Sunnah of a Happy Family inspires Muslim community

Sunnah of a Happy Family inspires Muslim community

Attentiveness, care, appreciation and praise are central to a happy home, marriage and family and were modelled by the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) throughout his life. Sharing the load of household tasks and child-rearing responsibilities is also pivotal to harmonious relationships.

These are some of the central messages conveyed by Mufti Zeeyad Ahmed Ravat, Founder and Director at Daarul Arqam Australia, which left a lasting impression for the 100 attendees of the Sunnah of a Happy Family Workshop on Sunday June 10.

Held at the Red Rose Function Centre in Rockdale and organised by Advance Diversity Services (ADS), the event attracted Muslims of all ages.

Women at the Sunnah of a Happy Family Workshop organised by ADS on Sunday June 10.

The workshop encouraged respectful relationships and positive attitudes and behaviours among spouses and family members, highlighting the importance of early intervention in preventing family violence. It also provided the participants with an opportunity to address their concerns including the challenges of negative gender attitudes and cultural practices. 

Participants concerned about conflict resolution, parenting, spousal communication, gender roles and expectations in a migration context received thoughtful responses from Mufti Zeeyad Ahmed Ravat who also peppered his speech with examples and humour.

‘I want to highlight the romance of the prophet; the prophet as a romantic person,’ said Mufti Zeeyad Ahmed Ravat

‘There is no-one more romantic to his family than the prophet, and he would not accept an invitation unless his wife was invited with him.

‘His wife Aisha also told people, “He would look for the place where I put my lips and drink from that spot.’

The prophet treated people respectfully and fairly, the Mufti said.

‘He had hundreds who would jump at his command but instead he said, “While you cook and you clean, I will go and gather the wood for the fire.’

The workshop focused on the positive Islamic value system based on the role model and practices or ‘sunnah’ of the Prophet Mohammad. In Islam, the sunnah – also spelled sunna (Arabic: سنة) – is an ultimate guide for leading an ethical, productive and happy life.

‘As Muslims, we believe the life of the Prophet Mohammad is an example for generation after generation to follow,’ said Tasneem Rasheed, the Bangladeshi worker with ADS. ‘He really provided the best role model for how to live in a pure, humble and happy way, with the worship of Allah central to our purpose.

‘The workshop was a good reminder that equality, sharing generously and helping others are pivotal to our faith and that living these values can help our families and communities to be peaceful and happy.

‘All participants told me they found the event fun and inspiring, adding“Thank you so much for putting on this event. Please organise more events. We loved it!”’

Magdaline Shenton Kaleido Team Leader, Emerging Communities, Settlement and Community Services for ADS, said, “Coming out of lockdown to have such a big, catered, family event with such great messaging was wonderful for everyone. 

“There was appreciation all round for getting together again after so long with no face-to-face group events. ‘Some women expressed the need for the words to become deeds: “Great talk, now for action!”

ADS smooths the transition for Ukrainians and other new arrivals

ADS smooths the transition for Ukrainians and other new arrivals

New arrivals who have fled the war in Ukraine and other conflicts face a raft of uncertainties as they settle in Australia but Advance Diversity Service (ADS) has joined forces with community and settlement services to smooth their transition.

‘Empowering refugee youth and children, leads to empowering the whole family,’ said Magdaline Shenton-Kaleido Team Leader, Emerging Communities, Settlement and Community Services for ADS.

‘Our recent joint activities, which have focused on connecting young people to local services so that they can access them independently, have definitely had this flow-on effect, which is marvellous.’

On June 10, ADS worked with Kogarah IEC (Intensive English College) and 3Bridges Community to organise a visit to 3Bridges Youth Zone Penshurst. Over 80 students from a range of cultural backgrounds (including the Ukraine) were involved in the activities, getting to know the services on offer that they can access.

ADS worked with Kogarah Intensive English Centre and 3Bridges Community to organise a visit to 3Bridges Youth Zone Penshurst on June 10. Over 80 students were involved in the activities.

The settlement team at ADS were also introduced to the Ukrainians, the newest emerging refugee community arriving in Australia, through the KIEC when it invited a number of services including ADS to address the parents of the young people attending the school.

