Advance Diversity Services celebrates 40 years of service

Advance Diversity Services celebrates 40 years of service

Advance Diversity Services (ADS) celebrated its 40th anniversary with speeches, awards, Nepalese dancing and branded cupcakes at its AGM held in its Hurstville office on December 9.

Mark Coure MP, Member for Oatley, spoke about ADS’s outstanding work in the community and presented a 40-year Service Award to Branislav Musovski. Khalil Haragli, also a recipient of the 40-year Service Award, was unable to attend the ceremony.

Mark Coure presenting the 40-year Service Award to Branislav Musovski.

Rodney Thompson (representing David Coleman MP) presented the Banks Volunteer of the Year Award to Martyn Perry, ADS Learn to Drive Mentor volunteer.

Rodney Thompson (representing David Coleman MP) presenting the Banks Volunteer of the Year Award to Martyn Perry, ADS Learn to Drive Mentor volunteer.

Anna Veneris, Group Facilitator, and Rosaline Havea, Board of Directors, received appreciation for 20 years of service and Mushrat Mishu, Finance Officer, and Vera Trajkovska, Community Care Worker, received their 10-year Service Award.

Mushrat Mishu, Finance Officer, being presented with her 10-year Service Award.

ADS CEO Antoinette Chow thanked board members who had completed their service and once again welcomed Chura Belbase, Marites Bairstow, Dr Rifaat Hanna, Rosaline Havea and Ruth Fyfe to their roles on the board.

She also praised Shreya Gyawali, the Nepalese dancer who performed at the AGM, and who happily serves a volunteer at ADS’s Nepalese cultural dance class.

Chairperson Ruth Fyfe said that while celebrations had been disrupted by the pandemic, the 40th Anniversary was still a milestone event for ADS.

‘In 1981, from a simple beginning as St George Migrant Resource Centre, ADS has achieved 40 years of proud service to the community,’ she said. ‘And it is still a values-driven organisation.

‘ADS has grown to include offices at Hurstville, Rockdale, Bexley and Sutherland from where Services are provided to South Eastern Sydney including Bayside, Georges River and Sutherland Shire local government areas.

‘It continues to provide high-quality services to the community by having an active commitment to social justice, compassion, inclusion, empowerment, integrity and collaboration.’

Astrid Perry, AGM Returning Officer.

Ms Fyfe said ADS was fortunate to have highly skilled staff with extensive knowledge of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.

‘Staff and volunteers speak over thirty community languages, she said, ‘and ADS continues to thrive in a constantly changing environment.’

Ms Chow said ADS has had a rich history and continues to build on a firm foundation established over decades.

Highlights from the last five years she noted, included, expanding the Settlement Services Program; running anti-racism workshops and domestic and family violence prevention initiatives; offering affordable driving lessons by trained volunteers to people from disadvantaged groups; adapting aged care programs to meet Australia’s aged care reforms; registration as a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provider; and winning several awards for our work in fostering diversity with a specific focus on the CALD LGBTQIA+ community, which includes launching our marketing campaign ‘Be YOU WITH US – You belong, We All belong’ and introducing ADS Diversity Champions.

That ADS had been able to purchase and move into its own premises in Hurstville CBD in 2019 was another high point she added.

‘Through our Strategic Plan 2021-2024, we will continue to enact our values of inclusion, collaboration, empowerment, compassion and integrity while focusing on the three strategic pillars: strengthening our industry leadership and partnerships; operating with excellence; and diversifying our services,’ she said.

‘Thank you all for supporting ADS over the last 40 years and I look forward to continuing to work together to build a strong ADS that is well-equipped to face the future.’

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Read our annual report here https://www.advancediversity.org.au/resources/

Cupcakes to help ADS celebrate 40 years of fine service in the community.
Art sessions create safe spaces for older CALD LGBTQI people

Art sessions create safe spaces for older CALD LGBTQI people

A five-week online art group offered by Advance Diversity Services has given ten older CALD LGBTQI people the chance to express themselves creatively and find friendship and support.

