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No 5, 2021 (October) Edition

Welcome to the latest edition of SydWest's Community Connections in 2021, our regular newsletter that brings you all our news, events and more.

CEO Message

The long-anticipated NSW Government’s Roadmap for easing of COVID-19 restrictions has caused anxiety for many, and raises a series of questions on what return to life will look like in the short term. As human beings we are so adaptable, and many have become conditioned to 'pandemic life.' Now it means we must make additional efforts to re-condition ourselves back to 'normality.' 

We need to ensure we continue to maintain responsibility for the safety of our people and the communities we serve.

Numerous societal issues and key gaps in our systems have surfaced during this pandemic, and these cannot go ignored in the long-term plan for recovery. Social inequalities, and the lack of meaningful communication and engagement with our communities need to be acknowledged and addressed immediately.

Structures that were set to ensure meaningful communication with our diverse populations failed in achieving the obvious. Although ignored, what shined throughout was the relationships that multicultural organisations had fostered to build trust and connections with local communities. These organisations played a significant role in bridging the communication gaps.

Our impact on the community and our agility has never been acknowledged. We now hope that our purpose will be recognised, and be privy to both the planning and delivery of a more detailed plan to recovery.

The clear division between the State’s two cities allowed racism to start seeping through our proud multicultural society, and brought to light the challenges of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged that some had chosen to ignore up until now.

The trust between authorities and community has eroded. SydWest and our partner organisations are here to support genuine conversations with local communities in order to rebuild it. We have a responsibility towards our youth, as well as our predecessors, who worked tirelessly to achieve the cohesion and trust we were privileged to enjoy, pre-pandemic.

Coming out of the pandemic, both levels of government need to consider that meaningful, ongoing, and not tokenistic funding is allocated to address the numerous issues our multicultural communities are faced with.

Our diverse communities require specialist support in areas such as mental health, domestic violence, youth and children services, and to address social isolation of our seniors.

It is time that leadership recognises culturally appropriate early intervention as an investment, rather than leaving us to always reactively chasing their tails.

Elfa Moraitakis



Donations Making a Difference during COVID-19

SydWest has been humbled by the outpouring support Sydneysiders have shown our clients and services over the past several months.

With the recent government lockdowns disproportionately impacting Western Sydney, and CALD communities in particular, CEO Elfa Moraitakis spoke to a number of media outlets, alongside SydWest case workers and clients to help shed light on the refugee and migrant COVID experience. This proved to be critical for SydWest clients as it led to some very generous donations from a wide range of people.

Cash donations have allowed us to help our clients in a range of ways. Our Food from the Heart project partnership with Sai Organisation of Australia means we are able to arrange customised food shopping deliveries to some of the most vulnerable in our community. To date, we have assisted more than 30 families in need.

Our partnership with Thread Together has meant that our clients can continue to access their clothing service using a special one-time ordering system. This is a Thread Together initiative that has been running during the COVID-19 lockdown.

One of our young people Nasrullah, was featured on an ABC Story and donors have been very generous in seeking to make a difference to his needs, such as having a laptop, study space and other requirements in a busy big household.

Good360 has donated a large quantity of free PPE (facemasks and hand sanitiser), worth almost $4,000, that our Aged Care and NDIS care workers have been distributing to clients.

Donations mean we are able to assist people with their emergency needs – whether it be groceries or baby supplies, emergency utilities payments, or help with the rent. Generous donors help us continue this work during the extended lockdown period.


Voting for the Third Sector Awards has now closed, with SydWest CEO Elfa Moraitakis named as one of five finalists vying for the award for CEO of the Year.

The Third Sector Awards celebrate and recognise the best Not-For-Profit practices around Australia. Providing an unbiased and objective point of reference, the Third Sector team of judges scores hundreds of entries across multiple categories to showcase the very best in the sector.

The countdown is on until the awards ceremony on 4 November, and we look forward to celebrating our excellent peers who have provided such critical services to Australians over the past 24 months.