Key speakers from RACS (Refugee and Casework Services – for visa options and pathways) Settlement Services International (SSI – for humanitarian settlement case management support), TAFE, Refugee Health and STARTTS provided a holistic view of support services people could access immediately.

Ms Shenton-Kaleido said, ‘Refugees, like all migrants, learn and get connected through their children, who often become the language and cultural guides for their parents to help navigate all the new systems.

‘We build bridges so young people can find their own way – which in turn fosters links with families that can help them settle more easily.’

One such bridge was built on June 24 when ADS worked with Kogarah Intensive English Centre (KIEC) to organise an outing to Arncliffe Youth Centre to help students socialise, make new friends, and learn how to access services.

Refugee Week builds connections

Ms Shenton-Kaleido said ADS had partnered in several Refugee Week events, which provided excellent opportunities to connect with newly arrived young people and their families.

On June 21, ADS and Sydney Multicultural Community Services spoke at a Bayside Council event about the services and supports available to refugees settling in the area. The following day, ADS and the council offered an informative and engaging session for recently arrived refugees, including new Ukrainian arrivals, which incorporated an interactive tour of Rockdale Library and the council chambers.

Also, on June 22, ADS teamed up with Georges River Council at Hurstville Library to offer 20 students from the KIEC and eight Ukrainian newcomers the chance to tour the library and hear about the settlement services available to new arrivals.

ADS teamed up with Georges River Council at Hurstville Library to offer 20 students from the KIEC and eight Ukrainian newcomers the chance to tour the library and hear about the settlement services available to new arrivals.

‘I spoke about the SETS program and how this helps newcomers understand the new systems they have to navigate in Australia,’ Ms Shenton-Kaleido said. ‘The students took home the SETS flyers for their parents. There were Ukrainian, Thai, Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese speakers in the student group – some of whom were international students, humanitarian entrants or here on other migrant visas.’

Feedback from the Ukrainian adults who attended the session was insightful.

‘The adults were very interested in hearing about our program and how we could work with this newest emerging community, to support community development, and co-design workshops and information sessions that would benefit them,’ Ms Shenton-Kaleido said,

‘Because the visa most of these people are on here is a new visa for the Ukrainians, their family and friends do not really know how to advise them, nor understand what they can access at any part of their settlement journey.’

Ms Shenton-Kaleido said all of the Ukrainians she’d spoken with felt they were living in a very precarious situation.

‘Many are women and children, missing and worrying about loved ones left behind in an active conflict zone. Some have come as couples with children.

‘One family asked, “What will happen after three years? Is there a permanent pathway to citizenship?”’

Additionally, she said, the Ukrainians wanted to work, become financially independent and get on with their lives but knew nothing about what was available to them or how the systems worked here. They asked numerous questions about Centrelink and Special Benefits, Medicare, TAFE, hospitals, work, renting, tax, superannuation and how to get their driver’s licence.

‘It is very overwhelming to flee conflict, move from place to place, leave everything you have behind and arrive in unknown circumstances in a new country, on the other side of the world, so far away from loved ones,’ Ms Shenton-Kaleido said.

‘Many feel they’re living in a completely different world where everything is upside down – “the moon is upside down, day is night, night is day”. They have to plan when to make phone calls to loved ones. It’s all so different.

‘They also have difficulty renting properties because they have no history here, and agents think they will just up and leave when the war ends … but when will the war end?

‘When I asked one woman how she liked Australia, she said, “Australia is a beautiful country and in any other circumstances, I would be able to enjoy it, but right now I just worry about my family, my country.”’

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For more information about ADS’s Settlement Services see https://www.advancediversity.org.au/services/migrant-services/settlement-engagement-and-transition-support/

Network delivers for Refugees and Migrants making their home in NSW

Network delivers for Refugees and Migrants making their home in NSW

NSW Settlement Partnership, a dynamic network of leading organisations, led by Settlement Services International (SSI), is celebrating seven years of supporting refugees and migrants to settle in Australia.

The network includes 21 organisations who work together to empower refugees and migrants to thrive independently, socially and financially in their new home.

It has delivered staggering results since its inception in 2015. Collectively, the partnership has supported 185,886 clients via 546,628 instances of service across 88 Local Government Areas. Clients from 177 client countries/cultures speaking over 160 ethnic languages have been assisted on their journey to settlement.