‘Research shows that older LGBTQI people from CALD backgrounds face discrimination, marginalisation and other challenges that place them at high risk of social isolation and mental health issues,’ said Dimitra Vourliotis of Senior Aged and Disability Services for ADS.

‘We wanted to create a safe space where older CALD LGBTQI people could come together and connect – using art as their outlet and focus.

‘We’ve had great feedback on our recent collage workshops run by artist and teacher Aaron McGarry, and know his sessions really hit the spot for people both socially and creatively.’

Artful Pride Club sessions ran from mid-October to early November and ADS is hoping to mount a small exhibition of the participants’ artworks at Hurstville Library.

‘Art creates a mindful experience by focusing on creating new works,’ said Sandra, who took part in the sessions and enjoyed their strong sense of community involvement, interesting information and friendly and engaging atmosphere.

‘Aaron is very professional in his preparation of the courses, with interesting PowerPoints timed perfectly to engage the audience,’ she said.

‘He is encouraging in providing feedback to participants.’

Jennifer said she’d found the group both fun and nurturing.

‘Aaron is a fantastic facilitator. He is a talented artist but, most importantly, he is a positive, empathetic listener who strives to include and nurture all participants on a personal and artistic level.’

Mr McGarry said creating collage was a good way to break down barriers because it was fun, easy and expressive. It also gave people unsure about making art the chance to be creative without feeling judged for their efforts. 

‘Look at the great works our group has come up with just by snipping, placing and gluing images in place to make a new picture.

‘There’s a table-setting made of jewels and a woman wearing a necklace featuring chillies as well as a headband draped with green beans.

‘All of the works are colourful and compelling – even those that are more abstract.’


ADS engaged artist and teacher, Aaron McGarry, to run collage workshops for older LGBTQI people from CALD backgrounds, which hit the spot for participants both socially and creatively.

Mrs Vourliotis said ADS has a strong track record in addressing the needs of CALD people who identify as LGBTIQ and was pleased to have jointly funded this year’s collage sessions with WayAhead – Mental Health Association NSW, a leader in mental health promotion and programs.

ADS had also applied for funding for 2022 from Georges River Council to run two sets of 10-week two-hour art sessions, each session followed by tea and conversation.

‘These funds will help us to continue to provide CALD LGBTIQ older people with the opportunity to meet others who share similar life experiences and to engage in creative, arts-based activities, Mrs Vourliotis said.

‘The mediums we’ll offer will be guided by participant interest – for example linoleum printing, ceramics and painting. We’re hoping to partner with local councils to exhibit participants’ work locally.

‘Our aim is to see people forming new friendships and connections, and learning new skills.’

‘We really want to use art, and the conversations it can inspire, to combat people’s isolation and improve their mental wellbeing.

‘LGBTIQA+ communities account for more than ten percent of the Australian population so it’s important for us to be offering these services in the suburbs, outside of the Sydney city centre.’

ADS collaborates to save lives this summer

ADS collaborates to save lives this summer

Advance Diversity Services collaborated to bring Water Safety Week online this November-December to help save lives this summer.

‘Life saving organisations say there has been a 20 per cent spike in drowning deaths around Australia in the past year, with the impact of the pandemic partly to blame,’ said Jenny Tang, ADS’s representative on the South East Sydney Multicultural Water Safety Committee.

‘We also know that people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities in Australia are at greater risk of drowning due to differences in the way they see water recreation and unfamiliarity with the dangers of Australian waterways. Many new arrivals also have low or no swimming ability.

‘The free sessions in Water Safety Week have been open to everyone – but we’ve been particularly keen for migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and international students to tune in to ensure they can safely enjoy pools, beaches, rivers and lakes with their family and friends.’

Free Water Safety Week workshops help people from multicultural communities learn how to keep themselves and their families safe so they can enjoy pools, beaches and rivers this summer.

