Media Releases

New arrivals find a "lifetime" sport

Tony Podesta believes tennis is a ‘lifetime’ sport. So who better to teach tennis to then recently arrived refugees settling into their new lives in Australia?

A group of 8 to 12 children and adults has participated in a Tennis Australia Multicultural Tennis Program for Refugees at the Tony Podesta School of Tennis in Fairfield once a week for the past 10 weeks.

Read more: New arrivals find a "lifetime" sport

Multicultural group enriches Sydney music

Asylum seekers may not be able to bring many material possessions with them when seeking safety in Australia, but many of them bring impressive skills. To give their talents an outlet, and so more people can enjopy them, Settlement Services International (SSI) an a Sydney music organisation have facilitated opportunities for a group of refugee and asylum seeker musicians from Iran and Burma. 

Read more: Multicultural group enriches Sydney music

Foster carers help maintain cultural connections

The importance of maintaining a child’s connection to their cultural heritage, language and religion while in foster care should not be underestimated.

During NSW Foster Care week, September 14-21, Manager of Multicultural Foster Care Service (MFCS) Mr Ghassan Noujaim, hopes to highlight the important work of the services’ foster carers in helping maintain cultural connections.

“Our foster carers are incredible in their dedication to, and support for, keeping cultural links for their foster children,” said Mr Noujaim.

Read more: Foster carers help maintain cultural connections

Champion team united on the soccer field

Most of them had never played soccer on grass fields with marked lines before, but in their first season in Australia this special team proved themselves champions. After a thrilling 2-1 win, the Newington Gunners Soccer Club’s team of refugees and asylum seekers won its Grand Final on Saturday, September 13.

The players had come from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sierra Leone, Turkey, Nepal and Tajikistan to enjoy safer, better lives in Australia. Many of them are supported by not-for-profit organisation Settlement Services International’s (SSI) humanitarian settlement programs. SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said watching them play this season had been inspiring.

Read more: Champion team united on the soccer field

Champions on and off the field

They have escaped crises and horrors around the world to find some peace of mind on soccer fields in western Sydney. Now, seven months after a generous community campaign helped them join a Sydney soccer club, this team of refugees and asylum seekers will challenge for a championship.

Read more: Champions on and off the field

Youths seeking refuge offered gifts for fun


Les MurrayYoung people seeking asylum in Australia are in need of many essential items but the gift of free sports shoes and boots will provide something vital for all youth – fun. On August 30, 50 young people living in Sydney on bridging visas will get that gift when the Asylum Sneakers campaign promoted by Welcome to Australia and soccer commentator Les Murray hits town.

Leila Druery from the non-profit organisation Welcome to Australia said the campaign idea grew from seeing the affect sport could have. “Asylum Sneakers came about after seeing the incredibly positive impact of sport on young asylum seeker children in detention centres and in the community,” she said. “Sadly, many children’s participation in sport is limited by not being able to afford shoes and sports equipment.”

Settlement Services International (SSI) is a leading not-for-profit organisation that provides a range of services in the areas of humanitarian settlement, asylum seeker assistance, accommodation, foster care and disability support in NSW. The young recipients are all from SSI’s Community Support program.

Read more: Youths seeking refuge offered gifts for fun

Double loss felt by homeless refugee youth

Broken Time poster

A short film, which premiere’s today, explores the real life experience of homelessness faced by refugee youth living without their families in Sydney.

‘Broken Time’ is the story of Ali, an Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minor (UHM), who falls back on his survival instinct when he finds himself homeless on the streets of Sydney.

Developed by Settlement Services International (SSI), which provides services to humanitarian entrants, with funding from The Australia Council for the Arts, the film will be launches today in Bankstown, to coincide with International Youth Day.

Dilber Hussain played the role of Ali, and was all too familiar with the experience of his character in the film.

Dilber is from Pakistan and arrived in Australia in 2012 as a UHM at the tender age of 17. When his circumstances rapidly deteriorated and he was faced with homelessness, Dilber said he was frightened.

Read more: Double loss felt by homeless refugee youth

SSI Speaker Series: Perception is reality


Settlement Services International’s (SSI) third Speakers’ Series event for 2014 will explore the theme: Perception is reality: How do we form our perceptions of refugees and asylum seekers?

