Media Releases

Six projects supporting refugee communities in south-west Sydney have today received a boost from not-for-profit Settlement Services International’s $50,000 Community Innovation Fund.

SSI announced today the first six recipients of grants from the ground-breaking fund, which honours the unsung heroes who contribute to Australian society by offering grassroots support to newly arrived members of the community.

The successful applicants and their projects (see page two for descriptions):

  • Australian Iraqi Arts Academy – Arts Activities Projects
  • Chaldean League of NSW Inc. – Technology Support: ‘Not Only Computers’ with ‘Basic English’
  • The Mandaean Women’s Union In Australia – Exhibition of Mandaean Culture and Tradition
  • St Thomas of the Apostle Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Australia and NZ – English Language Support
  • Tony Podesta School of Tennis – Tennis Coaching
  • Melkite Catholic Eparchy – Business Ready

SSI launched the unique Community Innovation Fund to celebrate the strength and resilience of the community of south-west Sydney and to encourage and incubate great ideas that support newly arrived refugees.

The fund builds the capacity of community leaders and other individuals to work toward the inclusion and wellbeing of all members and to help build strong communities that add to the multicultural mosaic of Australian society.

SSI Community Engagement Coordinator Kat O'Neill said announcing the funding recipients on Australia Day sent a positive message about how the community’s newest Australians were contributing in Sydney’s south-west.

“This community offers not only sanctuary but also opportunity to its newest community members,” Ms O’Neill said.

“This fund enhances that opportunity. It gives power, voice and resources where they are most needed: in the hands of the community. It aims to grow community leaders’ capacity.”

An intensive consultation process informed the fund’s selection criteria: to understand the community’s aspirations and challenges, and to learn what kind of community newly arrived refugees want to live in.

“Investing in these ideas recognises the skills and experiences already in the community,” Ms O’Neill said.

The successful applicants

Australian Iraqi Arts Academy’s arts activities classes will be run by well-established Iraqi film-maker, playwright and poet Dr Muwafaq Sawa. The project design cleverly uses the arts as a form of cultural maintenance, as a way to generate community pride and as a tool for individuals to heal and rejuvenate themselves. It aims to strengthen social ties across ages, genders and backgrounds and provide a space to use art to deal with the challenges of trauma.

Increasingly newly arrived refugees are required to navigate online forms in English for services crucial to their everyday life, such as online banking and Centrelink. The Chaldean League’s technology support project aims to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence of newly arrived refugees to use technology and advance their English language skills. The project was developed by Raghda Aziz, a volunteer caseworker with the Chaldean League. Raghda arrived in Australia in 2011 with her family after fleeing persecution in Iraq. She has seen how simple mistakes on forms can affect people’s lives and is now known for her expertise and willingness to support newly arrived members of the community.

The Mandaean Women’s Union’s Exhibition of Mandaean`s Culture and Tradition will use arts and cultural artefacts to promote and celebrate the richness of the Mandaean culture and heritage. It will foster connection between Mandaean refugees who are recently arrived and Mandaean community members who are more established. It also will engage the wider community and promote cross-cultural dialogue.

St Thomas of the Apostle Chaldean Catholic Diocese’s English language support project aims to assist recently arrived community members to communicate independently, settle into their new home and find job opportunities. St Thomas is often the first point of contact for the Chaldean and Assyrian refugees who arrive in the Fairfield and Liverpool areas. It wanted to support the newly arrived and saw a need to assist people with English language.

Tony Podesa School of Tennis and Ashod Paloulian received funding for its tennis coaching project, providing free tennis coaching for children and adults from all newly arrived refugee backgrounds in the Fairfield area. The program aims to improve the physical and mental health of the students. Ashod Paloulian, a newly arrived Syrian refugee, will be instructing the course. He was a professional tennis player in Syria. He speaks English, Arabic and Armenian, allowing for the classes to be taught in both English and in-language. Ashod said, “Many in the refugee community see tennis as a rich person’s sport. I would like to show kids that tennis is accessible for everyone. It is about having fun and helps them be kids again and move through their trauma.”

Melkite Catholic Eparchy’s business ready project will provide information sessions on fundamental basic business practices used in Australia. It aims to help recently arrived refugees get ready for employment and obtain jobs. Sessions will focus on basic business practices in Australia, CV preparation, how to be job ready, and how to contact organisations for employment.

Australia Day and our First Peoples

SSI acknowledges the traditional owners of the lands across this nation. We pay our respects to the Elders past, present and emerging, for they hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. A better understanding and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures develops an enriched appreciation of Australia’s cultural heritage and can lead to reconciliation. This is essential to the maturity of Australia as a nation and fundamental to the development of an Australian identity.

SSI recognises the concerns expressed by some people, in particular Indigenous Australians, about the date Australia Day is celebrated on and its significance to the story of Australia’s First Peoples. SSI acknowledges that we are a nation of migrants and First Peoples from complex and diverse backgrounds and our stories and history have a shared legacy.

This year SSI will host the International Metropolis Conference, the only global conference with a specific focus on migration. The event will be held in Sydney from October 29 to November 2. For the first time the conference will focus on the impact of migration on First Peoples and will profile the importance of their stories.


Media enquiries: SSI Communications Coordinator Stephen Webb: 0488 684 163, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Success stories

Bright future ahead for new Australian Dana Al Samaan

Dana is a young woman from Syria who came to Australia</p><pOriginally from Syria, Dana came to Australia via Iraq in search of safety.

I was born and raised in Damascus, Syria. Syria is the country where I attended school and university for free, where I enjoyed safety and security, where I learned to communicate and respect others even when we have differences in religion, thought, doctrine or ideology,” she said.

Read more ...