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2013-14
Annual Report
32
Contents
Acknowledgements				 5
Foreword - CEO & Chair				 8
A 'snapshot'					 10
Creating welcome				 18
Enriching our future			 34
Building connections			 46
Delivering prosperity			 52
Changing the conversation			 64
Celebrating community			 74
Sharing opportunities			 82
Promoting wellbeing			 96
Supporting those supporting others	 104
Financial and corporate operations	 112
54
MDA acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
as the first people of this country, and recognises the immense
cultural and linguistic diversity that existed at the time.
Upwards of 250 clans or ‘nations’ were spread across the land
at the time of the First Fleet’s arrival, each with its own language
and traditions finely attuned to the challenges of survival - each
the culmination of knowledge gained, refined and shared across
generations for tens of thousands of years.
In having survived and endured the historical injustices of
colonisation upon their lands and peoples, Australia’s First
Nations people hold a unique role in Australia and the world.
MDA deeply respects and values Australia’s First Nations
people’s enormous resilience, courage, determination and often
unrecognised contribution to this country’s social and economic
development.
Acknowledging
traditional
owners
76
Dreaming under
the Hills Hoist
t seems fitting that an old
icon of Aussie innovation
was the backdrop, gazing
over those early gatherings that
would lead to the formation of
MDA 16 years ago. Indeed that’s
how it was - a group of concerned
Queenslanders huddled in an
unassuming Brisbane backyard,
themselves innovating a way
forward through the difficult
and divisive days of the late 90s
Brisbane.
The defunding of the Brisbane
Migrant Resource Centre in
1997 had led to a lot of soul
searching, with some of those
closely connected to the
centre recognising that a strong
multicultural sector in Queensland
remained as important as ever.
Together they rallied other sector
friends and colleagues, bringing
on board new strategic thinking,
connections and professional
skills, and dreaming up a vision
focused on advocacy, sector and
community development and
service delivery to promote a
strong multicultural future for all
Queenslanders.
Many things have changed over
the last 16 years, but MDA’s
commitment to the same core
vision has remained steadfast,
allowing MDA to further its
work as a strong agent for
multiculturalism and social
change in Queensland. ■
“We did it in a backyard, with a clothes line
in the background. And we did it without
any possessions.We didn’t have any money,
we didn’t have a place and we didn’t have
any workers. And isn’t that reflective of lot
of our clientele! Many come here without
anything except a dream to begin again.”
Gail Hyslop, MDA founding member
I
98
Finding time to sit back and reflect can challenge one’s perceptions
of the past in interesting and surprising ways.In thinking back on the
year that was, change might first seem like the sole defining feature of
MDA’s recent journey.
But on deeper reflection, I believe that it is actually the constants, those
things that remain unchanged, that summarise more definitely who we are
and the work that we did this year. In spite of the constantly fluid context
we find ourselves working in, MDA remains as committed as ever to the
same mission and values that have carried us since our inception 16 years
ago. Put differently, our scalability over recent years has not been allowed to
compromise the heart of our identity, which I regard as a remarkable success.
But would this be the case if, after several decades, we found our size and scope
had redoubled several times again?The Board was delighted to support an important
strategic initiative earlier this year when the Executive Management Team, along with
Board Member Angela Moody and I travelled to Houston, Texas to learn about the
success of Neighborhood Centers Inc. – an organisation many times larger than MDA,
but with a mission and values similar to ours,and with a similar story of humble beginnings.
We believe their journey holds valuable lessons for our own future, and has reaffirmed our
belief in sustainable scalability – that growth can occur without ever compromising those
things we hold sacred.
The Board has faced some formidable tasks of its own throughout the year; most notably
overseeing the change in MDA’s company status from Association to Company Limited by
Guarantee, necessitated by ongoing organisational growth in recent years. I would particularly
like to acknowledge Board Member,Angela Moody, for her tireless efforts in seeing this important
project through to completion. I would also like to acknowledge and thank all of my colleagues on the
Board for their dedication and strength of purpose during the past year. Your individual and collective
contributions in guiding MDA through the past year cannot be underestimated, and I am honoured to
work with you all.
Finally, and on a personal note, it was a great pleasure to celebrate with Kerrin Benson this year as she
reached the milestone of 10 years as MDA’s Chief Executive Officer. As always, my congratulations go to
Kerrin, her outstanding leadership team and MDA’s hard-working and talented staff on yet another successful
year, as we continue to draw inspiration from the resilience and courage of the clients we are privileged to walk
alongside with. Sally Isles, Chair of the Board
“There is a crack in everything.That’s how the light gets in.” Lyrics from the great Leonard Cohen,and those
of you who know me well will recognise this sentiment as one from which I draw great inspiration, often
attaching it to those flickers of light that permeate even the most difficult of situations we find ourselves
working in.This past year has been no exception.
We have seen,for one,the inspiring resilience of asylum seekers whose lives,in many respects,remain
in limbo and yet who are fuelled by the desire to ‘give back’ to the country that has availed them by
volunteering with Queensland charities.We have seen people from the wider public inspired by
these stories, and donating generously to help maximise our client's volunteering contributions
by helping meet their public transport costs.
More and more, we see ‘everyday people’ creating a climate of welcome and sharing
opportunities through volunteering, donating money and goods, and celebrating their own
visions of an inclusive multicultural society through attending our major events in record
numbers.In the refugee space,we have enjoyed the privilege of settling increasing numbers
of large, extended families often spanning several generations, and have in turn seen the
immense impacts on settlement well-being where families are spared the anguish of
separation from members left behind to languish.
We have seen our strategic advocacy work clearly articulated in the Queensland
Government’s 30-year plan for our state’s future, acknowledging in no uncertain
terms the opportunities that embracing our cultural diversity will bring. In a
similar vein, we have seen our media and communications work changing the
public conversation through mainstream and social media channels.
Above all, I remain inspired by the light that shines from those I work with
at MDA; by our Board’s dedication and commitment to good governance
and accountability while keeping our vision and mission at the heart of
all key strategic decisions; by the imagination and incredible work ethic
of the leadership team I work closely with on a daily basis; and last but
not least, by the talent, commitment and never-ended supply of good
will among our staff. You are all testament to my belief that Leonard
Cohen was on to something special.
From the Chief Executive Officer Kerrin Benson
From the Chair of the Board Sally Isles
1110
hings like creating welcome, sharing
opportunities, celebrating community,
promoting wellbeing and building
connections are at the heart of how all of us at MDA
approach our work - be it through the way we engage
stakeholders, how we relate to clients, the way we
embrace the good-will and enthusiasm of volunteers
and partners, or how we engage the public through
events and media.
Just as importantly, these same values define the way
we approach each other as a team with a shared
Leading by example
vision.We believe our staff retention is a powerful
indicator of how our thoughts and actions are creating
at work the same culture we hope in time will come
to define the wider community in which we live.
Our diversity adds immense value to the work that
we do just as it enriches the lives of each and every
one of us fortunate enough to work at MDA.
T
235 staff
47
countries
represented
31% speak
3 or more
languages
64
cultural
identities
Australia
Iran
Sri Lanka
India
49%
11%
8%
8%
6%
Afghanistan
72
languages
spoken
65% staff
growth in
the last 3
years
90%
retention
rate
1312
A life empowered is a life built on strong
foundations, where people feel free to
navigate their context with competence
and confidence
Modern Australia is a nation forged on
the hopes and dreams of generations of
migrants determined to build a better life
For the last 16 years, MDA has played
a major role in Queensland’s unfolding
migration story, helping lay
the basis for new beginnings for the
benefit of all Queenslanders
1514
TOP 10
countries of birth
1.	 Iran
2.	 Afghanistan
3.	 Sri Lanka
4.	 Myanmar (Burma)
5.	 Pakistan
6.	 Bangladesh
7.	 Iraq
8.	 Somalia
9.	 Sudan
10.	 Eritrea
In the 2013-14 financial year, MDA walked alongside 5621 people on their
settlement journeys.
Our clients
Our community
120
ethnicities
TOP 10 ethnicities
1.	 Persian
2.	 Hazara
3.	 Tamil
4.	 Rohingya
5.	 Bengali
6.	 Arab
7.	 Tajik
8.	 Kurdish
9.	 Somali
10.	 Iraqi
TOP 10 languages
1.	 Farsi
2.	 Tamil
3.	 Hazaragi
4.	 Arabic
5.	 Rohingya
6.	 Dari
7.	 Somali
8.	 Iranian
9.	 Bengali
10.	 Other
27%
female
73%
male
5621
clients
The communities we work with are the ultimate enabling
factor of our work, and their members are the ultimate
settlement workers, sharing welcome, inspiration,
opportunities, knowledge and emotional support with every
newly arrived person.
As time passes, those who are welcomed today become
the welcomers of tomorrow in an endless cycle of care
and support.As always, we remain indebted to our diverse
cultural communities, their leadership and the support they
provide to both MDA and our new arrivals each and every
day.
MDA’s core business is to welcome every newly arrived
refugee to Brisbane, Rockhampton and Toowoomba through
our funded humanitarian programs, in particular our
Humanitarian Settlement Services program.
This includes providing the all important direct support for
many small practicalities of starting life in a new community
– things like airport reception, finding a home, registering
for key government services, local orientation and school
enrolments – along with the provision of settlement lifeskills
education.
This report travels the journey through our additional
activities, programs and partnerships that lay the foundations
for our continued settlement success and ongoing welcome
to all new arrivals.
Our foundations
73
different
languages
67
different
countries
1716
POPULATION
5,027,889
220 DIFFERENT
LANGUAGES SPOKEN
MORETHAN 100
RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
3.6% IDENTIFIED AS
ABORIGINAL OR
TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER
WERE BORN
OVERSEAS
20.5%OF QUEENSLANDERS
9.8% SPEAK A
SECOND LANGUAGE
AT HOME
TOP 2 SOURCE
COUNTRIES OF
MIGRANTS: NZ & UK
1840s - FIRST
CHINESE & INDIAN
MIGRANTS ARRIVED
17
1918
There is a quiet comfort and confidence that comes from
feeling you belong, setting the wheels in motion for a
productive, open and forward-thinking life that enriches
the lives of all Queenslanders. Every day, MDA creates and
shares this welcome in different ways.
It’s the smiling airport reception as new arrivals are
welcomed to Queensland for the first time. It’s the
reassurance that comes from workers who speak
the same language and have been there
before.
It’s a first Queensland home.
It’s developing strong and
connected communities that
continue to welcome new
arrivals in their own way.
It’s the generosity of
volunteers, eager to embrace
newcomers and bring them
into the fold.
Creating welcome is the
sum of small, simple acts that
repay themselves time and time over
CREATING WELCOME
18
2120
MDA’s Social Inclusion programs
'Connecting to Cultural
Community', we work with
Community Leaders to link new
arrivals to people who understand
them, their culture and beliefs, and
offer a chance for a laugh in first
language and practical assistance.
‘Fishing’ trips are coordinated
monthly, with MDA clients joining
the Brisbane City Council program,
Fishwise, on fishing expeditions in
the local area.
The ‘Future Builders’ additional
education program acknowledges
that some topics in settlement
education are easier to grasp
when the timing of delivery aligns
more closely to particular stages in
peoples’ settlement journey. Held
fortnightly, the program addresses
topics that tend to gain direct
relevance a little further down
the line, after people have moved
beyond their initial settlement
milestones. ➢
With large numbers of MDA’s
clients residing in Brisbane’s south-
west corridor, ‘Art Classes
at Acacia Ridge’ takes the
therapeutic value of art to women
in the local area.
With more of an accent on
‘Beauty’ and less on the ‘Beast’, the
‘Beauty and the Beast’ program
acknowledges that to look good is
to feel good, and to feel good is to
approach life more positively.This
beauty-based women’s program
engages women in the familiar, like
henna, eye brow threading and
manicures, as a reason to come
together to build friendships and
support.
A partnership between MDA and
QCOSS, the ‘Bright Actions’
program delivers information
sessions and in-home assessments
about energy efficiency and ways to
reduce power costs.
‘Brita Futures’ is a group-based
program delivered in partnership
with Transcultural Mental Health
that supports people through the
challenges of living and breathing
two or more cultural identities.
‘ChaiTime’ says it all; freshly
brewed Chai and, well, time.Time
itself, without structure, obligation
or expectation is an important
element, providing a relaxing
environment where people are free
to unwind, connect and open up.
Its simplicity belies its effectiveness.
Chai Time operates as a drop-in
space every Thursday afternoon at
the Brisbane Multicultural Centre.
Brisbane City is a happening place,
and the ‘City Orientation’
program guides new arrivals on
walking tours that equip them to
make the most of what it has to
offer, pointing out major services
and free leisure opportunities along
the way.
Building new skills, making new friends, connecting to local and cultural communities and making
sense of one’s own personal journey through sharing difficult experiences in a supportive
environment are all vital ingredients to positive settlement.
Here's your A-Z guide on how MDA's Social Inclusion team made this happen this year.
"Working with Amina, a beautiful Somalian woman who
has travelled the journey to Australia alone, has been a
deeply moving, challenging and joy filled experience. I
am inspired by her resilience and her journey pre and
post arrival. I have learned so much from Amina and
when I think of the journey we walked together in the
HSS program, I am reminded of why I love my job."
Anouska, Case Manager, Humanitarian Settlement Services.
21
2322
‘Have a Go’ invites MDA clients
to take part in regular sporting
activities as a means of getting
active and making connections with
the broader community. People of
all nationalities and cultures come
together for the love of sport three
days a week. ➢
The ‘Healthy Start’ program
features half-day workshops run by
medical and allied health students
from a variety of universities in
Queensland, and covering an
array of topics including men’s
health, women’s health, nutrition,
oral hygiene, general health and
medications. Participants move
between stations, with learning
supported by group discussions
around each topic.
The ‘Gardening Community’
program is run as an offshoot
from ‘West End Welcomes’ English
classes at St Phillips Church. Other
community gardens are also
attached to Welcome Hubs around
Brisbane and accessed by clients
through the respective hubs.
Run weekly by an MDA volunteer,
‘Guitar Music’ classes teach
clients everything from basic chords
to reading music, filling the Brisbane
Multicultural Centre’s Community
Space with beautiful tunes.
‘MDA English’ offers
opportunities for clients to obtain
structured English education and
connect with other community-
based English programs. Facilitated
by MDA volunteers, clients learn
new vocabulary and get valuable
listening, speaking, reading and
writing practice through hands-on
activities tailored to the nuances of
the Aussie accent.
‘Memorial’ services are periodic
multi-faith gatherings for all cultures
and religions to support the
emotional and spiritual growth of
clients who have experienced loss
and grief.
The ‘Men’s Group’, open to all
male clients at MDA, provides the
opportunity for men to meet and
chat about issues relating to role
change in a new society along with
other secret men’s business.
The ‘Parenting Workshop’
program invites clients to commit
to six sessions covering useful
parenting strategies in the Australian
cultural context.
All MDA clients are eligible for
‘Tennis’ lessons through Return
Serve, an organisation that brings
professional tennis coaching to
community groups free of charge.
‘Welcome Hubs’ are partnerships
between MDA and locally-based
community organisations and
residents wanting to welcome
migrants, refugees and asylum
seekers into our community.
The hubs vary widely in terms of
activities, through English classes
are a common feature, frequently
offering an entry point connecting
people to other opportunities
ranging from community meals,
community gardens, craft and
recreational groups.
The ‘Women’s Corner’ is a
weekly drop-in space open to all
female clients to mingle, meet with
volunteers, learn new creative skills
and learn about different activities.
The ‘Women’s Gathering’ is a
therapeutic women’s group program
run over four weeks, where women
are able to discuss difficult subject
matters in a safe, supported group
context.
‘X-Men’ is a long-term men’s
group delivered in partnership with
QPASTT centred on participation
in physical activities to relieve stress
and anxiety.
‘Yoga and Art’ is a group program
focused on relaxation through yoga
and creative activities. ■
A LUMINOUS welcome
small dream hatched six years ago, this year
came of age, with 12,000 people from all
walks of life joining at South Bank Parklands
on Queensland Day in a public display of welcome
to all newcomers to our state. Whether a former
refugee, a person seeking asylum, an international
student, a skilled migrant, a spouse, a traveller, or
even a person from south of the border, the event
extended a collective welcoming embrace, along with
celebrating the opportunities that migration brings to
all of Queensland.
The LUMINOUS Lantern Parade this year truly
cemented itself as a bright, colourful and unique
gesture of welcome to all people from around the
world who make Queensland home, and a signature
event on our state's calendar.
Meandering its way through South Bank, the parade
illuminated the evening in a dazzling display of
light before entering the Courier-Mail Piazza for a
free concert headlined by Robert Forster of ‘The
Go-Betweens’ fame.The concert also featured
internationally renowned Didgeridoo player William
Barton, Queensland Poetry Slam finalist Erfan Daliri,
plus a whole host of cultural performers.