The live panel discussion will approach the complex question from different angles following a presentation by Professor Andrew Markus, who heads the Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion research program based at Monash University.

The 2014 Mapping Social Cohesion report suggested that the majority of Australians support a humanitarian settlement program, which assesses refugees overseas but are negative towards asylum seekers arriving by boat. The predominant view is that asylum seekers are illegal economic migrants. Claims of persecution are often ignored as a push factor. These views have increased since 2011. 

Read more: SSI Speaker Series: Perception is reality

Wrestling champion hangs on to hope and new friends

Mohamadreza Ashori, 30, dreamt of competing at the Olympic Games, and still holds on to those hopes despite setbacks throughout his life. In May he won the 74 kilogram division at the Australia Cup of Wrestling. He would have qualified for the Commonwealth Games earlier in the year after success in other events, but he is not an Australian citizen.


Mohamadreza is seeking refugee protection in Australia and has lived in the community for about 12 months while his application is assessed. That means he is not eligible to compete in the Games. He has been supported by Settlement Services International’s (SSI) Community Support Program during that time.

Read more: Wrestling champion hangs on to hope and new friends

Once denied education, Mahdia now relishes her school work


Mahdia, 18, could not attend school in Iran because of social and financial barriers. But since she arrived in Australia with her mother and brothers, she has thrown herself into school work with vigour.

“I really, really love going to school,” Mahdia said, “because I had so many barriers in the country where I came from. I love my school, I love my teachers and subjects and I love to study. I like to go to the library to study whenever I can and if I don’t, I feel like I have missed out on something.” 

Mahdia was born in Iran, where her family had fled to from war-torn Afghanistan. Attending school in Iran was all but impossible, she said, because of her gender and ethnicity. “But I studied by myself and went to an institute to study English,” Mahdia said. “Then we came here to Australia. We were so broken. We had a lot of issues but we did it.” 

Read more: Once denied education, Mahdia now relishes her school work

Forum highlights barriers for refugee women

Women at Risk

Australia has a long and proud history of resettling some of the most vulnerable refugee women and their families, however, major gaps in support services for these women have been identified and need to be addressed. 

Speaking today in Sydney at the Refugee Women at Risk forum hosted by Settlement Service International (SSI), SSI Manager Humanitarian Services David Keegan said that based on consultations with refugee women, it’s clear the current level of support should be reviewed.

“Research conducted by the UNSW Centre for Refugee Research suggests refugee women in Australia under the Woman Risk visa category experience higher levels of post-traumatic stress and face greater challenges on resettlement,” he said.

As the largest provider of services to refugee women in NSW, SSI has observed that a significant number of refugee women who enter via other visa classes have also suffered extreme physical and sexual violence and trauma prior to their arrival and require higher level specialist support services during settlement in Australia.

“SSI currently supports about 1000 vulnerable women, and consultations with 50 women have highlighted a greater need for support services, particularly in employment, affordable housing, health and education,” Mr Keegan continued.

Read more: Forum highlights barriers for refugee women

Refugee Week launch moves to Western Sydney in 2014

Refugee Week 2013

Preparations are under way for the launch of Refugee Week which will this year be held in Western Sydney for the first time.

Refugee Week, Australia’s peak annual activity to inform the public about refugees and celebrate the positive contributions made by refugees, will be launched at the Granville Town Hall at 10.30am, Saturday 14 June.

The launch is being coordinated by the Refugee C­ouncil of Australia (RCOA), the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) and Settlement Services International (SSI).

The keynote speech will be delivered by Merrylands local Ali Ali, a former refugee who fled the Taliban in Afghanistan and arrived in Australia in 2001 as a 17-year-old asylum seeker with no English.

Ali’s speech will expand on the Refugee Week theme “Restoring Hope”, recounting how his journey for safety began with danger as well as hope for a better future.

Read more: Refugee Week launch moves to Western Sydney in 2014

Cultural Shift symposium for migrant and refugee families

Violet RoumeliotisSettling in Australia presents recently arrived migrant and refugee families with many new opportunities but the process of settlement and the associated adjustments to a new country can also be challenging.

“The first few years after arrival are when many migrant and refugee families face some of their greatest challenges,” Settlement Services International (SSI) CEO, Violet Roumeliotis said.

“As our population grows, it has become imperative that we work together to make the change as smooth as possible for migrants and refugees.”

