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NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors

Former refugees among those recognised at prestigious awards ceremony

2023 NSW Humanitarian Awards: Media Release

MEDIA RELEASE: The outstanding efforts of volunteers and workers supporting recently arrived refugees was acknowledged at the 15th year of the NSW Humanitarian Awards on Wednesday 12 July.

An initiative of the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) together with the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), the Humanitarian Awards recognise those people who have made an exceptionally positive contribution towards refugee and asylum seeker issues in New South Wales.

In 2023, the Awards were presented by the Patron of STARTTS, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of New South Wales, in a ceremony that took place at Government House, Sydney.

STARTTS CEO, Jorge Aroche said, “I am delighted to have the privilege of recognising the extraordinary work of people from various backgrounds, including many with lived refugee experience, for dedicating themselves to helping refugees build a new life as they settle in NSW. This recognition is made even more important by the increasing extent of armed conflict around the world in the last twelve months.

It is particularly fitting that this recognition is awarded by Her Excellency at Government House, a place that is synonymous with our commitment to civic society. It is a timely acknowledgement of the resourceful people that make our refugee resettlement program work so well.”

CEO of Refugee Council of Australia, Paul Power said, “These awards are an important recognition that everybody has a role in welcoming refugees to our community. With awards spanning education, media, sport, business, rural and regional services – they represent acknowledgement of exceptional efforts in support of those that have recently arrived to start life again in their new home.

The Awards also demonstrate what Refugee Week is about by celebrating the extraordinary positive contributions of people who themselves have been refugees and who are working now to support people as they rebuild their lives in Australia.”

Refugee Week was celebrated from 18-24 June this year with scores of events taking place throughout June across NSW around the theme of ‘Finding Freedom”. The theme is a powerful reminder of the traumatic experiences that force refugees to seek safety outside their country of origin and of the possibilities of a new life in Australia.

“People find freedom when they have the opportunity to make a new life for themselves, their family and their community, often after living through terrible traumatic experiences in their country of origin or in the process of seeking safety. Finding freedom means that is  possible for those that have arrived recently as refugees to participate fully in the life of this country,” said President of the Refugee Council of Australia and STARTTS Community Services Coordinator, Jasmina Bajraktarevic-Hayward.

Refugee Week is organised by the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) Australia’s peak national body for refugees and people seeking asylum and the organisations that serve them.

The official 2023 NSW Humanitarian Awards Ceremony took place at Government House, Sydney on Wednesday 12 July at 6:00pm AEST

The 2023 Awardee citations can be read on STARTTS website



For media inquiries or to arrange interviews contact
Nikki Kerr, STARTTS Executive Support Manager on 0458 510 078

** 2023 NSW Humanitarian Awardees **

Refugee Community Worker
Aynalem Tessema

**Highly commended**
Mahmoud Murad

Refugee Supporter
Miriam Pellicano

Odarka Brecko

**Highly commended**
Sonal Singh

Government and Legal
Oliver Slewa

Welcome Merchant- Marjorie Tenchavez

‘After the fall’, Australian Story, ABC TV, Olivia Rousset and Greg Hassall

Sydney Youth FC

Rural and Regional
Tin Hta Nu

**Highly commended**
Marlene Griffin


STARTTS is a non-profit affiliated health organisation leading the way in refugee trauma rehabilitation. STARTTS services include individual counselling and psychotherapy, group therapy and activities, psychiatric assessment, body-focussed therapies and complementary medicine, specialist programs for children and young people and cutting-edge approaches to treat the impact of trauma on the brain. Clients of STARTTS include people from refugee backgrounds, asylum seekers, refugee community organisations and mainstream services providers. STARTTS’ community development programs have worked with countless refugee community groups to ensure they have the necessary support to build strong, vibrant community organisations. STARTTS has also trained thousands of people working with refugees so they are better able to understand the effects of torture and trauma.

About the Refugee Council of Australia

The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) is the national umbrella body for refugees and people seeking asylum and those who support them. RCOA has around 200 organisational and over 1,000 individual members – a non-profit organisation which is completely independent of government. You can help RCOA keep fighting for refugees and people seeking asylum by becoming a member, donating, volunteering or taking part in campaigns.

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