Advance Diversity Services partners with Queer Screen to bring unflinching coming-out drama to community

Advance Diversity Services partners with Queer Screen to bring unflinching coming-out drama to community

Advance Diversity Services (ADS) has partnered with Queer Screen to offer a subsidised community screening of El Houb – the Love – a heartbreaking and humorous coming-out drama at a local cinema next month.

The Sydney premiere of El Houb – the Love is screening (subsidised offering at $10) at Event Cinema Hurstville on February 16 at 7pm as part of Queer Screen’s 30th Mardi Gras Film Festival (MGFF23) February 15 to March 2, 2023.

The discounted $10 tickets for the Hurstville screening can be booked here.

El Houb – the Love shows how a Moroccan-Dutch man’s life is at a crossroads when his traditional Muslim family discovers he’s gay,’ says ADS Executive Officer Antoinette Chow.

‘Through a series of funny and unflinchingly frank conversations between Karim (Fahd Larhzaoui), his brother (Sabri Saddik), and their parents (Lubna Azabal and Slimane Dazi), we see Karim’s battle to break an ingrained culture of silence.

‘As the tale pans out, we’re shown Karim’s beautiful and poignant memories from his childhood and his faltering first steps with Ghanaian boyfriend Kofi (Emmanuel Ohene Boafo). Having (literally) barricaded himself in his parents’ closet, we also learn how important it is for him to be seen for who he really is.’

This is the third year ADS has partnered with Queer Screen to bring a relevant film to the local culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) populations it works with in St George.

‘ADS is proud to partner in bringing Queer Screen’s 30th edition of the MGFF to people in our region,’ Antoinette Chow, CEO said. ‘In doing so, we hope people who identify with a diverse gender and/or sexuality (LGBTIQA+) will see that ADS is an inclusive service – welcoming and supportive.’

ADS is able to make this year’s event possible, thanks to funding from Georges River Council and the HIV and Related Programs Unit, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District. As part of the funding, ADS will also be organising an LGBTIQA+ forum and offering inclusive practice training to service providers in the local area.

Ms Chow said ADS is committed to improving the health and wellbeing outcomes of LGBTIQA+ people.

‘For the last three years, we have holistically reviewed our services, entering the Health and Wellbeing Equality Index and achieving gold tier status for two of these three submissions. We are the first CALD-specific organisation in Australia to achieve this status.

‘We have become a lighthouse to services, sharing insight about our journey, for example, more recently presenting to the Diversity Health Committee between St George and Sutherland Hospitals. We welcome the NSW Health LGBTIQ+ Strategy and are excited to see much needed change in this area, particularly in the service provision of CALD LGBTIQA+ people.’

El Houb – the Love is written and directed by Shariff Nasr and will be screened in Dutch with English subtitles. It navigates themes of family dynamics, cultural taboos, and self-acceptance and is based loosely on the real-life experiences and theatre work of the actor playing Karim (Fahd Larhzaoui).

As the world comes to Sydney for WorldPride, MGFF23 is offering 166 films across 100+ sessions in cinema, outdoors and on-demand at home.

El Houb – the Love is one of many world-class offerings for people to view during MGFF23,’ says Ms Chow. ‘The festival also honours those who have come before, with seven retrospective screenings, and a day of community outdoor screenings to show how Queer Screen has survived, thrived and helped to shape the history of queer film in Australia.

‘As Karim’s story shows there is still a long way to go to ensure LGBTIQA+ people from CALD backgrounds feel safe to be who they are and find full acceptance in their communities and families.

‘We want LGBTIQA+ people from CALD backgrounds in our area to know ADS is working behind the scenes and right beside them to build a better future in which CALD communities are more supportive and inclusive.’


Book your $10 ticket at Hurstville cinema from Queer Screen here.

View the full MGFF23 program and book your other MGFF23 in-cinema and in-home tickets here.

View the El Houb – The Love trailer here – 

Note: Content warning – contains suicide themes

Peer support and pavlova: how a group of newly arrived Ukrainians will celebrate their first Australian Christmas

Peer support and pavlova: how a group of newly arrived Ukrainians will celebrate their first Australian Christmas

Newly arrived Ukrainians can embellish their traditional Christmas fare with some classic Aussie sweets thanks to a cooking program delivered by Advance Diversity Services (ADS), The Kogarah Storehouse and TAFE St George.

