ADS partners with Queer Screen to bring love letter to Bollywood and stirring mother-daughter tale to community

ADS partners with Queer Screen to bring love letter to Bollywood and stirring mother-daughter tale to community

Advance Diversity Services (ADS) has partnered with Queer Screen for the 2024 Mardi Gras Film Festival to offer a subsidised community screening of The Queen of My Dreams.

Described as a celebration of classic Bollywood cinema, The Queen of My Dreams is screening (subsidised offering at $10) at Event Cinema Hurstville on February 22 at 7pm as part of Queer Screen’s 31st Mardi Gras Film Festival (MGFF24).

The discounted $10 tickets for the Hurstville screening – which is also the film’s Australian premiere – can be booked here.

Azra (Amrit Kaur, pictured) arrives home, and it forces her mother to recall her own childhood and flash back to 1969 Pakistan – a golden era, since gone.

Amrit Kaur (The Sex Lives of College Girls) plays Azra, a Muslim teen living in Toronto. When her father, Hassan (Hamza Haq), suddenly dies, Azra grieves as she returns to Pakistan. She also finds herself on a Bollywood-inspired journey through memories, both real and imagined from her mother Mariam’s youth in Karachi to her own coming-of-age in rural Canada.

‘What’s lovely about The Queen of My Dreams is how it seamlessly weaves these two tales together, and how we learn mother and daughter may not be so different after all,’ said ADS Executive Officer Antoinette Chow.

‘The empathy the film shows for the elders in our lives, also makes it moving and unique.’

The Queen of My Dreams is Fawzia Mirza’s feature directorial debut, and she said she wanted the film to be vibrant and not bleak.

‘There are not enough stories about queer and South Asian Muslims,’ Mirza added. ‘There are just not enough stories of our vibrance, hope, possibility and potential.’

The Queen of My Dreams feature began as a short film more than a decade ago and progressed from there – probing, as Mirza said, ‘whether I could be queer and Muslim and still love Bollywood romance if I came out’.

The film was also awarded the 2023 Iris Prize – Winner Best Actress, Amrit Kaur (actress) – in the ‘Oscars’ of the LGBTQ+ short film world at Cannes.

Ms Chow said the film celebrates Bollywood and simultaneously explores how Azra and her mother Mariam (Nimra Bucha) revisit the past to try to breach the gap that has been keeping them apart.

‘We hope people in our community come to the subsidised screening of The Queen of My Dreams and find a heart-warming story they can connect with. We also want LGBTIQA+ people from CALD backgrounds in our area to know ADS is here for them, and that we are working hard to build a more supportive and inclusive CALD community in our region.’


Book your $10 ticket for The Queen of My Dreams screening at Hurstville cinema on February 22 from Queer Screen here.

Note: Content warning – contains suicide themes.

View the full MGFF24 program and book your other MGFF24 in-cinema and in-home tickets here.

Community forum broaches how to combat escalating racism

Community forum broaches how to combat escalating racism

Reports of increased racism and harassment in the local community since the recent eruption of the Israel-Gaza war prompted a community forum held at Rockdale Library on December 15.

The Responding to Racism forum was organised by Advance Diversity Services (ADS), Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), and The Challenging Racism Project (Western Sydney University) and attracted 56 participants – all eager to discuss how to combat escalating racism in their local areas.

Joumana Nassour, an Arabic language and community worker and broadcaster for Ahlul-beit Radio, shared her recent experience of racism and highlighted the need for a community response. Ms Nassour is one of several Muslim women in the St George Area who have been verbally attacked while wearing hijab, and who have begun to fear for their own and their children’s safety.

Executive Director of the Islamophobia Register Sharara Attai said there had been a 13-fold increase in reports of Islamophobia since October 7 – with reports of arson at mosques, death threats, videos inciting violence and intimidation on the road.

‘We are seeing an alarming level of Islamophobia with many members of the Australian Muslim community feeling very scared and anxious for their safety. It is devastating that at a time when many members of the Australian Muslim community are already deeply affected by the horrors of what is occurring in Gaza, they are also having to deal with increasing hostility here at home.’

Ms Attai said that at no time in its nine-year history of operations, had the Register received such a large number of incident reports in such a short space of time, including during ‘peak’ reporting periods such as in the aftermath of the Christchurch terror attacks which saw a four-fold increase of reports.