In 2021, Water Safety Week ran from November 29 to December 3. It gave participants the chance to hear from experts about rock fishing and fishing safety, spotting danger and hazards at the beach, staying safe in swimming pools, rivers and lakes and doing CPR and First Aid.

The committee hopes these educational sessions will help drive down critical incidents and disturbing statistics, which include a 20 per cent jump in drowning deaths, an increase of 150 per cent in rescue-related incidents, and the rise by more than half of drowning in inland rivers and waterways.

The South East Sydney Multicultural Water Safety Committee is comprised of water safety education organisations, local councils, education providers, and local community service providers. 

‘We recognise that during the Greater Sydney lockdown water skills will have declined and swimming lessons been abandoned due to pool closures and fear of contracting COVID-19,’ Ms Tang said.

‘But we also know that post-lockdown, as the weather gets warmer, people will flock to beaches, rivers and pools.

‘Our free sessions are one way we’re helping people to stay safe in these environments. Two others are: the Water Safety Directory Website we launched last year, which offers a wealth of water safety resources that can be filtered by language, location, and type; and the information sessions we’re running for people to become bilingual water safety volunteers.’

Surf Life Saving also has a new community hub, which has resources available in 21 languages: https://beachsafetyhub.org.au/

Water Safety Week is a collaboration between: Advance Diversity Services, Department of Primary Industries, Gymea Community Aid and Information Service, Randwick City Council, Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW, Royal Life Saving New South Wales, Surf Life Saving New South Wales, Sutherland Shire Council, Maritime NSW and Waverley Council.

The South East Sydney Multicultural Water Safety Committee includes representatives from Surf Life Saving NSW, Royal Life Saving NSW, Randwick City, Waverley, Bayside, Georges River, Sutherland Shire Councils, ADS, Asian Women at Work Inc, Gymea Community Aid and Information Service, Kogarah Community Services and TAFE NSW.

ADS workshops support teamwork parenting

ADS workshops support teamwork parenting

Arabic and Bangladeshi parents and parents-to-be are finding support and encouragement thanks to a free parenting program run by Advance Diversity Services in partnership with South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD).

Becoming Us, created by Australian parenthood and relationship expert Elly Taylor, lays the early groundwork for teamwork parenting, and helps couples recognise their important roles as partners and not just as parents.

‘Ninety-nine per cent of my female clients arrive on spouse visas and often do not have any of their own family here,’ says ADS Community officer and Bangladeshi bicultural worker Tasneem Rashid.

‘Their spouses work and the expectation within the couple and family is that the mother should be the main parent. Young mothers at home often feel isolated and parent alone.

‘The stress of being in a different culture, navigating in a different environment, with a young baby, without family and friends support, can feel overwhelming for young mothers, who can become emotional, especially if they feel they can’t control their children.

‘Our program helps these women and their partners navigate the new systems in Australia, and introduces and connects them to services and other newcomers to build community support.’

Tasneem Rashid and Fatima Sayed from ADS, and Rubina Huq, Cross Cultural Worker for SESLHD all trained with Ms Taylor in April 2021 to become Becoming Us facilitators and have since offered sessions to communities.

Participants in ADS’s free, online Bangladeshi sessions in November included 11 women and four men representing 11 families – six pregnant women, four expecting first baby, two expecting their second (but first in Australia) and another couple with a one-week new-born baby.

The Arabic sessions in early December have also attracted participants who arrived in Australia on spouse visas and face the challenges of parenting young children.

Rubina Huq, co-facilitator for the sessions says ‘The “gold” for new parents is learning that relationships change post baby and we have to work hard at our relationship and differences. Staying connected means learning how to talk and listen to each other respectfully.

‘Also sharing personal experiences in this group, including post-natal depression and other challenges, normalises many of the difficult situations couples and families experience, and gives you the sense that you are not alone’ she added.

Ms Huq says strategies discussed in Becoming Us include self-care – a crucial component given that one in six new mothers and one in ten new dads experience post-natal depression.

Intimacy during the transition to parenthood is another sensitive topic broached.

