Andi Diwapasatya Recognised for 20 Years of Volunteer Service

Andi Diwapasatya Recognised for 20 Years of Volunteer Service

Andi Diwapasatya, one of Advance Diversity Services’ (ADS) long-term volunteers, has been recognised for her incredible 20-year commitment to serving her local community.

The Indonesian Welfare Association honoured her with an appreciation award for her service at a ceremony in late June. On June 27, Andi shared her volunteering journey, alongside two fellow volunteers, at the Georges River Council Volunteer Expo held at the Marana Hall as part of National Volunteer Week.

Andi receiving a recognition award from Ms Dewi Putru, founder of the Indonesian Welfare Association’s Punchbowl Women’s Support Group, where Andi has been volunteering for 20 years.

Young-at-heart Andi, who arrived in Australia in June 2002 from Jakarta, Indonesia, faced challenges in finding work despite her extensive experience as an Indonesian government worker. In 2005, Andi saw an advertisement for an Indonesian women’s support group for new migrants at a local school. Taking on an assistant role, she began her journey as a volunteer.

Andi commenced her studies at TAFE, earning a Certificate I, III, and IV and in 2007, she completed a student placement at Riverwood Neighbourhood Centre, assisting the frail and elderly with their shopping. She continued her studies and went on to complete her Diploma of Community Services in 2008, with a student placement with the Indonesian Community Consul at St George MRC and Metro MRC.

Andi was then offered roles assisting the Indonesian Community Group at Campsie, helping students with literacy difficulties at Clemton Park Public School. In 2009, Andi completed a course with Good Beginnings Australia, which led to a volunteer role conducting family home visits.

Andi shared her volunteering journey as part of National Volunteer Week.

In 2011, Andi attended a course at Metro MRC for multicultural, bilingual educators. This resulted in her first paid position, providing playgroup services for families with children aged 0-8 as part of a pilot project. Whilst continuing her other volunteer roles at the same time, Andi relished her playgroup facilitator role and when the project was completed in 2012, Andi continued to run the playgroup as a volunteer until 2016.

2014 saw Andi move into the health sector, serving as a casual bilingual community educator for female genital mutilation/cutting at Western Sydney Local Health District and as a community educator for Hepatitis and HIV at Sydney Local Health District.

In October of 2014, Andi was approached by the principal of Pelangi Indonesian Community Language School in Leumeah to teach Bahasa Indonesian every Saturday. Although this was a volunteer position, the principal offered to cover the costs of a Diploma of Community Languages from Sydney University, and if she wished, a Master of Teaching as well. This was an offer Andi could not refuse. It also meant that Andi was now a full-time volunteer, dedicating her time and talents from Monday to Saturday.

The Georges River Council Volunteer Expo was held at the Marana Hall on June 27, 2024.

Andi’s journey with ADS began in 2016, when she joined our Rockdale office as a settlement officer working with the Indonesian Community. In 2018, ADS received a grant to showcase Indonesian culture, leading Andi to help establish the Indonesian Art and Culture Club (IACC), an intergenerational group that meets every Sunday. She has continued in this coordinator role ever since and is committed to promote traditional Indonesian language, arts and talents in the diaspora community.

Andi continues to volunteer with ADS and we were thrilled when NSW Premier, Chris Minns, presented her with a Volunteer Recognition Award last year. Her recent Appreciation Award from the Indonesian Welfare Association for 20 years of service is a testament to her unwavering commitment to others.

Andi proudly says of herself, ‘I am a pensioner, but I am not retired’. Her boundless energy, generosity and compassion for others shines through as she volunteers six days a week. Andi attributes her success to the support of others, particularly her husband, but it is clear she has touched countless lives through her service and means the world to many.

Thank you, Andi, for your hard work, dedication and incredible service to our local community.

To listen to Andi’s full speech, please click here.

Voices Against Racism: Stories of Courage and Resilience

Voices Against Racism: Stories of Courage and Resilience

Voices of courage and resilience play an important role in addressing racism. On Friday 19th of April 2024, Advanced Diversity Services (ADS) partnered with City of Sydney Council to facilitate a conversation recognising the actions of individuals and community organisations in standing up against racial discrimination. This powerful event was one of six events in the City of Sydney Council’s Social Cohesion Program titled ‘Voices Against Racism’ and took place in the St Helen’s Community Centre in Glebe.

The conversation centred on the voices of Salvin Kumar and Rubina Huq, former ADS workers, who shared their own personal and workplace experiences of racism and the actions they took for racial justice.

Salvin shared his experience of encountering blatant racism whilst enjoying a leisurely evening in Darling Harbour with his partner and their friend. Despite his usual confidence, Salvin was left feeling shocked by the derogatory remarks and implicit biases. He froze and found he was unable to assert himself in the moment –  a common response to trauma that highlights the immediate impact of racism on mental health and wellbeing. Salvin also expanded on the complex intersectionality of different forms of discrimination and the validation and comfort he received from friends and colleagues standing in solidarity with him. His decision to report the incident and file a complaint exemplified the importance of taking action for systemic change. 