MDA is grateful for the support of our amazing event
partners - TAFE Queensland English Language and
Literacy Services, Dealer Solutions and other sponsors
for helping make this possible. ■
A
23
2524
or newcomers to Australia, a first home offers that
vital foundation of safety and security from which
bigger dreams can evolve. Since September last
year, MDA has worked directly with newly arrived clients
and real estate agents in the private rental market to bring
these foundations to life, helping secure private tenancy
agreements for newly arrived people.
Working in the private market is not only alleviating pressure
on the supply of public housing, but gives newcomers an
instant rental track record, adding real value to their future
tenancy applications. Home owners and their respective
agents are also reaping the peace of mind and benefits of
intensive tenancy education and support being provided
by MDA.
Creating new efficiencies
MDA partnered with more than 250 agents during the last
year in creating a total of 331 private tenancy agreements for
our clients.This outcome means an additional 331 subsidised
dwellings are now available to those who need them most,
in turn reducing pressure on the local economy. Through
building a positive reputation with private real estate agents
over the past year, MDA’s Housing Services team has also
progressively reduced the average time taken to secure
tenancy agreements for clients upon their arrival in
Australia. ■
A place to call home
F
'BIG' families a boon
for agents and home
owners alike
he modern Australian family archetype of ‘two-point-
three kids’ conceals a not too distant past where
large families comprising five or more children were
still commonplace.The relics of this past can still be seen in
the prevalence of large, older homes that dot Brisbane’s outer
suburbs, many with five bedrooms or more. But for owners of
such houses who wish to rent them out, finding suitable tenants
has proved to be an increasing challenge.
The trend towards resettlement of large extended families over
the last year is now offering owners of large houses a new, speedy
source of reliable tenants, says Elliott Stock, Housing Services
Team Leader at MDA.
“Many agents initially had reservations about working with large
families for different reasons. In Australia, home owners and
agents typically think a five bedroom house would house a family
of five, or maybe six – some were surprised just to see such
big extended families wanting to live together, or they were
concerned the kids were going to trash the place.Things like
limited English, no Australian rental history and low incomes were
also barriers,” said Elliott. But through perseverance and the
example set by the clients themselves, Elliott says that agents are
now increasingly eager to come on board.
"These kinds of houses can be really hard to fill…they’re just too
big.They’re even too big for student accommodation.Tenancy law
sets a maximum of five unrelated people permitted to live in the
same house before it needs to be registered as a boarding house,
which costs owners about $10,000 a year.” →
T
“A total of 331
private tenancy
agreements
last year. "
2726
Houseproud tenants
impress agents and owners
Elliott says the biggest pull factor
in getting agents onside has been
the families themselves, with the
pride and care they are showing
for their homes catching agents
by surprise.
“For new arrivals, their house
is often one of the few things
they have some control over.
Especially in the asylum seeker
space where so much of people's
lives and futures remain uncertain,
their house gives them that one
important thing they can take
pride in and take control of. So
often they really try to make it the
best place they can,” he said.
“We housed a family of 12 in
Stafford a while back.When you
think ‘family of 12’, you might think
‘overcrowded’,‘kids tearing the
place up’ and so on... but their
house is absolutely immaculate,
so much nicer than it was before
they moved in.They have beautiful
Afghan carpets throughout the
house, everything’s tidy all the
time…they’ve really turned it
into a home. In a whole year, they
haven’t missed a single payment.
They’re really on the ball.”
MDA initially took up 12-month
head-leases on many of these
larger properties as an added
assurance to agents and owners.
But Elliott says that agents
are already expressing
interest in moving these
families to direct leases
ahead of time after
witnessing their reliability
as tenants first hand – and
the word is spreading.
“Real Estate agents talk
to each other a lot. At
the end of the day, it’s
beneficial for them and
they now realise it. In
places like Inala, Acacia
Ridge and Sunnybank
there are a lot of these
kinds of houses that they
can’t rent or that others
here won’t rent, yet for
our clients these are a
great opportunity to get a
good start in an affordable
house and build a positive
rental history. Even
owners are contacting us
directly now.
We get at least one or two home
owners making direct contact with
us every week now.They know we
have good tenants, and they know
we provide tenancy education and
help manage the tenancy. It’s truly
a win-win scenario.” ■
n innovative approach to
online communication,
being led by LJHooker
Sunnybank Hills, is allowing
multicultural tenants and their
respective property owners to
speak the same language.
With over 50% of Sunnybank
residents born overseas, the
agency has experienced a clear
trend towards housing tenants
who speak English as a second
or third language, and is now
spearheading a bright new idea to
help bridge the language divide.
“The quick resolution of
household maintenance issues is
an area of common ground for
homeowners and tenants alike,”
says Mark Crowther, General
Property Manager at LJHooker
Sunnybank Hills. ➢
Technology
gives new
voice to
multicultural
tenants and
home owners
A
2928
f you are in doubt about
the support and welcome
ordinary people extend to
refugees and asylum seekers, you
need only see the abundance of
donated items we get for new
arrivals at our quarterly White
Elephant Day. MDA hosted three
White Elephant Days during
the last financial year and was
overwhelmed with donations of
preloved items for newly arrived
refugees as they begin to rebuild
their lives in our community.The
donors have been as enthusiastic
as they are diverse, ranging from
the business and corporate sector
to faith-based and community
groups, and individuals looking to
welcome and support new families
in their community.
With the help of MDA
volunteers, corporate and
community partners, we have
been able to transform the
Brisbane Multicultural Centre into
a veritable pop-up shop packed
to the rafters with donated items,
addressing a different seasonal
theme each event (e.g., Children’s
Toys in the lead up to Christmas,
and Warm Winter Woolies in the
lead up to winter). Refugees and
asylum seekers, young and old, are
then invited to browse and select
what they need.
Developed in partnership with
the BRASS Network (Brisbane
Refugee and Asylum Seeker
Turning white elephants into
treasures for new arrivals
I
Support), this initiative has
proven itself a wonderful way for
people to welcome our newest
Queenslanders through providing
tangible and material support and
has enabled MDA to establish an
important corporate volunteering
partnership with Queensland Gas
Company (QGC). ■
•	 MDA currently leases four
properties and has placed
more than 20 families on direct
leases with LJHooker in 2013-
14.
•	 LJHooker contacts MDA
directly with a range of
properties they have available
to minimize vacancy days for
their owners.
•	 LJHooker is aware MDA offers
ongoing tenancy support to
minimise tenancy risks to the
property and to ensure rent
accounts are maintained.
•	 This proactive approach
enables MDA to source
accommodation quickly
for newly arrived migrants,
allowing them to then
focus on settlement issues
including orientating to local
schools, health providers and
employment opportunities.
At the end of the day, there’ll
be thousands and thousands of
translated options that comprise
the program. But users will also
have the option to include video
and photo attachments in cases
where the existing framework
does not capture a particular
issue, along with an open text field,
translating text to English with the
aid of ‘Google Translate’,” he said.
Mark is also quick to point out
that tenants are not the only ones
who stand to benefit from using
the technology.
“As time goes on, we have
increasing numbers of landlords
who do not speak English as a first
language.We have large numbers
of Chinese and Korean property
investors, and other nationalities
too.The service will be equally
applicable to translating the
concerns of our landlords,” he
said.
The project has now been
launched in Mandarin, and will
be rolled out across 20 language
groups in the year ahead. ■
“But in cases where one or
the other party does not speak
English as a first language,
miscommunication can occur.
What we’re trying to do is to
empower tenants by allowing
them to speak in their language.”
Mr Crowther is leading on the
new bilingual maintenance
reporting online portal; an
Australian first that will allow
tenants to identify household
issues through a cascading series
of translated drop-down menus
that end once the tenant has
pinpointed the issue in question.
MDA is assisting with translation
work for the benefit of LJHooker
and MDA’s clients alike.
You don't have to think too
long before realising what an
ambitious project this is, given
the many small elements that
comprise a household, and the
considerable linguistic diversity in
our community.
“Yes, it’s an enormous exercise,”
Mark agrees.
MDA and LJHooker
Sunnybank Hills
Partnership
at a glance
3130
olunteers are opening up possibilities right
around the nation.With upwards of six
million people volunteering in Australia each
year, Australians have something of a love affair with
rolling up their sleeves and donating their time and
energy to enrich their communities in countless ways.
Even the economic data provides good cause to say
thanks to our volunteers, with a 2012 study at the
University of Adelaide concluding that the economic
value of volunteering now outweighs the mining
sector.
For the love of giving
MDA is a fortunate beneficiary of this outstanding
community spirit, with 229 people volunteering
in the past financial year to support our clients
through our Family Match program alone, and an
additional 60 people volunteering on a regular basis
to support MDA program activities including our Job
Club,Women’s Corner, Chai Time, English Classes,
Citizenship Test Support and more.
We simply could not deliver the work that we do
in Brisbane,Toowoomba and Rockhampton without
the enthusiasm, generosity and dedication of our
wonderful volunteers! →
V
Job Club
“I am doing my volunteering with the Job Club team
for young people, and clients know that I am there to
help them improve their skills in searching for jobs.
They are really thankful.” MDAVolunteer
Our Workforce Solutions team organises a weekly
‘Job Club’ workshop to help clients build up their job
readiness.Ten volunteers have regularly supported Job
Club throughout the year by helping clients to prepare
resumes, learn job searching techniques and apply for
job vacancies. →
Family Match
“I love the joy we create when we make a good match
between our refugee families and volunteers, and see
the friendship flourish into meaningful outcomes for
both sides; that’s success.” Tanya, Volunteer Coordinator
Family Match offers a warm welcome to refugees and
helps them settle into their homes and community.
Our volunteers provide a social and cultural bridge
for newly arrived refugees in understanding their
new home. In 2013-14, we successfully matched
229 volunteers with families, who they committed
to visiting for one to two hours each week over six
months. Volunteers provided support by orientating
the family with their house and neighbourhood, giving
them English tuition, providing homework support
for the kids and helping them to understand life and
culture in Australia.
“We are so blessed to have Jo in our
lives. She has made us feel welcome
in Australia. It’s not easy for Jo to do
all these things for our family. What
she gives us we can’t put a price on –
it is priceless!” Tesfassilassie (MDA client)
3332
ChaiTime
Two of the highlights of our week are Chai Time on
Thursdays and Women’s Chai Time on Tuesdays. Apart
from consuming delicious homemade chai tea, the
sessions create a fun and relaxing environment where
clients can make social connections, play games and
join conversation circles.Ten volunteers have assisted
on a weekly basis this year by serving tea, playing
games and by simply being a friendly person to chat to.
For many of our clients, it’s an important social outing
that helps build friendships and their confidence in
speaking English.
MDA events
Around 80 volunteers have helped us deliver our
events throughout the year in Brisbane,Toowoomba
and Rockhampton. From the LUMINOUS Lantern
Parade to the World Refugee Day Community Festival,
events provide volunteers interesting short-term
opportunities to support the work of MDA.
Thanks for a job well done!
Volunteering is a labour of love, meaning that special
thanks is owed to those who lend their support. Our
annual volunteer celebration was one way we were
able to share our gratitude this year, coinciding with
NationalVolunteer Week in May. ■
Volunteers help
widen horizons for
newly arrived families
Family Match program volunteer, Sharyn Tidswell,
has taken on four separate matches since relocating
to Brisbane from Sydney around three years ago.
Although a previous local, Sharyn says the challenges
of readjusting to life in Brisbane have presented
important life experiences that now inform the way
she relates to newly arrived families.
“I moved up from Sydney nearly three years ago…I’m
from Brisbane originally, but it’s still been ➢
an adjustment, settling back into Brisbane after 20
years away, even though I’ve been visiting family up
here regularly. I’ve found that adjustment difficult in
some respects…so imagine crossing cultures under
difficult circumstances, without the language, and
trying to establish yourself. I mean a million times
harder!” said Sharyn.
This experience has reminded her of just how much
those early connections to people in a new home can
build confidence, promote well-being and open up
new opportunities for exploration and learning.
Having maintained friendships with earlier family
matches, hearing them say things like ‘you’re the
first Australian friend I have’ and ‘you're our best
friend’ have highlighted the importance of meaningful
relationships as a foundation from which to explore
other goals, needs and aspirations
together.
The journeys Sharyn has walked
with families have taken her from
sushi-making, to celebrating cultural
and religious events, to games of
UNO Stacko, but she says that
practicing English, either formally
through tuition or informally
through conversation, is usually
a priority, and through providing
support and encouragement, Sharyn sees first-hand
the opportunities that language opens up in terms
of how newly arrived families relate to the wider
community.
“One family had a mobile phone and its battery died,
so we all organised a shopping visit, where they were
actually searching for a new mobile phone battery.
I coached them on some simple words and simple
questions to ask the shop keeper, so they would ask
the question and that would then help build their
confidence speaking with other people.They may
feel confident speaking with me, but going out in
the general public, a number of them have said,‘We
can’t do that! Not enough English’. But with a little
encouragement, they do it and their world gets a little
bit bigger again.” ■
“With a little
encouragement,
they do it and their
world gets a little
bit bigger again.”
289
people
volunteering
on a regular
basis
3534
We believe that a strong multicultural future depends
not only on equipping newcomers with the skills and
knowledge needed to live independently, but also
through building new bridges of understanding
that place existing communities, individuals,
employers, government agencies, schools, sector
partners and other institutions in a strong
position to accommodate and
embrace our increasing diversity
for the benefit of all.
ENRICHING
OUR FUTURE
The Queensland we share tomorrow
depends on the actions we take today
34
3736
Advocating for a better future
Queensland Plan
MDA worked to make sure that culturally diverse
voices were reflected in The Queensland Plan, which
has been developed by the Queensland Government
to help plan for Queensland’s next 30 years. In late
2013, we held a forum which brought together people
from migrant and refugee backgrounds, representing
16 different ethnicities including women and men,
young leaders and people from regional Queensland.
We also interviewed ten employers, educators,
community leaders and young people with big ideas
for a stronger multicultural Queensland.
The result was 'Diversity: it’s our strength'.This
visionary publication collated all our ideas for a
multicultural Queensland that harness the untapped
potential of migrant and refugee talent, creativity and
connections. Diversity: it’s our strength was presented
to decision-makers and politicians across Queensland.
We were pleased that our ideas were reflected in
the draft Queensland Plan released in December
2013. In 2014 we held three more forums in Brisbane,
Toowoomba and Rockhampton to examine the Draft
Plan.This time, 67 people from 16 ethnic groups
participated.The forums provided participants with
an opportunity for civic engagement and to develop
skills in strategic planning.This work has informed
subsequent lobbying and submissions to both state
and federal government policy processes.
Language Services Policy
submission
The Queensland Government’s Language Services
Policy provides the framework which informs
how government agencies use interpreters and
translate documents.This year, the Government
undertook a review of the policy. We surveyed
15 community leaders about their communities’
experiences of language service provision by
Queensland Government services, and where they
felt improvements could be made. We consulted a
wide range of other stakeholders from MDA staff to
the Queensland Police Service. We participated in
Cultural Diversity Queensland’s Roundtable for the
review. Our final submission reflected what we had
learned through these engagements and included our
own practice wisdom.
Not only do some of the case examples provided
by MDA appear in the new guidelines, but the policy
directly addresses recommendations made by MDA,
including:
•	 ensuring that the policy covers frontline services
delivered by statutory authorities such as Hospital
and Health Services and independent public
schools, and
•	 guidelines about videoconferencing / Skype
solutions to improve interpreter access in
regional areas. ■
he role of MDA's Community Advocacy
and Social Policy team involves promoting
equitable access to such institutions and
services.
We do this by researching best practice and
encouraging reform.We do this in partnership with
community groups whose lived experience provides
inspiration and direction.
T
Over the last 12 months the team has been active in
numerous forums and worked on issues ranging from
the accessibility of mental health services to youth
employment.
Two highlights of the year include developing MDA’s
contribution to the Queensland Government’s 30-
year vision, the Queensland Plan, and the review of the
Queensland Government’s Language Services Policy. →
Celebrating
systemic steps to
social inclusion
Listening
to communities
Researching
best practice
Representing
lived experience
to decision
makers
A truly multicultural society that embraces the cultural and linguistic diversity of its members
is always a work in progress; new communities emerge and the needs and aspirations of more
established communities can change. Realising our vision requires paying careful attention to the
way major institutions are structured and government services are delivered.
Diversity: it's our strength
3938
etirees house a lifetime
of knowledge, skills and
experience that add
immense value to volunteering
roles right across our nation.
Berry Wynne, who started
volunteering with MDA in April
this year, is a classic example.
Our client English language classes
are now enriched by Berry’s
career experience as a teacher.
Describing the experience as a
‘real kick’, Berry acknowledges
that her own daughter and MDA
Settlement Lifeskills Coordinator,
Nikki, played an important part in
planting the seeds.
“Nikki’s work has never been an
occupation or a job for her….it’s a
vocation. It’s inspiring,” said Berry.
“She doesn’t let secrets out [i.e.
breach confidentiality], but still
manages to share the humanity
and resilience of the people
she works with…her energy is
contagious,” she said.
