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

Refugee Community Worker

Awarded to a former refugee working on refugee issues with their own or other refugee communities, in either a paid or unpaid position.

Awarded to Aynalem Tessema

Aynalem Tessema arrived in Australia as a refugee in 1993 and began working as an Ethiopian Community Worker, providing settlement support to refugees and migrants. Aynalem’s dedication and passion led her to become a Settlement & Community Inclusion Manager, where she gained extensive experience working with multicultural communities and diverse clients, including refugees and humanitarian entrants. Her work focused on promoting cultural awareness, understanding diverse worldviews, and respecting values and traditions.

Aynalem’s contributions have extended beyond her role, as she facilitated multicultural inter-agencies, organised events such as International Women’s Day and Refugee Week, and conducted cross-cultural training and community leadership roundtables. Through her work at the Accessible Diversity Services Initiative based in Auburn, Aynalem has supported a wide range of communities with a focus on ensuring cultural appropriateness.

In addition to her professional accomplishments, Aynalem has engaged in voluntary work, assisting individuals with housing, employment, education, legal issues, and navigating the Australian system. Aynalem is recognised for the significant and often unsung work she does in the community, inspiring others and contributing to making society a better place.

Highly Commended

Awarded to Mahmoud Murad

Mahmoud Murad is a bilingual community worker and researcher dedicated to promoting cultural awareness and improving access to services for individuals from migrant and refugee backgrounds living with a disability. Since arriving in Australia in 2015, Mahmoud has engaged in paid and volunteer community work. He founded the Syrian Australian Forum on Facebook, offering support to Arabic-speaking refugees. In 2017, he created the Refugee Hub blog to provide information in Arabic.

Mahmoud focuses on advocating for and empowering individuals from a humanitarian background to participate in the workforce. He has worked in the Youth Transition Support Program (YTSP) to enhance employment and education outcomes. As a youth support worker and a research assistant, Mahmoud has been involved in formal and informal advocacy. He recognises the challenges faced by disabled individuals from Syrian and Iraqi refugee backgrounds in accessing information and services in Australia, impacting their quality of life and sense of belonging.

Currently, Mahmoud works as a Local Area Coordinator at Settlement Services International, supporting disabled people from refugee backgrounds in accessing the National Disability Insurance Scheme and community services. He collaborates with local organisations, employment agencies, and educational institutions to advocate effectively for and support his clients.

Mahmoud’s passion, empathy, and genuine care for his community make him an inspiring individual who consistently works towards a brighter future.

Refugee Supporter

Awarded to a member or organisation in the broader Australian community, of any background, supporting and assisting refugees in any capacity, in either a paid or unpaid capacity.

Awarded to Miriam Pellicano

Miriam Pellicano has worked for seven years as the Executive Manager of the House of Welcome, a direct service provider based in Granville dedicated to supporting people seeking asylum and refuge. The House of Welcome is responsible for providing a wide variety of much needed social assistance to a highly disadvantaged group of clients with its programs including housing, casework, employment and the House of Welcome Catering Social Enterprise.

Previously, Miriam worked for many years on widening participation programs that build equity and access for students of diverse backgrounds and means to pursue higher education.

Outside Australia, Miriam worked as a human rights monitor in the Middle East, reporting on access to education and freedom of movement for workers and students. Other work included with Defence for Children International, whose mandate is to ensure effective implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) at the local, national and international level. Whilst working in the Jerash refugee camp in Jordan, Miriam collaborated with the community development team to establish an income generating English Language program.

Miriam represents the House of Welcome in their advocacy work, and is working to drive policy changes and mitigate the negative impacts of policy settings that unduly affect asylum seekers.


Awarded to schools, Universities and other educational institutions, or individuals working at such institutions, who assist former refugees by breaking down barriers to education.

Awarded to Odarka Brecko

For more than 50 years, Odarka has been a dedicated advocate for Ukrainian language, culture, and traditions. Her work in education and with young people reflects a commitment to the opportunities made possible through learning. Odarka holds key positions such as Teaching Principal at St Andrews Ukrainian School in Lidcombe and Executive Board Member in organisations dedicated to Ukrainian studies. She is actively involved in the Ukrainian Women’s Associations at state and national levels and serves as the Australia Liaison Officer to the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organisations.

