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Winter edition - No 3, 2020

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

Australia has made very slow progress in combatting family violence throughout the years, and it is so unfortunate that we still have a long way to go. Based on the heartbreaking work of the Counting Dead Women Australia researchers at Destroy the Join, we know that 28 women have died at the hand of family violence as of 1st July this year.

The current covid-19 situation and the rights of people on temporary visas has also identified several gaps our human services system has. Individuals in Australia on temporary visas are particularly vulnerable and especially women. While the Migration Act includes a Family Violence Provision, offering a legal mechanism to protect those on partner visas, complex legislation means there are potentially thousands of victims unable to access support due to their legal status.
It is not news that visa, or migration status can be used by abusers as a source of leverage, in addition to physical and psychological abuse. The threat of deportation can deter victims from seeking help. It can be especially difficult for victims with Australian born children, who fear they may risk separation if forced to leave the country. Migration status unfortunately impacts the support services victims may be able to access and this is an area both levels of governments need to consider if they are true and honest in reducing DV incidents.
A recent Domestic Violence NSW (DVNSW) survey found 369 people on temporary visas experiencing violence sought or received assistance in May 2020, however the number that did not seek or receive support is feared to be much higher. With more than 36,000 women applying for temporary visas each year and estimating that one in four women experience family violence, it is possible that more than 9,000 women are facing the same issue.
This huge gap suggests there is still much to be done to not only ensure women have the right level of support, but to understand the extent to which victims on temporary visas are aware of the support services they are able to access, broaden their rights to services and expand the scope of service delivery for service providers that current contracts limit.
The DVNSW survey also found that found that 36% of services were unable to provide temporary or crisis accommodation for women on temporary visas, and 82% claimed it was not possible to secure long-term accommodation. Additionally, victims on temporary visas are unable to access Medicare or Centrelink, leaving them particularly vulnerable in the middle of a deadly pandemic!
Funding gaps also need to be addressed. As found in the DVNSW study, many service providers lack the resources to provide support to many victims on temporary visas. Victims themselves also require financial support as they may be disincentivised to seek support if they are financially dependent on their abusive partners.
If we are to continue making progress in eliminating family violence, it is critical that we recognise and support victims equally, regardless of visa or migration status.
Unfortunately, while the Family Violence Provision is a necessary protection, support dependent on migration status first, as opposed to considering the level of risk experienced by the victim, is inhumane. All levels of government must work closer with service providers and specialists if we are to design a more comprehensive and accessible support model for a cohesive society.
Overwhelmingly, Australian society rejects family violence. But if thousands of people are still allowed to fall through legislative cracks, unable to access support due to migration status, our contribution to society and our jobs are far from done.

 Elfa Moraitakis
Chief Executive Officer


SydWest a Finalist in Premier’s Multicultural Community Medals

SydWest was named a finalist in the ‘Business Excellence – Not For Profit’ category at the 2020 Premier’s Multicultural Community Medals in May.

Now in their eighth year, the Premier’s Multicultural Community Medals recognise outstanding commitment to social cohesion and community harmony.

Held via Zoom for the first time, winners and finalists were announced at a ceremony hosted by the Acting Minister for Multiculturalism, Hon. Dr Geoff Lee MP, Multicultural NSW CEO Mr Joseph La Posta, and Chair of the Multicultural NSW Advisory Board, Dr G.K. Harinath OAM.

SydWest congratulates the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra on winning the inaugural Premier’s Multicultural Community Medals in the Business Excellence – Not For Profit.

The full list of winners can be found here, and finalists here.

Guidelines for Return to Office

In line with the easing of government restrictions, the SydWest office is now open for appointments for five days per week.

In prioritising the safety of our staff and community, we have introduced a number of safety measures, including social distancing and limits on appointment length.

If you have an appointment at a SydWest office, please read the full guidelines before you arrive.

The Walking Market: Good News Settlement Services

During recent government restrictions, many members of our multicultural communities had limited access to traditional groceries and products.

Enterprising SydWest client George Wahbeh, from Syria, launched ‘The Walking Market’, home-delivering Arabic foods and ingredients to families around Blacktown, Penrith, Mount Druitt, St Clair and St Mary’s.

In a short amount of time, ‘The Walking Market’ has received rave reviews from customers for its great prices and convenient, on-time delivery.

Working at a supply warehouse, George received support from his employer and his SydWest case worker, Mervat, to launch his new small business. He is now focused on ‘The Walking market’ on a full-time basis.

Youth Shares his Story with SBS The Feed

SydWest youth client Murtaza arrived in Australia less than two years ago as a refugee from Afghanistan. He believes we can all overcome this global challenge by working together.

With the help of SBS The Feed, he has shared a touching video reminding us that individually we may be a drop, but together we are an ocean.

Youth Team Runs Creative Expression Competition 

SydWest Youth Team received dozens of magnificent entries to the Creative Expression Competition held during April & May.

Congratulations to our first-place winner Raneen Shamon for her beautiful watercolour ‘Shall I See you Safe and Blessed?’. Raneen is a talented 21-year old artist whose work reflects her experience of conflict in her native Iraq.

Penrith Settlement Services Gets FoodREDi Online 

SydWest partnered with Penrith City Council to deliver the Red Cross’ FoodREDi educational program online. The eight-week program uses hands-on tips to help participants in vulnerable communities understand how to eat healthily and economically.

The program started in May and culminated during Penrith City Council’s ‘Refugee Week’ in June. In celebration, participants came together to share stories and a traditional Iraqi meal.

SydWest Distributes Donated Hampers During COVID-19

SydWest was grateful to receive 130 food hampers and 125 ALDI gift cards donated by the Sathya Sai International Organisation NSW West Region, which have been distributed to some of our families most at need during the COVID-19 crisis. 

SydWest would also like to thank the MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism, which has donated 35 food hampers to be distributed to our most vulnerable clients during this time.

The donation was part of the school’s global donation drive to mark the end of Ramadan, which included food, cleaning supplies and protective equipment to high-risk and underserved populations.

Two clients who received donations during COVID-19
Donate Today

Families Team During COVID-19

SydWest’s Families Team is using Zoom and WhatsApp to stay in touch with clients and help reduce the mental health impact of isolation during the COVID-19 office closure. Offline activities are provided to those in need to ensure service delivery is as inclusive as possible. 

One of our hit activities for families has been the weekly Craft At Home sessions, each with its own theme. Our inaugural ANZAC Day session resulted in some delicious home-made ANZAC biscuits!

Wrapped in Angels Program

SydWest’s Mt Druitt Women’s Support Group hosted ‘Wrapped in Angels’, an eight-week art therapy program that explores what has sustained and nourished women and families facing trauma, in partnership with Wesley Mission.

Participants came together to sew ‘Angel Blankets’, adorned with personally significant symbols representing safety, strength, protection, connections and relationships, and share their journeys with each other.

Celebrating the ‘Year of Welcome’ online

Refugee Week celebrations were held virtually this year, but that didn’t stop us from having fun over two days packed with cultural activities! 
SydWest hosted a moving Poetry Recital via Zoom, in which 25 clients from different backgrounds shared a short poem about what calling Australia home means to them. 
Of course, no cultural celebration would be complete without delicious food, and what a feast it was! We had Aboriginal, Afghan, Bhutanese, Ethiopian, Iranian, Iraqi and South Sudanese cooks sharing their favourite traditional recipes via Zoom. All attendees will receive a Recipe Booklet so they can recreate their favourite dishes at home!

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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

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
Copyright © 2020 SydWest Multicultural Services, All rights reserved.

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