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Welcome to the latest edition of SydWest Multicultural Services' Community Connections newsletter ....we hope you enjoy the reading.
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No 2, 2020 Edition

Welcome to the latest edition of SydWest's Community Connections for 2020, our regular newsletter that brings you our news and events and more.

CEO Message

Since Monday 30 March 2020, SydWest Multicultural Services has been delivering services to our clients remotely. During these unprecedented times, we have been fast and innovative in our approach to ensure community is served with as limited disruption as possible.
 
Some of our frontline staff in the aged care & disability services teams, including disability employment and our complex case support – due to the nature of their roles continue to maintain face to face contact with individuals requiring assistance.
 
Most federal government departments have shown great flexibility around reporting requirements, amended service delivery models, and timeframes. All these announcements are a breath of fresh air in addition to the stimulus package, and we hope will assist the sector in maintaining current staffing levels and infrastructure.
 
The current situation is particularly onerous for our casual frontline staff. The fear this crisis has created played a major role in the number of cancellations of in-home services and this, in turn, has created a dramatic decrease in the income derived by some of our colleagues. The prevailing gender inequality in the workforce means that this insecurity is more widely spread amongst women. In an era of uncertainty and predictions of up to 10% unemployment we cannot turn a blind eye to the reality that 50% of all employees are women, they are the 57% of employees without leave entitlements and are anxiously waiting for what comes first; their jobseeker or jobkeeper entitlement.
 
Although our priority has been the wellbeing of our staff and we try to stay engaged and connected daily, our purpose as an organisation still guides our decision-making on the care and wellbeing of the community.
 
During this time, we have already seen an increase in domestic violence calls that we cannot respond to. With Blacktown topping the list of DV cases the linguistic and cultural support for victims need to be strongly considered by decision-makers.
 
We have seen an increased number of clients reaching out for emergency relief vouchers and our homelessness services. A six-month moratorium on evictions is a welcome announcement, however, the scheme relies heavily on informal negotiations between tenants and landlords and there is such uncertainty on how the banks are responding.
 
Settlement Services International is strongly advocating for the support of our Settlement Partnership Consortium in NSW.  We are hopeful that the Federal Government will respond positively. As the months go by, members will find it difficult to provide services because humanitarian support has been put on halt. Emergency relief to affected members of our refugee community and a guarantee on the continuation of grants is much needed.

Together with a different model of service delivery in several of our programs, we are addressing the extremely slow filtering of government messaging to all Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities that are left vulnerable to being infected and/or heavily fined.
 
We are accelerating our response to government assumptions that we all have access to a computer, or the internet and we all have the skills to use one and navigate the online world. Although extremely disappointed with these assumptions, we welcome all translated material from Service NSW. The material will be complementing a series of online workshops called “Greater Western Sydney Community Activation group” to widely spread clear messages and information related to this crisis – supported by bilingual experts. 
 
In addition to our own information, the material supports us in keeping seniors at home informed and providing them with a sense of respect and safety. This has been a costly exercise for our organisation when 70% of our services are provided to elderly with no access to computers and limited English language skills. Although we welcome not being penalised for not meeting outputs, we are extremely concerned that SydWest’s 17-language specific seniors' support groups are currently experiencing extreme social isolation. The recommendation is that “CHSP providers should consider providing alternative approaches to delivering face to face group activities, including social connection by FaceTime, Zoom or Skype or by establishing online social groups”.  Not all our isolated and vulnerable seniors are able to do so, and we are strongly counteracting those assumptions. The digital world has proven to be exclusive to them.

Hon. Richard Colbeck, Minister for Aged Care in partnership with COTA, has announced a free COVID-19 support line aiming at supporting the mental health of seniors, their families and carers. There is no mention in the announcement on how accessible the line is to people with limited English language skills. The lack of government leadership to support our multicultural communities is impacting 31% of the population. These are Australians born overseas and two-thirds of them born in non-English speaking countries. It is an access and equity matter within our human right framework! This cannot be overlooked and we will continue advocating.  

In summing up, we all keep referring to a ‘new norm’. Initial indications of our engagement with staff and stakeholders thus far show the vast majority wishes to return to what was perceived as normal pre COVID-19; but life will not be the same. It will be different for each one of us given the financial, cultural and mental implications the crisis will have, and the lessons learnt from this experience. We must welcome this ‘new norm’ as life’s evolution and use our experiences to become a better version of ourselves. We have all appreciated what we considered as a given until a few months ago. It is now time to recognise opportunities and create a world that is more inclusive, empathetic and more flexible than the one we were living in. See you all on the other side.
 
I hope you all keep safe and are staying connected.   

Elfa Moraitakis
Chief Executive Officer

Contents

Donations Still Required during COVID-19

 
SydWest is asking anyone with laptops or ipads/tablets that they can donate to our young people studying from home to please contact us.

We are endeavouring to match donation with clients in need, particularly during this stay-home COVID-19 period, helping client families to stay connected, thanks to our generous donors!
 
We also have a very special high-needs refugee woman who has managed to secure her first home in Blacktown. But she’s moving in with no furniture or household goods. We’ve tried to obtain basics from the local charities such as Salvo’s and St Vinnies, but we’re not having much luck. If you’ve got some furniture or household goods you can donate to us for her, please contact us today on info@sydwestms.org.au 

If you are interested in supporting SydWest, please visit https://www.sydwestms.org.au/donate


International Women’s Day - In Review


While current events may have muted some of the usual International Women’s Day celebrations this year, SydWest’s Women & Families team still managed to host two successful celebrations at t in early March.