Magdaline Shenton-Kaleido, Settlement and Community Services Manager for ADS, said the forum aimed to provide opportunities for local services and community to:

  • lessen gaps in their knowledge and understanding of racism and how it presents
  • respond to harassment when they see it
  • know where and how to reach out for help when they experience it, and
  • ensure transparency of response from key support services
Forum organisers were pleased participants felt the event provided a safe and inclusive space for discussing issues related to addressing racism in the community.

Expert panellists probe responses to racism

Zarlasht Sarwari from the Challenging Racism Project moderated the expert panel that included:

  • Gillian Stokie and Bernice Kamikazi – DCJ / Anti-Discrimination NSW
  • Dr Rhonda Itaoui – Centre for Western Sydney
  • Joanna Mackay and Robert Beazley – NSW Police, Hate Crime Engagement Unit
  • Sharara Attai – Islamophobia Register
  • Dr Yasser Mohammed, a Mental Health Practitioner and Occupational Therapist

Speakers all emphasised that knowing how to identify and disrupt racism in the community was important.

Joanna Mackay said the Hate Crime Engagement Unit had been established because Hate crime victims sometimes felt fearful of having a negative experience with the police, and Hate crimes and incidents were seriously underreported.

From talking with community groups, she said she’d found many people were unaware they could report Hate crimes and incidents. But reporting was important, she explained, even if the report didn’t result in a charge, because it helped paint a larger picture of what was happening in local areas, showed patterns of behaviour the unit could address, and could also act as a deterrent.

Asked during the Q&A whether police at the frontline were trained to pick up nuances of racism and distil the correct information, Ms Mackay said part of her unit’s program was to educate police officers about the complexity of the issues through training in both metropolitan and regional areas.

Panelists emphasised that knowing how to identify and disrupt racism in the community was important.

Racism, religion and place

Dr Rhonda Itaoui said that Centre for Western Sydney research showed that in 2105, 62 per cent of people in the Sutherland Region were unlikely to respond to the threat of racism.

There was also a correlation between racism and religious affiliation, she said, making Western Sydney a hotspot for racism with 71.2 percent of its population professing religious affiliation, which was contrary to the overall Australian trend.

Dr Itaoui said racism was fluid in nature and specific to historical, cultural, geographic and political contexts. She also said racial attitudes were both shaped by place, and shaped experiences of places. To advance inclusion, she said, there was a need for social planning strategies and policies as well as locally focused anti-racism interventions that confront hotspots.

Speakers all agreed with Sharara Attai who used four ‘Rs’ to emphasise that people have a responsibility to Recognise, Respond, Record and Report racism, whether as a victim or a bystander, and to reach out to the many services that support anti-racism.

Given the immediate and ongoing trauma racism can cause, Ms Shenton-Kaleido said it had been important to include Yasser Mohammed’s presentation on mental health (and the transgenerational trauma of Palestinian residents of Jordan), and to make mental health contacts and resources available in a variety of languages both at and after the forum.

‘There are many supports available when we experience or witness racism, and our forum revealed just how crucial it is for people to reach out for help and find support when they need it.’

The forum explored the global geopolitical context to see how it impacts on racism in Australia.

Feedback and next steps

ADS and other organisers were pleased with forum feedback, Ms Shenton-Kaleido said, which showed participants felt it provided a safe and inclusive space for discussing issues related to addressing racism in the community. People also had ample time for networking and to ask further questions of speakers over the lunch provided by the DCJ.

In terms of next steps …

Having heard that the Islamophobia Register’s preliminary media analysis report showed five out of six media outlets demonstrated a lack of balance in covering the Israel-Gaza war, one participant requested that any future community forum address the difference between biased speech that creates hate and freedom of speech and how to legally hold media outlets accountable.

When asked ‘How can we stop politicians from continuing behaviour that incites divisiveness and hate speech?’, participants said organisations and individuals should:

  • Stop hosting politicians and supporting local members who are not listening to the community.
  • Remind politicians and other leaders they have a responsibility to do the right thing by the community.
  • Encourage leaders to engage more deeply with the local Muslim- /Arabic-speaking community.

‘Ultimately, what we hope is that people feel more confident to report racism to authorities and institutions and that, when people do make a report, these bodies respond effectively and with proper understanding, protection and support for victims and witnesses,’ said Ms Shenton-Kaleido.