Consortia members include the leading migrant resource centres (MRCs), multicultural services and ethno-specific agencies. Together they deliver settlement services under the Department of Home Affairs’ Settlement Engagement and Transition Support Program (SETS).

Violet Roumeliotis, CEO, SSI, says the partnership is a driving force for the SETS Program with its goals front-of-mind for each of the organisations.

“We are incredibly powerful together, leveraging grassroots experience and the power of a large network. Together, we represent the leading minds in the settlement sector who are all working to achieve mutual goals – the success and independence of refugees and migrants.

“The purpose of the network is to simplify the process of government-funded initiatives, by providing one port of engagement, making us a trusted and reliable government partner.

“We are very proud of our results working in and amongst complex and multi-faceted issues. NSW Settlement Partnership has a reported 91.5% positive satisfaction outcome and a 91.8% overall positive goal outcome,” said Roumeliotis.

Antoinette Chow, CEO of Advance Diversity Services, says ADS is proud to have been part of the NSW Settlement Partnership since its inception because the network enables leaders in the settlement sector to exchange skills and information and to speak with one voice.

‘Ultimately, the network strengthens each of the organisations involved to provide refugees and migrants with a smooth an empowering path to settlement in Australia. Advocating on settlement issues together multiplies our effect.’ 

The partnership offers an innovative service delivery model to address the diverse range of needs of clients, community and government. The NSW Settlement Partnership offers equitable participation in Australian society, promoting social cohesion and productive diversity.

The NSW Settlement Partnership delivers:

  • Professional support and training to the settlement workforce
  • Organisational and governance support
  • Exchange of information, expertise and experience
  • Place-based support and volunteer opportunities
  • Advocacy as one for the settlement sector

Find out more about the NSW Settlement Partnership here.

ADS commended for promoting anti-racism in its sector

ADS commended for promoting anti-racism in its sector

Advance Diversity Services (ADS) has been commended for taking the lead in promoting anti-racism in its work and in sharing the importance of engagement and education in anti-racism with other organisations in its sector.

This commendation comes from the Challenging Racism Project (CRP) of Western Sydney University, which ran four bystander anti-racism workshops in 2021 and 2022 at the request of ADS and which drew 74 participants from 32 organisations.

The training aimed to better inform and equip staff working in the community development and settlement sector to recognise racism and build confidence in knowing how to challenge it.

It was supported by grants provided by Multicultural NSW and Georges River Council and extended to community organisations in the Georges River Council via ADS’s networks.

The workshops provided a range of theoretical and conceptual understandings of racism, impacts of racism and bystander anti-racism intervention, contemporary examples within different sectors of society and media as well as and interpersonal learning via shared experiences.

Participants were also invited to ask questions and share their own experiences throughout the sessions to encourage safe and open dialogue about the issues that mattered to them.

Learning objectives set out for participants were to:

  • Identify and understand interpersonal and institutional racism
  • Understand the impacts of racism
  • Improve awareness of bystander action
  • Develop bystander anti-racism skills
  • Gain bystander anti-racism confidence
  • Foster collegial approach in considering bystander anti-racism responses

The Summary Report from the training workshops notes that:

  • Race-based discrimination is associated with poor mental health and wellbeing, including anxiety, depression, stress and poor quality of life, and
  • Racism has ongoing implications for social cohesion.

The report also notes that a common challenge in tackling racism is the ‘valorisation of the discourse of tolerance, celebrating diversity and promoting harmony’. This can downplay racism in a community, silence those who may have experienced racism, and give the misguided impression that it is not a real issue.

‘It is for this reason that racism and its impacts must be discussed and understood more openly, and on an ongoing basis, to ensure wider awareness in knowing how to identify and disrupt racism in the community.’

It says that where governments around the world promote and rely on policies of multiculturalism and active migration programs, there must also be an investment and engagement with anti-racism.

‘Proactive measure can be taken at all levels of governance and community to support social cohesion, belonging and citizenship.’

ADS has provided a number of opportunities for colleagues in its sector to have dialogue and training to challenge and disrupt racism via bystander anti-racism training.

