Community Engagement

The Community Engagement unit at SSI was created in 2013 with the mission to forge links between the people we work with, internal and external stakeholders, and the community, with a focus on information sharing, capacity development and collaboration.

Volunteers at an SSI Community Kitchen are serving food, dressed in yellow approns.
Volunteers and SSI staff serving asylum seekers at Community Kitchen.

SSI’s Community Engagement team works alongside community and civic structures, across the organisation and in areas of mutual benefit to achieve these goals. It does this through:

  • Creating community-based initiatives that embrace new ways of doing things and promote cultural heritage and expression, and the benefits of inter-culturalism
  • Encouraging first person narratives that capture client aspirations and concerns to feed into targeted advocacy, raise SSI’s profile, and contribute to client-centred project and business planning
  • Connect CALD community groups with local government disability inclusion strategies
  • Facilitating employment opportunities for people with disabilities from multicultural communities and supporting community groups, NGOs and businesses to be disability inclusive
  • Fostering access to and engagement with the arts by all members of the community and creating platforms for cultural participation
  • Nurturing community relationships and taking part in community leaders’ skills and advocacy training and forums while using a peer-to-peer learning model to build social capital within the community
  • Mobilising community groups to actively welcome new arrivals by collaborating in inter-agency work, influencing discourse and engaging groups like schools and civic groups
  • Using client-centred practice and an intensive consultation process with the refugee community to define their aspirations and challenges
  • Removing barriers to grants funding to support emerging refugee communities
  • Hosting festivals and cultural events that bring together new and established communities

 Community Innovation Fund

CIF banner 550

SSI has established the Community Innovation Fund to enrich the capacity of community members, leaders and groups to build a stronger, more vibrant and resilient life together in south-west Sydney.

An intensive consultation process was undertaken with the community to directly inform the fund’s selection criteria. It aimed to understand the community’s hopes and challenges and provide a narrative about what kind of community its members want to live in.

The fund encourages members of the community to focus on their strengths and called on to propose concepts, projects and collaborations that address a social issue of personal concern to them and/or their community.

All funded projects support newly arrived refugee communities in south-west Sydney (Fairfield, Liverpool and surrounds). Recipients must be groups, organisations or individuals who have a connection to south-west Sydney. All initiatives are driven by the communities they serve to support.

The fund is sponsored by SSI and works collaboratively with NSW Settlement Partnership (NSP) members (Core Community Services, Melkite Catholic Welfare Association), Fairfield City Council and community leaders and groups.

Why is it innovative?

The Community Innovation Fund is not a typical grants program but rather an “incubator” for great community ideas. It fosters a culture of community empowerment and self-determination. It provides an opportunity for the community to prescribe the nature of support according to social issues or concerns identified as priority by the community itself.

It also removes barriers to funding for the community and resources those with ideas who can “do” but wouldn’t typically attract grant funding. Its specially designed application process allows these ideas to be supported without making it necessary for applicants to have perfect grant-writing skills or once funded be impeded by burdensome grant structures.

Recipients receive a higher level of support than offered by typical grant programs. SSI resources will assist recipients through planning and project management tools, coaching and access to SSI facilities as required. NSP members are working directly with the community to support the development of applications and projects.

A key component of support is from within the community. The aim is to stimulate a peer-to-peer learning environment where recipients and community members support and learn from each other through the process. This seeks to build the community’s social capital and the capacity of its leaders. Skills sharing across projects, tapping into each other’s community connections, sharing learnings and working across community groups are some of the methods used.

Investing in community ideas moves further towards a strengths-based model of refugee settlement, recognising the skills and experiences of the communities themselves while building additional abilities and capacities. The Community Innovation Fund focuses not only on project outcomes but also the processes that arise during project implementation.

To find out more about:

  • What guides the fund
  • Who can apply
  • Selection criteria
  • Assessment of applications
  • What the funding can be used for

Download more information: pdfAbout the Community Innovation Fund210.19 KB

Meet the recipients of the Community Innovation Fund Round 1

Australian Iraqi Arts Academy 001

Australian Iraqi Arts Academy – Arts Activities Projects

Together, wife and husband team Hayfa Behnam and Dr Muwafaq Sawa, creatives committed to inspiring both artists and individuals in the Iraqi community, will offer art classes to recently arrived refugees. They join together to help people create beautiful, meaningful art to increase self-awareness, cope with stress symptoms, painful experiences and trauma, enhance cognitive abilities and enjoy the pleasures of life through artistic production and reflection.

The project design cleverly uses the arts in a multitude of ways: as a form of cultural maintenance, as a way to generate community pride and as a tool for individuals to heal and rejuvenate themselves. A component of the project is knowledge transfer. It is the aim that some participants further their skills and knowledge to share expertise in various areas with their communities. In addition, the sharing of cultural knowledge from the old to the young will be encouraged.