‘We also look forward to providing more opportunities for people in the community and organisations like DCJ and the NSW Police Hate Crime Engagement Unit to come together to discuss next steps for stamping out racism in our society.’


To learn more about the forum, responding to racism or resources available please contact Magdaline on (02) 9597 5455 or E:

Mahzad Zakipoor: ‘My resolve to effect meaningful change has only grown stronger’

Mahzad Zakipoor: ‘My resolve to effect meaningful change has only grown stronger’

Mahzad (Mazzie) Zakipoor completed her student placement with ADS from June 30 to November 17, 2023. She says ADS’s steadfast support not only facilitated her personal and professional growth but also allowed her to make tangible contributions to the success of several important community projects.

What drew you to do your student placement with ADS?

I was initially attracted to ADS because of my sincere dedication to supporting marginalised communities, particularly the LGBTQA+ population. What intrigued me about ADS is its renowned commitment to providing exceptional assistance and resources for individuals from diverse backgrounds. This resonated deeply with me as I aspire to positively enhance the wellbeing of those who confront difficulties about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

What are you studying and where?

I’m pursuing my Master of Social Work (qualifying) at the University of Wollongong. As an international student and newcomer, my diverse background and experiences bring a unique perspective to my engagement with ADS. I have always been driven by a deep desire to collaborate closely with CALD communities, and this opportunity has proven invaluable in realising that ambition.

Mazzie Zakipoor (right) with ADS CEO Antoinette Chow on Wear it Purple Day.

How has your personal history and/or your cultural background informed your work with ADS?

 My personal history and cultural background have profoundly impacted my journey with ADS. As an international student, I understand the challenges and struggles migrants face when adjusting to life in a new country. This empathy and cultural awareness have allowed me to connect deeply with the people I assist, breaking down barriers and fostering trust.

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?

One significant highlight was my involvement in revising the Multicultural LGBTIQA+ Support Directory and adding new support providers for disabled individuals. This experience provided me with a unique opportunity to enhance my skills in community outreach, establish meaningful connections, and efficiently organise resources.

I actively participated in several community projects, including MID (Migrant Information Day), Wear It Purple Day, Multicultural Women’s Hub, and the Ukrainian Wellbeing Program. These initiatives have deepened my understanding of various community needs and allowed me to contribute meaningfully to the wellbeing of different groups.

In the context of ADS programs, the organisation consistently encouraged me to apply the theoretical knowledge from my academic studies to practical situations. Support from ADS has not only facilitated my personal and professional growth but has also allowed me to make tangible contributions to the success of these community projects. I am genuinely grateful for the opportunities ADS provided and its impact on my journey.

Mazzie provided invaluable support to the Multicultural Women’s Hub. 

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

One of the most demanding aspects was confronting the distressing narratives of discrimination and bias shared by members of the LGBTQA+ community. This emotional burden, however, reinforced my resolve to effect positive change in their lives. I was really proud to coordinate the Wear it Purple Day (WIPD) celebration at ADS this year.

What strengths have you brought to your placement?

I have always taken great pride in demonstrating empathy and active listening when interacting with others. This attitude has enabled me to foster deeper connections with the individuals I have collaborated with, ensuring their unique needs are thoroughly understood and effectively addressed. I always try to establish a comfortable environment wherein individuals feel empowered to express themselves while seeking solace or guidance.

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

One of my most notable accomplishments was actively participating in the revision and enhancement process of the Multicultural LGBTIQA+ Support Directory. This particular undertaking holds immense significance to me as it emphasises diversity and inclusiveness and is crucial for disseminating valuable resources to individuals requiring assistance. I achieved a significant milestone by engaging in this project which is an initiative that celebrates multiculturalism while promoting support and fostering inclusivity within the LGBTIQA+ community.

‘Be You With Us’ is ADS’s 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?

ADS’s tagline, ‘Be You With Us,’ exemplifies ADS’s unwavering dedication to fostering inclusivity. Throughout my journey, ADS has played a pivotal role in empowering me to fully embrace and celebrate my authentic self by providing an environment that wholeheartedly accepts individuals for who they are. Within this safe space, anyone – regardless of age, gender, cultural background, sexual orientation or religious affiliation – is warmly welcomed and genuinely valued. Through their support and encouragement, I have grown confident enough to express myself even when doubtful.’

The Building LGBTIQA+ Inclusion Forum at Hurstville Library on June 8.

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?