‘In Bangladeshi culture, mum shares a bed with the newborn baby, and dad moves to another room, where he can have a peaceful sleep because he is usually the bread earner. But participants agreed that this is not always healthy as an ongoing situation, and couples don’t realise the creeping stress related to this situation.

‘In the Becoming Us sessions, attendees talked about the importance of displaying more intimacy and affection in front of baby, and how important and healthy it is to visit each other’s rooms once or twice a week.’

Caption: Jasmine is 12 weeks pregnant and pleased to be learning more about teamwork parenting through the Becoming Us sessions run by ADS.

Parenting challenges ‘universal’

ADS community worker Fatima Sayed is excited about co-facilitating the sessions for Arabic participants in early December with Rubina Huq.

‘The women attending the workshop are all under 30 years old, mothers with young infants, who are very keen to learn useful information about parenting and who understand the importance of professional guidance.

‘Sharing experiences with first-time parents in the same situation, and with others with older children will also help ease stress and anxiety and normalise the challenges. Challenges are universal!’

Ms Sayed explained that newly arrived Arabic women are expected to be the stay-at-home parents and look after the children. And, while they often have in-laws nearby, it is not the same as having the support of their own families.

‘Many Arabic-speaking women express that when they have babies, they lose freedoms such as being able to study or learn English because there is no one to look after the children.

‘Breastfeeding and other responsibilities also make it overwhelming to schedule themselves, so they stop interacting with people, even in online sessions, becoming more isolated.’

Ms Sayed said workshop content about intimacy needed to be approached in a culturally appropriate and respectful way.

‘We don’t really talk openly about sex and intimacy especially in front of men in a group setting. The local Arabic community is connected, so people know each other. It would be disrespectful to speak about your partner in front of a group.’

Team Leader Magdaline Shenton-Kaleido said ADS had first been introduced to Ms Taylor’s parenthood program through another joint partnership with SESLHD for a Positive Parenting program for Nepalese families in 2018.

Ms Taylor had also been a guest speaker at the February meeting of St George Child and Family (C&F) interagency, chaired by Child and Family Interagency Facilitator Lisa Stephenson.

When a pilot opportunity to train community facilitators to deliver the Becoming Us program arose, ADS was keen to be involved and teamed up with long-term collaborator Helen Rogers, the SESLHD Early Parenting Program Coordinator, to roll it out. 

Ms Shenton-Kaleido said, ‘Once the new facilitators received the Becoming Us materials, we had numerous planning meetings as well as peer-to-peer support meetings with other C&F interagency partners participating in the pilot, in order to share best practice and tailor our sessions to our communities and target groups.’

Ms Sayed said she loved what she’d learned and got a lot from the training.

‘One thing that stuck with me was a simple example Elly gave about having realistic expectations of your partner. She said, “Don’t expect your partner to read your mind and to know that you need a glass of water while breastfeeding. You have to ask for it!”’

EnCOMPASS Connectors link CALD seniors to aged care support

EnCOMPASS Connectors link CALD seniors to aged care support

Advance Diversity Services (ADS) has appointed two bilingual workers to support older people of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds to access My Aged Care and improve their wellbeing and independence.

As a local partner of EnCOMPASS Multicultural Aged Care Connector, ADS received funding to employ the two workers, known as EnCOMPASS Connectors.

The Connectors provide specialist support to CALD seniors living in the St George area regardless of the level or complexity of their needs. They will also assist ADS to run a series of community development activities to build the seniors’ understanding of ageing, the aged care system and the supports available to them.

Wendy Huang who speaks Cantonese and Mandarin, and Hana Srour who speaks Arabic, have been appointed as ADS’s Connectors and are excited to be helping older people in their communities.

‘Wendy and Hana offer one-on-one support,’ said Jenny Tang, Team Leader for the program’s community development activities. ‘They help older people sign up to My Aged Care, guide them through the forms, advocate for them, support them to connect to aged care service providers, and assist them to change the type of support they’re receiving if this is what’s needed.