Basim Qasha – Settlement Success Story

Basim Qasha arrived in Australia in 2019, having left behind his homeland, Iraq, with the Global Special Humanitarian visa 202. This visa is granted to those facing substantial discrimination or human rights abuses, and have a proposer, allowing holders and their families permanent refuge in Australia.

Mr Qasha held a Bachelor of Physical Support in Iraq, but found he had to start all over again in his new country.

After initially settling in Wollongong with his parents, Basim moved to Sydney to get married.

He was referred to SydWest by his parents-in-law, who were themselves clients of SydWest.

Basim connected with our generalist settlement case worker, seeking support and assistance to find work and new opportunities.

He quickly took advantage of the assistance on offer, and initially joined English conversation classes to improve his language skills. He then enrolled in a
Certificate III in Individual Support with TAFE, to help him return to his passion in community care. 

Basim then joined the SydWest Men’s Social Group and is now an incredibly active member, enjoying both the social connections and many information sessions that are run in the group.

With assistance, Basim prepared and applied for a support worker position with SydWest. He was successful in his interview and commenced employment in August 2021. Alongside his new role, Basim will continue his studies until he graduates in November 2021.

We are proud of Basim and excited to have him on the team!

Settlement Stays Connected

Our Settlement Team continues to engage with clients, stakeholders and communities, launching a number of initiatives and activities in response to COVID-19. These initiatives are particularly focused on our CALD and refugee communities in Blacktown and Penrith LGAs, and include:

Regular check in calls
Generalist case workers have been regularly contacting Settlement Engagement and Transition Support (SETS) clients via telephone and through digital tools Whatsapp and Facebook from the beginning of the pandemic. Our Bilingual Settlement Team has been ensuring clients receive the latest COVID updates in their language including Arabic, Tamil, Nepali, Farsi, and Dari.
Video Message Production
The Settlement Team has produced a series of short videos to amplify critical messages regarding the Stay-at-Home Order and Vaccination. These videos were disseminated via SydWest’s Facebook, YouTube and SETS Social groups, as well as various platforms throughout the community network. The videos message was produced in partnership with NSW Council of Social Services (NCOSS).
See the full playlists at Stay at Home Youtube and Get Vaccinated Youtube

COVID-19 Outreach Support Program
SydWest actively participated in the NSW COVID-19 Outreach Support Program lead by the Settlement Council of Australia (SCoA). During July and August 2021, we contacted more than 530 individuals to check in on how they were coping and ensure they had access to information and supplies. As a result of this outreach, we were able to supply a number of clients with hampers of food from their culture.

COVID-19 Forum
Organized two ‘COVID-19 Forums’ in August 2021 with more than 60 community members from Farsi- and Arabic-speaking attending each. The Forums provided updates on health advice, discussion around COVID-19 and vaccines. Thanks to this initiative, SydWest identified 21 clients who required support for vaccine registration.

Group Information Sessions
The Settlement team has delivered nine online group discussion sessions in 2021, topics including: COVID-19 Q&A, Vaccine, Community perception on COVID-19 vaccine, government support for individuals, and support for business.
Community Leaders COVID-19 Task Force
As part of the Community Capacity Building Program, our Settlement Team established Blacktown Community Leaders COVID-19 Taskforce in July 2021. Since then, leaders from more than 20 communities have met fortnightly to share information and discuss COVID-19 issues and community concerns with their local health authorities and MPs.

Virtual Door Knocking has been an important activity, helping community leaders understand their community’s concerns regarding responses to COVID-19 and the vaccine. The initiative has reached more than 1,000 community members to date.

Citizenship Classes Continue during Lockdown

Citizenship classes continue to be held every Friday via Zoom from 9.30-11.00 am. In addition to preparing for the citizenship test, the group has become an important part of our clients’ social life during lockdown. It provides a platform to meet people, share a song and enjoy a cup of coffee together.

Backswing Started

Despite the challenges of kicking off a new project during COVID-19 Lockdown, our BackSwing project started in August with 17 participants between Blacktown and Mt Druitt areas.

Backswing is a creative job preparation and employer engagement program, designed to improve economic participation for people with a disability – including those from a multicultural background.

