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.
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.
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.’
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.