Berry channels the same
contagious energy, moving on
to share her views on education
and language; “important rights,”
she says, and rights that she now
proudly plays her own part in
upholding once more. ■
Reigniting an old passion
R
“I think that everyone is
entitled to a safe life and a valued life…
I’ve found all the people who come to the
classes to be incredibly enthusiastic.They
want to make the best possible life they can
here. When you learn about some of the
traumas they’ve survived and their will to
move on, it’s incredible.
We can learn so much from them.” Berry
Wynne, MDA volunteer
4140
Diverse beginnings
Cultural Consultancy
MDA’s Cultural Consultancy service is committed to
providing culturally appropriate advice and guidance
to business, government and non-government
organisations across Queensland on a fee-for-service
basis.
In 2013-14, many organisations and businesses took
this opportunity to help deliver a better quality
of service to their clients through our Cultural
Consultancy Service.
CSWs attended specific professional development
and supervision support sessions to help improve
their own service delivery standards in providing
consultation to stakeholders.
ur Bicultural Support Services program is
about getting tomorrow's best and brightest
off to a flying start in their preschooling
by working closely with Early Childhood Educators
to meet the specific needs of children and families
from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD)
backgrounds.
A truly statewide program, BSS has generated
increased demand for its services in the past financial
year through networking and promotional activities,
with particular growth in training and professional
development requests. Feedback from the sessions
indicates that they are impacting positively on the
reflective practice of educators, helping bring cultural
inclusion to the forefront of their minds.
Some key achievements include:
•	 Launching new online learning tools and resources
using social media platforms.
•	 Building the capacity and job satisfaction of
Cultural Support Workers (CSWs) through 14
professional development sessions attended by 77
CSWs.
•	 Delivering onsite professional development
sessions to 144 EarlyYears workers.
•	 Completing an in-depth survey to identify gaps in
training and support needs of EarlyYears services.
•	 MDA is engaged by the Queensland Health and
Community Services and Workforce Council
to deliver this aspect of the Commonwealth
Inclusion Support Services program.
54
Cultural
Support
Workers
30
different
languages
Mandarin, Korean andVietnamese
were the most requested languages this year.
“…MDA CSWs are able to connect
effectively with the clients and tell them about
the system, how it works and meets their
goals.” Mission Australia
Cultural Support Services
Cultural Support Workers (CSWs) are a truly unique
resource of MDA, enabling Case Managers to assist
clients during their settlement journey in their first
language and in a culturally sensitive and appropriate
way.
The Cultural Support team regularly recruits, inducts
and trains new CSWs in response to emerging or
urgent needs. MDA currently employs 280 CSWs in
Queensland, from 55 countries, speaking 85 different
languages.
Community Education
MDA acknowledges its leadership role in supporting
the broader community’s understanding of the
journeys of new arrivals.
Our Community Education program builds awareness,
understanding and respect for Queensland’s growing
multicultural community, which in effect complements
and strengthens the existing settlement work of all
MDA program areas.
Through education, we are raising community
appreciation and recognition of the life journeys of
refugees and contributing to building a community
that is welcoming and engaged. ■
O
Enhancing access
to services for
refugees
very Queenslander engages with an array of
services in their life, with equal access a right
shared by all.
MDA helps uphold this right by providing accredited
training to a wide range of service providers who
encounter refugees during the course of their work.
Our accredited training program “Working with
refugees” (CHCW401A: Work effectively with forced
migrants) was delivered this year to 600 external
providers across 30 external training events, with an
additional seven sessions delivered to MDA staff.
Government departments, the Brisbane Magistrates
Court, education and training providers, Emergency
Services, mental health providers, and early childhood
workers are just some examples of participants who
engaged with this training throughout the year.
"Great.Thoroughly enjoyed the program.
One of the best professional development
programs I’ve attended on the topic of
refugees." Classroom teacher
"Insightful. Needed by all Australians as our
nation becomes more and more diverse."
Regional participant ■
E
4342
right Actions is a ground-breaking new
initiative which aims to reduce financial stress
among refugee and asylum seeker households
when they receive electricity and gas bills and learn
about energy efficiency and safety in the home.
Households also gain invaluable information about
available government incentives to assist them should
they experience financial hardship. This information
and support is delivered through workshops and
in-home energy assessments, which are tailored to
individual circumstances.
We were fortunate to receive three-year funding from
the Department of Industry, which MDA shares with
our consortium partners QCOSS (as the lead agency),
and Moreland Energy Foundation in Melbourne.
The Bright Actions team at MDA, a very dedicated
team with multi-disciplinary skills and experiences,
consists of three Energy Project Workers in Brisbane,
one in Toowoomba and one in Rockhampton, one
operational support person and the Team Leader.
The Project Manager is an employee of QCOSS.
Since its launch, the team have dived into their new
roles with gusto, with direct benefits for participant
households already evidenced, through savings on
annual tariffs and identification of faulty appliances that
are high-energy users. ■
The energy
to save
B
800
attendees at
workshops
up to
$250
refunded to
individual eligible
clients through
concessional claims
334
In-home energy
assessments
From January to June 2014,
the Bright Actions team has
achieved:
4544
There are newly arrived refugees who will find their
feet quickly in Australia, and those who need additional
help getting there. Our Continuing Settlement
Services (CSS) and Intensive Settlement Services (ISS)
are about ensuring that no-one slips through the gaps
on the way to successful settlement.
The particular history and difficult journeys of some
refugees mean that they need longer-term support
to feel settled, and become independent and active
members of the community.
MDA has been providing CSS and ISS support for
10 years.We provide both practical and emotional
support as well as community integration to refugees
who have been in Australia for more than six months
but less than five years.This includes individuals,
families and young people.
We integrate them into the community, assist with
household management, accessing health services,
and education, learning English, managing finances,
acquiring life skills and managing family relationships.
Over the last decade, the nature of our work in this
area has changed.
Case Manager Radmila Stojanovic has been with MDA
during this time, contributing to CSS and ISS work
every step of the way.
A migrant from the FormerYugoslavia, she has
been on this journey and she uses her experience
to encourage her clients through their challenging
settlement phases.
“I have been a migrant myself,” Radmila said.“I have
been through difficulties, I’ve shed tears, I didn’t have
friends, I didn’t have language.
“I pulled through and established my family, and that
is what gives me energy to keep doing this work;
because I know it is really hard and tough at the
beginning for new arrivals. ➢
“Over the last few years, our work is becoming more
complex.We are now seeing more single clients and
single mothers than before. We are seeing people
with more complex health issues, education, housing
and homelessness concerns.
“I am on the run just about every day, visiting clients
and making sure their needs are met.
“When I have a client who goes from being homeless
to having a home, being happier and seeing the smile
on their face, it makes me happy.
“I am still receiving texts, Christmas cards and
messages from clients thanking me for the support
I have given them over the years and telling me how
well they are now doing; getting jobs, finishing their
education, growing their families and improving their
health and wellbeing.
“When you see the difference that we at MDA have
helped to create; that our clients are settling well,
contributing to this country, moving forward with
their lives, it gives me energy to continue my beautiful
work.” ■
Continuing client services
for 10 years
Promoting a bright future for
young people
Providing support to our youth is often more effective
when delivered in settings where young people are
already engaged and feel a sense of belonging.
Funded through the Settlement Grants Program (SGP),
MDA’sYouth Settlement Worker provides schools-
based, outreach support to culturally diverse youth at
schools across Brisbane with a high concentration of
students from refugee backgrounds; including Milpera,
McGregor,Yeronga, Kedron and Dakabin State High
Schools, and the Southbank Institute of Technology.
Along with providing information and referral support,
the worker also engages young people to develop
activities and programs that reflect their own interests
and aspirations.
Privileged work with unaccompanied minors
In 2014 MDA commenced work providing support
to Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minors through a
new contract with the Department of Immigration.
and Border Protection.The young people are being
supported through a combination of independent and
supervised living arrangements in the community until
the time of their 18th birthday.
Future pathways
Supporting young people to access their first paid job
plays a major role in facilitating their future pathway.
OurYouth Job Club andYouth Employment Forums
provide practical solutions for young people who
want to support themselves and gain further skills
development. ■
4746
Creating a welcoming and inclusive Queensland is a
collective project, drawing on the joint efforts and
good-will of individuals, organizations and faith-based
groups.
MDA works together with a host of community
partners, networks, leaders and individuals
to help nurture a strong multicultural
Queensland that welcomes and
embraces new arrivals into the
fold.
BUILDING
CONNECTIONS
Building a strong, cohesive Queensland
is everybody's business
46
4948
Good Buddies
or the second year
running, members of
the Sunshine Coast-based
organisation Buddies travelled
down to walk in support of the
LUMINOUS Lantern Parade.
Buddies is a volunteer organisation
dedicated to building a community
that is hospitable and supportive
of people from a refugee
background living in South East
Queensland.They are engaged in
the community, regularly hosting
picnics, forums, fundraising BBQs
and community meetings to
advocate on behalf of asylum
seekers and refugees.
Buddies make regular donations
to MDA which go directly to
support asylum seekers living in
the community. This support has
had a profound and wide ranging
impact on our clients and has
enabled them to go to school,
travel to and from volunteering
opportunities, purchase essential
household items and, for one,
achieve his Surf Life Saving bronze
medallion.
Our partnership with Buddies stands as an
example of the significant contribution the
community can make to the lives of asylum
seekers.
We are not able to deliver the work we do, nor
achieve the success we do, without the strong
support of organisations like Buddies. ■
F
Welcome Hubs… offering
more than just welcome
or anyone who moves to a new community,
let alone a new country, connecting with
others and having the opportunity to
contribute and belong to the community are the
things that create feelings of being at ‘home’.
Over the last year, MDA has proudly partnered with
local groups to create opportunities for people to
connect, contribute and belong within their local
community through Welcome Hubs.
The beauty of our Welcome Hub model is that we are
building on the social infrastructure and good-will that
F
already exists in the community, and supporting them
to extend their embrace to our target group.
Welcome Hubs across Greater Brisbane offer a big
gesture of welcome and friendship from people who
have been living in the community for a long time.
Welcome Hubs work to include people from diverse
backgrounds in the everyday life of their community.
They offer a place to belong, a safe and welcoming
place, a place where everyone can learn and
contribute.
Any locally-based organisation that is established, has
relationships deep into the community and embraces
diversity is well-placed to extend this welcome.
Welcome Hubs are now up and running thanks to
these partners:
•	 Sandbag Community Centre, Sandgate
•	 Nundah Community Centre
•	 Clayfield Baptist Church
•	 West End Welcomes,Woolloongabba
•	 Annerley Baptist Church
•	 Acacia Ridge Community Centre
•	 Indooroopilly Uniting Church
•	 Sherwood Neighbourhood Centre
•	 Benarrawa Community Development Association
•	 Hub Neighbourhood Centre, Inala ■
5150
he Australian labour
movement has left
markings on our way
of life that are so enduring they
might seem inseparable from
Australian culture itself – but
in an earlier context of limited
workers’ rights, things like our
institutionalised eight-hour
working day, were concessions
hard won.
Having himself escaped an
altogether different context
where the right of workers
to advocate collectively for
improved conditions remains
violently suppressed, MDA staff
member,Alyas Taqawi is better
placed than most to understand
the ongoing relevance of unions
to upholding and advancing the
Australian way of life.
A former Hazara refugee,Alyas
joined the MDA team in late 2012,
and earlier this year was proud
to take up a calling close to his
heart by becoming one of MDA’s
staff delegates to the Queensland
Services Union. MDA has enjoyed
a close association with the QSU
over many years, and was proud
to support a concerted campaign
Involvement in union offers
a different road to feeling
Australian
for pay equity several years ago
that resulted in improved pay for
community workers right across
Queensland. →
Larrikin spirit sees
Alyas pose 'alias' to
land job!
There was a minor glitch in
Alyas’ first tilt at applying for a
job vacancy at MDA. Residing
alongside the majestic, coiled
brown snake – the Murray River –
in Mildura would pose something
a little longer than the average
work commute.
In need of an immediate starter,
MDA was forced to knock
back his application. A similar
opportunity surfaced a small while
later however, and this time Alyas
did what any sensible person
would do.
“I phoned a friend living in
Brisbane to get his address, and
put his address on my resume
instead,” he said.
The plan went off without a
hitch and after a brief telephone
interview, Alyas was hired…
leaving one small problem; he had
only a day to get to Brisbane to
commence work. But ever the
sharp problem solver, Alyas was
on the next bus to Melbourne,
flew to Brisbane that day, and got
here just in time,” he says. Nearly
two years later,Alyas continues to
enjoy his work providing support
to new arrivals. ■
offered a different pathway into
feeling more connected as a new
Australian.
“I’m a relatively new delegate, so
I’m still learning, (but) I’ve been
trying really hard to understand
the success of the movement in
Australia; how rights have been
won. I’ve been really keen to
bring up new ideas about how
campaigns should be arranged.
Being from a CALD community
background, I feel myself becoming
more a part of Australia being
involved in such activities, and feel
my life is now more meaningful in
Australia. I feel I’m contributing
and involved in something bigger
than myself,” he said.
"I’ve always thought workers
have an important role to play
everywhere in the world,” says
Alyas, reflecting on the meaning of
his newfound role.
"They are the engine of
development in any country - the
engine that keeps our societies
moving…We won’t even have light
if we don’t have workers. So I was
very inspired to join part of the
movement where the rights of the
worker are protected," he said.
Although a far cry from the
atrocities endured by unionists in
Afghanistan and Pakistan, Alyas
believes that unions in Australia
are facing new pressures at a time
where their relevance to our
nation is greater than ever before
- particularly in light of the state’s
gradual retreat from service and
welfare provision.
But this realisation has equipped
Alyas with the motivation to
make a difference and has also
“Being from a CALD community background,
I feel myself becoming more a part of Australia
being involved in such activities, and feel my life
is now more meaningful in Australia. I feel I’m
contributing and involved in something bigger
than myself.”
T
51
5352
Migrants are bringing to Queensland valuable
language and cross-cultural skills, new ideas,
international connections and a unique problem
solving capacity, along with the entrepreneurism,
mobility and determination to succeed that have
become celebrated hallmarks of Australia’s migration
folklore.
MDA works closely with
newcomers and industry alike
to ensure these strengths find
their place both in Brisbane
and regional places around
the state.
DELIVERING
PROSPERITY
The skills and experience of
new arrivals can reinvigorate
the economic fabric of communities
across the state
52
5554
oowoomba last year
joined two other councils
in Queensland in being
declared a Refugee Welcome
Zone by the Refugee Council
of Australia - an exciting
development that would set the
tone for things to follow.
Around 200 Hazara Afghan
women and children have made
Toowoomba home in the last year
through the Women at Risk visa
program. For MDA, supporting
these women has been a source
of undivided inspiration.
But most inspirational of all has
been the eagerness of the women
to make a difference through
participation in the local economy.
With support from MDA
Toowoomba’s Employment and
Social Inclusion workers, the
women have commenced piloting
collective micro-enterprises,
including the establishment
of a catering group and the
development and marketing
of an array of handicrafts and
hand-woven textiles. ‌
Some have also gained
employment through local labour-
hire companies, where they
have quickly gained a positive
reputation for their fast and
meticulous approach to work. ■
Research
supports
improved
economic
participation
for vulnerable
women
A recent Churchill
Fellowship has provided
MDA Executive Manager,
Mitra Khakbaz, the
opportunity to explore
settlement practices and
frameworks across a ➢
host of countries that support the
resettlement of refugee women at
risk, including the United Kingdom,
Finland, Belgium, Switzerland,
Canada and New Zealand.
Mitra, who returned to Brisbane
earlier this year after several
months of field work abroad, is
now reconciling her findings into
new practice frameworks that
promote improved access to
employment opportunities for
refugee women at risk.
For all refugees, economic
participation through meaningful
employment is an integral step
towards rebuilding their lives in
a new country. But this applies
even more so to refugee women
and their
children who, in
the absence of a
liveable income,
are particularly
susceptible to cycles
of poverty and exclusion.
There is compelling evidence
that improving the engagement
of women at risk in employment
leads to better settlement
outcomes for them and their
families.
The fellowship has allowed Mitra
to learn from the experiences,
practices and unique contexts of
other settlement countries, and
to bring those learnings back to
Australia. She hopes that her
research will ultimately inform
Afghan women unleash spirit
of enterprise onToowoomba
best practice
frameworks
in Australia,
encouraging
improved
settlement
outcomes for refugee
women through positive
economic participation.
This year marks 25 years
since the Department of
Immigration and Border
Protection first launched the
Women at Risk program here
in Australia. Since then, the
program has assisted over
13,000 women and children
to build a new life
in Australia. ■
T
StefanArmbrusterSBS
5756
For all refugees, economic participation
through meaningful employment is an
integral step towards rebuilding their lives
in a new country
This applies even more so to refugee
women and their children who, in
the absence of a liveable income, are
particularly susceptible to cycles of poverty
and exclusion
There is compelling evidence that
improving the engagement of women
at risk in employment leads to better
settlement outcomes for them and their
families
5958
efugee arrivals, notably
single men, have been
drawn to Rockhampton
in numbers since 2010, attracted
by abundant employment
opportunities in two of the state’s
largest meatworks.