I can’t answer this one in a nutshell. The Australian Government can significantly enhance support for migrants and refugees by providing improved access to language programs, employment opportunities, and cultural integration initiatives that would aid newcomers’ rapid and successful adjustment to life in Australia. Moreover, facilitating employment opportunities for economic independence through targeted initiatives such as networking events or mentorship programs.

Promoting cultural integration should also be a fundamental objective of government policies to support migrants and refugees. Encouraging intercultural understanding among diverse communities not only fosters social cohesion but also helps facilitate mutual respect, which leads to an inclusive society where everyone feels valued.

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 deeply committed to furthering the cause of marginalised communities and fostering a sense of inclusivity. Through my experience at ADS, I have gained indispensable expertise, acquired extensive knowledge, and developed an empathetic understanding of the obstacles encountered by individuals from diverse backgrounds. My resolve to effect meaningful change in the lives of others has only grown stronger.

Please finish this sentence: I love ADS because … its supportive and friendly members create an inclusive and welcoming space for everyone.

Mazzie staffing the ADS stall on MID (Migrant Information Day).
Amal Dib: ‘ADS encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone’

Amal Dib: ‘ADS encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone’

Amal Dib completed her student placement with ADS from August to November 2023. During her placement, she was encouraged to step out of her comfort zone. She says the skills she used enabled her to create trusting connections with clients and community groups and to work to ensure their interests were respected and uplifted.

What drew you to do your student placement with ADS?

I was allocated my social work placement at ADS by my university. After researching the organisation and doing my pre-placement interview, I saw the values of ADS embedded in the large range of work they do. I knew after that it was going to be a great fit!

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

I am currently in my third year of the Bachelor of Social Work at The University of Sydney. I am the daughter of migration pathways. My dad was born in Lebanon and he and the family migrated to Australia during Lebanon’s Civil War. Growing up I was heavily involved in social justice and most specifically the rights of Refugees and Asylum seekers. I witnessed my family members subjected to racism, islamophobia, isolation and oppression – not only through people in the community but also institutionally. I also witnessed their resilience, resistance and strength, which often went unnoticed. As I am white-passing, I have continued to understand the privilege I hold; I do not get thrown the labels and stereotypes that my family so regularly do. Because of this, I chose to study social work: to be able to work in this field, and to try and uphold social justice, whether that be in one person’s life or on a larger scale. Understanding the role that culture, family, and religion plays in people’s lives has greatly helped me in my social work practice ensuring culturally safe and responsive work.

Amal Dib (left) with Kay Khantaracha, ADS Case Manager, Specialised Intensive Services, at St George Migrant Information Day on October 11, 2023.

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?

I have been involved in a large range of programs, mostly working alongside the Specialised Intensive Services (SIS) program and the Domestic Family Sexual Violence (DFSV) program in casework and community project settings. I have also been privileged to support some of ADS’s clients, when at Court and Police Stations, through advocacy and companionship. I was able to be a part of the Migrant Information Day (MID) Working Group, Ukrainian Women’s Group, Multicultural Women’s Hub, Careers and Employment Expo, Youth Learn to Drive Program, English Conversation Classes, SETS group programs and to help with casework.

I was able to apply my studies every day at ADS. As social work students we are encouraged to reflect on theories to guide us in best practice. Each day I utilised the concepts of anti-oppressive practice, strengths-based approach, trauma-informed, systems theory and person-centred practice. Being able to see how theories can be applied in practice has been instrumental to my learning. Being encouraged by the team to step out of my comfort zone and into unfamiliar situations has also been significant in my learning and expanded my skills.

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

The most challenging thing about this placement has been witnessing, first-hand, the impacts of neo-liberal and white colonial systems. The severe lack of funding in the settlement and multicultural community space has been frustratingly eye-opening. The housing crisis, the exclusionary visa provisions, the inadequate financial support, the rigorous processes to receive assistance and the general ignorance of cultural practice in services and key bodies is ever-present. In this placement, I have had to reckon with the inner frustration of not being able to change the overarching system and rather focus on what we can do in the now to ensure clients are best supported.

What strengths have you brought to your placement?

My strengths have been active listening, reflexive thinking, ethics and interpersonal communication. These skills have allowed me to create trusting connections with clients and community groups on a deeper level, as well as work to ensure their interests are being respected and uplifted.