‘We’ve been teaching the women some great Australian classics, including ANZAC biscuits, damper, pavlova and lamingtons,’ said course coordinator Inna Gimelberg, Community Services Officer with ADS. ‘They’ve been loving the immersion into Australian culture.’

The Bayside and Sutherland Shire LGAs make up the top settlement locations of the 937 Ukrainian nationals who have arrived in NSW since April.

Ms Gimelberg hoped the food, friendship and support to settle in the region would help make Christmas feel less alienating for the women.

The five-week program commenced in late October and classes have been facilitated by cooking teacher Johanne Champness from TAFE St George.

Lyudmila, a participant, said she was very happy to be a part of the class because people were so welcoming and kind.

‘Usually, at Christmas we roast a duck or a goose with apples, sour cabbage and cranberries,’ she said. ‘This year I might try to bake lamingtons!’ 

Olena wanted to ‘treat’ her family this Christmas by making a pavlova, which would round off the Olivier (potato) salad and the Pelmeni (Russian dumplings) that normally featured on her festive menu.

‘ADS has been very helpful with assistance since my arrival in Australia,’ she said, ‘from sorting out issues with Centrelink to helping me to find new, wonderful friends.

‘The community is incredibly warm and welcoming to us.’

Nataliia was excited to attend the class each week because Ms Champness explained things clearly and was very friendly and encouraging.

‘The recipes are quick, easy to follow and tasty,’ she said. ‘My favourites were the ANZAC biscuits.

‘Back in Ukraine we enjoy Kolach (sweet bread) and Kutia (a type of porridge) during Christmas. But I’d really like to learn the Australian version of Christmas turkey.’

Oleksandra said there was a great atmosphere in the class. ‘It’s not only cooking but works like therapy. I feel very comfortable. It’s a breeze of fresh air.’

Although she was still deciding which Australian dessert to cook for Christmas, one traditional Ukrainian course she would serve on the day was a ‘Seledka pod shooboy’ salad, which features layered vegetables and cured herring.

Ievgeniia wished she’d joined the classes earlier: ‘I like the company. And that we have to speak English.

‘I have a big family here now,’ she said. ‘We will cook many traditional dishes – salads, roasted lamb, “Holodets” (a jellied cold meat dish). And I will bake a layered cake.

‘I want to learn how to cook other things from different cultures – and would love to join more classes.’

Ms Gimelberg, course coordinator, made several memorable meals during the five-week program. One flavoursome lunch she cooked was for The Kogarah Storehouse volunteers who’d been hard at work that morning preparing food parcels for vulnerable people in the community.

‘We were blessed to have TAFE and The Kogarah Storehouse on board to help roll out the cooking course,’ Ms Gimelberg said. ‘Johanne is an excellent teacher and The Kogarah Storehouse has an industrial kitchen fit for purpose. It also generously bought all of the ingredients needed for each class.’

Kogarah Storehouse manager Lala Noronha also praised the collaborative effort, ‘We are delighted to host the Ukrainian cooking classes here, it is a wonderful initiative and a great collaboration between ADS, the Kogarah Storehouse and TAFE.’

Ms Gimelberg said the classes have been pivotal in helping the women settle well, ‘We’re committed to ensuring these people who have fled the war and left their homeland are welcomed warmly, their settlement journey is positive and they can find a little touch of joy during their first festive season in Australia.’

Pavlova was a firm favourite with the Ukrainian women who will celebrate their first Christmas in Australia in 2022.

Erica Pettener: ‘I gained greater insight into the realities of migrant settlement’

Erica Pettener: ‘I gained greater insight into the realities of migrant settlement’

Erica Pettener started her student placement with Advance Diversity Services (ADS) in August 2022. Working with ADS’s Settlement and Community Services team has shown her how the theory she’s been learning at university can be applied in practice. It has also sharpened her skills and broadened her worldview.

What drew you to do your student placement with ADS?

I wanted to do my student placement at ADS to learn about the refugee and migrant experience from the perspective of people undergoing a settlement journey in Australia. Prior to this placement I had limited knowledge of the services and agencies available to support these communities, and was previously reliant upon the media perspective.