Salvin Kumar bravely sharing his personal experience of racism and the actions they took for racial justice.

Rubina recounted a disturbing incident where abusive, hateful and hurtful slurs were directed at a group of Bangladeshi families attending a parenting session she was facilitating. Despite the distressing encounter, Rubina and her group remained calm. She immediately reported the incident to both ADS and the event hosts. The debrief process, with both those involved and with the ADS leadership team, was also an important part of the process of standing against racism and supporting one another.

‘We educated ourselves about the impact of racism.  And how silence only serves to continue it.’

These personal narratives served as powerful reminders of the pervasive nature of racism and its detrimental effects on individuals and communities, as well as its impact on social cohesion. Unfortunately, they have not been the only incidents reported to ADS.

Magdaline Shenton-Kaleido, Settlement and Community Services Manager for ADS, shared the critical role of ADS in initiating organisational responses to disrupt racism, including the importance of locally focused anti-racism interventions targeting hotspots. Supported by Western Sydney University’s Challenging Racism Project (CRP), ADS delivered four bystander training workshops to its networks and communities.

Magdaline Shenton-Kaleido, Settlement and Community Services Manager for ADS, speaking about the critical role of ADS in initiating organisational responses to disrupt racism.

Recognising the urgent need for further action, ADS once again stepped up in late 2023 and organised a community forum in response to escalating reports of racism and harassment, particularly targeting women wearing hijab and their children, following the onset of the Israel-Gaza conflict. The forum provided a safe space for affected communities to share experiences and raise awareness, address knowledge gaps and together explore strategies for responding to harassment.

In the face of rising instances of racism and discrimination, events like ‘Voices Against Racism’ play a crucial role in fostering dialogue and empowering individuals and communities to take action. Key messaging included:

  • It is everyone’s responsibility to call out racism when we see or experience it.
  • If you witness someone being racially targeted in public, stand in solidarity with them and check if they’re feeling safe.  
  • Recognise, Respond, Record and Report racism and hate crimes.

Attendees empathised with Rubina and Salvin, shared their own experiences of racism and discrimination, acknowledged the damaging impacts of structural racism and its relation to inequity, and requested further information and resources, particularly regarding bystander intervention training. 

The conversation highlighted the importance of critical thinking when using social media, especially because when abused, it can ignite racism and spread false news and fear. It also emphasised the need to call out explicit and implicit forms of bias and discrimination, even in awkward situations when we witness it within our families and friend circles.

Attendees shared their own experiences of racism and discrimination, encouraged by the bravery of speakers Salvin Kumar and Rubina Huq (seated front left).

Inspired by Rubina’s call to action, ‘We must all work together to create a world where everyone feels welcomed and valued, regardless of their race or ethnicity. Let’s continue to spread love, understanding, and acceptance, and kick out racism for good.’

ADS extends sincere thanks to the City of Sydney for the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to combating hotspots of racism and for providing a space for two amazing speakers to share their lived experiences.

By amplifying voices of courage and resilience, we can work towards building a safer, more inclusive and equitable society for all.

From Fear to Floating:  Multicultural Swimming Program for ADS communities 

From Fear to Floating:  Multicultural Swimming Program for ADS communities 


Advance Diversity Services (ADS) has been making waves with this year’s swimming program, offered in partnership with Royal Life Saving Society NSW (RLSS) and Hurstville Aquatic Leisure Centre. Australia is a country surrounded by water, with beautiful beaches and waterways.  Being able to swim is an important life skill that reduces the risk of drowning.

Tragically the Royal Life Saving Society summer drowning toll recorded 99 drowning deaths across Australia between 1 December 2023 and 29 February 2024.

Many newcomers to Australia do not know how to swim and swimming lessons are not always easily accessible.  Recognising this need, Ms Ronnie Wang, Community Services Officer with ADS’s Settlement and Community Service Program, helped organise two free 10-week learn-to-swim programs for 20 beginners from ADS’ multicultural communities. 

Each week, two groups of participants, many of whom had never swum before, grew to overcome their fear of the water through learning basic skills such as floating, kicking and breathing techniques. They also gained confidence in the water, learning about water safety and survival skills.

“I was scared of water before, even walking in the water. I could only go into water that was no deeper than my knees. But now I can even swim with a swim ring. At least I learnt not to drown in the water. The swimming class is so good and I hope I can continue to join it.”

– Mei

The swimming program proved that despite varying levels of English proficiency, language is no barrier to learning new skills. The swimming instructors used simple communication, clear gestures and body language to demonstrate moves and ensure that everyone felt supported and was able to learn.