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

I’m not able to look back and pinpoint one moment that I could rule as my proudest. Instead, I have reflected throughout this placement and now, at the end as a whole, and it makes me incredibly proud. From assisting with Centrelink, to resume writing, to supporting DFV disclosures at a police station, to encouraging and arranging a university application for a client. Every experience has been a proud moment. Being able to go into situations that are completely new to me, and being given the trust to do that – not only from the staff at ADS but also the clients themselves – is what makes me the proudest. 

Amal Dib (right) enjoyed her involvement with ADS’s English Conversation Classes and will continue to volunteer as a tutor. 

‘Be You With Us’ is ADS’s 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?

ADS staff have always encouraged me to be myself and have never been made to feel like I had to reduce any part of my identity, but rather the opposite. At ADS I have felt like my opinions, my thoughts and my ideas were recognised. I felt a part of the team and was extremely welcomed.

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?

To answer this question, I would need an entire essay. The Australian Government’s ‘support’ for refugees and migrants is a lacklustre attempt at service provision. The government must work harder to meet the needs and wants of refugees and migrants by listening to the community, upholding their voice and instilling relevant and holistic policies, programs and funding that places them at the centre, not neoliberal ideologies. I think the notion of adjusting quickly is a common white, colonial mindset. To expect and want refugees and migrants to adjust ‘quickly’ increases re-traumatization and places immense pressure to adapt to ‘Australian’ ways of life, which often are centred in whiteness. Instead, I believe the Government needs to invest in programs that walk alongside refugees and migrants at their own pace, to remove the fast-paced and rigid reporting systems, and to centre refugees and migrants as experts in their lives.

‘At ADS I have felt like my opinions, my thoughts and my ideas were recognised. I felt a part of the team and was extremely welcomed,’ says Amal Dib (at centre in blue).

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 don’t think I am able to say what the future holds for me but my ultimate goal is to be able to ensure people feel like they aren’t alone and that there will always be someone backing them. It would be somewhat naive to say my ultimate goal is to make systemic change and change the world as much as I would like to. Focusing on that alone risks me ignoring the reason I came into social work; for people. My goal is to appear as a real person, someone that can be relied on, to be given the privilege of trust, to advocate and to make a conscious effort to continuously respect, hold and value the stories that are shared with me. I won’t be the one making change, but rather the clients and communities themselves, and I will get the honour of standing beside them through that transformation.

Please finish this sentence: I love ADS because … you can see the incredible passion that the Settlement and Community staff have in supporting communities. Working alongside such community- and socially just-minded service providers has been an amazing experience and I have learnt so much from them.

Postnatal program offers Nepalese families support and connection

Postnatal program offers Nepalese families support and connection

A 20-week program led by Advance Diversity Services for parents and grandparents from the Nepalese community has given participants a safe space to share their experiences and gain critical information about mental health and wellbeing in the postnatal period. 

ADS worked in collaboration with Kogarah Storehouse, the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD) and other local services to offer the postnatal support group sessions, which included a mix of networking time, workshop activities, and self-care activities like stretching and yoga.

Sessions were co-designed with the Nepalese community and in consultation with two bicultural workers from South Eastern Sydney Local Health District – Basudha Karki and Sajana Golay Lama.

Mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers attended the informative sessions presented by health professionals and community workers and say they were educational, practical and supportive.

Having bicultural workers present and interpreting at all sessions, as well as The Kogarah Storehouse providing the venue, catering and childminding, meant participants felt comfortable and understood, and could make the most of their learning.

‘We know from providing services in the Nepalese community that new mothers in the community are experiencing postnatal depression but there are a lot of factors that prevent them from getting the support they need,’ said ADS Project Coordinator Rishi Acharya.

‘We also know parenting is not a nuclear family event in Nepalese culture – with many grandparents living with their children to help raise their grandchildren. Parenting education benefits all the family and has a flow-on effect – which is why grandparents have been so important in this project.’

Also, many mothers in the Nepalese community in the St George area return to work after six months maternity leave, meaning grandparents play a major role in bringing up the baby and keeping the family together and allowing their children to pursue their professional work.

Nepalese grandparents usually come to Australia on a Contributory Parent visa – and it can be hard to find people in their age group they can relate to who are in the same situation, which can be isolating.