What are you studying and where? And how has your personal history and/or your cultural background informed your work with ADS?

I am studying a Master of Social Work at Wollongong University. I am a second-generation Australian and I feel there has been a form of ‘give and receive’ in my placement experience. This placement has provided me with a greater insight into migrant settlement realities that my own family would have experienced. In turn, I feel my background has provided me with a level of cultural sensitivity that has enabled me to be mindful and respectful throughout my placement.

What ADS programs have you assisted with and how have you been encouraged to apply your studies and/or expand your skills in your role?

During my time at ADS, I have worked within the Settlement and Community Services team. I have been fortunate to have gained experience in community development – both in the form of assisting with community information sessions and the Migrant Information Day, and also with individual client casework. Working alongside ADS staff with clients has been particularly useful in seeing how theory is applied in practice.

What has been the most challenging work you have done with ADS during your time as a student?

The most challenging work was being privileged to hear the lived experiences of clients interacting with ADS. At times, it was difficult to hear the individual and systemic challenges that clients have experienced in their past but then equally hopeful in how ADS focuses on the strengths of clients to address future challenges.

What strengths have you brought to your placement?

The core strengths I have brought to my placement include active listening, patience and calm. This has helped me to be open to new experiences – creating more learning opportunities.

What has been your proudest moment, greatest achievement, deepest connection in your time at ADS?

I feel that my greatest achievement was assisting a client to improve their knowledge of the public transport system in Sydney and around their local area. It was wonderful knowing that I was able to assist in a small way to increase the confidence of a client regardless of our language barrier.

“Be You With Us” is ADS’ tagline, and it reflects the organisation’s commitment to welcoming and accepting everyone of all ages, gender, culture, sexuality, and religious beliefs. How have you been encouraged to “Be You With Us” during your time with ADS?

I have been encouraged to be myself in the way that I was involved in discussion; I felt that my opinion and perspective was valued by the organisation.

What more should the Australian Government be doing to welcome migrants and refugees and to ensure they find the support they need to adjust quickly and well to life in Australia?

The Australian Government can provide clearer information on government websites to support programs that are available. On a broader systemic level, the visa process and the information of rights under various visa types could be provided in a more simplified manner.

What is your ultimate goal and how has the work you’ve done with ADS equipped you for what you would like to do next?

I am uncertain of my ultimate goal, but this placement experience has made me more confident that my future career is in social work. ADS has provided me with improved interpersonal skills and broadened my own worldview, which I know will be beneficial to me in the future.

Please finish this sentence: I love ADS because … of the warm and collaborative spirit of all team members. The feeling of an attitude that it can be achieved we just need to find a way.

Erica Pettener felt there was a form of ‘give and receive’ in her student placement with ADS due to her background as a second-generation Australian.
Performance night to showcase Indonesian art and culture

Performance night to showcase Indonesian art and culture

Traditional dances from Java and Bali, a costume parade from Sumatra and Sulawesi, sketches from Bahasa community language schools, music from Angklung groups … these are just some of the exciting offerings that will feature at the Indonesian Arts and Culture Club (IACC) Performance Night on December 3 at Kogarah High School.

‘The IACC has been practising hard for this event and the children are very excited to be performing live again’ said Andi Dwipasatya, community worker and volunteer with Advance Diversity Services (ADS). ‘It seems amazing that the last time we held a night like this to showcase the talents of the IACC was in 2019, pre-COVID.

‘Dancing online during lockdown was extremely challenging for the kids who would rather be together – moving together, not sitting or dancing alone in front of a screen!’ said Ms Dwipasatya

‘As well as dancing in this year’s performance night, the IACC children will also be sharing the MC role, introducing the performers in English and also showing off their new ancestral language skills in Bahasa Indonesian.’

Members of the IACC perform the Hegong dance a traditional dance from Maumere Flores in Indonesia.
Credit: Advance Diversity Services

The IACC is an intergenerational club with children from age 4 and adults up to age 70. It began as an initiative of the ADS Indonesian Reference Group in 2018, and is coordinated by Andi Dwipasatya and Theresia Tomahu.