As an educator, Odarka has contributed to the development of over 5,000 school-age students by promoting innovative teaching approaches and coordinating the development of the first Australian-focused Ukrainian bilingual dictionary. She has advocated for the recognition of Ukrainian language achievements by educational authorities and mainstream schools.

Beyond the classroom, Odarka has worked to build social networks and community connections for Ukrainian families and children, especially newly arrived migrants. She actively participates in Ukrainian community events, showcasing student achievements and ensuring the inclusion of children with autism. Odarka has organised fundraising activities to support students’ needs, including those displaced from Ukraine.

Odarka’s passion and commitment have left a lasting impression on so many within the Ukrainian community and beyond.

Highly Commended

Awarded to Sonal Singh.
The award was accepted by Mrs Amar Kuar, (Apologies Sonal Singh)

Sonal is an experienced equity practitioner with fifteen years of work in higher education and the social sector. Currently, Sonal holds the position of Executive Manager, Student Equity at the Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion, UTS. With a focus on NSW, Sonal has led important national research projects that centre on refugee-educational outcomes, culturally inclusive research methodologies and partnerships. Sonal has contributed to developing educational programs aimed at increasing access to higher education for refugee students in NSW universities.

Sonal played a central role in implementing a fee-waiver scholarship program for individuals seeking asylum at NSW universities, and establishing the LEAP-Refugee Macquarie Mentoring Program. Notably, Sonal has also been successful in leading fundraising initiatives to provide financial support to students in need.

With a wealth of expertise in equity and education, Sonal’s career is marked by dedication and impactful contributions to promoting inclusivity and access to education.

Government and Legal

Awarded to individuals or organisations from the government or legal sectors working to advise, assist or support asylum seekers or refugees.

Awarded to Oliver Slewa

Oliver Slewa is a dedicated legal practitioner and CEO of SHAYNA Humanitarian, a not-for-profit organisation in South Western Sydney. With over fifteen years of experience as a solicitor and migration agent, Oliver has provided free advice and support to refugees and people seeking asylum. He has worked in the government sector, particularly in migration law, helping refugee clients, and reuniting families in Australia. Oliver’s personal experience as a refugee fuels his passion for assisting others in their settlement journey.

Oliver is a national refugee ambassador for the Refugee Council of Australia and has worked continually to challenge misconceptions about refugees. He shares stories of courage and resilience across the country, advocating for the rights and well-being of marginalised communities.

Through SHAYNA Humanitarian, Oliver provides free legal advice to women escaping domestic violence, along with finding resources to support their families. Oliver conducts sessions in community languages, runs staff development projects, and collaborates with health, education, religious organisations, NGOs, and government agencies.


Awarded to small or large businesses employing, assisting, established/run by or in any other way supporting refugees.

Awarded to Marjorie Tenchavez
Welcome Merchant

Marjorie is the Founder & Director of Welcome Merchant, a social enterprise that provides a free, consolidated business development platform resourcing entrepreneurs who identify as a refugee, a former refugee or as a person seeking asylum.

Since commencing as a social enterprise, Welcome Merchant has assisted people from refugee and refugee like backgrounds to generate more than $100,000 in revenue. Welcome Merchant offers curated events, social media support, an online directory, skill building workshops and merchandise partnerships. Through the support of Welcome Merchant, entrepreneurs with refugee and asylum-seeker experiences can tell their unique stories and showcase talents in their own voice.

Prior to starting Welcome Merchant in 2020 on Instagram, Marjorie worked promoting social justice at organisations such as Amnesty International Australia and Metro Assist. Marjorie didn’t plan to start a social enterprise, until she realised that Welcome Merchant could be so much more than just an Instagram account.


Awarded to media outlets, journalists or media officers supporting, prioritising and/or raising awareness of refugee issues.

Awarded to ‘After the Fall’, Australian Story, ABC TV
Producers: Olivia Rousset and Greg Hassall

Olivia Rousset is a decorated documentary maker who has worked at Australian Story for the past two years and spent her professional life making current affairs documentaries on social justice issues globally. Olivia first came to prominence in the 1990s for her insightful contributions to the ABC’s ‘Race Around the World’, a travel documentary competition that sought stories from young lone documentary makers as they met impossible deadlines and lived out of their backpacks.