Chaldean League of NSW Inc. 001

Chaldean League of NSW Inc. – Technology Support: Not Only Computers with Basic English

Increasingly, newly arrived refugees are being required to navigate online forms in English for services crucial to their everyday life, such as online banking and Centrelink. The Chaldean League of NSW identified a need to support newly arrived refugees to develop skills, knowledge and confidence to navigate technology in English.
Classes will increase participants’ skills in using personal devices, computer accessories and programs, navigating internet browsers, email accounts and social media, and basic document usage. There will be a focus on advancing English language skills in a technology context and within a safe and trusting environment.

The Mandaean Womens Union In Australia 001

The Mandaean Women’s Union In Australia – Exhibition of Mandaean`s Culture and Tradition

Arts and cultural artefacts will be used to promote and celebrate the richness of the Mandaean culture and heritage through an exhibition day. It will also include an interactive community art project developed by attendees throughout the day. Workshops will be held prior with the Mandaean community to develop crafts to display.
The project’s intention is to foster connection between Mandaean refugees who are recently arrived and Mandaean community members who are more established. It also engages the wider community to attend the exhibition and promotes a cross-cultural dialogue. The Mandaean Women’s Union’s vision is to establish relationships with other communities and support all refugee communities to settle successfully.

Ashod Paloulian Tony Podesta 001

Tony Podesta School of Tennis & Ashod Paloulian – Tennis Coaching

Tennis is Tony Podesta’s passion and he believes providing newly arrived refugees a chance to try the sport will help them get to know their new communities and build social bridges. Free group tennis coaching will be offered to different age groups to introduce the basics of tennis. Ashod Paloulian, a professional tennis player and newly arrived Syrian refugee, will be instructing the classes. He speaks English and Arabic, allowing classes to be taught in both.
The program aims to improve the health and mental health of students through physical well-being and social connection. It is about how having fun can help kids and adults to move through their trauma in a culturally appropriate environment.

Melkite Catholic Eparchy 001

Melkite Catholic Eparchy – Business Ready

Navigating a pathway to employment can be difficult for anyone. It is especially difficult for those, such as newly arrived refugees, unfamiliar with the Australian job market culture. They often lack job readiness to find employment opportunities and to sell their skills to potential employers.
Information sessions will be offered to newly arrived refugees on the fundamentals of business practices in Australia with the aim of assisting those ready for employment to obtain jobs. The sessions will focus on CV preparation, how to be job ready, how to contact organisations, and a range of basic business practices (reading invoices, terminology, etiquette and norms, rates of pay). The focus will be on skills for blue collar workers.

St Thomas of the Apostle Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Australia and NZ – English Language Support

St Thomas is often the first point of contact for newly arrived Chaldeans and Assyrian refugees. It is a place of community, safety and trust. The church has seen a massive influx of newly arrived refugees into their community looking for English language support.
Learning a new language takes time and practice. The classes offer additional support beyond the initial classes offered to refugees. The classes will offer a place for refugees to further practise their English skills in a safe setting. Students will be assisted to communicate independently, settle into their new home and find job opportunities.

Round 2

SSI recognises the hard work all applicants undertook to submit their applications in 2017.

A second funding round call out will be made later in 2018.

Anyone wanting to discuss their innovative project ideas, please contact Kat O’Neill at 02 8799 6745 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Multicultural Disability Inclusion and Promotion

One in five Australians identifies as living with a disability. A quarter of those — approximately 350,000 people in NSW — are from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

Through its programs and initiatives, SSI delivers services to thousands of people each year and its work influences hundreds of communities.

The Community Engagement team champions diversity and inclusion by working with SSI programs and initiatives to ensure they are accessible and inclusive for people of all abilities.

Community Engagement supports and engages with multicultural communities and organisations interested in becoming disability confident. It also provides a platform for those communities to engage with the disability inclusion sector and with each other.

The Multicultural Disability Inclusion and Promotion Officer provides support, and resources and endorses disability inclusion in multicultural communities and organisations.
Some of this work includes:

  • Resourcing community groups, non-government organisations and businesses that work with multicultural communities in order to become disability confident
  • Resourcing and supporting inclusive employment initiatives
  • Assisting multicultural festival organisers to make them more accessible and inclusive
  • Linking organisations working in the disability inclusion space with multicultural communities
  • Promoting inclusive events to multicultural networks and the broader community
  • Presenting on disability inclusion for communities outside of the NDIS
  • Providing information on federal and NSW disability inclusion strategies

Community Engagement believes that supporting and challenging multicultural communities will result in a more inclusive society that will benefit everyone.

For information on disability inclusion in the multicultural sector, please contact Disability Inclusion Officer This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..