The children meet every Sunday at Kogarah High School Hall to rehearse traditional dances and many of them also attend Pelangi, the community language school, to learn Bahasa. There will be a ceremony to present certificates to the Pelangi students before the performance night.

Other highlights on the night will include:

  • Performances by professional singers, including Ms Tomahu.
  • Songs from an Indonesian women’s vocal group.
  • Singing by three Bahasa community language schools – Pelangi (from Kogarah), Leumeah and Wollongong.
  • Line-dancing fun for everyone to top off the evening.
IACC children and their dance teachers Sita and Tuti.
Credit: Advance Diversity Services

Advance Diversity Services is a proud supporter of the IACC and has joined forces with The Kogarah Storehouse (which is donating raffle prizes), the Pelangi community language school and the IAFA (Indonesian Australia Friendship Association) to support the night. Delicious pre-packaged Indonesian meals will also be available for sale at the start of the evening.

Ms Dwipasatya said, ‘We’re so proud that the language schools and the IACC can showcase their diverse talents and their holistic approach to learning language and culture – applying it through the arts to make it fun from a young age.

‘With the IACC’s performances, and with contributions from so many other wonderful individuals and groups, it is going to be a great occasion. Please join us. Everyone is welcome!’

Indonesian Arts and Culture Club Performance Night

Saturday December 3, 2022 from 6pm – 9.30pm

Kogarah High School, Gladstone Street Gate 3

Get your tickets from Andi Dwipasatya 0433 421 355, or contact Magdaline at 9597 5455 E:

Indonesian Arts and Culture Club Performance Night flyer with all the details of the December 3 event.


The IACC was formed in 2018 with Doing it Differently (DID) grant funding from Bayside Council in partnership with SESLHD. The next year it received another small DID grant from Georges River Council to engage Indonesians and interested others in the GRC LGA.

Grants assist ADS to foster inclusion during Sydney WorldPride

Grants assist ADS to foster inclusion during Sydney WorldPride

Advance Diversity Services (ADS) will host a suite of activities during Sydney WorldPride 2023 to promote LGBTIQA awareness and inclusion in the Georges River region.

Sydney WorldPride runs from February 17 to March 5, 2023, and is the largest global event to be held in NSW since the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. The festival offers more than 300 events, celebrates Australia’s diverse LGBTIQA community, and includes the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on February 25.

A grant from Georges River Council has enabled ADS to collaborate with LGBTIQA organisations across the area to offer three inclusion-building activities during the festival.

They are:

  • An LGBTIQA movie screening at Hurstville Events Cinema.
  • An ACON-run Inclusive Practice Training Workshop for local services on the needs of LGBTIQA people.
  • An LGBTIQA Speakers Panel.

‘There is no better time for us to be building community acceptance of diversity and LGBTIQA inclusion than during Sydney WorldPride,’ said Anthony Scerri, Manager, Settlement and Community Services at ADS.

‘We know the impact of exclusion is profound for people who are LGBTIQA and even more so for those from CALD backgrounds, leading to high rates of mental health issues and suicide.

‘The events we’ve planned during Sydney WorldPride aim to foster an inclusive community that embraces and celebrates LGBTIQA people and communities and promotes their participation and wellbeing.’

Mr Scerri said the WorldPride festival theme GATHER DREAM AMPLIFY had inspired ADS and its LGBTIQA Working Party to build on their work to:

  • Increase community acceptance and celebration of sexual diversity,
  • Strengthen the capability of local services for inclusive service delivery, and
  • Foster positive community engagement and dialogue on inclusivity and diversity.

‘Ultimately, we want to create a more connected, welcoming and inclusive community that reduces the isolation, loneliness and exclusion for LGBTIQA people,’ he said.

‘The events we’re offering in early 2023 should take us closer to achieving this.’

Mr Scerri said the LGBTIQA Speakers Panel – featuring presenters from culturally, gender diverse backgrounds – would generate dialogue, spark ideas for collaboration and advance understanding of the experiences of the LGBTIQA community.

The South Eastern Sydney Local Health District HIV Programs Unit had committed to $5,000 towards this project, he said.

