NSW Humanitarian Awards 2020
Lifetime Service and Achievement
This is a first-time awarded category, recognising an outstanding lifetime of incredible contribution towards improving the lives of refugees.
Cultural Adviser to Community Living Support for Refugees and People Seeking Asylum
As a friend of the refugee community for over 30 years, Cheryl Webster has worked tirelessly to support refugees in their transition to life in Australia, providing community assistance, social and emotional support to people, and advocating for change and improvements in Australian Immigration Policy. She has also built capacity in communities through training and mentoring. Cheryl has been long-recognised in refugee communities for her strength and courage both nationally and overseas, assisting people to overcome culture shock, language barriers and negative perceptions, and connecting new arrivals with community service providers. Her contribution whilst working in Ethiopia & South Sudan has gifted her names like Workinesh, meaning ‘golden’, and Achole, meaning ‘replacement of a loss’. Cheryl is now retired though continues her lifetime of dedication and commitment to providing invaluable encouragement and supports to refugees, fostering harmonious settlement of refugees in Australia.
An outstanding project working with or assisting refugees. The project can be run by an individual group or organisation and can either be ongoing or completed during the last year.
Finding Safety for Women at Risk
Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) & Refugee Advice & Casework Service (RACS)
The women’s only safe space, as part of JRS Finding Safety Project funded by WomenNSW and the RACS Women at-risk legal clinic through philanthropic support, is unique in NSW in providing case worker, community support and legal assistance to women and children seeking asylum who have suffered or fear domestic or gender-based violence. The project has supported over 300 women in their specific and complex protection needs who face additional complications and barriers in accessing services. As part of the project, an innovative training program for frontline staff addressed the intersection between domestic and family violence and visa status, aiming to bridge policy and knowledge gap, informing recent submissions on Australia’s Family Law System. This work has seen RACS and JRS advise and advocate externally for law and policy reform that better serves asylum seeking women and children who have experienced violence, supporting women taking the lead in the first roundtable for asylum seeking women in Australia, from which the findings and recommendations were presented at the UN Global Refugee Forum.
English for Swimming
Michelle Cowans is founder of Navitas English for Swimming program, an affordable learn-to-swim program provided by Navitas English and Different Strokes Swimming. The program enables and empowers adult women with swimming and water safety skills, while also providing English tuition in a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment. It is the first of its kind in combining English language skills and games in the classroom with the use of technology enhanced learning including virtual reality experiences, and physical swimming lessons. For refugee and migrant women, the program breaks down language and settlement barriers, providing English language skills, technology skills, and the opportunity for local community connections. Through development of skills that many students thought they would never be able to learn, other rewards followed such as increased motivation, confidence, a sense of wellbeing, and a stronger sense of community. Through exercise, shared experiences and encouragement, the program assists individuals in their struggles adapting to life in Australia, providing participants with hope and a feeling of belonging.
A member of the broader Australian community, of any background, supporting and assisting refugees in any capacity, in either a paid or unpaid position.
Community Volunteer / Refugees Advocate
Veronica Nou is a busy pharmacist, pharmacy owner, mother, and former Cambodian refugee, who as National Convener of ‘Mums4Refugees’ feeds, clothes and cares for newly arrived refugee families. With working groups across Australia and New Zealand, she and Mums4Refugees campaign tirelessly for refugee rights and welfare, having been instrumental in the successful #KidsOffNauru campaign, lobbying MP’s for SRSS funding and legislated human rights. Veronica has great compassion for people seeking asylum, over the past four years donating expensive life-changing medication for people ineligible for Medicare or Centrelink, visiting families held in detention, and delivering low-cost groceries through the MamaPenny Food Pantry. She is passionate about the welfare of refugees and Australia’s response to them, speaking and marching at pro-refugee events, fundraisers, rallies and school workshops. Veronica recently organised free ongoing medication review services for asylum seekers, as well as a welcoming after-school space for children, offering free food and activities.
Refugee Community Worker
A former refugee working on refugee issues with their own or other refugee communities, in either a paid or unpaid position.
Australian Afghan Hassanian Youth Association (AAHYA)
Sayeed Karimi is the president of the Australian Afghan Hassanian Youth Association, (AAHYA), a non-profit organisation established in 2006 to support Asylum Seekers and Refugees with their settlement journeys in Australia. AAHYA runs a number of different programs which aim to empower community members to become active members of Australian society through strong commitment to family, education and to the country they live in. During the extraordinarily tough times of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Sayeed Karimi initiated a unique care package distribution designed to help migrants, refugees, individuals who had lost their job, and the vulnerable and elderly. It has been one of the most effective initiatives, supporting over 500 migrant refugees and asylum seekers, and more than 250 vulnerable Australians who were deeply affected by the global pandemic. The generosity of volunteers in organising, preparing and providing the care packages are reflective of Sayeed Karimi’s commitment to charity and compassion and are guiding values for the services provided by AAHYA.
