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Taekwondo champ from Iran wants to pass on skills

Hamid Shirvani, 43, from Iran, has taken out one of the top categories at the NSW Taekwondo State Championships and now hopes to pass on his skills as a coach. Mr Shirvani lives with his wife and baby daughter in South Wentworthville. The family fled Iran about a year ago and is awaiting the outcome of their assessments for refugee status. This means Mr Shirvani is unable to work and has limited access to the training resources that other taekwondo competitors could afford. But this didn’t stop him winning a gold medal in the open men’s 80 to 87 kilogram black belt category at the State Championships on May 11. Mr Shirvani is no stranger to success in taekwondo. The sport is much more popular in Iran, where there is a professional league of taekwondo. Mr Shirvani said he was a top-five contender in the country’s professional competition for 10 years. He won several national tournaments, he said, and qualified for international events but was never allowed to leave Iran. Now in Australia, he hopes to pass on the skills he has learned over 30 years of training and coaching in the sport. “Taekwondo is something that I grew-up doing,” he said through an interpreter, “it is part of my life and I will always be practicing it. This is what I have dedicated my life to. I have years of experience and I think I can teach and improve taekwondo in Australia.”

Cultural Shift symposium for migrant and refugee families

Settling 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.   

The first Cultural Shift symposium for migrant and refugee families

Settling 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.

SSI, Vinnies and UnitingCare to provide for 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.

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.

Exhibition gives voice to refugees and asylum seekers

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.  

Asylum seeker’s Olympic and academic dreams on hold

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.”

Sydney to Tehran: the AUSCO exchange program

Refugees resettling in Australia should benefit from greater cohesion between on- and off-shore programs after Settlement Services International’s Yamamah Agha took part in the Australian Cultural Orientation (AUSCO) Exchange Program to Iran. Ms Agha, the Humanitarian Settlement Services Service Delivery Manager at SSI, experienced firsthand the work done to help prepare refugees and humanitarian visa […]

My Story – Nedhal Amir

Harmony Day, this Friday, March 21, celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity and coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. To mark the occasion, Settlement Services International Case Manager Nedhal Amir tells her story of arrival in Australia.   Nedhal Amir came to Australia from Iraq with her husband and four […]

POSTPONED: Fairfield HSS team and clients get hands dirty to clean community

Staff and clients from the SSI Humanitarian Settlement Services team in Fairfield are going to “do the right thing, put it in the bin” this Tuesday. The group will volunteer its time to take part in the annual Clean Up Australia event, which aims to “keep Australia beautiful”. Acting Team Leader Nedhal Amir said staff […]

Jam sessions at SSI Community Kitchen

 Musicians 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 the invitation is extended to relevant established community groups and leaders to attend and connect with those more newly arrived.

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

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.

Olympic judo coach helps teenage asylum seekers

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.”

Soccer unites refugees but who will give them a game?

Soccer 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.”

Refugee boy battles war trauma on first day of school

Like most children, Noran Zahrooni was terrified of starting school today. But it wasn’t teachers or lessons that had him anxious. The six-year-old and his family arrived in Australia late last year after fleeing war-torn Syria. Father Farhan Zahrooni told SBS his son was traumatised by the conflict and struggled to understand he was now […]