Employment turnover was initially
high as new arrivals struggled
to find their feet in Central
Queensland without specialised
settlement support. But since
MDA established a Rockhampton
office in 2012, turnover at
the meatworks has reduced
dramatically, meaning that new
and emerging communities are
now flourishing and becoming
evermore part of Rockhampton’s
broader economic, social, and
cultural landscape.
Home ownership provides
perhaps the most compelling
possible indicator of long-term
settlement success.
Over the last year, MDA
Rockhampton case managers have
responded to increasing numbers
of requests from clients seeking
support around applications for
home finance. More and more
past and present clients are now
purchasing their own piece of
Capricornia paradise!
Other recent signs of change
include increasing numbers of
successful family reunifications
- hence a new pattern of family
settlement - and a sharp increase
in the numbers of small businesses
successfully launched by past and
present MDA clients.
Long-term settlement is
also bringing about a new
diversification in employment
away from the meatworks
and towards a wider array
of sustainable employment
pathways in the trades, hospitality,
community services and local
government.This provides yet
another avenue for stronger
community integration as more
and more former refugees
are now assuming work roles
that align more closely with
the mainstream Rockhampton
community. ■
Opportunity and diversity
enrich Rockhampton
MDA's Mohammad
Azad appointed
2014 Refugee Week
Ambassador
“From the day that my wife and children
landed in Rockhampton airport, there was
a group of community members there to
welcome them - from MDA staff, from
Sanctuary staff, church staff, Rockhampton
Grammar staff. They were all welcoming
Kaniz and my children to Rockhampton.
Their connection to Rockhampton and
the community started from their
first seconds of life here.”
Mohammad Reza Azad
For the second year in a row,
MDA Rockhampton’s Mohammad
Azad was appointed Refugee
Week Ambassador by the
Refugee Council of Australia,
acknowledging his interest and
understanding of refugee and
migrant issues in Australia.
As an early founding member of
MDA’s Rockhampton operations,
Mohammad has been integral to
the successful regional settlement
of hundreds of former refugees
since relocating in 2010. His skills
and compassion working with
former refugees are borne of his
own earlier refugee experience
as a member of the Hazara
ethnic minority in Afghanistan and
Pakistan.
Last year, Mohammad’s hope for
a better future for his family was
restored when he was reunited
with his wife and two young
children after several years of
separation. ■
R
6160
Work & WelcomeTM
redemption for survivor
n incredible tale of
survival against all
odds, Aruna Tamang's
story brings together both the
best qualities of the human
spirit with the true power of
settlement support to release
one person’s potential as a
productive, contributing force in
the Queensland community.
It was not long after arriving in
Brisbane as a refugee from Nepal
that Aruna, a single mother with
thirteen year-old daughter was
confronted with the unthinkable.
A seemingly innocuous lump
on her tongue - first addressed
by physicians with courses of
antibiotics - continued to grow
and on further consultation with
specialists was diagnosed as
cancer.
“It was hard for me, so hard. Not
so much for me (personally)…
but I was in a new place with a
child. If I was alone and became
sick, then ‘my time is my time’.
But if anything happened to me
here, what would happen to my
daughter?”
For the second time in as many
years, Aruna was plunged back
into survivor mode, persevering
through surgery, intensive
radiotherapy and other treatments
that would continue until October.
During that time, her daughter
would stay with a distant relative
in Brisbane. Aruna was cleared
of cancer late last year, but as she
says, the ‘All Clear’ was far from
all clear.
“After finishing my radiation
therapy, I was so sick. But also,
psychologically I was so tense. My
mind was full of all the bad ➢
A
things. I was worried the cancer
would come back.”
MDA case managers connected
Aruna with counselling support,
while also supporting her to
engage with speech pathologists
to help her learn to speak again.
“It was horrible in the beginning,
but it helped…talking to the
counsellor and exercises to learn
to speak again. I’m still trying to
recover, but I’m getting stronger.”
The biggest break came when
Aruna’s case worker, Michele
Nisingizwe, suggested she
consider applying for a job
placement through the Work &
Welcome program.After some
encouragement,Aruna applied and
was the successful applicant for a
placement with Padua College in
Kedron - the home of program
founder, Mark Taylor.
“I was very excited, but scared! I
felt if they don’t understand me, it
might not work.”
Aruna shares her anxiety
about the effect her illness and
subsequent treatment has had on
her voice. Her voice is somewhat
affected by the treatment, but
through her commitment to
rehabilitation is completely
comprehensible and expressive.
“Just to get to talk to the people
at work has been good. My
health is improving. I talk with
different people every day. Every
time there I do a good job. In
the beginning, sometimes people
couldn’t understand. But now they
understand me very well.”
The knock of little hands on the
front door briefly interrupts
the discussion. Playmates of her
daughter have dropped by.
“Later. She can come later,” Aruna
says.
Aruna reflects on the difficult time
her daughter faced throughout
her illness, but is glad she has
found neighborhood friends. She
then moves on to relay the tasks
she undertakes at Padua College
including food preparation,
librarian work and working as a
lab assistant.
The mention of her work in the
lab ignites a brief interjection
from her daughter around Bunsen
burners and hefty science text
books, but Aruna wades down
with one of those classic stories
of cultural faux pas, recounting her
early experience working in the
school’s cafeteria.
“When I first saw the meat balls, I
asked someone if we were feeding
these to the dogs,” she laughs.
Various foods in Australia have
come as yet another revolution
compared to the rice, stews and
curries that are the staples of her
native Nepal.
Aruna believes the employment
experience through Work &
Welcome along with support
she has received from client
workers at MDA and from a
volunteer through MDA’s Family
Match program have all played an
important role in her settlement
and recovery from illness.
“I have my voice again,” she said. ■
“I have my voice again”
6362
family-owned, Acacia Ridge business with a
strong history of employing recently arrived
migrants and refugees does so for a simple
reason. It’s not philanthropy. Nor is it about trying to
drive labour costs to the floor in a temperamental
post-GFC retail market.
“They’re just good workers.They learn quickly, and by-
and-large, they’re just happy to put their heads down
and get on with it,” said Shutterflex Managing Director,
Peter Ryan.
Shutterflex has been a local manufacturer of facades,
shutters, louvers, and screens for both residential and
commercial applications for more than thirty years.
Husband and wife team Tracey Thompson and Peter
Ryan have worked as owners and co-directors of
the company since 2004. Not only did they inherit a
fully-fledged business, but also a strong ethos around
providing opportunities to new Australians, including
several MDA clients in the last financial year.
“The company worked with a number ofVietnamese
workers during the nineties.There were challenges
for some of the local Australian workers getting past
their prejudices and fears, but the end result was very
positive,” said Ms Thompson.
Although the countries of origin of Australia’s refugee
arrivals have shifted to other places in the world
since then, the owners of
Shutterflex see a parallel
between the experiences
of the company’s earlier
owners, and their more
recent experiences hiring
MDA clients from countries
in South Asia, the Middle
East and Africa.
“The big thing is the
resilience factor,” said Ms
Thompson.
“They are here to work and
here to make a new start
for themselves.They also do
a great job looking out for
each other,” she said.
“They are really the best
possible advertisement for
themselves,” said Mr
Ryan. ■
Positive attitudes a winning
edge for employers and
former refugees alike
A
Migrants and refugees enrich the
Queensland economy with real jobs
Every person in gainful employment is an asset to the wider
Australian community who in turn reap the benefits of their
work and contributions.
In the last year, MDA’s Workforce Solutions team helped
strengthen the Australian economy by supporting 250 of
our job-seeking clients into real employment, an impact
made sustainable in the long-term through the skills and
knowledge shared with clients to set them up for a lifetime
of independent career success.
Clients are also supported during the early stages of their
employment to support them to settle into their new
working context.
As per every year, the sustainability built into our
engagement with job seekers are the keys to success.This
year, we helped hundreds of migrants and refugees to:
•	 get job-ready, writing hundreds of resumes and
submitting countless job applications,
•	 identify their strengths and transferable skills,
•	 clarify their immediate and longer-term employment
aspirations,
•	 understand the Australian labour market and how to
look and apply for work, and
•	 learn about Australian workplace culture, employer
expectations and employee rights and responsibilities.
We also worked directly with employers to help them meet
their staffing needs through a mix of one-off recruitment and
building sustained partnerships in different locations through
Brisbane, Southwest and Central Queensland. ■
6564
In the age of digital communication, the media is what
we make it. Each and every day brings new opportunities
for MDA to help steer the public narrative towards a
version that not only embraces our cultural diversity, but
that recognises how modern Australia, alongside our First
Nations, is built on the back of a million-and-one journeys of
those seeking better lives.
Whether it’s through our social media
channels, through our campaigns and
publications, or through working
closely with mainstream news
journalists in delivering positive
stories from our diverse
communities, MDA’s media
and communications work
is promoting greater public
recognition of the gifts our
cultural diversity brings to
Queensland and Australia.
CHANGINGTHE
CONVERSATION
MDA strives to create a fair,
balanced and robust community
dialogue about our multiculturalism,
and all the good it brings
64
6766
t goes without saying that racism has no place at
MDA. It never has.We have been proud partners
of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s
RACISM. IT STOPS WITH ME campaign.This campaign
has allowed us to continue conversations about racism
in our society and given individuals the power to take
a stand against it.
Throughout the year, we delivered many initiatives to
take the message to the community at events, festivals,
sporting games and forums. Here are the highlights.
•	 Our anti-racism video pledge activity at the World
Refugee Day Community Festival in June saw
over 250 people record 150 pledges. Many more
engaged with the campaign throughout the day.
•	 We partnered with AFL Queensland and players
from the Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast Suns and
Coolangatta Bluebirds to develop a RACISM.
IT STOPS WITH ME video that was played at
the Lions and Suns’ QClash during the AFL
Multicultural Round.
•	 The socially conscious students atVillanova
College invited us to their Social Justice Fair in
May and ran the pledge against racism activity,
introducing these young minds to the campaign
and the impact of racism in our community ■
RACISM. IT STOPS WITH US
at MDA
I
6968
edia reports sometimes
frame refugees as a
‘drain’ on the Australian
economy - but is there in fact
robust evidence to support such
claims? And if such claims are in
fact merely myth, then why do
they continue to circulate?
MDA was proud to publish a
research paper this year that
removed this issue from the realm
of speculation and conjecture,
subjecting it instead to the rigor
of empirical research. Produced by
economist and social researcher,
Dr Richard Parsons, the study
(Assessing the Economic Contribution
of Refugees in Australia) found
that despite the many barriers
to employment encountered by
refugees during their settlement,
there is no evidence that refugees
impose a net economic cost to
Australia in the long term.
Parsons argues that the lack of
evidence-based research on the
economic contribution of refugees
in Australia has allowed various
myths to gain traction in the public
sphere, influencing public debate
and the actions of policy makers.
This study provides policy makers,
academics and the public with a
new foundation for considering
the benefits that refugees bring
to the Australian community.
Visit www.mdaltd.org.au to
access the paper. ■
Research debunks myths
surrounding refugees
M
Multiculturalism – the good,
the bad, the funny!
ometimes it feels the current state of public
discourse about multiculturalism is no laughing
matter. Unless, that is, you bring a bunch
of Australia’s funniest and most loved comedians
together in the same place with the brief to bring
some much needed comic relief to the subject.
That’s exactly what happened last September
when the Brisbane Powerhouse played host to
MDA’s provocatively-themed comedy debate - ‘Is
multiculturalism ruining our country?’
The ‘pro’ team was lead by the altruistic, affable,
amusing and adaptable Henry Stone, amply supported
by the razor sharp comedic wit of Katrina Davidson,
Desh and Mike van Acker.
The second team also put forward the case for
multiculturalism, but with ridiculously demanding,
culturally insensitive caveats, lead by the ever-so-
slightly more mean-minded yet boganly bountiful Steve
Allison and supported by Jimmy Poulos, Fred Lang and
Stav Davidson.
The debate provided the last laugh (literally!) for
Queensland Multicultural Week (QMW), bringing
weeklong state-wide events and celebrations to a
close.
S
MDA was proud to present two other
events during the week, both hosted by the
Queensland Multicultural Centre, Kangaroo
Point.The hugely well-received ‘Film Fest’
invited culturally diverse people from across
Brisbane to create and submit their own short
films while the enthralling theatre production,‘I
Am Here’, returned to the stage once more for
two matinée and two evening performances. ■
7170
DA and friends enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime
experience in November when one of
Australia’s finest writers and living national
treasures,Thomas Keneally graced the Brisbane
Multicultural Centre (BMC) to launch his latest book,
A CountryToo Far.
Keneally first became an international household
name in 1982 when he won the Man Booker Prize for
Schindler’s Ark, which was later transformed by Steven
Spielberg into the Hollywood movie blockbuster,
Schindler’s List.
Hundreds of
book lovers
attended the
launch at the
BMC where
they relished the
opportunity to
meet Thomas
Keneally, have
their own copy of
the book signed,
and participate
in a Q&A
discussion with
both Thomas and
co-editor Rosie
Scott.
In the new book, Keneally along with Scott and a host
of Australia’s leading writers, explore how throughout
its history, the diverse journeys to Australia of people
from all over the world is part of the Australian
mindset and is deeply embedded in our culture and
personal history.
A CountryToo Far is a vivid
anthology that brings together
the minds and imaginations
of some of Australia’s finest
authors, casting a new light on
the extremely difficult and often
life-changing decisions made by
people fleeing death, persecution,
starvation or poverty to seek
safety in Australia. ■
National literary treasure
visits the BMC
M
7372
he old saying goes that if
a tree falls in the forest
but no one is there to
see or hear it fall, then did it really
happen?
Those of us lucky enough to work
in this sector are all too aware of
the many fantastic stories within
our multicultural communities.
And not just the stories about
food and music, but also the
amazing contribution new arrivals
have and continue to make to our
state.
In some respects, many of
these stories have been trees
in lone forests; going unnoticed,
unreported and uncelebrated
by the whole community. When
these stories are not part of the
wider community’s dialogue about
the benefits of multiculturalism,
it means the conversation is
not as fair, balanced and robust
as it can be. Instead, it becomes
dominated by negative, damaging
and disruptive stories. Often, this
means the public debate about
migrant and refugee matters
sometimes creates the impression
that “we”, the Australian public,
do not welcome migrants and
refugees into our community.
This is not our experience at
MDA. But we are in a good
position to see the full picture,
witness the great stories and
sometimes, help make them
happen.We know the only way to
get the wider community to see
things in a new light is to change
their perspective.
Over the last two years, MDA
has actively set out to help
create this new perspective. Our
communications work has one
goal; to "change the conversation"
in the wider community about
cultural diversity in Queensland,
and change it for the better. It
is a big challenge and we are
giving it a go. We have made
investments in dedicated media
and communication experts who
enable us to drive our work in
telling the alternative and more
balanced story.
From TV, radio, newspapers and
news sites, we have had success in
engaging the mainstream media to
tell the stories of culturally diverse
communities and promote a
culture of welcome. We also work
with the media to deliver diversity
in the day to day stories they tell,
ensuring stories about marriage,
friendships, home ownership and
high achievers include people that
reflect Queensland’s diversity.
Over two years, our
Communications team has
successfully delivered more than
60 positive print articles, over 30
radio stories and more than 10
different television news stories.
Our engagement on social media
has seen us become custodians
of a growing and vibrant audience
through Facebook and Twitter.
These platforms allow us to
directly create and drive the
conversation with our online
community. In two years, we have
organically tripled our Facebook
community to over 4,000 ‘friends’
who, through their networks, help
us reach and engage with ➢
Communicating for change
T
14,000 people a week. Beyond
passive ‘likes’, our audience is
active in the way they connect
with us and each other on our
social media platforms.
The social marketing we do to
bring our major events to the
wider Queensland community
is another way we are changing
the conversation. Our focus on
bringing new people - everyday
Queenslanders - to experience
the positive ways in which
migrants and refugees are
reinventing virtually every aspect
of our social, commercial, creative,
cultural and civic fabric.
Our success
in growing our
LUMINOUS
Lantern Parade
audience from
5,000 to 12,000
over the last
two years has
given more
people from
all walks of life
the opportunity
to attend,
enjoy and
welcome new
Queenslanders.
Our proactive efforts have
enabled us to build meaningful
and positive relationships with
news media outlets to identify, link
with and produce stories about
newly arrived Queenslanders.
We are proud of this achievement
and it has been pleasing to see the
inroads we have made in changing
the conversation over the two
years.
But we know we have only made
a dent.
We know there is much more
to be done. And we know we
can’t do it all on our own. And
we haven’t been; there are many
more in our sector who have
and are continuing the work to
#changetheconversation.