Anti-racism training is important

Evaluation of the training included pre- and post-workshop surveys which gleaned participant responses on a range of issues, including pro-diversity, anti-racism literacy, confidence in bystander anti-racism, institutional commitment to anti-racism and to perceived benefits of the workshops.

The surveys found that the bulk of participants appreciated the opportunity for further learning and discussion of anti-racism.

As one workshop participant said, ‘I think it’s extremely important to have strong workplace policies and procedures in place to deal with racism.

‘Training options such as this workshop are very important to ensure staff are made aware of what racism looks like, that it has no place in our society and to keep knowledge and skills up to date.

‘While it’s important for us all the take personal responsibility to ensure we address racism, including our own, this needs to be supported by positive modelling from all levels of government, and a whole of society approach.’

Response to the survey question, ‘Do you feel your workplace and/ or manager would support you to respond against an incident of racism?’ was identified as the biggest area of concern.  

‘Despite the majority of 81 per cent of participants responding in the affirmative,’ the report states, ‘a sizeable cohort of 19 per cent were unsure and responded “maybe”.

‘It would [therefore] be beneficial for participating organisations to consider what policies they have in place to ensure cultural and racial safety and how these policies and processes are communicated with staff to ensure full confidence.’

Another question that elicited responses of concern was, ‘How would you rate your confidence in knowing how to respond to an incident of racism?’ Despite the fact that the majority of respondents have a good grasp of racism and it’s impacts, their answers showed this does not translate consistently into having the confidence to know how to respond to an incident of racism.

The report says the majority of participants (pre-workshop) were well-informed and empathetic about issues relating to diversity and racism but achieved further learning through the training workshops. It also says participants valued the chance to have conversations in a safe and guided space, to revisit anti-racism issues and to update their knowledge of anti-racism as it relates to their work and community engagement.

The CRP team encourages all organisations who engage in bystander anti-racism training to consider anti-racism policies, interventions and learning in a holistic way to ensure key issues are addressed in a coordinated manner.

Such training would continue to build awareness and confidence for staff in the sector to better respond to racism in the community and support their clients if they experience racist incidents, its report said.

CRP also acknowledges ADS role in better equipping staff who service culturally and linguistically diverse communities with up-to-date knowledge in the area of anti-racism.

‘ADS have demonstrated their leadership in opening up an opportunity for colleagues in their sector to have dialogue and training to challenge and disrupt racism via bystander anti-racism training.’

Download the Bystander Anti-Racism Training Summary Report May 2022 by Zarlasht Sarwari here.

Meeting with MP broaches a raft of refugee issues

Meeting with MP broaches a raft of refugee issues

Mark Coure MP, Liberal member for Oatley in the NSW Parliament, discussed a wide-range of migrant and refugee issues when he met with senior executive staff and board members of Advance Diversity Services (ADS) in the ADS offices on May 5.

Antoinette Chow, CEO of ADS thanked Mr Coure for the free RAT (rapid antigen test) kits and the emergency relief for temporary visa holders he had helped to facilitate in his role as Minister for Multiculturalism.

She said that without this COVID-related assistance:

  • Many CALD people in the region, who do not qualify for government benefits, would have struggled to access RAT tests and find support in understanding how to use them.
  • Many vulnerable temporary visa holders in the region who were facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 would have been without vital supplies, including medical support, emergency food and supplies, transport and essential housing. 

Mr Coure acknowledged the continuing importance of ADS’s Learn to Drive Program after hearing an update from Anthony Scerri, Manager of Settlement and Community Services, about this driver education program for recently arrived refugees and migrants.

Mr Scerri said that while funding received from Transport NSW had facilitated an effective rollout, top-up funds would be required to keep the program running given the rising cost of fuel and vehicle upkeep.

Mr Scerri also broached building a stronger LGBTIQ network in the St George and Sutherland region, to which Mr Coure said ADS could find helpful details to assist with this in the NSW LGBTIQ Health Strategy and to seek the support of local councils and peak bodies.

MP Mark Coure (centre) met with staff and board members of ADS on May 5.

To help build links between CALD and Aboriginal communities in the region, Ms Chow asked Mr Coure to share contacts.