Sessions offered participants a wide range of information, education and tips for practical support, with a major emphasis on:

  • Postnatal depression – what it feels like, how to recognise its symptoms and where to find help and treatment.
  • Child development and parenting skills – including health and education about the first five years of life, playgroups and preschool, transitioning to primary school and meeting age-appropriate milestones.

Other sessions looked at: Practising mindfulness to help reduce stress; The importance of child car seats; Becoming Us – a whole family approach to pregnancy, birth and beyond;

1-2-3 Magic & Emotion Coaching training to equip parents and make parenting more enjoyable; Bilingualism Speech Pathology Services; Karitane (expert parental support, education and advice); the Wolli Creek Hub; the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS); intergenerational conflict; physio and occupational therapy services which demonstrated how a child’s pretend play can help them to develop social skills, fine motor skills, sensory processing, emotional regulation and self-help skills.

Participants also learnt about ForWhen, which provides a free and supportive mental health navigation service for new and expecting parents – mums, dads and guardians – and their family from their baby’s conception until their first birthday.

‘Feedback from the ADS program has been positive,’ said Mr Acharya, ‘with people valuing the sessions and the networking support they’ve encountered with other parents and carers.

Participants also say they now have increased: confidence to ask questions of bicultural facilitators and contact them directly for individual needs; awareness of services available to parents and carers; understanding about mental health services; and knowledge of complex feeding, speech delays and developmental stages.

‘It’s also a good sign that the support group wants to continue to meet on Monday mornings at The Kogarah Storehouse – to stay connected and to continue learning from sessions facilitated by health workers and other professionals.’

Mr Acharya said support and patience from family and friends is often the most important factor in a woman’s recovery from postnatal depression.

‘What we’ve done with this program is create a safe place where parents and grandparents feel comfortable to discuss mental health issues, find social connection and enjoy mutual support no matter how they’re feeling,’ Mr Acharya said.

‘This makes early identification of postnatal depression and other mental health concerns much easier.

‘The rapport that’s been fostered is quite incredible – with almost 100 people attending a family picnic at Rockdale Park on July 19 to celebrate the conclusion of the 20-week program.

‘There was much laughter at the picnic day, with games, dancing, singing, a barbecue and delicious Nepalese food shared.

‘During a game of tug of war, there were so many women on each end of the rope that everyone collapsed in laughter on both sides when the rope snapped exactly in half.

‘I think that’s a great metaphor for how we’ll win the war against postnatal depression – drawing together, not pulling apart.’


One hundred parents and grandparents residing in South-Eastern Sydney took part in the Nepalese Postnatal Education and Support Group program which ran from February to July 2023. It was funded by the St George NSW Community Collaborative whose goal is to address mental health distress, suicide and suicide risks within the community.

Community Collaborative Stakeholders were: ADS, Kogarah Storehouse, St George & Sutherland Mental Health Service, SESLHD, and Child, Youth, Family Services, Population and Community Health, SESLHD. To get involved in the Nepalese support group held at The Kogarah Storehouse on Monday mornings contact Rishi Acharya on 02 9597 5455.

Multicultural Men’s Wellbeing ‘Settlement Stories’ launched at a library near you

Multicultural Men’s Wellbeing ‘Settlement Stories’ launched at a library near you

A comprehensive wellbeing program for multicultural men run by Advance Diversity Services (ADS) has culminated in a stirring photographic exhibition, which is now on digital display in six Bayside Council libraries.

The exhibition features the portraits and settlement stories of 18 migrant/refugee men along with photo collages of their joint recreational activities.

The Multicultural Men’s Wellbeing ‘Settlement Stories’ exhibition features the portraits and settlement stories of 18 migrant/refugee men. The exhibition is being projected in six libraries in Bayside until August 31.

Funded by Multicultural NSW (MNSW) and run by ADS Community Service Officer Rishi Acharya, the project supported recently arrived migrant and refugee men in South-Eastern Sydney to make friends and connections, have fun and navigate settlement in their new country, Australia.

The Multicultural NSW funding helped revive the ADS Men’s Wellbeing group Mr Acharya had founded many years before, but had become dormant during COVID-19. The 10 fortnightly sessions took place from February to August this year and incorporated workshops and weekend nature outings.

Bayside Council Mayor Dr Christina Curry said she was pleased to launch the ADS Multicultural Men’s Wellbeing ‘Settlement Stories’ Project at Rockdale Library on August 14 because it showed the strength of multicultural men and the significant role they play in contributing to family and connection in the Bayside community.