Ms Roumeliotis said SSI had, for the first time in NSW, brought together leaders and experts from diverse organisations to provide an insightful and engaging interactive program at a one day symposium to be held on June 5 in Parramatta, titled ‘Cultural Shift: symposium on supporting migrant and refugee families through settlement.’

Please read on for snapshots of just some of the presentations and workshops at the symposium. SSI can arrange pre-event interviews with presenters and can arrange for interviews if a journalist would like to attend on the day. 


Read more: Cultural Shift symposium for migrant and refugee families

SSI, Vinnies and UnitingCare to support people with disability

Settlement Services International in partnership with St Vincent de Paul Society NSW and UnitingCare has been awarded the tender to deliver Ability Links across 23 local government areas in inner Sydney, Metro Sydney South West, Sutherland Shire and Southern Highland region. 

Ability Links is contributing to the objectives of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and is a new approach of the NSW Government to foster full and active participation of people with disability in their community.

Sixty-four Ability Links Coordinators, known as Linkers, will be hired to provide information and support to people with disability, their families and carers, and their local communities. Linkers will work in connecting local communities in order to shape a more inclusive society for people with disability and their families.

Settlement Services International CEO, Violet Roumeliotis said the missions of the organisations regarding social inclusion made for a highly compatible partnership focused on benefiting people with disability. Providing quality services and support for vulnerable communities, SSI is a leading not-for-profit organisation providing a range of services in the areas of humanitarian settlement, accommodation, asylum seeker assistance and foster care in NSW.

“People with disability are the beneficiaries of this combined approach and the new model for full participation offered by Ability Links,” said Ms Roumeliotis.

Read more: SSI, Vinnies and UnitingCare to support people with disability

Exhibition gives voice to refugees and asylum seekers

Victor Youssef

Art Is Our Voice is an exhibition showcasing the creative work of refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia. The exhibition has been organised by Settlement Services International (SSI) in conjunction with University of Sydney Amnesty International and Amnesty International’s ARTillery project, with the support of Verge Gallery, run by The University of Sydney Union.

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said the exhibition would give artists from communities often marginalised in our society the opportunity to present their stories to the world.

“The exhibition will give voice to people who are too often spoken for and about by others,” Ms Roumeliotis said.

“By presenting their work to the community, these 15 visual artists from Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Sri Lanka can show their skills and express their creativity.

“Most of these artists have worked professionally in their countries of origin in a range of media that include, painting, sculpting, photography, and as jewelers and engravers.

“We hope this exhibition will not only showcase their talents but help the artists make new connections in the community that will help them pursue their art here in Australia.”

Of special interest at the exhibition will be the work of ‘coffee artist’ Masoud Akhava Ghassabzadeh. Coffee art is practiced by artists who have spent time in detention centres. With no access to paints or other materials, asylum seekers in detention began using instant coffee mixed with water to paint with.


Read more: Exhibition gives voice to refugees and asylum seekers

Asylum seeker’s Olympic and academic dreams on hold

Hamed Ghorbani

Hamed Ghorbani is a high achiever in his chosen sport and academia and a prime example of the talent and dedication found in many new migrants and people seeking asylum in Australia.

Hamed, 27, from Iran, is living in the community on a bridging visa and is provided support by Settlement Services International (SSI) while he awaits a response to his application for refugee status.

SSI is a leading not-for-profit organisation that provides a range of services in the areas of humanitarian settlement, accommodation, asylum seeker assistance and foster care in NSW.

The organisation’s CEO, Violet Roumeliotis, said Mr Ghorbani’s achievements were impressive.

“Mr Ghorbani is an elite athlete in the Olympic sport of handball, who has won a national club title with the University of Sydney and a silver medal for the NSW team at the national championships.

“He is also a skilled researcher with a Master’s Degree in Sports Science and Physical Education. And in 2012, he was awarded a silver medal for best invention at the Taipei International Invention Show and Technomart for an ergonomic running machine that he designed.

“Had Mr Ghorbani been born in Australia he could have strived to be an Olympic representative with a career in sports medicine research and development.”

Read more: Asylum seeker’s Olympic and academic dreams on hold

New advocacy body to be the voice of NSW multicultural youth

Violet RoumeliotisSettlement Services International (SSI) has today announced the establishment of an independent multicultural youth organisation to focus on the needs of youth from refugee and migrant backgrounds.