‘We’re asking for educational/support contacts in the area relating to Aboriginal history,’ she said, ‘because we’re hoping that our community groups – which include established and newer migrants – can be educated more effectively about Australian Indigenous history.’

Magdaline Shenton-Kaleido Team Leader, Emerging Communities, Settlement and Community Services for ADS, spoke about the Refugee Council of Australia’s (RCoA) Platform for Change, which outlines key areas that need reform over the next Parliamentary term, as well as three matters requiring immediate attention and action in 2022.

Ms Shenton-Kaleido said ADS was eager to see Australia’s Parliamentarians acting on allurgent refugee issues raised by RCoA but was pressing Mr Coure now to agitate for the repeal of the ‘unnecessary, expensive and unfair’ temporary protection system and for the reinstatement of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program.

‘The temporary protection system is a legacy of a punitive system to stop the boats, but no longer makes sense,’ she said.

RCoA’s Platform for Change states that: ‘Australia has found more than 19,000 boat arrivals to be in need of refugee protection but has granted them only temporary visas (Temporary Protection Visas or TPVs, and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas or SHEVs), which bars them from ever becoming permanent residents or reuniting with their families.

‘They need to re-apply for protection after three or five years and engage in a full reassessment of their refugee needs, putting a significant and unnecessary burden on the already stretched resources of the Department of Home Affairs. The reassessment process also further harms people as they have to re-live their trauma repeatedly, hampering their ability to settle and move on.

‘When Afghanistan fell to the Taliban last year, Australia allocated 31,000 visas for Afghans over the next 4 years, but those who arrived by boat 9 years ago, fleeing the same violence / persecution, will only ever be granted temporary protection. The policy does not make sense anymore because AUS turns back boats now.’

Mr Coure agreed that the temporary protection policy no longer made sense, and would look more closely at the paperwork provided by ADS, including RCoA’s Platform for Change, to determine any action.

Chair of ADS, Ruth Fyfe, thanked Mr Coure for his visit to ADS and for offering to further explore issues raised by staff in the meeting.

Report will assist ADS to extend outreach to CALD LGBTIQ+ communities

Report will assist ADS to extend outreach to CALD LGBTIQ+ communities

Advance Diversity Services (ADS) and the University of Wollongong (UOW) will launch a new report on May 17 which examines the knowledge, skills and attitudes of diversity service workers when servicing culturally diverse LGBTIQ+ communities in the context of COVID-19.

Understanding diversity service workers’ knowledge and skills gap in servicing culturally diverse queer communities is the fruit of a community-engagement project undertaken by ADS and UOW.

The report is intentionally being launched online on IDAHOBIT Day (the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia) which celebrates LGBTIQ+ people globally.


Chief Investigator Dr Quah Ee Ling from UOW will present findings from her team’s research which gleaned (anonymous) responses about gender, sexuality and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) LGBTIQ+ service provision from ADS staff and volunteers.

The report also recommends strategies to address gaps, target diversity training and shape services for CALD LGBTIQ+ communities in the LGAs ADS serves.

‘In June 2020, when we approached the University of Wollongong (UOW), there was evidence to suggest that LGBTIQ+ people were being left behind in the way the government responded to the COVID-19 pandemic,’ says Antoinette Chow, the CEO of ADS.  

‘In fact, we knew the pandemic was magnifying existing inequalities pertaining to employment, mental health, access to health and social services, and safety at home.

‘Simultaneously, we’d observed that CALD queer people hesitated to approach multicultural community organisations for support due to uncertainty about the level of acceptance towards them among CALD local and migrant communities, and whether the services they’d receive would be queer sensitive and friendly.

‘This strengthened our desire to extend our outreach efforts to CALD LGBTIQ+ communities. The UOW Community Engagement Grant enabled us to commission the research and gain the understanding from which we hope to make this possible.’

The research process and findings

Commencing in January 2021, Dr Quah Ee Ling and her research assistants, Dr Jan Filmer and Dr Alexandra Ridgway, used a range of data collection methods, including a survey, focus group discussions and interviews, to investigate:

  • Diversity service workers’ attitudes and concerns towards ADS’s plan to provide support services to CALD queer communities;
  • Diversity workers’ knowledge and skills gap in delivering community outreach initiatives and services to CALD queer communities.