There is room for more on this
journey we have embarked on;
taking the community to the
forest to see the trees fall, get a
different perspective, and hear
their stories reverberate across
Queensland. ■
#changetheconversation
7574
Whether it’s the beauty and palpable energy of our
major events, or the many smaller community events and
gatherings that celebrate our unity in diversity, or the
enthusiasm of our community and corporate volunteers
who embrace new Queenslanders in countless ways, MDA
strives for a Queensland where our diversity is not only
harmonious and productive, but is viewed as the very heart
of community life and a source of pride for all.
We see more and more the power
that comes from community
celebrations in places around
Brisbane,Toowoomba
and Rockhampton, with
increasingly wider circles
of the old and the new
coming together in
recognition of the
strength and positivity
our diversity brings.
CELEBRATING
COMMUNITY
MDA creates opportunities for all
Queenslanders to come together in
celebration of our vibrant cultural diversity
74
7776
ibrant pockets of cultural
diversity around greater
Brisbane are now gaining
recognition for their potential
to attract visitors from all walks
of life seeking a unique food and
retail experience.
With support from MDA's
Community Engagement team,
business owners in the vibrant
melting pot of Moorooka have
joined the likes of Sunnybank
and Inala, opening their doors
to say ‘Welcome’ to the wider
community.
Presented by MDA, driven by
local businesses and supported
by the Brisbane City Council,
‘Discover Moorooka’ events held
in April and May invited Brisbane
to experience African and Middle
Eastern cultures through guided
late night shopping tours, cultural
entertainment, delicious food
tastings and children’s activities.
‘Discover Moorooka’ followed
on from the highly successful
Moorooka Women in Business
Walking Tours and Night Market
Shopping Tour held in November
and December last year, with the
aim to promote Moorooka as a
destination for shopping, food and
a different cultural experience.
The strip of small commercial
premises that line Beaudesert
Road in Moorooka had a thriving
earlier history, but ran into trouble
with the opening of large shopping
centres across Brisbane during the
80s and 90s driving many of the
local shops out of business.
But when newly arrived African
refugees started settling in the
area around 2001, the many
vacant shopfronts presented
a perfect opportunity. African
entrepreneurs were quick to step
in and breathe new life into the
neighbourhood through a diverse
array of small business ventures
that remain the commercial and
social hub for African people
Wider Brisbane discovers
retail with a multicultural
twist in Moorooka
V
right across greater Brisbane.
The ‘Discover Moorooka’ events
have helped foster a greater
connection between local
residents and Moorooka business
owners, while encouraging locals
to reap the benefits of their
diverse and culturally rich business
community.
It was also a great way to help
build the skills and confidence
of business owners to receive
and welcome customers from
diverse cultural backgrounds, and
offered a great platform for the
largely refugee-led enterprises
to strengthen and grow their
businesses. ■
Vibrant festival a warm
welcome to refugees
ustralia’s largest
refugee festival
returned again
with 17,000 gathering in
Annerley for the sixth
annual World Refugee
Day Community Festival,
presented by MDA and
supported by the Brisbane
City Council.
World Refugee Day
is celebrated around
the world each year to
recognise the place and
importance of refugees on
the world’s stage.
This year’s festival brought
together South-East
Queensland’s diverse
communities to promote
understanding, harmony,
respect and admiration for
refugees.
Woodford, Blues Fest,
Port Fairy – they all have
their particular unique
atmosphere – but for sheer
A
raw physical and emotional
energy and zest for life,
there is nothing to compare
to the palpable throb of
the World Refugee Day
Community Festival with
this year no exception.
Featuring food,
entertainment, activities,
sports competitions,
live cooking demos, and
opening with a Citizenship
Ceremony, the day
also offered plenty of
opportunities for festival-
goers to get footloose and
shake their tail feathers.
The ‘Global Spin’ tent
pumped out electric,
pulsating grooves of live
dance music performances
and DJ'ing drawn from
diverse cultures around the
world throughout the day.
Above all, the festival
offered a unique
opportunity for people
from Brisbane's broader
community to experience
first-hand the unique
contributions that former
refugees are making to
virtually every aspect of our
cultural, creative, sporting,
economic and civic fabric
here in Brisbane and
Queensland.
The large numbers
of people from non
multicultural communities
attending this year was a
particular highlight, and
came as another sign of
the overwhelming public
support that exists for
refugees and asylum seekers
in the wider community.
The festival was part of
World Refugee Week
celebrations, with support
from Football Queensland
and TAFE Queensland
English Language and
Literacy Services. ■
7978
March this year marked a special
milestone as MDA’s CEO, Kerrin Benson
celebrated the 10th anniversary of her
commencement with MDA. A surprise party was
organised to honour the occasion, with MDA staff and
Board members, Community Leaders, stakeholders,
partners,VIPs and well-wishers all gathered in the
Brisbane Multicultural Centre for one purpose – to
commemorate a decade of remarkable achievement in
which we have all had a part to play.
In sharing some of her reflections on ten years in the
making, Kerrin is quick to praise the legacy she first
inherited.
“I guess my first thought on starting is that I was
really lucky, because it was an organisation that
had experienced a lot of growth, but was clearly
very committed, very passionate about its work,
well organised, well managed and I think also highly
respected for the work it was doing,” said Kerrin.
With 17 staff on board when she started, Kerrin has
clearly overseen a lot of organisational growth herself,
but refers to a strong alignment between her own
personal values and practice frameworks, and those
already embedded in MDA ten years ago.These, she
says, have remained a constant feature over the last
decade.
Kerrin acknowledges the dynamic nature of working
in fluid tendering and policy environments as ongoing
challenges, but believes that the capacity to thrive in
the throes of chaos have become true MDA hallmarks.
“Individually and collectively, we have really good
skills at working in a dynamic
environment. It’s become part of
who we are.”
Honing in on particular highlights,
Kerrin rates the decision
to commence working with
asylum seekers as the ultimate
- particularly as the impacts
of long-term detention on the
mental health of protection visa
holders became increasingly
distressing to witness. She says
that ‘stepping up’ was the only
possible moral decision, but adds
that it was “a big ➢
10 years of inspired leadership
14 organisational shift for us, and a very big gear up in
only a short amount of time."
“The terror and the gift of resumption” then surfaces
as Kerrin recounts the initial shock of learning that
MDA’s former main office in South Brisbane would
be resumed at short notice to make way for major
extensions to the Mater Hospital.
“That was kind of terrifying, but again I think indicative
of who we are, that we refused to allow ourselves
to become paralysed by the situation and instead
turned our attention to where the opportunities are.
Eventually we were able to work with the Brisbane
City Council and QPSATT with the compensation
from the resumption to get this great
base in the Brisbane Multicultural
Centre. It was terrific work to do, and
came from a big dream that I think many
thought was impossible, but we worked
hard to make it happen. It took a lot of
acts of faith to get us here.”
Kerrin mentions the growth of
the annual Lantern Parade, now
‘LUMINOUS’, as the other major
personal highlight of the past decade.
“It was this little idea that we had
which seems to have struck a chord in
people's hearts and minds.We started
with 50 people six years ago, with police
estimates of 12,000 people there this
year,” she said.
“For me, it has been a really centering public symbol
each year that the people of Queensland support the
work we are doing.”
“I really love this work. I’m really just
pleased every day to be working with
people who share the same values.
And I’m keen to leave the world a
better place…not that I’m planning
to leave any time soon!” ■
8180
It’s the beauty and palpable energy of
our major events, and the many smaller
community events and gatherings that
celebrate our unity in diversity
It's the enthusiasm of our
community and corporate volunteers
who embrace new Queenslanders
In countless ways, MDA strives for a
Queensland where our diversity is not
only harmonious and productive, but
instead, viewed as the very heart of
community life and a source of pride
for all
8382
Queensland is a place of rich and varied opportunities
for all.Whether it’s the opportunity to work and earn
a living, or the opportunity to take a meaningful part in
Queensland’s diverse and vibrant community life, MDA
plays an active role in connecting the goodwill, talents and
energies of Queenslanders to help unleash the contributions
our newcomers have to share.
We have seen in recent years how the
mobility and motivation of our
newcomers can reinvigorate
regional economies and
communities, just as our
own recruitment of staff
and volunteers continues
to highlight the benefits of
Queensland’s diversity.
SHARING
OPPORTUNITIES
Every person can be both a source
and beneficiary of opportunity,
knowledge and compassion
82
8584
n innovative new
program is allowing
motivated and hard-
working MDA clients the
opportunity to ‘give back’ to the
Queensland community that has
offered them safety and a new
start at life.
The desire to live a productive and
fruitful life is an indomitable part
of the human spirit, but for asylum
seekers living in the community
without work rights, finding ways
to fulfill this need was posing a
formidable challenge.
MDA has responded, partnering
with a host of charity
organisations in real need of
hands-on support, and in turn
creating new opportunities for
a large pool of client volunteers
to make a difference. Many of
our clients are now volunteering
their talents and skills across
Brisbane and our regions.They
are hard-working, eager to make
community connections and learn
new skills.
Client case managers are now
noticing real improvements in
the wellbeing
and outlook
of clients
who are
taking part in
volunteering
opportunities.
There
have been
significant
regional
partnerships
resulting
in client
placements
including DownsSteam and Forest
Park Rangers.
To date, our Brisbane client
volunteers have donated their
time and energy to the following:
•	 Helping Hands
•	 Salvation Army
•	 StVincent de Paul
•	 Creek Road Church
•	 St Paul's College
•	 Milpera State High School
•	 Southern Cross Tigers
Basketball Club
•	 Nundah Activities Centre
•	 ConservationVolunteers
Australia
•	 Annerley Bookshop
•	 QLD Maritime Museum
•	 Eastern Food Alliance
•	 Samford Land Share
•	 QE II Hospital
•	 Junction Park State School
•	 MacGregor State School
•	 State Library of Queensland
•	 Sunnybank State School
•	 Dress for Success
•	 Cannon Hill State School
•	 Kenmore State School ■
MDA clients give back through
community volunteering
A
Light of human spirit shines
on through
eelings of gratitude and the drive to
reciprocate through positive actions
are among the most special of human
traits. It’s all the more remarkable though
to see these same values sum up the men,
women and children that MDA supported
through our work with asylum seekers
during 2013-14.
F
Client workers support this group through
the practical steps of adjusting to life in
Queensland while lending emotional support
around the complexities and ongoing
uncertainty that defines their situation. But
the most powerful part of this work has
come from simply listening to their immediate
aspirations which can be summed up in a few
short words – to ‘get involved’ and ‘take part’.
MDA has supported these aspirations over
the last year by sharing opportunities through
our ClientVolunteering Program along with
other structured activities that allow clients
to make progress towards other
personal goals during a time where
they have little control over the bigger
picture. ■
“We had a couple of clients who
were just beaming at being able to
reciprocate.Volunteering is giving
them the sense of being able to ‘give
something’ by being able to return
some of what’s been given to them
by Australia.That’s stuff they talk
about.” Jason Spierings, MDATeam Leader
8786
he volunteering efforts of
MDA clients are helping
revive an important part
of Toowoomba’s past.
Perched aloft the Great Dividing
Range around 100km due west
of Brisbane,Toowoomba is
crisscrossed by a series of trade
routes connecting towns in
western, central and northern
Queensland with hubs in New
South Wales andVictoria to the
south and Brisbane to the east.
Nowadays, enormous trucking rigs
do much of the heavy lifting, but in
erstwhile times the mighty steam
locomotive was the true hero,
with part of Toowoomba’s identity
something akin to the proverbial
‘railway town’.
DownsSteam is a community-
based organisation in Toowoomba
dedicated to keeping this part
of the region’s history alive,
and relies on the enthusiasm of
volunteers to help restore defunct
steam trains to their former glory.
Helping to preserve an
important part of
Toowoomba’s history
T
MDA’s client volunteers in the
region are playing a key part in
making this happen, says MDA
Toowoomba Employment Advisor,
Eddy Iles.
“Our approach to connecting
volunteers with DownsSteam
has been a bit different to
other volunteering partnerships
where we’ve actively pitched
opportunities to clients who we
think will fit in closely based on
their existing skills and needs,”
said Eddy.
“One of the shining lights we sent
there was a guy who had painting
experience and was just really
unstimulated sitting around doing
nothing. He was able to fit in
instantly. He knew about the work,
knew what to do, and was able to
become an asset really fast. He’s
formed really good relationships
with pretty much every volunteer
there. He wears the uniform, his
co-workers pick him up and take
him home each day - he is ➢
well and truly part of the team,”
he said.
The art of train restoration draws
on a wide variety of skill sets and
Eddy says the existing skills of
the client volunteer pool offer
tremendous opportunities for
DownsSteam and other partnering
organisations in the region.
“They have a long-term goal to
develop a tourist railway through
the Southern Downs... Part of the
program will be to build a whole
new railway system on which they
can run their trains,” said Eddy.
“The problem is that most of
the volunteers are elderly and
retired. By introducing some of
our younger men, they’re building
up a muscle pool. Once they get
around to building the railway line,
there’s a great opportunity for a
lot more of our clients to take
part,” he said. ■
Connecting communities
with opportunities to shine
ach and every year, our culturally diverse communities forge new
aspirations around celebrating their cultures and achievements with
the wider community.
Meanwhile, grant funding opportunities exist to help bring these dreams
to reality. MDA exists to connect the dots.Through a combination of
information sessions and hands-on support, MDA’s Grants Access program
worker supports our culturally diverse communities to find the right grant
at the right time and to prepare the right application to help transform
these aspirations to reality.
One of many success stories this year was supporting the Bundaberg
Filipino community to access funding to help celebrate the 116th Philippine
Independence Day celebrations and the 30th anniversary of the founding of
the Bundaberg District Australian Filipino Association Inc.