Given the propensity for domestic violence and abuse to increase during tough times, it is an especially important responsibility of ours to bring women to the foreground and continue to champion equality in our society.

SydWest’s International Women’s Day 2020 event, held at the Blacktown Arts Centre on Friday, 6 March featured a panel discussion, chaired by Joanna Kalkstein, and included a number of dynamic women from diverse backgrounds, including:
  • Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Greens Senator for NSW
  • Sophie Cotsis MP for Canterbury and Shadow Minister for Better Public Services
  • Carol Israel, Blacktown City Council
  • Saba Vasefi, Poet, academic and filmmaker
  • Kathy Karatasas, Settlement Services International
  • Elfa Moraitakis, CEO, SydWest Multicultural Services
Key points discussed by the panel included the impact of creativity and the arts on women; the role of love in a successful leader; collaboration and overcoming misogyny and violence.

The event also included a preview performance of SOLACE, a poetic documentary on the healing journey of three displaced women, through different forms of expression. The event concluded with as a musical performance from Australian hip hop artist Kween G, who channels her experience of fleeing Uganda as a political refugee to write songs to raise awareness for the rights of women and those in disadvantaged communities. 

SydWest also participated in Penrith City Council’s International Women’s Day at St Mary’s Memorial Hall earlier that week.

The event aimed to use storytelling as a device to reflect on the contribution of women to modern society, celebrate the resilience demonstrated by women in society and remind young people of the importance of celebrations like International Women’s Day to a cohesive society. 

More than 270 people in attendance were treated to a scintillating performance by Gracie’s Grannies Aboriginal Dance Group, an informative social commentary performed by It’s Still Germaine Women’s Theatre Group, and a number of inspirational stories shared by local women from our community. We also saw six groups of students from local high schools share their stories about the women in their lives. 

For more information on our Women & Families program, please contact Sonia.kalsi@sydwestms.org.au 

With thanks to Orion Health - Donation Update


Finding appropriate housing and accessing critical social services are the first steps to a successful settlement process for most migrants and refugees coming to Australia. However, once past the initial phase of settlement, it can be challenging for migrants to access things that perhaps we take for granted – like access to technology.

Fortunately, Orion Health, an award-winning, global provider of healthcare information technology, has generously donated five Apple laptops for SydWest clients most at need. These donations will help our newest Australians access online resources to apply for jobs, complete homework tasks from school or TAFE, and improve their language skills.

SydWest is grateful to Orion Health for their generosity, which will go a long way to helping our clients access key services and successfully integrate into society.
 

Orion Health delivering Apple MacAir's for SydWest's clients

If you are interested in supporting SydWest with a donation, please visit https://www.sydwestms.org.au/donate

Settlement Client Success Story - Mazen Issac


When Mazen Isaac migrated from Syria with his wife and children, his Bachelor degree in Economics qualifications – unfortunately – did not travel with him. After attending a number of information sessions, Mazen learned it would take some time for his qualifications to be recognized.

Never one to put his head down, with SydWest’s support Mazen enrolled in a Certificate 4 in English for Academic Purposes with TAFE to improve his proficiency for study and professional life. Upon completion, he also went on to study a Certificate 4 in Community Services which helped him land a role as a Digital Service Representative with Service NSW. 

Since landing his role, Mazen has come back to SydWest frequently to share his story and inspire our clients to continue striving and has been especially helpful in supporting our Arabic language clients. 

I have been in Australia 3 years and during this time, I finished English for Academic purposes level 4 and I finished Diploma Community Services level 4. I also studied Master Applied of Finance at Western Sydney University (assisted by my Bachelor degree in Economics). Currently I am working at Services NSW as digital service representative in the Mount Druitt centre. This year, I am proud to report that we have had a new baby George, born in April 2020.
 

Mazen Issac at work at Services NSW

Toastmasters for African Leaders


The SydWest Families Team has launched ‘Toastmasters for African Leaders’, a new initiative aimed at empowering young people with African origins develop communication skills and build their confidence in a safe environment. 

Toastmasters International is a not-for-profit educational organisation that aims to help people develop communication, public speaking and leadership skills.

At the latest session, held in late March, the aspiring leaders were asked to evaluate their public speaking skills and demonstrate their public speaking abilities with an impromptu one-minute speech. The leaders were taught how to prepare for a speech, organise a speech, research and present their speech. Our young people approached the exercise with great creativity, wit and a touch of humour, delivering what we hope will be a pivotal moment for them going forward. 

Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, the Toastmasters for African Leaders sessions have been cancelled until further notice. When the program resumes, participants will continue to learn and test their public speaking skills with each other.

For further information, please contact our African Communities Capacity Building Officer on Holla.david@sydwestms.org.au

 Join SydWest


SydWest Multicultural Services is an innovative Employer of Choice with a commitment to wellness and offering great staff benefits and work flexibilities.

For more information and to read about all employee benefits, visit https://www.sydwestms.org.au/get-involved/employment-opportunities
Make a Difference - Donate to SydWest

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Business Hours

Monday to Friday 9:00am to 4:30pm
www.sydwestms.org.au
Please feel free to send mail to info@sydwestms.org.au
 

Blacktown Office

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

Castle Hill Hub

The Community Hub, Castle Hill Towers Shopping Centre, 6-14 Castle Street Castle Hill
(on Old Northern Rd, near Gold Class cinemas)
Phone (02) 9621 6633

Mt Druitt Hub

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

Penrith Hub

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

Rouse Hill Hub

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