Survey questions focused on the participant’s knowledge of gender and sexuality matters, their attitudes and behaviours towards queer people, and thoughts and potential concerns about ADS extending its services to CALD queer clients and communities.

Survey findings showed:

  • The majority of people sampled held a positive attitude towards gender, sex and sexuality diverse people and believed that the latter should enjoy equal rights as other citizens. These rights include accessibility to employment, service, parenting and public display of couplehood and affection. However, their position towards the rights of children and young people identifying as gender, sex and sexuality diverse was not as clear and straight-forward.
  • The majority held an overwhelmingly positive attitude towards befriending gender, sex and sexuality diverse people.
  • The majority expressed unanimously strong support of their employer moving in the direction of extending services to gender, sex and sexuality diverse communities, particularly CALD LGBTIQA+ people.
  • Many expressed their pride in working with an inclusive and diverse organisation that extends its services to gender, sex and sexuality diverse communities, particularly CALD queer communities.

The research also revealed that some respondents had inaccurate and inadequate understanding, including:

  • Confusion between the concepts of gender, sex and sexuality, for example, when asked what the respondent’s sexuality was, they answered ‘female’, ‘male’ and ‘cisgender’ or when asked what their gender was, they answered ‘straight’ and ‘heterosexual’.
  • Lack of adequate knowledge of less known gender, sex and sexuality expressions and identities such as asexual, intersex, queer, non-binary and transgender.
  • Inappropriate language used when discussing gender, sex and sexuality diverse people, for example, referring to heterosexual people as ‘normal’ and hence revealing an underlying perception that non-heterosexual people are not normal.
  • Reservations about children and young people self-identifying gender, sex and sexuality diverse amongst several survey respondents as they believed these children and young people were merely going through a developmental phase.

Stigmatisation

Most respondents were from CALD migrant backgrounds, including East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, European and South American origins.

Many expressed awareness of the varying degrees of stigmatisation of, and discrimination against, homosexuality and transgenderism among the various multicultural migrant communities they serve.

Several believed that emigrants who had left their home country decades ago had not caught up with the developments to embrace multiple genders, sexes and sexualities back home. These emigrants regarded the celebration of queerness and multiple forms of family in their host country, Australia in this case, as a ‘Western, liberal lifestyle’ that is not of their ‘traditional’, ‘conservative’ cultures. In turn, this means their rejection of homosexuality and queer people is often reduced to and justified as a cultural belief and practice.

‘Acquiring in-depth knowledge of diverse cultural and linguistic groups’ understanding and attitudes towards CALD queer people is key to ADS’s strategy to extend its services to CALD queer people,’ the report said.

What next?

It is clear from the report that many respondents would like to get hands-on, practical and real-life interactions and work experiences with CALD queer clients and communities in order to channel their energies into actual service and to receive on-the-job training and learning.

The report also suggests that enhancing the visibility of ADS as a queer hospitable organisation would send a strong signal of safety and care to queer communities, including CALD queer individuals.

To foster awareness of ADS’s inclusivity, respondents suggested:

  • Organising more public and community outreach events in partnership with local councils, community organisations and queer groups.
  • Including support for queer communities in the organisation’s website, posters, pamphlets, information packs for clients, recruitment advertisements, presentation templates, email signatures and social media.
  • Partnering with other community organisations across various sectors, especially queer groups.
  • Engaging CALD queer and non-queer social media influencers to raise the organisation’s queer hospitable profile among local communities members of the public, partners and clients.
  • Publicising ADS’s queer friendly services to community organisations from various sectors and let them know that they could refer queer clients to ADS for its aged care, disability care and settlement services.

The report also says running joint training sessions and education forums with community leaders and ADS diversity service workers would be helpful in advancing conversations on gender, sex and sexuality.

Ms Chow says the research has helped ADS to understand the social attitudes, knowledge and skills of its diversity service workers and to identify existing gaps.

‘With this comprehensive understanding of our capabilities and limitations, we have a clearer picture of how to develop effective diversity staff training and appropriate community programs and services for CALD LGBTIQ+ communities in our region.

‘The project should also bring practical and important benefits to the wider multicultural community service sector as we disseminate project findings and share ADS’s follow-up training and strategies for community outreach.’

Read the full report HERE