BDAFAI has been providing social support and settlement assistance to
migrants from the Philippines and their families for three decades. The
event was open to all Queenslanders in the Bundaberg region. ■
E
PhotocourtesyofDownsSteamwebsite
2013-2014_MDA_Annual_Report
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2013-2014_MDA_Annual_Report
2013-2014_MDA_Annual_Report
2013-2014_MDA_Annual_Report
2013-2014_MDA_Annual_Report
2013-2014_MDA_Annual_Report
2013-2014_MDA_Annual_Report
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2013-2014_MDA_Annual_Report

  • 2. 32 Contents Acknowledgements 5 Foreword - CEO & Chair 8 A 'snapshot' 10 Creating welcome 18 Enriching our future 34 Building connections 46 Delivering prosperity 52 Changing the conversation 64 Celebrating community 74 Sharing opportunities 82 Promoting wellbeing 96 Supporting those supporting others 104 Financial and corporate operations 112
  • 3. 54 MDA acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first people of this country, and recognises the immense cultural and linguistic diversity that existed at the time. Upwards of 250 clans or ‘nations’ were spread across the land at the time of the First Fleet’s arrival, each with its own language and traditions finely attuned to the challenges of survival - each the culmination of knowledge gained, refined and shared across generations for tens of thousands of years. In having survived and endured the historical injustices of colonisation upon their lands and peoples, Australia’s First Nations people hold a unique role in Australia and the world. MDA deeply respects and values Australia’s First Nations people’s enormous resilience, courage, determination and often unrecognised contribution to this country’s social and economic development. Acknowledging traditional owners
  • 4. 76 Dreaming under the Hills Hoist t seems fitting that an old icon of Aussie innovation was the backdrop, gazing over those early gatherings that would lead to the formation of MDA 16 years ago. Indeed that’s how it was - a group of concerned Queenslanders huddled in an unassuming Brisbane backyard, themselves innovating a way forward through the difficult and divisive days of the late 90s Brisbane. The defunding of the Brisbane Migrant Resource Centre in 1997 had led to a lot of soul searching, with some of those closely connected to the centre recognising that a strong multicultural sector in Queensland remained as important as ever. Together they rallied other sector friends and colleagues, bringing on board new strategic thinking, connections and professional skills, and dreaming up a vision focused on advocacy, sector and community development and service delivery to promote a strong multicultural future for all Queenslanders. Many things have changed over the last 16 years, but MDA’s commitment to the same core vision has remained steadfast, allowing MDA to further its work as a strong agent for multiculturalism and social change in Queensland. ■ “We did it in a backyard, with a clothes line in the background. And we did it without any possessions.We didn’t have any money, we didn’t have a place and we didn’t have any workers. And isn’t that reflective of lot of our clientele! Many come here without anything except a dream to begin again.” Gail Hyslop, MDA founding member I
  • 5. 98 Finding time to sit back and reflect can challenge one’s perceptions of the past in interesting and surprising ways.In thinking back on the year that was, change might first seem like the sole defining feature of MDA’s recent journey. But on deeper reflection, I believe that it is actually the constants, those things that remain unchanged, that summarise more definitely who we are and the work that we did this year. In spite of the constantly fluid context we find ourselves working in, MDA remains as committed as ever to the same mission and values that have carried us since our inception 16 years ago. Put differently, our scalability over recent years has not been allowed to compromise the heart of our identity, which I regard as a remarkable success. But would this be the case if, after several decades, we found our size and scope had redoubled several times again?The Board was delighted to support an important strategic initiative earlier this year when the Executive Management Team, along with Board Member Angela Moody and I travelled to Houston, Texas to learn about the success of Neighborhood Centers Inc. – an organisation many times larger than MDA, but with a mission and values similar to ours,and with a similar story of humble beginnings. We believe their journey holds valuable lessons for our own future, and has reaffirmed our belief in sustainable scalability – that growth can occur without ever compromising those things we hold sacred. The Board has faced some formidable tasks of its own throughout the year; most notably overseeing the change in MDA’s company status from Association to Company Limited by Guarantee, necessitated by ongoing organisational growth in recent years. I would particularly like to acknowledge Board Member,Angela Moody, for her tireless efforts in seeing this important project through to completion. I would also like to acknowledge and thank all of my colleagues on the Board for their dedication and strength of purpose during the past year. Your individual and collective contributions in guiding MDA through the past year cannot be underestimated, and I am honoured to work with you all. Finally, and on a personal note, it was a great pleasure to celebrate with Kerrin Benson this year as she reached the milestone of 10 years as MDA’s Chief Executive Officer. As always, my congratulations go to Kerrin, her outstanding leadership team and MDA’s hard-working and talented staff on yet another successful year, as we continue to draw inspiration from the resilience and courage of the clients we are privileged to walk alongside with. Sally Isles, Chair of the Board “There is a crack in everything.That’s how the light gets in.” Lyrics from the great Leonard Cohen,and those of you who know me well will recognise this sentiment as one from which I draw great inspiration, often attaching it to those flickers of light that permeate even the most difficult of situations we find ourselves working in.This past year has been no exception. We have seen,for one,the inspiring resilience of asylum seekers whose lives,in many respects,remain in limbo and yet who are fuelled by the desire to ‘give back’ to the country that has availed them by volunteering with Queensland charities.We have seen people from the wider public inspired by these stories, and donating generously to help maximise our client's volunteering contributions by helping meet their public transport costs. More and more, we see ‘everyday people’ creating a climate of welcome and sharing opportunities through volunteering, donating money and goods, and celebrating their own visions of an inclusive multicultural society through attending our major events in record numbers.In the refugee space,we have enjoyed the privilege of settling increasing numbers of large, extended families often spanning several generations, and have in turn seen the immense impacts on settlement well-being where families are spared the anguish of separation from members left behind to languish. We have seen our strategic advocacy work clearly articulated in the Queensland Government’s 30-year plan for our state’s future, acknowledging in no uncertain terms the opportunities that embracing our cultural diversity will bring. In a similar vein, we have seen our media and communications work changing the public conversation through mainstream and social media channels. Above all, I remain inspired by the light that shines from those I work with at MDA; by our Board’s dedication and commitment to good governance and accountability while keeping our vision and mission at the heart of all key strategic decisions; by the imagination and incredible work ethic of the leadership team I work closely with on a daily basis; and last but not least, by the talent, commitment and never-ended supply of good will among our staff. You are all testament to my belief that Leonard Cohen was on to something special. From the Chief Executive Officer Kerrin Benson From the Chair of the Board Sally Isles
  • 6. 1110 hings like creating welcome, sharing opportunities, celebrating community, promoting wellbeing and building connections are at the heart of how all of us at MDA approach our work - be it through the way we engage stakeholders, how we relate to clients, the way we embrace the good-will and enthusiasm of volunteers and partners, or how we engage the public through events and media. Just as importantly, these same values define the way we approach each other as a team with a shared Leading by example vision.We believe our staff retention is a powerful indicator of how our thoughts and actions are creating at work the same culture we hope in time will come to define the wider community in which we live. Our diversity adds immense value to the work that we do just as it enriches the lives of each and every one of us fortunate enough to work at MDA. T 235 staff 47 countries represented 31% speak 3 or more languages 64 cultural identities Australia Iran Sri Lanka India 49% 11% 8% 8% 6% Afghanistan 72 languages spoken 65% staff growth in the last 3 years 90% retention rate
  • 7. 1312 A life empowered is a life built on strong foundations, where people feel free to navigate their context with competence and confidence Modern Australia is a nation forged on the hopes and dreams of generations of migrants determined to build a better life For the last 16 years, MDA has played a major role in Queensland’s unfolding migration story, helping lay the basis for new beginnings for the benefit of all Queenslanders
  • 8. 1514 TOP 10 countries of birth 1. Iran 2. Afghanistan 3. Sri Lanka 4. Myanmar (Burma) 5. Pakistan 6. Bangladesh 7. Iraq 8. Somalia 9. Sudan 10. Eritrea In the 2013-14 financial year, MDA walked alongside 5621 people on their settlement journeys. Our clients Our community 120 ethnicities TOP 10 ethnicities 1. Persian 2. Hazara 3. Tamil 4. Rohingya 5. Bengali 6. Arab 7. Tajik 8. Kurdish 9. Somali 10. Iraqi TOP 10 languages 1. Farsi 2. Tamil 3. Hazaragi 4. Arabic 5. Rohingya 6. Dari 7. Somali 8. Iranian 9. Bengali 10. Other 27% female 73% male 5621 clients The communities we work with are the ultimate enabling factor of our work, and their members are the ultimate settlement workers, sharing welcome, inspiration, opportunities, knowledge and emotional support with every newly arrived person. As time passes, those who are welcomed today become the welcomers of tomorrow in an endless cycle of care and support.As always, we remain indebted to our diverse cultural communities, their leadership and the support they provide to both MDA and our new arrivals each and every day. MDA’s core business is to welcome every newly arrived refugee to Brisbane, Rockhampton and Toowoomba through our funded humanitarian programs, in particular our Humanitarian Settlement Services program. This includes providing the all important direct support for many small practicalities of starting life in a new community – things like airport reception, finding a home, registering for key government services, local orientation and school enrolments – along with the provision of settlement lifeskills education. This report travels the journey through our additional activities, programs and partnerships that lay the foundations for our continued settlement success and ongoing welcome to all new arrivals. Our foundations 73 different languages 67 different countries
  • 9. 1716 POPULATION 5,027,889 220 DIFFERENT LANGUAGES SPOKEN MORETHAN 100 RELIGIOUS BELIEFS 3.6% IDENTIFIED AS ABORIGINAL OR TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER WERE BORN OVERSEAS 20.5%OF QUEENSLANDERS 9.8% SPEAK A SECOND LANGUAGE AT HOME TOP 2 SOURCE COUNTRIES OF MIGRANTS: NZ & UK 1840s - FIRST CHINESE & INDIAN MIGRANTS ARRIVED 17
  • 10. 1918 There is a quiet comfort and confidence that comes from feeling you belong, setting the wheels in motion for a productive, open and forward-thinking life that enriches the lives of all Queenslanders. Every day, MDA creates and shares this welcome in different ways. It’s the smiling airport reception as new arrivals are welcomed to Queensland for the first time. It’s the reassurance that comes from workers who speak the same language and have been there before. It’s a first Queensland home. It’s developing strong and connected communities that continue to welcome new arrivals in their own way. It’s the generosity of volunteers, eager to embrace newcomers and bring them into the fold. Creating welcome is the sum of small, simple acts that repay themselves time and time over CREATING WELCOME 18
  • 11. 2120 MDA’s Social Inclusion programs 'Connecting to Cultural Community', we work with Community Leaders to link new arrivals to people who understand them, their culture and beliefs, and offer a chance for a laugh in first language and practical assistance. ‘Fishing’ trips are coordinated monthly, with MDA clients joining the Brisbane City Council program, Fishwise, on fishing expeditions in the local area. The ‘Future Builders’ additional education program acknowledges that some topics in settlement education are easier to grasp when the timing of delivery aligns more closely to particular stages in peoples’ settlement journey. Held fortnightly, the program addresses topics that tend to gain direct relevance a little further down the line, after people have moved beyond their initial settlement milestones. ➢ With large numbers of MDA’s clients residing in Brisbane’s south- west corridor, ‘Art Classes at Acacia Ridge’ takes the therapeutic value of art to women in the local area. With more of an accent on ‘Beauty’ and less on the ‘Beast’, the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ program acknowledges that to look good is to feel good, and to feel good is to approach life more positively.This beauty-based women’s program engages women in the familiar, like henna, eye brow threading and manicures, as a reason to come together to build friendships and support. A partnership between MDA and QCOSS, the ‘Bright Actions’ program delivers information sessions and in-home assessments about energy efficiency and ways to reduce power costs. ‘Brita Futures’ is a group-based program delivered in partnership with Transcultural Mental Health that supports people through the challenges of living and breathing two or more cultural identities. ‘ChaiTime’ says it all; freshly brewed Chai and, well, time.Time itself, without structure, obligation or expectation is an important element, providing a relaxing environment where people are free to unwind, connect and open up. Its simplicity belies its effectiveness. Chai Time operates as a drop-in space every Thursday afternoon at the Brisbane Multicultural Centre. Brisbane City is a happening place, and the ‘City Orientation’ program guides new arrivals on walking tours that equip them to make the most of what it has to offer, pointing out major services and free leisure opportunities along the way. Building new skills, making new friends, connecting to local and cultural communities and making sense of one’s own personal journey through sharing difficult experiences in a supportive environment are all vital ingredients to positive settlement. Here's your A-Z guide on how MDA's Social Inclusion team made this happen this year. "Working with Amina, a beautiful Somalian woman who has travelled the journey to Australia alone, has been a deeply moving, challenging and joy filled experience. I am inspired by her resilience and her journey pre and post arrival. I have learned so much from Amina and when I think of the journey we walked together in the HSS program, I am reminded of why I love my job." Anouska, Case Manager, Humanitarian Settlement Services. 21
  • 12. 2322 ‘Have a Go’ invites MDA clients to take part in regular sporting activities as a means of getting active and making connections with the broader community. People of all nationalities and cultures come together for the love of sport three days a week. ➢ The ‘Healthy Start’ program features half-day workshops run by medical and allied health students from a variety of universities in Queensland, and covering an array of topics including men’s health, women’s health, nutrition, oral hygiene, general health and medications. Participants move between stations, with learning supported by group discussions around each topic. The ‘Gardening Community’ program is run as an offshoot from ‘West End Welcomes’ English classes at St Phillips Church. Other community gardens are also attached to Welcome Hubs around Brisbane and accessed by clients through the respective hubs. Run weekly by an MDA volunteer, ‘Guitar Music’ classes teach clients everything from basic chords to reading music, filling the Brisbane Multicultural Centre’s Community Space with beautiful tunes. ‘MDA English’ offers opportunities for clients to obtain structured English education and connect with other community- based English programs. Facilitated by MDA volunteers, clients learn new vocabulary and get valuable listening, speaking, reading and writing practice through hands-on activities tailored to the nuances of the Aussie accent. ‘Memorial’ services are periodic multi-faith gatherings for all cultures and religions to support the emotional and spiritual growth of clients who have experienced loss and grief. The ‘Men’s Group’, open to all male clients at MDA, provides the opportunity for men to meet and chat about issues relating to role change in a new society along with other secret men’s business. The ‘Parenting Workshop’ program invites clients to commit to six sessions covering useful parenting strategies in the Australian cultural context. All MDA clients are eligible for ‘Tennis’ lessons through Return Serve, an organisation that brings professional tennis coaching to community groups free of charge. ‘Welcome Hubs’ are partnerships between MDA and locally-based community organisations and residents wanting to welcome migrants, refugees and asylum seekers into our community. The hubs vary widely in terms of activities, through English classes are a common feature, frequently offering an entry point connecting people to other opportunities ranging from community meals, community gardens, craft and recreational groups. The ‘Women’s Corner’ is a weekly drop-in space open to all female clients to mingle, meet with volunteers, learn new creative skills and learn about different activities. The ‘Women’s Gathering’ is a therapeutic women’s group program run over four weeks, where women are able to discuss difficult subject matters in a safe, supported group context. ‘X-Men’ is a long-term men’s group delivered in partnership with QPASTT centred on participation in physical activities to relieve stress and anxiety. ‘Yoga and Art’ is a group program focused on relaxation through yoga and creative activities. ■ A LUMINOUS welcome small dream hatched six years ago, this year came of age, with 12,000 people from all walks of life joining at South Bank Parklands on Queensland Day in a public display of welcome to all newcomers to our state. Whether a former refugee, a person seeking asylum, an international student, a skilled migrant, a spouse, a traveller, or even a person from south of the border, the event extended a collective welcoming embrace, along with celebrating the opportunities that migration brings to all of Queensland. The LUMINOUS Lantern Parade this year truly cemented itself as a bright, colourful and unique gesture of welcome to all people from around the world who make Queensland home, and a signature event on our state's calendar. Meandering its way through South Bank, the parade illuminated the evening in a dazzling display of light before entering the Courier-Mail Piazza for a free concert headlined by Robert Forster of ‘The Go-Betweens’ fame.The concert also featured internationally renowned Didgeridoo player William Barton, Queensland Poetry Slam finalist Erfan Daliri, plus a whole host of cultural performers. MDA is grateful for the support of our amazing event partners - TAFE Queensland English Language and Literacy Services, Dealer Solutions and other sponsors for helping make this possible. ■ A 23
  • 13. 2524 or newcomers to Australia, a first home offers that vital foundation of safety and security from which bigger dreams can evolve. Since September last year, MDA has worked directly with newly arrived clients and real estate agents in the private rental market to bring these foundations to life, helping secure private tenancy agreements for newly arrived people. Working in the private market is not only alleviating pressure on the supply of public housing, but gives newcomers an instant rental track record, adding real value to their future tenancy applications. Home owners and their respective agents are also reaping the peace of mind and benefits of intensive tenancy education and support being provided by MDA. Creating new efficiencies MDA partnered with more than 250 agents during the last year in creating a total of 331 private tenancy agreements for our clients.This outcome means an additional 331 subsidised dwellings are now available to those who need them most, in turn reducing pressure on the local economy. Through building a positive reputation with private real estate agents over the past year, MDA’s Housing Services team has also progressively reduced the average time taken to secure tenancy agreements for clients upon their arrival in Australia. ■ A place to call home F 'BIG' families a boon for agents and home owners alike he modern Australian family archetype of ‘two-point- three kids’ conceals a not too distant past where large families comprising five or more children were still commonplace.The relics of this past can still be seen in the prevalence of large, older homes that dot Brisbane’s outer suburbs, many with five bedrooms or more. But for owners of such houses who wish to rent them out, finding suitable tenants has proved to be an increasing challenge. The trend towards resettlement of large extended families over the last year is now offering owners of large houses a new, speedy source of reliable tenants, says Elliott Stock, Housing Services Team Leader at MDA. “Many agents initially had reservations about working with large families for different reasons. In Australia, home owners and agents typically think a five bedroom house would house a family of five, or maybe six – some were surprised just to see such big extended families wanting to live together, or they were concerned the kids were going to trash the place.Things like limited English, no Australian rental history and low incomes were also barriers,” said Elliott. But through perseverance and the example set by the clients themselves, Elliott says that agents are now increasingly eager to come on board. "These kinds of houses can be really hard to fill…they’re just too big.They’re even too big for student accommodation.Tenancy law sets a maximum of five unrelated people permitted to live in the same house before it needs to be registered as a boarding house, which costs owners about $10,000 a year.” → T “A total of 331 private tenancy agreements last year. "