Participants gain practical work experience and develop employable skills, learn the skills to successfully apply for opportunities.

We are pleased to report two participants have already secured employment and are waiting to start after the lockdown!

SydWest Multicultural Services was chosen to deliver the innovative Backswing project as part of the Australian Government’s Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) program.

Housing Success Story - Emmanuel Kei

When Emmanuel lost his job due to the pandemic, he was referred to SydWest by his cousin, who had previous experience with our services.

When he met with our Mt Druitt Housing Officer in May, Emmanuel had been living with a friend. But after being asked to leave, he received temporary accommodation in the Penrith area.

SydWest supported him throughout his temporary accommodation (TA) period, with food hampers and essential supplies.

Our Housing Officer also supported Emmanuel with multiple housing applications and accompanied him to property inspections until he finally found the one.

We also helped to facilitate his payment of the holding deposit, and guided him through signing the lease agreement.

SydWest’s support didn’t stop there. We continued to provide ongoing case plans, sent his rental diaries to the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) twice a week, and ensured he had food items when he secured his rental property. We also helped with bond loans through the DCJ and purchased household items such as a bed, mattress, fridge, washing machine, and dining table.

Now renting a single room in Blacktown, Emmanuel is so happy that we helped him. He accepted an invitation to share his story with the Sydney Morning Herald, which you can read here.

Photo credit: Jane Barrett, SMH

Housing Success Story: The Myats

Su Myat and her daughter Mee Mee saw an outpouring of support for them and to SydWest after they shared their story with the Sydney Morning Herald. It sheds light on the ongoing challenge to find suitable, affordable housing when you’re a single mother.

The journalist who covered this story was so moved, they set up a GoFundMe page which has now raised more than $10,000 to assist the Myat family find new, suitable housing.

At the time of this newsletter’s publication, the Myats are still searching for suitable housing.

Photo credit: Jane Barrett, SMH

Fronting Up To Work During Lockdown

A number of young people, including SydWest clients Abucakary, Shahida and Kelvin, discussed their experience as ‘essential workers’ throughout the pandemic with The Sydney Morning Herald.

SydWest helps our essential worker clients navigate the myriad of COVID-19 regulations they need to be across, provide vaccination guidance and help to secure bookings – particularly important when you’re an essential worker!

Our Youth team have been supporting young people during lockdown to maintain their goals and keep positive about the future. The Facebook Youth Group maintains close and regular contact with all our clients, and provides ongoing online activities as well as access to a range of support services. It is this positive engagement and social connectedness that our Youth team provides during lockdown, that makes a huge difference in our young clients’ lives.
Photo credit: Jane Barrett, SMH

Keeping our Seniors Moving

Our Aged Care team has been running Movement for Wellbeing sessions for our seniors online. The dance and rhythm movement sessions incorporate wellbeing aspects from culture and ancient vocabulary, which are designed and customised for our seniors. 

Run by experienced facilitators, these sessions enable our seniors to engage with the community, improve their memory, cognitive functions, motor coordination, mobility, flexibility, spatial awareness and social communication skills. 

Structured to help seniors experience the therapeutic benefits of dance movement, sessions are held every other day with our various seniors Social Support Groups.

We also offer Rhythm Is Life on Wednesdays to our Seniors Groups, another active movement program delivered by Heartdancers through a Staying Alive NSW Health grant.  

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Business Hours

Monday to Friday 9:00am to 4:30pm
Please feel free to send mail to

Blacktown Office

PO Box 869, Blacktown NSW 2148
Level 2,125 Main Street, Blacktown NSW 2148
Phone (02) 9621 6633
Fax (02) 9831 5625

Mt Druitt Hub

Shop 3, 6-10 Mount Street, Mt Druitt NSW 2770
Phone (02) 9625 0455
Fax (02) 9625 0322

Rouse Hill Hub

Vinegar Hill Memorial Library, 29 Main Street, Rouse Hill Town Centre, NSW 2155
Phone (02) 9621 6633

Penrith Hub

Suite 113, Community Connection Building, 114-116 Henry Street, Penrith NSW 2750
Phone (02) 9621 6633
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