Greg Hassall is an award-winning journalist who began his career in print and spent several years as a television critic before he decided it was time to actually make television, and took the courageous step to the other side, joining Australian Story as a researcher and producer in 2013.

Olivia and Greg co-produced the story, ‘After the Fall’ to highlight the inspirational work of Mahboba Rawi and her son Nawid ‘Sourosh’ Cina in evacuating a group of orphans and their carers from three orphanages run by Mahboba’s Promise in Afghanistan, to resettle in Sydney. Sourosh, Mahboba and Sarah Dale from the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) worked together to navigate a path through the dangers of Taliban controlled Afghanistan and the pitfalls of Australian bureaucracy to ultimately bring a group of almost eighty children and their carers to these shores.


Awarded to an organisation or individual for outstanding efforts in promoting sporting endeavours among people from refugee backgrounds.

Awarded to Sydney Youth FC
The Award was accepted by Jabir Hossieni

Sydney Youth FC, is a football team dedicated to engaging Afghan Hazara youth in sport and contributing to their development as people.

Jabir Hossieni, who founded the team, came to Australia as an asylum seeker from Afghanistan in February 2012. With a passion for football (soccer), Jabir created a space where Afghan youngsters could come together and enjoy themselves. Sydney Youth FC’s focus is on well-structured games, teamwork, and overcoming obstacles to achieve success. These achievements foster a sense of belonging and recognition among the players that further motivates them.

Sydney Youth FC offers a safe and supportive environment for players to develop on and off the field. They have participated in various Afghan National Tournaments, representing NSW and demonstrating their progress. Soccer not only improves their physical fitness but also instils valuable life skills and discipline.

Jabir’s decision to coach the team stemmed from his desire to provide Afghan youth with an alternative to wandering the local streets or train stations. Joining Sydney Youth FC offers players not only soccer skills but also support and camaraderie. Together, they have built a strong community and mutual support.

Rural and Regional

Awarded to organisations or individuals working in regional areas of NSW to assist refugees.

Awarded to Tin Hta Nu

Tin Hta Nu is a founding member of the Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group and has championed support for refugees through fundraising, financial aid, advocacy, and public addresses. Tin arrived as a refugee to Australia in 1990 from Myanmar after participating in the 1988 democratic reforms movement and enduring persecution under the military junta.

In the community of Kendall, Tin has made notable contributions as a tutor and teacher, specialising in Buddhist living, meditation, and Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Additionally, she has actively participated in community organisations like the CWA, Op-shop, and the establishment of a local community garden and café.

Tin’s efforts have garnered recognition, including the Living Treasure Award from the Port Macquarie Council. Continuing her community involvement, she organises multicultural lunches, supports educational initiatives, and fosters understanding of refugee experiences.

Tin’s commitment to assisting refugees has extended beyond her local community and has included visits to refugee camps on the Thai-Myanmar border, offering financial aid and advocating for the rights and well-being of refugees from Myanmar.

Highly Commended

Posthumous Award to Marlene Griffin
The award was accepted by Ms. Danielle Townsend, Interim CEO of the Asylum Seekers Centre.

Prior to her death in May 2023, Marlene Griffin was Co-convenor of the Nambucca -Bellingen Rural Australians for Refugees. Since 2017, Marlene was instrumental in reinvigorating the work of the group to advocate, outreach and fundraise in support of refugees and people seeking asylum on the Mid North Coast.

Marlene was also an enthusiastic advocate for the arts that led her to hold positions on the Nambucca Arts Council and the Nambucca Community and Arts Centre, securing grants for its improvement.

Marlene’s creativity and boundless energy shone through her in artistic endeavours. Marlene used her talent for painting to raise funds to support refugees, organising exhibitions and selling her artwork, with all proceeds benefiting the NSW Asylum Seekers Centre. Even in her final days, Marlene continued to paint for a forthcoming exhibition.

Marlene’s legacy extends beyond her individual contributions. Through her work, a strong community of advocates and leaders has developed that will carry on her mission of welcoming people seeking asylum, and refugees to the Australian community.

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