SSI is the largest provider of refugee settlement services in NSW and a representative body for 11 migrant resource centres and multicultural services.

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said: “The establishment of Multicultural Youth NSW responds to an unmet need for an organisation focused on the unique needs of multicultural youth and to assist young people from a refugee background to have a voice in their State.

“By providing initial funding for the new organisation, SSI is committed to providing leadership in the establishment of better awareness and services for youth from a multicultural and refugee background. SSI and existing partners make up a large percentage of organisations delivering services to this client group in NSW and have identified a need to respond in a coordinated way.”

The proposal to establish the organisation was unanimously endorsed last month by NSW MRCs and multicultural services.

“We plan to pool the resources of SSI and multicultural organisations to form a new self-funded entity within 12-18 months. SSI will initially auspice the organisation and we will shortly name a steering committee,” Ms Roumeliotis added.

A specialist youth project coordinator will run the organisation’s day-to-day operations with support from a steering committee made up of three young people as well as representatives from youth organisations,  MRCs and SSI.




For more information: SSI Marketing and Communications Manager, Angela Calabrese 0401 284 828

Jam sessions at SSI Community Kitchen

 music for refugeesMusicians from any musical tradition or cultural background are invited to join jam sessions with SSI asylum seeker clients at the organisation’s Community Kitchen every fortnight.

The SSI Community Kitchen initiative is part cooking class, part social outing for community-based asylum seekers. The fortnightly Community Kitchen provides a social day out for community-based asylum seekers, many of whom experience social and cultural isolation. Clients are invited to learn how to prepare a healthy and nutritious meal, as well as interact with other community members by jamming, playing a game of soccer, playing cards or chess, and sharing a meal. Each fortnight from 80 to 250 clients attend the Community Kitchen.

The idea of incorporating jam sessions into the Community Kitchen program arose as more and more clients were keen to perform for their friends. A donation of a number of musical instruments through the Music for Refugees project, led by Mr Philip Feinstein, sealed the deal.

Using music as a universal language, the sessions are expected to create an opportunity for skills building, cross-cultural exchange and community sharing with fellow musicians and other CSP clients. Depending on the level of participation and interest by guest musicians and clients, the jam sessions might evolve into a stand-alone activity available at other locations and times.

Each Community Kitchen targets a different cultural group (for example, Persian, Arab or Women and Families) and invitation is extended to relevant established community groups and leaders to attend and connect with those more newly arrived.

Read more: Jam sessions at SSI Community Kitchen

Knox Grammar Old Boys find a level playing field with refugees and people seeking asylum

SSI soccer knockout

Soccer is proving to be a great unifier for refugees, people seeking refugee status and Australian communities.

Refugees and people claiming asylum who are supported by Settlement Services International (SSI) were joined by Knox Grammar School alumni on the weekend to take part in a soccer knock-out competition. 

SSI is a leading not-for-profit organisation providing a range of services in the areas of humanitarian settlement, accommodation, asylum seeker assistance and multicultural foster care in NSW.

About 40 people took part in the knock-out soccer competition at Lidcombe between teams of five, which was organised by SSI staff on Saturday, February 15.

Also taking part in the competition were about six members of the Knox Grammar Old Boys alumni.

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said the former Knox Grammar students had asked her organisation how they could support new arrivals.

“It was very inspiring to see how proactive the boys from Knox Grammar School were in wanting to support people who have come to Australia from very difficult circumstances,” Ms Roumeliotis said.

“One of the school’s alumni, Marco van Westing, approached SSI and asked how he and his friends could help refugees, and those people applying for refugee status, make the transition to living in Australia.

“When staff at SSI proposed a soccer competition for our clients, the Knox Grammar Old Boys thought it was a great opportunity for them to get involved.

Read more: Knox Grammar Old Boys find a level playing field with refugees and people seeking asylum

Olympic judo coach helps teenage asylum seekers

Shaheen and Hussain.

Talented teenagers Shaheen and Hussain Moghadamshaidie could represent NSW in judo at the National Championships if they can raise the money to travel to qualifying competitions around the country.

The boys, aged 15 and 16, have already impressed state and national coaches after Settlement Services International (SSI) and their Castle Hill judo club supported their enthusiasm to participate in the Olympic sport. SSI is a leading not-for-profit organisation providing a range of services in the areas of humanitarian settlement, accommodation, asylum seeker assistance and foster care in NSW.