‘We’re a very multicultural community,’ Dr Curry said, ‘and we’re very proud of our community and the histories, traditions and cultures that you contribute to our area. I know it’s not easy. My parents migrated to Australia. No family. No friends. No English. And so, I understand the challenges – and that’s why the council working with amazing organisations like Advance Diversity Services is so important to us.’

Bayside Council Mayor Dr Christina Curry launching the exhibition at Rockdale Library on August 14.

Jit Gopali, one of the 18 men featured in the exhibition who also spoke at the launch, said he and his wife had migrated to Australia in 2017 from Nepal to be with their children who were permanent residents.

While being reunited with family had made him happy, he’d found the early years of adjustment to their new geography, culture, society, system and language isolating and difficult.

He’d been lucky to finally connect with ADS, he said, where he took part in English training and a driving course, which had increased his job prospects and scope for contact.

‘After joining the Multicultural Men’s Wellbeing Group, I also got the opportunity to learn about mainstream services like health, transport, childcare, legal and other facilities.’

Some of the men whose settlement stories and portraits feature in the exhibition.

Settlement and Community Services Manager for ADS, Magdaline Shenton-Kaleido, said she knew it was daunting to move to a new country, having to learn a different language and systems, ‘everything from scratch’. However, programs like the Men’s Wellbeing project helped to ensure newcomers have support to access services, combat the loneliness of moving to a new country, and make friends to integrate well in their new host country.    

She said workshops offered during the project included an introduction to men’s health, stress management, parenting in a new country and financial literacy. 

Rishi Acharya and Magdaline Shenton-Kaleido from ADS introducing the Multicultural Men’s Wellbeing ‘Settlement Stories’ Project at the launch.

Fun activities the men enjoyed included a tour of PCYC Rockdale with taster sports like squash, table tennis and gym workouts; coastal walks; a bush walk on the two valley trail at Wolli Creek; an Indigenous walk in the Royal National Park; and a family picnic at Rockdale Park.

 ‘To recognise the men’s bravery, resilience and continuing stories in Australia, Rishi and I interviewed all the participants and engaged professional photographer Bebi Zekirovski to take their portraits.

‘Our media writer, Marjorie, then condensed their stories to showcase their settlement journeys.’

Mr Acharya narrated his own micro-story at the launch and then read the stories of the 17 other men.

‘My wife and I left Nepal due to civil war,’ he said. ‘In 2008, with limited English, it was difficult to get a job. But I studied hard and have now enjoyed working at ADS with newly arrived communities for more than 10 years.’

All stories read at the launch were welcomed warmly by the audience and some, like Janak Prasad Dalal’s, elicited surprise: ‘I’m from a very mountainous part of Nepal, which meant I was 14 before I first saw electricity! I studied and lived in the US before coming to Australia in 2014. It’s very peaceful here especially after New York City where people carry guns.’

Sam Bassiouny’s story also evoked nods of recognition: ‘My wife dreamt of coming to Australia and we were looking for a country based on equality. It was hard: I’d held a big position in Egypt and had to start from the beginning. But I’ve found the land where I want to live the rest of my life!’

Ms Shenton-Kaleido thanked everyone who had helped to make the project a success, including: MNSW the funding body; Rishi Acharya project coordinator and Prem Tamang ADS student placement; Thanh Nguyen grant writer; Rockdale PCYC for the taster sport sessions; South Eastern Sydney Local Health District and Dr Prabin Pathak for the men’s health and wellbeing sessions; Tim Pullen Wolli Creek Preservation Society bush guide; Bebi Zekirovski photographer; Marjorie Lewis-Jones media writer for the stories; Bayside Council for launching and running the exhibition in six libraries; and ‘all the brave participants who migrated to a new life’.

The portraits and stories of new beginnings will be projected in six libraries in Bayside, including Rockdale Library, Arncliffe, Bexley North, Eastgardens, San Souci and Mascot libraries, as well as the George Hanna Memorial Museum until August 31.

‘We hope this exhibition and these snapshots help to increase community awareness of the experiences, needs and services available for migrants and refugee men,’ Ms Shenton-Kaleido said.

‘So please visit your local library and read these amazing settlement stories of your local community.’


The Men’s Wellbeing Group will continue to meet on the first Wednesday of every month at the ADS office in Hurstville. To get involved contact Rishi Acharya on 9597 5455 or email