course and assessment. Participants that require further driving experience are provided with lessons by a professional driving school. These lessons (up to six lessons per person) will be subsidised by the grant funding.

After the professional driving lessons, participants will be linked with volunteer mentors who are experienced drivers. Learner drivers can see their mentor for unlimited sessions until they get their licence.

Participants that require further support with tests are linked with volunteers who can sit down with them and go through mock tests and help them to gain experience and develop confidence.

The Learn to Drive Program was awarded the funding in round five of the 2019 Community Road Safety Grants.

‘We’re excited about the grant and to partner in this program,’ said Mr Scerri, ‘which will enhance the social and economic wellbeing of our clients.’

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.

Media Contact

Anthony Scerri, Manager, Settlement and Community Services Advance Diversity Services

Phone: (02) 9597 5455

Email: anthonys@advancediversity.org.au

Caption:

Recent funding to Advance Diversity Services for a driver education program will help new migrants and refugees learn to drive, which can make a huge difference to how well they settle into Australian society.

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Depression, anxiety, drugs, body image, bullying, violence, peer pressure, relationship and friendship issues, and community connectedness are key health issues for newly arrived young people in the St George area.

They also want health services that are low cost, easy to get to, allow flexible or drop-in appointments, allow unaccompanied and confidential visits, and have non-judgmental staff who have good youth rapport.

These findings are from a new report produced by Advance Diversity Services (ADS), which offers insights from a Youth Health and Wellbeing consultation for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) young people held in Oatley on May 16.

Launched in October, the report aims to support community service organisations in providing services to newly arrived young people in the St George area by increasing understanding of their health and wellbeing needs.

ADS Executive Officer Antoinette Chow said the report identifies barriers that can stop young people from CALD backgrounds from using a health service or seeking advice about their health concerns.

‘It also makes recommendations that can improve young people’s access to services,’ she said. ‘Simple steps service providers can take include: offering a friendly space, having welcoming and culturally competent staff, and providing promotional resources that are youth friendly and presented in different languages.’

Forty young people aged 15 to 19 and drawn from local schools took part in the consultation, which was facilitated by 2Connect Youth & Community. All participants had been in Australia from six months to five years, and two-thirds of them for two years or less. Their countries of origin included China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Pakistan, Burma, Iraq, France, India, Hong Kong, Jordan, Thailand, and Syria.

This was the second CALD youth health forum organised by ADS, and feedback from both consultations was positive. This year, participants said they had learned important information about Kids Helpline, Medicare, headspace, how to contact health clinics and services, and how to find chaplains and mental health support.

Background and recommendations

In 2017, CALD young people in St George participated in a consultation as a strategy outlined in the Get Active-CALD Youth Project funded by South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, Multicultural Health Service and coordinated by ADS.

This first consultation identified the need for current information to inform future service delivery and assist providers in their efforts to make a positive difference to the lives and health of youth in the region.

On the strength of these findings, ADS made a commitment to run similar consultations biannually.

To propel this initiative, ADS formed a project advisory committee, with stakeholders partnering with ADS to implement a second consultation in May 2019. Partner services included Georges River Council, headspace Hurstville, SESLHD and 2Connect Youth & Community, which facilitated the day’s proceedings at Georges River College Oatley Senior Campus.

Interactive activities helped the 40 young people who participated in the consultation to explore a range of questions including:

  • What are the health and wellbeing problems of newly arrived young people?
  • What knowledge do they have of existing services they can access for help and how comfortable are they in accessing existing services?
  • What features are most important for services that support young people from CALD backgrounds with their health and wellbeing matters?

Participants documented the day’s discussions which were later collated in the report along with charts and graphs to illustrate the findings.

The report also offers recommendations in the following four categories for health-oriented service providers who work with newly arrived CALD young people.

Environment. Services should project a youth friendly space to encourage young people (and their families) to feel safe, welcome and accepted as newly arrived young people may be anxious and unsure about accessing a service for the first time. This includes providing a calming reception area, free resources in different languages, and flexible opening hours.

Staff. Positive first impressions are important as young people engage with a service. All staff should be welcoming, non-judgemental, culturally competent and sensitive, and genuinely helpful.

Culture. Services need to ensure that all staff practise cultural competence in order to respond respectfully to young people from all cultures, backgrounds, languages, and religions. This includes employing staff who speak a second language, recognising cultural holidays and celebrations, and understanding bi-cultural conflict and parental expectations.

Promotion. Promotional efforts should prioritise relevant information young people are seeking, be presented it in a variety of youth friendly formats, and incorporate feedback from other young people who have used the service. It is also important to use social media in creative and meaningful ways, offer information in different languages, and encourage face-to-face engagement with service staff which builds trust.

ADS’s Multicultural Youth Officer, Settlement and Community Services, Salvin Kumar, said the 2019 Youth Health & Wellbeing Report gives practical suggestions to providers in the region who want to dissolve the barriers that prevent newly arrived young people from accessing health services.

‘Providers who want to make a positive difference to the health of CALD and newly arrived young people in our area will be better positioned to achieve this goal if they act on the report’s insights.’

Download the report from the ADS Resources page https://advancediversity.org.au/resources/

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We have recently become a member of the Welcome Here Project. The Welcome Here Project supports businesses/organisations throughout Australia to create and promote environments that are visibly welcoming and inclusive of Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) communities. Click here for more information. Soon you’ll see a Welcome Here Project Sticker and Welcome Here Project Charter in visible locations across our four office sites.

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Advance Diversity Services has partnered with ACON, Georges River Council and SSI Ability Links NSW to organise an LGBTIQA+ Forum for staff working with culturally and linguistically diverse and newly arrived clients. The forum is on Monday, October 21. To register, click on this link https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RX8Y6S7. More details in the attached flyer.

To keep our service consumers, staff and the public safe during the coronavirus pandemic, we are restricting public access to our offices.

We are continuing to provide services but by appointment only or over the phone (9 am – 5 pm, Monday to Friday). Please know that the ADS team is here to help.

Call us on (02) 9597 5455 or email us info@advancediversity.org.au and we’ll direct you to the right person.

Stay safe and keep healthy!