Hussain and his brother Shaheen have been living in the community along with their father, mother and baby brother, awaiting the outcome of an application for refugee status since July last year.

The family is supported by SSI and is currently living in North Parramatta on bridging visas.

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said Shaheen and Hussain had immediately wanted to start judo training when they arrived in Australia but their family had no money to pay for registration or uniforms.

“Judo is one of the most popular sports in the boys’ country of birth, Iran, so they were eager to look for a judo club to train with in Australia,” Ms Roumeliotis said.

“Because they are on bridging visas, their parents are unable to work and had limited funds to pay for judo costs.

“Shaheen and Hussain were lucky enough to find the Budokan Judo Club in Castle Hill, which is run by former Olympic coach and organiser of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games judo competition Rob Katz.

“Mr Katz and his club have very generously sponsored the boys by paying their costs for the first 12 months of membership. This includes four judo uniforms partially sponsored by the club’s supplier Sensei’ Martial Arts.

“But, from the boy’s success in the sport, the family now needs about $700 to pay for travel and accommodation to events in order to qualify for the National Championships.”

Ali Moghadamshaidie, the boys’ father, said Mr Katz and the Budokan Judo Club had treated them like family.

“This club is not only for Judo,” he said, “this club, for me and my sons, my wife and baby son, is like a school or family.”

“We have no family here or friends, this club is very good for us.”

Read more: Olympic judo coach helps teenage asylum seekers

Soccer unites refugees but who will give them a game?

Essa KhanSoccer is often called the game that unites the world but a group of refugees and asylum seekers from around the globe have found financial obstacles in their attempt to unite as a team in Sydney.

Players in the team unofficially known as Auburn United FC have come to Australia from Afghanistan, Africa, Nepal, Turkey and Tajikistan to find asylum.

According to Settlement Services International (SSI) CEO Violet Roumeliotis, most of the team members are on bridging visas, which means they are unable to work. SSI provides case management and other support services to many of the refugee and asylum seeker members of the team. Other players are full-time overseas students.

“Living on a tight budget, these players have no funds to pay registration fees of between $200 and $300 each to join an organised competition,” Ms Roumeliotis said.

“Without support from a sponsor, they have no hope of playing the world game in Australia.”

Their options for engaging in Sydney’s cultural life are limited but they come together to play soccer, or football to most of the world, every week.

Until eight months ago, they formed only ad-hoc to play with whoever turned up to Auburn Park on any given night.

But when Afghan asylum seeker and soccer coach Essa Khan, 44, found them kicking a ball in the dark while out walking, he quickly rounded them up in to a team.

“It’s my passion and I like to give something to the young people,” Essa said with his Settlement Services International case manager Archana Ghale interpreting.

“It helps their health, they can engage in an activity and avoid anti-social behaviour.

“It’s better to play football than to get involved in alcohol or drugs.”

Read more: Soccer unites refugees but who will give them a game?

Volunteers offer warm welcome to new arrivals

December 5, 2013

Volunteers offer warm welcome to new arrivals

SSI acknowledges volunteers' year of giving to the vulnerable on International Volunteer Day

Read more: Volunteers offer warm welcome to new arrivals

Foster carers open their homes and hearts

September 24, 2013

Foster carers open their homes and hearts

SSI’s Multicultural Foster Care Service today celebrated the vital role played by foster carers in the lives of children and young people in their care.

Read more: Foster carers open their homes and hearts

NSW Police extends a friendly welcome to asylum seekers

September 3, 2013

NSW Police extends a friendly welcome to asylum seekers

NSW Police officers are available to help members of the community and that living in Sydney is generally safe for newcomers – this was the message delivered by Gladesville police recently to a group of asylum seekers now living in the city.

Read more: NSW Police extends a friendly welcome to asylum seekers

SSI’s Community Kitchen for new arrivals

August 26, 2013

The Settlement Services International Community Kitchen, established this month in Ryde for new asylum seeker arrivals, is a place to nourish the body and the soul.

Sydney chef and café owner Luigi De Luca today prepared a delicious Persian-inspired lunch for SSI clients.

Read more: SSI’s Community Kitchen for new arrivals