Dr Ahmad Alrubaie
Senior Consultant Gastroenterologist / Therapeutic Endoscopist Senior Lecturer
University of NSW (UNSW)
Dr Ahmad Alrubaie, a refugee himself, is a medical practitioner, and community champion. Utilising both his professional expertise as a Senior Gastroenterologist / Therapeutic Endoscopist / Senior Lecturer in UNSW, and passion for social justice to support refugees for the past 12 years, particularly refugees from Iraq settling in SWS, Dr Alrubaie co-founded The Iraqi Australian University Graduates Forum (The Forum), Association of Iraqi Academics in Australia & NZ (AIAAN), and Iraqi Australasian Medical Association (IAMA). A major highlight is his leadership with The Forum: a not-for-profit community organisation that provides cultural and educational functions and advocates human rights for women, children, minorities and vulnerable members of the community, especially refugees. Dr Alrubaie has shown consistent leadership and passion in motivating and inspiring refugees to reach their full potential in Australia, including providing mentorship, supporting cultural events and the arts, delivering health and well-being education to the community, providing free consultation and treatment for the disadvantaged and helping new arrivals among doctors and academics.
Individuals or organisations from the government or legal sectors working to advise, assist or support asylum seekers or refugees.
Community Liaison Officer
NSW Department of Communities and Justice
Sam Borka, a former asylum seeker, has worked tirelessly supporting and assisting refugees since 2008, first as an adult settlement teacher at University of Western Sydney, then Navitas, and currently in his role as Community Liaison Officer at NSW Department of Communities and Justice. Sam is part of many interagency meetings and working groups and has shown initiative for and led many successful events to support refugees and newly arrived migrants in collaboration with government and non-government organisations. Sam’s passion is evident in the work he has delivered including leading and hosting information sessions, Court open days, Law expos, and Field visits to police stations and local courts where the aim is to break down barriers between community members, Department of Justice and the police. He is co-founder of the South West Sydney Domestic Violence Committee. Sam goes beyond his role to provide casework to support refugees in need of assistance, tailoring legal content to deliver it in a way that best supports the CALD community and refugees.
A young person aged 12-25 of refugee background making an outstanding contribution to Australian society in their chosen field.
MYAN NSW (Multicultural Youth Affairs Network)
Naz Sharifi is a young Hazara woman currently studying a Bachelor of International Relations and Law. She is deeply passionate about advocacy for children and refugees, especially migrant and refugee children impacted by the lack of stability and long-term displacement. Naz volunteers at Kateb Hazara Association, giving talks of political advocacy and participation, youth involvement importance of positive representation. Having recently joining the Youth Ambassadors Program at MYAN NSW where she initiated a youth-led space for young people to grieve, express their frustrations and find solidarity after the attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her approach to influencing her community is youth-led having encouraged youth involvement in fundraising efforts in the bushfire crisis. Observing intergenerational differences within her community, Naz works hard to be an active listener and youth advocate amongst her elders. With her strong critical thinking skills, Naz advocates for accurate representation of refugee communities.
MYAN NSW (Multicultural Youth Affairs Network)
Naoshin Bhuiyan is a 19-year old Bengali girl, and is highly active as a Youth Ambassador for the Multicultural Youth Affairs Network (MYAN NSW). Naoshin’s first volunteering experience was assisting the running of the 2019 Diversity and Inclusion in Sport Forum, a TEDx style event that brings together people at the forefront of diversity and inclusion. Since this time, Naoshin has helped plan MYAN’s youth camp, showing a high level of maturity and eagerly contributing to the planning process. Naoshin embodies a leader-like personality. She is warm and expressive and truly has a heart drawn to seeking justice for newly arrived young people. Since her 3 years living in Australia, Naoshin has been very active in her desire to volunteer, attend MYAN events, and assist with activities and tasks behind the scenes as needed. Naoshin has grown exceptionally and has proven to be an avid learner and confident leader.
Rural & Regional
Organisations or individuals working in regional areas of NSW to assist refugees.
DV Specialist – Multicultural
Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service
Jessika works in Armidale, a re-settlement area in the New England Region for Ezidi refugees from Northern Iraq, where her role with the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service specialises in reaching vulnerable women and children experiencing family violence. Culturally safe practice underpins Jessika’s approach to assisting Ezidi women navigating the local service sector, particularly the Australian justice and child protection system. Jessika has shown initiative and passion, facilitating innovative pathways for connecting Ezidi women to a larger network of women’s support in community, including Women’s Group initiatives. Her advocacy work has been instrumental in raising awareness of the impact for refugee women and their families associated with the complexities of extreme trauma from pre-arrival experiences, and opening lines of communication with NSW Police Multicultural Team to improve culturally safe practice. Jessika regularly presents at sessions for refugees to support understanding of the systems and customs of their new community.
Media outlets, journalists or media officers supporting, prioritising and/or raising awareness of refugee issues.
Campaigner/ Refugee & Human Rights Advocate
Craig Foster has been a major campaigner, advocate and activist for Refugee Causes and the safeguarding of Human Rights for persecuted individuals and communities. Craig has personally spearheaded three major campaigns: #SaveHakeem, #GameOver and #PlayForLives, raising public awareness of social injustices and providing humanitarian relief to the vulnerable and disenfranchised. Craig has used his profile to bring together a coalition of sports personalities, sports bodies, media interests, refugee and Indigenous rights advocates, community organisations, and volunteers. He has personally supported and assisted hundreds if not thousands of individuals from a refugee background. Craig initiates and galvanises meaningful on the ground action, campaigning around the clock for more humane and compassionate laws. He practises within Australia as well as calling to account his own Government and others when they are shown to be culpable for human rights abuses and negligence. There are few who have used their elevated public profile to the same extent in the fight for the rights of disadvantaged and persecuted as Craig Foster.