“The instructor is very patient and experienced. Our English is not good, but we still could understand the instructors through their body language.”

– Lily

Participants diving in and enjoying ADS’s learn-to-swim program.

Building a sense of community and friendship amongst participants was another inspiring aspect of the program. Diverse individuals came together to celebrate their achievements and encourage one another. One participant, Jenny, had lived in Hurstville for nearly two decades before discovering the learn-to-swim program. Joining not only gave her the opportunity to learn a new life skill, but also a sense of belonging to a new community.

Positive feedback from the Hurstville cohort highlighted the transformative impact of the program. Many participants were thrilled to have learnt new skills and feel confidence in and around water.

“I only know doggy paddling before and never had any instructor to teach me how to swim. With the class, the instructor taught us the right skills of swimming and I can do freestyle and backstroke. My friends are so jealous that I could attend the program and they want to join in future.”

– Chen

Ms Wang stated, “The learn-to-swim program goes beyond learning to float and swim. It’s about empowering individuals to overcome fear as well as building community connections.”

Ms Wang with the certificates and goggles presented to all participants by Royal Life Saving Society NSW, encouraging our budding swimmers in their future swimming pursuits.

The Royal Life Saving Society NSW’s Multicultural Swimming Program continues to make a splash in communities across New South Wales and proves that with support and the right opportunities, anyone can learn to thrive in and around the beautiful waters of Australia.

ADS named Silver Service provider in Australian Pride Awards

ADS named Silver Service provider in Australian Pride Awards

Advance Diversity Services has been chosen as a Silver Service provider in the 2024 Australian Pride in Health + Wellbeing Awards. This is the fifth year that ADS has received this accolade since the Award’s inception in 2020.

A ceremony held on Wednesday, 27 March recognised achievements in LGBTQ+ inclusion across the health, wellbeing, human services, and community care sector. Organisations within these sectors strive to create safer and more inclusive environments for LGBTQ+ individuals. These awards are a platform to recognise their efforts and dedication to addressing the health needs of diverse communities.

Achievements were measured through organisations’ participation in the annual Health + Wellbeing Equality Index (HWEI) benchmarking submission. HWEI is a platform that measures an organisation’s level of inclusivity when delivering services to LGBTQ+ people, allowing the organisation to review, reflect on and improve their practice. To receive Silver recognition, ADS was considered to be highly active in LGBTQ+ inclusion, obtaining a score in the top 10-20% of submissions. ADS congratulates their fellow Silver Service providers: ACAP Clinics, Network of Alcohol & Other Drugs Agencies (NADA), Your Community Health and one not for publication provider.

Francisco Lopez, National Health Lead of Pride in Health + Wellbeing, said: “This year we have seen a diverse set of organisations participate from across Australia, with some long-standing Pride in Health + Wellbeing (PIHW) members clearly shifting the dial on inclusive practice. This is important for the health sector, as we not only want organisations to measure themselves against current best practice; we want them to develop leading practice and set a new standard.”

For ADS, this accolade is not only a reflection of their achievements over the past year, but a reaffirmation of their mission to provide high-quality and inclusive services to enable individuals, families and communities from diverse backgrounds to achieve their full potential. Founded on their five core values: inclusion, collaboration, empowerment, compassion and integrity, ADS has continuously championed initiatives that promote and advance LGBTQ+ health and wellbeing.

ADS Chief Executive Officer, Antoinette Chow said “We are immensely proud of being recognised as a Silver Service provider in the 2024 Australian Pride in Health + Wellbeing Awards. This achievement encourages us to continue striving to set a new standard of excellence in the provision of services to individuals and communities from diverse backgrounds. I extend my heartfelt thanks to the incredible ADS team for their dedication and hard work.”

ADS was proud to be named as a Silver Service provider along with ACAP Clinics, Network of Alcohol & Other Drugs Agencies (NADA), Your Community Health and one not for publication provider in the 2024 Australian Pride in Health + Wellbeing Awards.

Some award categories and their recipients in 2024 were:

  • Service Provider of the Year – St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney
  • Gold Service Providers – cohealth, St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney, Uniting Vic.Tas
  • Silver Service Providers – ACAP Clinics, Advance Diversity Services, Network of Alcohol & Other Drugs Agencies (NADA), Your Community Health, + one not for publication
  • Most Improved Service Provider – Illawarra and Shoalhaven Cancer Care Centres
  • LGBTQ+ Ally – Lisa Raven (St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney)
  • LGBTQ+ Role Model Award – Georgina Poort (Uniting Vic.Tas)
  • LGBTQ+ Inclusive Innovation – cohealth’s Health Promotion Team (cohealth)

See www.prideinclusionprograms.com.au for more information.

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.’

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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.’

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