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SSI CEO statement on Sydney siege

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis has added her voice to a call by NSW Police and the Premier for calm and vigilance in the aftermath of today’s sad events at Martin Place. “The tragic outcome of the hostage situation in Martin Place has shaken everyone in our community.

SSI leader one of top 25 influencers in not-for-profit sector

Settlement Services International CEO Violet Roumeliotis has been named in Pro Bono Australia’s Impact 25 list of the most influential people working in the not-for-profit sector in 2014. Ms Roumeliotis was chosen in the top 25 from 200 people working in the sector, by more than 3,600 Pro Bono Australia readers who voted.

Hillsong Church gives generously

‘Tis the season for giving and membersof Hillsong Church have continued their generous support for SSI’s asylum seeker clients with donations of food and gifts for children and families. The church has supplied Christmas presents for about 100 children in Sydney who are seeking asylum, as well as food hampers for families.

Free community-based legal help reaches new arrivals

A partnership between Legal Aid NSW and settlement services provider Settlement Services International (SSI) has been effective in providing free legal assistance to recent arrivals and migrants, especially in Sydney’s west, an independent review has found. Almost 2,200 services were provided to clients in the first year of the project and the partners today signed an undertaking to continue the successful collaboration.

Ability Linkers: helping the helpers

Jenny Yang and Joseph Cheung are an impressive couple, sharing their knowledge and experience with other people with disability in the community. Their energy, enthusiasm and drive are inspiring, and on this International Day of People of Disability they acknowledge and celebrate the many other inspiring people they have met in the community.

Essa’s inspirational story applauded at sports awards

Soccer super-coach Essa said he was proud and honoured to be acknowledged at Auburn City Council Sports Awards recently. Essa, who is from Pakistan and seeking refugee protection in Australia, was a finalist for the Senior Sportsperson Award after being invited to make a submission by council staff.

New bed is a big deal for refugee boy with cerebral palsy

Thanks to a generous member of the Bankstown community, a 16-year-old refugee boy with cerebral palsy has been gifted a much-needed electric bed that has meant he no longer needs to spend 18 hours a day on his mother’s lap. The boy, whose family was originally from Iraq and is now living in Warwick Farm in western Sydney, previously spent most of the day in his mother’s arms because it was not safe for him to be in a normal bed.

From refugees to entrepreneurs

Small business entrepreneurs of refugee background were celebrated on Monday November 17 at the launch event of Ignite Small Business Start-ups (Ignite) in Sydney. Attended by almost 100 people, the event featured catering, photography, and film by some of the entrepreneurs supported by the Ignite initiative.

From the CEO – Walk Together

I was incredibly heartened to see the thousands of people from diverse ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds who walked together on October 25, to show their support for a multicultural Australia where all people are respected.

Cricket community helps asylum seeker

Cricket has been something of a saviour for Tamil asylum seeker Uthay, since he came to Australia. Uthay, his preferred name, is originally from Sri Lanka and is awaiting assessment for refugee protection. He is a Tamil man, 27 years old, and the potential consequences for men like Uthay in Sri Lanka are such that his full name and image can’t be revealed.

Lights, Camera, Action! Short Film Showcase

SSI’s Storytelling and Film-making Workshop program culminates this month with a showcase of short films. On November 14, SSI friends, staff, volunteers and clients are invited to a special screening of films made by SSI’s asylum seeker clients during the six-week workshop program.

Asylum seekers help out in Mosman

SSI clients who live in Sydney’s west while seeking asylum, headed east to Mosman on October 24, to start regenerating a neglected harbourside national park. It was the first day of a 10-week volunteering project arranged by SSI and NSW’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Thank you Salvos, Fairfield!

SSI case managers have continued their efforts to show the various local charities just how much they are appreciated by sharing a morning tea. One team of Community Support Program staff from SSI Parramatta paid a visit to the Salvos charity store in Fairfield, on October 9, delivering treats for staff and volunteers, sharing stories and thanking them for their support.

STARTTS annual Refugee Ball

The 6th annual STARTTS Refugee Ball was held on October 23, at Cockle Bay Wharf, and was enthusiastically supported by SSI staff. The ball raises much needed funds for the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS).

SSI launches online donations site

With many of SSI’s clients living under financial hardship, the organisation took further steps towards supporting their needs by launching its online donations page in time for Anti-Poverty Week in October.

“Growing up was very complicated”

Sarah Yahya, 19, was born hearing impaired in Iraq in 1995, to a Mandaean family that lived in fear for their safety. The Mandaean ethnic-religious group has been increasingly persecuted since not long after Sarah arrived in the world. In the cover of night, aged six, Sarah, her sister and mother, were whisked from their home and driven 12 hours in to Jordan. Once there, they went immediately to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to seek protection. Their father had been arrested and was in prison, serving four years for his beliefs.

Young refugee Bashir Yousufi shares his story

Bashir Yousufi was just 13 when he set out on the long journey from Pakistan through Asia to Australia. His father had been killed in Afghanistan by Taliban extremists, Bashir said, because he was of the Hazara ethnic group, and his mother had died from cancer

“Have you heard of boat people? I’m like them”

Customers of Sydney bank teller Asif Haideri come and go, never suspecting he is much different to them. Those who he strikes a conversation with are shocked, he said, to learn he is ethnic Hazara from Afghanistan and was once kidnapped and tortured by the Taliban. “I’m a bank teller and people talk to me every day,” Asif said. “When I say I am from Afghanistan and I came to Australia two years ago, they are shocked. They say, ‘really, I thought you were born here’. I say, no, have you heard of boat people? I am like them. They are shocked.”

Young refugees share their stories

The lives and settlement experiences of young refugees will be explored at the fourth and final Speakers’ Series event for 2014 hosted by Settlement Services International (SSI). Titled The strength of youth: young people and their refugee experiences, the event on Tuesday, November 11, will begin with three young people from refugee backgrounds sharing their stories.

Seeking asylum and playing cricket

Sport is renowned for bringing people from all over the world together, and now cricket has united two seemingly disparate groups of men. Refugees and people seeking asylum have joined members of Knox Grammar School’s ‘Old Boys’ association to hone their bat and ball skills together in the lead up to cricket season.   The weekly pre-season cricket clinics at Auburn District Cricket Club on Saturdays have resulted in a mutually beneficial partnership for the 18 or so refugees and asylum seekers, who are clients of SSI, and members of the Old Knox Grammarians’ Association.