‘We know CALD older people in our area have been struggling to understand the aged care system and to find the right support. Happily, our EnCOMPASS Connectors will make this much easier.’

‘They have begun work – and can take referrals right now,’ she said, ‘even as we speak!’

Aged Care Manager for ADS, Dimi Vourliotis – who will manage casework activities for the program – said people looking for support would be given access to all the information available so they could make their own choices.

‘EnCOMPASS Connectors are unbiased. They will refer older people to the aged care services that will best meet their needs and that they, the consumer, have chosen.’

Ms Tang said the capacity-building aspect of the EnCOMPASS project was also important.

‘We’ll run information sessions about aged care services and build a network of local community leaders, such as GPs, faith leaders, teachers and so forth, who can refer older people to our program and who will eventually be able to provide basic information to older people about My Aged Care as well.’

The network, to be known as the Aged Care Support Network (ACSN), would meet quarterly, she said, and should be up and running by the end of 2021.

‘Our aim with the EnCOMPASS program is to find and offer solutions that address the challenges and barriers faced by older people from CALD backgrounds when navigating the aged care system.

‘We really want to empower CALD seniors – so they feel confident, cared for and calm about their lives and health.’

The EnCOMPASS program is funded by the Federal Department of Health, through FECCA – Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council Australia. The program is Australia wide. ADS is a local partner in the St George region, together with Ethnic Community Services Cooperative. 

For support or more information, please contact:
Hana, hanas@advancediversity.org.au (Arabic) – 0413 907 379
Wendy, wendyh@advancediversity.org.au (Chinese) – 0466 638 224

ADS targets COVID-19 communication

ADS targets COVID-19 communication

Between July 19 and August 15, Advance Diversity Services (ADS) staff targeted more than 1500 COVID-19 health messages to ensure people in CALD communities were well-informed about the dangers of the coronavirus and the importance of vaccination.

Their work was part of a short term project funded by the Settlement Council of Australia (SCoA) aimed to increase vaccine uptake across Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, and Wollongong, in light of the current outbreak of COVID-19. 

ADS staff across the Settlement and Community Services and Aged Care divisions were engaged in additional communications with clients via phone calls, social media applications including WeChat, LINE, Viber, WhatApp and Facebook. The additional communiques were intended to increase access to accurate and reliable information about the current COVID-19 vaccine, how to access the vaccine, and other health information regarding COVID-19.

As of August 15, ADS staff reported more than 500 calls with individual clients, over 500 emails sent as well as over 200 WhatsApp messages. Social media engagement included more than 300 Facebook posts. Overall, more than 25 language groups were provided with information across Greater Sydney. 

Information shared included COVID-19 vaccination sessions, locations of vaccinations such as hubs and GPs, accessing support payments, stay at home orders and translated guidelines. 

‘With the highly transmissible Delta variant gaining a foothold across Greater Sydney, it was a crucial time to be communicating with our CALD clients and others about how to protect themselves against the virus,’ said Anthony Scerri, ADS’s Manager for Settlement and Community Services.

‘The SCoA funding enabled us to be very focused; urging people to get vaccinated and to encourage others to play their part in stopping the spread.’

After the project ended, ADS staff continued to communicate with people in CALD communities to help keep them safe, Mr Scerri said.

For example, ADS’s Nepalese community worker Rishi Acharya and Arabic community worker Fatima Sayed were part of a recent in-language video project with Georges River Council to urge people to get vaccinated.

ADS’s Bangla community worker Tasneem Rashid also recently worked with the Public Health Unit and the Multicultural Health Service in South Eastern Sydney Local Health District to offer a session for the Bangla community to give up-to-date accurate medical information in Bangla about the vaccines.

‘Our staff are going the extra mile to assist the refugees, migrants and elderly people who use our services to protect themselves and their families,’ Mr Scerri said. ‘We’re also proud to be collaborating with health services, local councils and peak bodies like SCoA to ensure messages about the pandemic reach their intended audiences.’