ADS will host the panel in collaboration with ADS’s LGBTIQA Working Party which includes Kogarah Community Services, ACON, South East Sydney Local Area Health (SESLHD) HIV Programs Unit, Australia-New Zealand Tongzhi Rainbow Alliance.

‘It’s always important to be tackling non-inclusive attitudes towards LGBTIQA people but it feels even more vital after a crime like the mass shooting in an LGBTIQA night club in Colorado Springs on November 19,’ Mr Scerri said.

‘The panel, the film screening and the training will augment our existing community education efforts and open up more opportunities for dialogue to promote greater inclusion and ensure LGBTIQA people feel safe and secure in our region.’

Sydney World Pride – Human Progress Pride Flag at the Sydney Opera House.
Credit: Daniel Boud


Follow ADS on Facebook for updates and more details about ADS’s Sydney WorldPride events.

Migrant Information Day highlights contribution of Ukrainian new arrivals

Migrant Information Day highlights contribution of Ukrainian new arrivals

Migrant Information Day (MID) 2022 will be unique in highlighting the contributions of Ukrainian new arrivals who have settled in the local area over the past eight months.

‘The Bayside and Sutherland Shire LGAs make up the top settlement locations of the Ukrainian nationals that have arrived here since April,’ said Anthony Scerri, Manager, Settlement and Community Services at Advance Diversity Services (ADS).

‘This year’s MID will feature the distinctive crafts, artwork and food of ADS’s Ukrainian clients,’ he said.

More than 500 locals and 40 stallholders will celebrate MID at Rockdale Town Hall on Wednesday, October 26, from 10 am to 2 pm.

This free event – which returns ‘face-to-face’ after several years of virtual offerings – gives newly arrived migrants in the region the opportunity to gain information about health, government, education, employment, youth, community and CALD-specific services.

Mr Scerri said MID was an opportunity for new arrivals and migrants to connect with service providers and the community – regardless of what stage they were on in their settlement journey.

‘This year it is especially important as we welcome Ukrainian new arrivals who have settled in our community and are very much in the early stages of their settlement journey; learning English, registering with essential services and finding out about life in Australia.

‘Although the settlement journey can be difficult for many, there is a real sense of resiliency and also wanting to give back to the community among the Ukrainian new arrivals. For them, MID will be a great opportunity not only to find out about supports available to them but also to share their skills and contributions through artwork, food and jewellery stalls.’

A warm welcome and multilingual resources

MID has been an annual event in St George for more than 20 years and, in 2022, participants can enjoy:

  • A free and delicious BBQ cooked by the Lions Club of Lugarno.
  • Friendly chats with service providers and organisations in the local community, including TAFE NSW, Mission Australia, Royal Life Saving, the NSW Ombudsman, Sydney Water, Max Employment, Gymea Community Aid and Information Service, Headspace Hurstville and many others. 
  • Cultural performances from local artists – with Chinese and Indigenous dancers expected to be highlights.
  • A range of guest speakers, including the Mayor of Bayside Council – Dr Christina Curry, the Hon. Linda Burney MP (via pre-recorded video), Steven Kamper MP, the Hon. Mark Coure MP, and Joseph La Posta, CEO of Multicultural NSW.

Multilingual information will be available from government and non-government organisations, and bilingual workers will be on hand to provide further language assistance in Nepali, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Bengali and Ukrainian.

‘Gathering the many services available in one place to easily share information with newly arrived migrants and refugees is a fantastic way to support those settling in our community,’ said Mr Scerri. ‘We’re excited to welcome new arrivals to this face-to-face event and we hope they make connections, have fun, and feel a sense of belonging in Australian society.’


Cultural performances from local artists will feature alongside information stalls, speakers and the distinctive crafts, artwork and food of Ukrainian new arrivals. 

MID 2022 showcases the cultural diversity of the St George region and is financially supported by a grant from Multicultural NSW – Stronger Together Grants Program and a range of organisations including: ADS, St George Community Transport, Georges River Council and South Eastern Sydney Local Health District – Priority Populations Unit. Bayside Council is host council for the event and has offered significant in-kind support. 

Organising committee members include: Divesh Naryan – Settlement Services International, Sherie Skaines – Bayside Council, Marguerite Elson – Georges River Council, and Ronnie Wang – Asian Women at Work, and other ADS staff.