Refugee Support Services

Four Diversity and Disability Alliance members looking at the camera

Through its Strength through Peer Support project, the Diversity and Disability Alliance aims to provide an opportunity for people from newly arrived refugee backgrounds and with a disability to build their peer support networks and receive one-on-one support from a peer mentor while addressing cultural attitudes and issues related to disability. This will be achieved through an introductory peer support course, a peer mentoring program, and Peer2Peer cafes, where peer facilitators and newly arrived people will meet others in the community with a disability.

Sophie Bejok smiling at the camera

Sophie Bejok had been in Australia for only six months when she applied for the fund after fleeing Syria with her family. Auspiced by Western Sydney Migrant Resource Centre, Sophie is managing the Laziz Project, which aims to enable women from newly-arrived backgrounds to meet new people and gain employable skills through cooking classes. The participants, from the Liverpool area, will undertake cooking sessions at the Refugee Welcome Centre in Callan Park, and will gain a Food Safety Certificate at the completion of the course.

Raghda Aziz looking at the camera

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. This is the second time this project has been assisted by the Community Innovation Fund. Raghda has expanded the program and has brought on an English language educator who is supporting the classes with English language learning.

The Mandaean Womens Union In Australia female member smiling at the camera

The Mandaean Women’s Union’s Learn and Work for Our Future is an introductory course to hairdressing for women from Mandean newly arrived refugee backgrounds. The project aims to foster the professional development of participants by introducing the basic concepts of hairdressing in Australia, providing them with connections to the hairdressing profession, and enabling credit towards hairdressing qualifications through the Union’s partnership with TAFE.

St Thomas member looking at the camera

The St Thomas Chaldean & Assyrian Catholic Diocese recognised that many community members, especially mothers and the elderly, were not able to attend the government’s Adult Migrant English Program although they wanted to learn English. In response, St Thomas has partnered with the Australian Catholic University (ACU) to develop and run English language classes for people from newly arrived refugee backgrounds.

Through the promotion of cultural and educational activities that promote social cohesion, Al-Muntada aims to assist the emerging Iraqi community in south-west Sydney to participate in their new Australian community. The group has held a series of workshops around the folkloric music, song and dance of the diverse Iraqi communal groups, including Kurdish, Arab, Syriac, Assyrian and Gypsie cultures. All cultural groups danced together at the Shanasheel Iraqi Cultural Festival in November 2018.

Member of The Peacemakers Ensemble looking at the camera with arms folded

The Peacemakers Ensemble is a community choir based in Fairfield with members of refugee backgrounds from Mesopotamian-Australian communities. The choir has established a project called Learning English through Song (LETS), helping recently-arrived Syrian and Iraqi refugees in south-west Sydney acquire English language through the beauty and diversity of Australian song. Through the study, understanding and performance of Australian song, the project will increase English conversational skills and foster a sense of belonging and engagement with the wider Australian community, life and culture.

Hayfa Behnam smiling at the camera

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.

Raghda Aziz looking at the camera

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 female member smiling at the camera

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.