  • 14. 2726 Houseproud tenants impress agents and owners Elliott says the biggest pull factor in getting agents onside has been the families themselves, with the pride and care they are showing for their homes catching agents by surprise. “For new arrivals, their house is often one of the few things they have some control over. Especially in the asylum seeker space where so much of people's lives and futures remain uncertain, their house gives them that one important thing they can take pride in and take control of. So often they really try to make it the best place they can,” he said. “We housed a family of 12 in Stafford a while back.When you think ‘family of 12’, you might think ‘overcrowded’,‘kids tearing the place up’ and so on... but their house is absolutely immaculate, so much nicer than it was before they moved in.They have beautiful Afghan carpets throughout the house, everything’s tidy all the time…they’ve really turned it into a home. In a whole year, they haven’t missed a single payment. They’re really on the ball.” MDA initially took up 12-month head-leases on many of these larger properties as an added assurance to agents and owners. But Elliott says that agents are already expressing interest in moving these families to direct leases ahead of time after witnessing their reliability as tenants first hand – and the word is spreading. “Real Estate agents talk to each other a lot. At the end of the day, it’s beneficial for them and they now realise it. In places like Inala, Acacia Ridge and Sunnybank there are a lot of these kinds of houses that they can’t rent or that others here won’t rent, yet for our clients these are a great opportunity to get a good start in an affordable house and build a positive rental history. Even owners are contacting us directly now. We get at least one or two home owners making direct contact with us every week now.They know we have good tenants, and they know we provide tenancy education and help manage the tenancy. It’s truly a win-win scenario.” ■ n innovative approach to online communication, being led by LJHooker Sunnybank Hills, is allowing multicultural tenants and their respective property owners to speak the same language. With over 50% of Sunnybank residents born overseas, the agency has experienced a clear trend towards housing tenants who speak English as a second or third language, and is now spearheading a bright new idea to help bridge the language divide. “The quick resolution of household maintenance issues is an area of common ground for homeowners and tenants alike,” says Mark Crowther, General Property Manager at LJHooker Sunnybank Hills. ➢ Technology gives new voice to multicultural tenants and home owners A
  • 15. 2928 f you are in doubt about the support and welcome ordinary people extend to refugees and asylum seekers, you need only see the abundance of donated items we get for new arrivals at our quarterly White Elephant Day. MDA hosted three White Elephant Days during the last financial year and was overwhelmed with donations of preloved items for newly arrived refugees as they begin to rebuild their lives in our community.The donors have been as enthusiastic as they are diverse, ranging from the business and corporate sector to faith-based and community groups, and individuals looking to welcome and support new families in their community. With the help of MDA volunteers, corporate and community partners, we have been able to transform the Brisbane Multicultural Centre into a veritable pop-up shop packed to the rafters with donated items, addressing a different seasonal theme each event (e.g., Children’s Toys in the lead up to Christmas, and Warm Winter Woolies in the lead up to winter). Refugees and asylum seekers, young and old, are then invited to browse and select what they need. Developed in partnership with the BRASS Network (Brisbane Refugee and Asylum Seeker Turning white elephants into treasures for new arrivals I Support), this initiative has proven itself a wonderful way for people to welcome our newest Queenslanders through providing tangible and material support and has enabled MDA to establish an important corporate volunteering partnership with Queensland Gas Company (QGC). ■ • MDA currently leases four properties and has placed more than 20 families on direct leases with LJHooker in 2013- 14. • LJHooker contacts MDA directly with a range of properties they have available to minimize vacancy days for their owners. • LJHooker is aware MDA offers ongoing tenancy support to minimise tenancy risks to the property and to ensure rent accounts are maintained. • This proactive approach enables MDA to source accommodation quickly for newly arrived migrants, allowing them to then focus on settlement issues including orientating to local schools, health providers and employment opportunities. At the end of the day, there’ll be thousands and thousands of translated options that comprise the program. But users will also have the option to include video and photo attachments in cases where the existing framework does not capture a particular issue, along with an open text field, translating text to English with the aid of ‘Google Translate’,” he said. Mark is also quick to point out that tenants are not the only ones who stand to benefit from using the technology. “As time goes on, we have increasing numbers of landlords who do not speak English as a first language.We have large numbers of Chinese and Korean property investors, and other nationalities too.The service will be equally applicable to translating the concerns of our landlords,” he said. The project has now been launched in Mandarin, and will be rolled out across 20 language groups in the year ahead. ■ “But in cases where one or the other party does not speak English as a first language, miscommunication can occur. What we’re trying to do is to empower tenants by allowing them to speak in their language.” Mr Crowther is leading on the new bilingual maintenance reporting online portal; an Australian first that will allow tenants to identify household issues through a cascading series of translated drop-down menus that end once the tenant has pinpointed the issue in question. MDA is assisting with translation work for the benefit of LJHooker and MDA’s clients alike. You don't have to think too long before realising what an ambitious project this is, given the many small elements that comprise a household, and the considerable linguistic diversity in our community. “Yes, it’s an enormous exercise,” Mark agrees. MDA and LJHooker Sunnybank Hills Partnership at a glance
  • 16. 3130 olunteers are opening up possibilities right around the nation.With upwards of six million people volunteering in Australia each year, Australians have something of a love affair with rolling up their sleeves and donating their time and energy to enrich their communities in countless ways. Even the economic data provides good cause to say thanks to our volunteers, with a 2012 study at the University of Adelaide concluding that the economic value of volunteering now outweighs the mining sector. For the love of giving MDA is a fortunate beneficiary of this outstanding community spirit, with 229 people volunteering in the past financial year to support our clients through our Family Match program alone, and an additional 60 people volunteering on a regular basis to support MDA program activities including our Job Club,Women’s Corner, Chai Time, English Classes, Citizenship Test Support and more. We simply could not deliver the work that we do in Brisbane,Toowoomba and Rockhampton without the enthusiasm, generosity and dedication of our wonderful volunteers! → V Job Club “I am doing my volunteering with the Job Club team for young people, and clients know that I am there to help them improve their skills in searching for jobs. They are really thankful.” MDAVolunteer Our Workforce Solutions team organises a weekly ‘Job Club’ workshop to help clients build up their job readiness.Ten volunteers have regularly supported Job Club throughout the year by helping clients to prepare resumes, learn job searching techniques and apply for job vacancies. → Family Match “I love the joy we create when we make a good match between our refugee families and volunteers, and see the friendship flourish into meaningful outcomes for both sides; that’s success.” Tanya, Volunteer Coordinator Family Match offers a warm welcome to refugees and helps them settle into their homes and community. Our volunteers provide a social and cultural bridge for newly arrived refugees in understanding their new home. In 2013-14, we successfully matched 229 volunteers with families, who they committed to visiting for one to two hours each week over six months. Volunteers provided support by orientating the family with their house and neighbourhood, giving them English tuition, providing homework support for the kids and helping them to understand life and culture in Australia. “We are so blessed to have Jo in our lives. She has made us feel welcome in Australia. It’s not easy for Jo to do all these things for our family. What she gives us we can’t put a price on – it is priceless!” Tesfassilassie (MDA client)
  • 17. 3332 ChaiTime Two of the highlights of our week are Chai Time on Thursdays and Women’s Chai Time on Tuesdays. Apart from consuming delicious homemade chai tea, the sessions create a fun and relaxing environment where clients can make social connections, play games and join conversation circles.Ten volunteers have assisted on a weekly basis this year by serving tea, playing games and by simply being a friendly person to chat to. For many of our clients, it’s an important social outing that helps build friendships and their confidence in speaking English. MDA events Around 80 volunteers have helped us deliver our events throughout the year in Brisbane,Toowoomba and Rockhampton. From the LUMINOUS Lantern Parade to the World Refugee Day Community Festival, events provide volunteers interesting short-term opportunities to support the work of MDA. Thanks for a job well done! Volunteering is a labour of love, meaning that special thanks is owed to those who lend their support. Our annual volunteer celebration was one way we were able to share our gratitude this year, coinciding with NationalVolunteer Week in May. ■ Volunteers help widen horizons for newly arrived families Family Match program volunteer, Sharyn Tidswell, has taken on four separate matches since relocating to Brisbane from Sydney around three years ago. Although a previous local, Sharyn says the challenges of readjusting to life in Brisbane have presented important life experiences that now inform the way she relates to newly arrived families. “I moved up from Sydney nearly three years ago…I’m from Brisbane originally, but it’s still been ➢ an adjustment, settling back into Brisbane after 20 years away, even though I’ve been visiting family up here regularly. I’ve found that adjustment difficult in some respects…so imagine crossing cultures under difficult circumstances, without the language, and trying to establish yourself. I mean a million times harder!” said Sharyn. This experience has reminded her of just how much those early connections to people in a new home can build confidence, promote well-being and open up new opportunities for exploration and learning. Having maintained friendships with earlier family matches, hearing them say things like ‘you’re the first Australian friend I have’ and ‘you're our best friend’ have highlighted the importance of meaningful relationships as a foundation from which to explore other goals, needs and aspirations together. The journeys Sharyn has walked with families have taken her from sushi-making, to celebrating cultural and religious events, to games of UNO Stacko, but she says that practicing English, either formally through tuition or informally through conversation, is usually a priority, and through providing support and encouragement, Sharyn sees first-hand the opportunities that language opens up in terms of how newly arrived families relate to the wider community. “One family had a mobile phone and its battery died, so we all organised a shopping visit, where they were actually searching for a new mobile phone battery. I coached them on some simple words and simple questions to ask the shop keeper, so they would ask the question and that would then help build their confidence speaking with other people.They may feel confident speaking with me, but going out in the general public, a number of them have said,‘We can’t do that! Not enough English’. But with a little encouragement, they do it and their world gets a little bit bigger again.” ■ “With a little encouragement, they do it and their world gets a little bit bigger again.” 289 people volunteering on a regular basis
  • 18. 3534 We believe that a strong multicultural future depends not only on equipping newcomers with the skills and knowledge needed to live independently, but also through building new bridges of understanding that place existing communities, individuals, employers, government agencies, schools, sector partners and other institutions in a strong position to accommodate and embrace our increasing diversity for the benefit of all. ENRICHING OUR FUTURE The Queensland we share tomorrow depends on the actions we take today 34
  • 19. 3736 Advocating for a better future Queensland Plan MDA worked to make sure that culturally diverse voices were reflected in The Queensland Plan, which has been developed by the Queensland Government to help plan for Queensland’s next 30 years. In late 2013, we held a forum which brought together people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, representing 16 different ethnicities including women and men, young leaders and people from regional Queensland. We also interviewed ten employers, educators, community leaders and young people with big ideas for a stronger multicultural Queensland. The result was 'Diversity: it’s our strength'.This visionary publication collated all our ideas for a multicultural Queensland that harness the untapped potential of migrant and refugee talent, creativity and connections. Diversity: it’s our strength was presented to decision-makers and politicians across Queensland. We were pleased that our ideas were reflected in the draft Queensland Plan released in December 2013. In 2014 we held three more forums in Brisbane, Toowoomba and Rockhampton to examine the Draft Plan.This time, 67 people from 16 ethnic groups participated.The forums provided participants with an opportunity for civic engagement and to develop skills in strategic planning.This work has informed subsequent lobbying and submissions to both state and federal government policy processes. Language Services Policy submission The Queensland Government’s Language Services Policy provides the framework which informs how government agencies use interpreters and translate documents.This year, the Government undertook a review of the policy. We surveyed 15 community leaders about their communities’ experiences of language service provision by Queensland Government services, and where they felt improvements could be made. We consulted a wide range of other stakeholders from MDA staff to the Queensland Police Service. We participated in Cultural Diversity Queensland’s Roundtable for the review. Our final submission reflected what we had learned through these engagements and included our own practice wisdom. Not only do some of the case examples provided by MDA appear in the new guidelines, but the policy directly addresses recommendations made by MDA, including: • ensuring that the policy covers frontline services delivered by statutory authorities such as Hospital and Health Services and independent public schools, and • guidelines about videoconferencing / Skype solutions to improve interpreter access in regional areas. ■ he role of MDA's Community Advocacy and Social Policy team involves promoting equitable access to such institutions and services. We do this by researching best practice and encouraging reform.We do this in partnership with community groups whose lived experience provides inspiration and direction. T Over the last 12 months the team has been active in numerous forums and worked on issues ranging from the accessibility of mental health services to youth employment. Two highlights of the year include developing MDA’s contribution to the Queensland Government’s 30- year vision, the Queensland Plan, and the review of the Queensland Government’s Language Services Policy. → Celebrating systemic steps to social inclusion Listening to communities Researching best practice Representing lived experience to decision makers A truly multicultural society that embraces the cultural and linguistic diversity of its members is always a work in progress; new communities emerge and the needs and aspirations of more established communities can change. Realising our vision requires paying careful attention to the way major institutions are structured and government services are delivered. Diversity: it's our strength
  • 20. 3938 etirees house a lifetime of knowledge, skills and experience that add immense value to volunteering roles right across our nation. Berry Wynne, who started volunteering with MDA in April this year, is a classic example. Our client English language classes are now enriched by Berry’s career experience as a teacher. Describing the experience as a ‘real kick’, Berry acknowledges that her own daughter and MDA Settlement Lifeskills Coordinator, Nikki, played an important part in planting the seeds. “Nikki’s work has never been an occupation or a job for her….it’s a vocation. It’s inspiring,” said Berry. “She doesn’t let secrets out [i.e. breach confidentiality], but still manages to share the humanity and resilience of the people she works with…her energy is contagious,” she said. Berry channels the same contagious energy, moving on to share her views on education and language; “important rights,” she says, and rights that she now proudly plays her own part in upholding once more. ■ Reigniting an old passion R “I think that everyone is entitled to a safe life and a valued life… I’ve found all the people who come to the classes to be incredibly enthusiastic.They want to make the best possible life they can here. When you learn about some of the traumas they’ve survived and their will to move on, it’s incredible. We can learn so much from them.” Berry Wynne, MDA volunteer
  • 21. 4140 Diverse beginnings Cultural Consultancy MDA’s Cultural Consultancy service is committed to providing culturally appropriate advice and guidance to business, government and non-government organisations across Queensland on a fee-for-service basis. In 2013-14, many organisations and businesses took this opportunity to help deliver a better quality of service to their clients through our Cultural Consultancy Service. CSWs attended specific professional development and supervision support sessions to help improve their own service delivery standards in providing consultation to stakeholders. ur Bicultural Support Services program is about getting tomorrow's best and brightest off to a flying start in their preschooling by working closely with Early Childhood Educators to meet the specific needs of children and families from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. A truly statewide program, BSS has generated increased demand for its services in the past financial year through networking and promotional activities, with particular growth in training and professional development requests. Feedback from the sessions indicates that they are impacting positively on the reflective practice of educators, helping bring cultural inclusion to the forefront of their minds. Some key achievements include: • Launching new online learning tools and resources using social media platforms. • Building the capacity and job satisfaction of Cultural Support Workers (CSWs) through 14 professional development sessions attended by 77 CSWs. • Delivering onsite professional development sessions to 144 EarlyYears workers. • Completing an in-depth survey to identify gaps in training and support needs of EarlyYears services. • MDA is engaged by the Queensland Health and Community Services and Workforce Council to deliver this aspect of the Commonwealth Inclusion Support Services program. 54 Cultural Support Workers 30 different languages Mandarin, Korean andVietnamese were the most requested languages this year. “…MDA CSWs are able to connect effectively with the clients and tell them about the system, how it works and meets their goals.” Mission Australia Cultural Support Services Cultural Support Workers (CSWs) are a truly unique resource of MDA, enabling Case Managers to assist clients during their settlement journey in their first language and in a culturally sensitive and appropriate way. The Cultural Support team regularly recruits, inducts and trains new CSWs in response to emerging or urgent needs. MDA currently employs 280 CSWs in Queensland, from 55 countries, speaking 85 different languages. Community Education MDA acknowledges its leadership role in supporting the broader community’s understanding of the journeys of new arrivals. Our Community Education program builds awareness, understanding and respect for Queensland’s growing multicultural community, which in effect complements and strengthens the existing settlement work of all MDA program areas. Through education, we are raising community appreciation and recognition of the life journeys of refugees and contributing to building a community that is welcoming and engaged. ■ O Enhancing access to services for refugees very Queenslander engages with an array of services in their life, with equal access a right shared by all. MDA helps uphold this right by providing accredited training to a wide range of service providers who encounter refugees during the course of their work. Our accredited training program “Working with refugees” (CHCW401A: Work effectively with forced migrants) was delivered this year to 600 external providers across 30 external training events, with an additional seven sessions delivered to MDA staff. Government departments, the Brisbane Magistrates Court, education and training providers, Emergency Services, mental health providers, and early childhood workers are just some examples of participants who engaged with this training throughout the year. "Great.Thoroughly enjoyed the program. One of the best professional development programs I’ve attended on the topic of refugees." Classroom teacher "Insightful. Needed by all Australians as our nation becomes more and more diverse." Regional participant ■ E
  • 22. 4342 right Actions is a ground-breaking new initiative which aims to reduce financial stress among refugee and asylum seeker households when they receive electricity and gas bills and learn about energy efficiency and safety in the home. Households also gain invaluable information about available government incentives to assist them should they experience financial hardship. This information and support is delivered through workshops and in-home energy assessments, which are tailored to individual circumstances. We were fortunate to receive three-year funding from the Department of Industry, which MDA shares with our consortium partners QCOSS (as the lead agency), and Moreland Energy Foundation in Melbourne. The Bright Actions team at MDA, a very dedicated team with multi-disciplinary skills and experiences, consists of three Energy Project Workers in Brisbane, one in Toowoomba and one in Rockhampton, one operational support person and the Team Leader. The Project Manager is an employee of QCOSS. Since its launch, the team have dived into their new roles with gusto, with direct benefits for participant households already evidenced, through savings on annual tariffs and identification of faulty appliances that are high-energy users. ■ The energy to save B 800 attendees at workshops up to $250 refunded to individual eligible clients through concessional claims 334 In-home energy assessments From January to June 2014, the Bright Actions team has achieved:
  • 23. 4544 There are newly arrived refugees who will find their feet quickly in Australia, and those who need additional help getting there. Our Continuing Settlement Services (CSS) and Intensive Settlement Services (ISS) are about ensuring that no-one slips through the gaps on the way to successful settlement. The particular history and difficult journeys of some refugees mean that they need longer-term support to feel settled, and become independent and active members of the community. MDA has been providing CSS and ISS support for 10 years.We provide both practical and emotional support as well as community integration to refugees who have been in Australia for more than six months but less than five years.This includes individuals, families and young people. We integrate them into the community, assist with household management, accessing health services, and education, learning English, managing finances, acquiring life skills and managing family relationships. Over the last decade, the nature of our work in this area has changed. Case Manager Radmila Stojanovic has been with MDA during this time, contributing to CSS and ISS work every step of the way. A migrant from the FormerYugoslavia, she has been on this journey and she uses her experience to encourage her clients through their challenging settlement phases. “I have been a migrant myself,” Radmila said.“I have been through difficulties, I’ve shed tears, I didn’t have friends, I didn’t have language. “I pulled through and established my family, and that is what gives me energy to keep doing this work; because I know it is really hard and tough at the beginning for new arrivals. ➢ “Over the last few years, our work is becoming more complex.We are now seeing more single clients and single mothers than before. We are seeing people with more complex health issues, education, housing and homelessness concerns. “I am on the run just about every day, visiting clients and making sure their needs are met. “When I have a client who goes from being homeless to having a home, being happier and seeing the smile on their face, it makes me happy. “I am still receiving texts, Christmas cards and messages from clients thanking me for the support I have given them over the years and telling me how well they are now doing; getting jobs, finishing their education, growing their families and improving their health and wellbeing. “When you see the difference that we at MDA have helped to create; that our clients are settling well, contributing to this country, moving forward with their lives, it gives me energy to continue my beautiful work.” ■ Continuing client services for 10 years Promoting a bright future for young people Providing support to our youth is often more effective when delivered in settings where young people are already engaged and feel a sense of belonging. Funded through the Settlement Grants Program (SGP), MDA’sYouth Settlement Worker provides schools- based, outreach support to culturally diverse youth at schools across Brisbane with a high concentration of students from refugee backgrounds; including Milpera, McGregor,Yeronga, Kedron and Dakabin State High Schools, and the Southbank Institute of Technology. Along with providing information and referral support, the worker also engages young people to develop activities and programs that reflect their own interests and aspirations. Privileged work with unaccompanied minors In 2014 MDA commenced work providing support to Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minors through a new contract with the Department of Immigration. and Border Protection.The young people are being supported through a combination of independent and supervised living arrangements in the community until the time of their 18th birthday. Future pathways Supporting young people to access their first paid job plays a major role in facilitating their future pathway. OurYouth Job Club andYouth Employment Forums provide practical solutions for young people who want to support themselves and gain further skills development. ■
  • 24. 4746 Creating a welcoming and inclusive Queensland is a collective project, drawing on the joint efforts and good-will of individuals, organizations and faith-based groups. MDA works together with a host of community partners, networks, leaders and individuals to help nurture a strong multicultural Queensland that welcomes and embraces new arrivals into the fold. BUILDING CONNECTIONS Building a strong, cohesive Queensland is everybody's business 46
  • 25. 4948 Good Buddies or the second year running, members of the Sunshine Coast-based organisation Buddies travelled down to walk in support of the LUMINOUS Lantern Parade. Buddies is a volunteer organisation dedicated to building a community that is hospitable and supportive of people from a refugee background living in South East Queensland.They are engaged in the community, regularly hosting picnics, forums, fundraising BBQs and community meetings to advocate on behalf of asylum seekers and refugees. Buddies make regular donations to MDA which go directly to support asylum seekers living in the community. This support has had a profound and wide ranging impact on our clients and has enabled them to go to school, travel to and from volunteering opportunities, purchase essential household items and, for one, achieve his Surf Life Saving bronze medallion. Our partnership with Buddies stands as an example of the significant contribution the community can make to the lives of asylum seekers. We are not able to deliver the work we do, nor achieve the success we do, without the strong support of organisations like Buddies. ■ F Welcome Hubs… offering more than just welcome or anyone who moves to a new community, let alone a new country, connecting with others and having the opportunity to contribute and belong to the community are the things that create feelings of being at ‘home’. Over the last year, MDA has proudly partnered with local groups to create opportunities for people to connect, contribute and belong within their local community through Welcome Hubs. The beauty of our Welcome Hub model is that we are building on the social infrastructure and good-will that F already exists in the community, and supporting them to extend their embrace to our target group. Welcome Hubs across Greater Brisbane offer a big gesture of welcome and friendship from people who have been living in the community for a long time. Welcome Hubs work to include people from diverse backgrounds in the everyday life of their community. They offer a place to belong, a safe and welcoming place, a place where everyone can learn and contribute. Any locally-based organisation that is established, has relationships deep into the community and embraces diversity is well-placed to extend this welcome. Welcome Hubs are now up and running thanks to these partners: • Sandbag Community Centre, Sandgate • Nundah Community Centre • Clayfield Baptist Church • West End Welcomes,Woolloongabba • Annerley Baptist Church • Acacia Ridge Community Centre • Indooroopilly Uniting Church • Sherwood Neighbourhood Centre • Benarrawa Community Development Association • Hub Neighbourhood Centre, Inala ■
  • 26. 5150 he Australian labour movement has left markings on our way of life that are so enduring they might seem inseparable from Australian culture itself – but in an earlier context of limited workers’ rights, things like our institutionalised eight-hour working day, were concessions hard won. Having himself escaped an altogether different context where the right of workers to advocate collectively for improved conditions remains violently suppressed, MDA staff member,Alyas Taqawi is better placed than most to understand the ongoing relevance of unions to upholding and advancing the Australian way of life. A former Hazara refugee,Alyas joined the MDA team in late 2012, and earlier this year was proud to take up a calling close to his heart by becoming one of MDA’s staff delegates to the Queensland Services Union. MDA has enjoyed a close association with the QSU over many years, and was proud to support a concerted campaign Involvement in union offers a different road to feeling Australian for pay equity several years ago that resulted in improved pay for community workers right across Queensland. → Larrikin spirit sees Alyas pose 'alias' to land job! There was a minor glitch in Alyas’ first tilt at applying for a job vacancy at MDA. Residing alongside the majestic, coiled brown snake – the Murray River – in Mildura would pose something a little longer than the average work commute. In need of an immediate starter, MDA was forced to knock back his application. A similar opportunity surfaced a small while later however, and this time Alyas did what any sensible person would do. “I phoned a friend living in Brisbane to get his address, and put his address on my resume instead,” he said. The plan went off without a hitch and after a brief telephone interview, Alyas was hired… leaving one small problem; he had only a day to get to Brisbane to commence work. But ever the sharp problem solver, Alyas was on the next bus to Melbourne, flew to Brisbane that day, and got here just in time,” he says. Nearly two years later,Alyas continues to enjoy his work providing support to new arrivals. ■ offered a different pathway into feeling more connected as a new Australian. “I’m a relatively new delegate, so I’m still learning, (but) I’ve been trying really hard to understand the success of the movement in Australia; how rights have been won. I’ve been really keen to bring up new ideas about how campaigns should be arranged. Being from a CALD community background, I feel myself becoming more a part of Australia being involved in such activities, and feel my life is now more meaningful in Australia. I feel I’m contributing and involved in something bigger than myself,” he said. "I’ve always thought workers have an important role to play everywhere in the world,” says Alyas, reflecting on the meaning of his newfound role. "They are the engine of development in any country - the engine that keeps our societies moving…We won’t even have light if we don’t have workers. So I was very inspired to join part of the movement where the rights of the worker are protected," he said. Although a far cry from the atrocities endured by unionists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Alyas believes that unions in Australia are facing new pressures at a time where their relevance to our nation is greater than ever before - particularly in light of the state’s gradual retreat from service and welfare provision. But this realisation has equipped Alyas with the motivation to make a difference and has also “Being from a CALD community background, I feel myself becoming more a part of Australia being involved in such activities, and feel my life is now more meaningful in Australia. I feel I’m contributing and involved in something bigger than myself.” T 51
  • 27. 5352 Migrants are bringing to Queensland valuable language and cross-cultural skills, new ideas, international connections and a unique problem solving capacity, along with the entrepreneurism, mobility and determination to succeed that have become celebrated hallmarks of Australia’s migration folklore. MDA works closely with newcomers and industry alike to ensure these strengths find their place both in Brisbane and regional places around the state. DELIVERING PROSPERITY The skills and experience of new arrivals can reinvigorate the economic fabric of communities across the state 52
  • 28. 5554 oowoomba last year joined two other councils in Queensland in being declared a Refugee Welcome Zone by the Refugee Council of Australia - an exciting development that would set the tone for things to follow. Around 200 Hazara Afghan women and children have made Toowoomba home in the last year through the Women at Risk visa program. For MDA, supporting these women has been a source of undivided inspiration. But most inspirational of all has been the eagerness of the women to make a difference through participation in the local economy. With support from MDA Toowoomba’s Employment and Social Inclusion workers, the women have commenced piloting collective micro-enterprises, including the establishment of a catering group and the development and marketing of an array of handicrafts and hand-woven textiles. ‌ Some have also gained employment through local labour- hire companies, where they have quickly gained a positive reputation for their fast and meticulous approach to work. ■ Research supports improved economic participation for vulnerable women A recent Churchill Fellowship has provided MDA Executive Manager, Mitra Khakbaz, the opportunity to explore settlement practices and frameworks across a ➢ host of countries that support the resettlement of refugee women at risk, including the United Kingdom, Finland, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada and New Zealand. Mitra, who returned to Brisbane earlier this year after several months of field work abroad, is now reconciling her findings into new practice frameworks that promote improved access to employment opportunities for refugee women at risk. For all refugees, economic participation through meaningful employment is an integral step towards rebuilding their lives in a new country. But this applies even more so to refugee women and their children who, in the absence of a liveable income, are particularly susceptible to cycles of poverty and exclusion. There is compelling evidence that improving the engagement of women at risk in employment leads to better settlement outcomes for them and their families. The fellowship has allowed Mitra to learn from the experiences, practices and unique contexts of other settlement countries, and to bring those learnings back to Australia. She hopes that her research will ultimately inform Afghan women unleash spirit of enterprise onToowoomba best practice frameworks in Australia, encouraging improved settlement outcomes for refugee women through positive economic participation. This year marks 25 years since the Department of Immigration and Border Protection first launched the Women at Risk program here in Australia. Since then, the program has assisted over 13,000 women and children to build a new life in Australia. ■ T StefanArmbrusterSBS
  • 29. 5756 For all refugees, economic participation through meaningful employment is an integral step towards rebuilding their lives in a new country This applies even more so to refugee women and their children who, in the absence of a liveable income, are particularly susceptible to cycles of poverty and exclusion There is compelling evidence that improving the engagement of women at risk in employment leads to better settlement outcomes for them and their families
  • 30. 5958 efugee arrivals, notably single men, have been drawn to Rockhampton in numbers since 2010, attracted by abundant employment opportunities in two of the state’s largest meatworks. Employment turnover was initially high as new arrivals struggled to find their feet in Central Queensland without specialised settlement support. But since MDA established a Rockhampton office in 2012, turnover at the meatworks has reduced dramatically, meaning that new and emerging communities are now flourishing and becoming evermore part of Rockhampton’s broader economic, social, and cultural landscape. Home ownership provides perhaps the most compelling possible indicator of long-term settlement success. Over the last year, MDA Rockhampton case managers have responded to increasing numbers of requests from clients seeking support around applications for home finance. More and more past and present clients are now purchasing their own piece of Capricornia paradise! Other recent signs of change include increasing numbers of successful family reunifications - hence a new pattern of family settlement - and a sharp increase in the numbers of small businesses successfully launched by past and present MDA clients. Long-term settlement is also bringing about a new diversification in employment away from the meatworks and towards a wider array of sustainable employment pathways in the trades, hospitality, community services and local government.This provides yet another avenue for stronger community integration as more and more former refugees are now assuming work roles that align more closely with the mainstream Rockhampton community. ■ Opportunity and diversity enrich Rockhampton MDA's Mohammad Azad appointed 2014 Refugee Week Ambassador “From the day that my wife and children landed in Rockhampton airport, there was a group of community members there to welcome them - from MDA staff, from Sanctuary staff, church staff, Rockhampton Grammar staff. They were all welcoming Kaniz and my children to Rockhampton. Their connection to Rockhampton and the community started from their first seconds of life here.” Mohammad Reza Azad For the second year in a row, MDA Rockhampton’s Mohammad Azad was appointed Refugee Week Ambassador by the Refugee Council of Australia, acknowledging his interest and understanding of refugee and migrant issues in Australia. As an early founding member of MDA’s Rockhampton operations, Mohammad has been integral to the successful regional settlement of hundreds of former refugees since relocating in 2010. His skills and compassion working with former refugees are borne of his own earlier refugee experience as a member of the Hazara ethnic minority in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Last year, Mohammad’s hope for a better future for his family was restored when he was reunited with his wife and two young children after several years of separation. ■ R
  • 31. 6160 Work & WelcomeTM redemption for survivor n incredible tale of survival against all odds, Aruna Tamang's story brings together both the best qualities of the human spirit with the true power of settlement support to release one person’s potential as a productive, contributing force in the Queensland community. It was not long after arriving in Brisbane as a refugee from Nepal that Aruna, a single mother with thirteen year-old daughter was confronted with the unthinkable. A seemingly innocuous lump on her tongue - first addressed by physicians with courses of antibiotics - continued to grow and on further consultation with specialists was diagnosed as cancer. “It was hard for me, so hard. Not so much for me (personally)… but I was in a new place with a child. If I was alone and became sick, then ‘my time is my time’. But if anything happened to me here, what would happen to my daughter?” For the second time in as many years, Aruna was plunged back into survivor mode, persevering through surgery, intensive radiotherapy and other treatments that would continue until October. During that time, her daughter would stay with a distant relative in Brisbane. Aruna was cleared of cancer late last year, but as she says, the ‘All Clear’ was far from all clear. “After finishing my radiation therapy, I was so sick. But also, psychologically I was so tense. My mind was full of all the bad ➢ A things. I was worried the cancer would come back.” MDA case managers connected Aruna with counselling support, while also supporting her to engage with speech pathologists to help her learn to speak again. “It was horrible in the beginning, but it helped…talking to the counsellor and exercises to learn to speak again. I’m still trying to recover, but I’m getting stronger.” The biggest break came when Aruna’s case worker, Michele Nisingizwe, suggested she consider applying for a job placement through the Work & Welcome program.After some encouragement,Aruna applied and was the successful applicant for a placement with Padua College in Kedron - the home of program founder, Mark Taylor. “I was very excited, but scared! I felt if they don’t understand me, it might not work.” Aruna shares her anxiety about the effect her illness and subsequent treatment has had on her voice. Her voice is somewhat affected by the treatment, but through her commitment to rehabilitation is completely comprehensible and expressive. “Just to get to talk to the people at work has been good. My health is improving. I talk with different people every day. Every time there I do a good job. In the beginning, sometimes people couldn’t understand. But now they understand me very well.” The knock of little hands on the front door briefly interrupts the discussion. Playmates of her daughter have dropped by. “Later. She can come later,” Aruna says. Aruna reflects on the difficult time her daughter faced throughout her illness, but is glad she has found neighborhood friends. She then moves on to relay the tasks she undertakes at Padua College including food preparation, librarian work and working as a lab assistant. The mention of her work in the lab ignites a brief interjection from her daughter around Bunsen burners and hefty science text books, but Aruna wades down with one of those classic stories of cultural faux pas, recounting her early experience working in the school’s cafeteria. “When I first saw the meat balls, I asked someone if we were feeding these to the dogs,” she laughs. Various foods in Australia have come as yet another revolution compared to the rice, stews and curries that are the staples of her native Nepal. Aruna believes the employment experience through Work & Welcome along with support she has received from client workers at MDA and from a volunteer through MDA’s Family Match program have all played an important role in her settlement and recovery from illness. “I have my voice again,” she said. ■ “I have my voice again”
  • 32. 6362 family-owned, Acacia Ridge business with a strong history of employing recently arrived migrants and refugees does so for a simple reason. It’s not philanthropy. Nor is it about trying to drive labour costs to the floor in a temperamental post-GFC retail market. “They’re just good workers.They learn quickly, and by- and-large, they’re just happy to put their heads down and get on with it,” said Shutterflex Managing Director, Peter Ryan. Shutterflex has been a local manufacturer of facades, shutters, louvers, and screens for both residential and commercial applications for more than thirty years. Husband and wife team Tracey Thompson and Peter Ryan have worked as owners and co-directors of the company since 2004. Not only did they inherit a fully-fledged business, but also a strong ethos around providing opportunities to new Australians, including several MDA clients in the last financial year. “The company worked with a number ofVietnamese workers during the nineties.There were challenges for some of the local Australian workers getting past their prejudices and fears, but the end result was very positive,” said Ms Thompson. Although the countries of origin of Australia’s refugee arrivals have shifted to other places in the world since then, the owners of Shutterflex see a parallel between the experiences of the company’s earlier owners, and their more recent experiences hiring MDA clients from countries in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. “The big thing is the resilience factor,” said Ms Thompson. “They are here to work and here to make a new start for themselves.They also do a great job looking out for each other,” she said. “They are really the best possible advertisement for themselves,” said Mr Ryan. ■ Positive attitudes a winning edge for employers and former refugees alike A Migrants and refugees enrich the Queensland economy with real jobs Every person in gainful employment is an asset to the wider Australian community who in turn reap the benefits of their work and contributions. In the last year, MDA’s Workforce Solutions team helped strengthen the Australian economy by supporting 250 of our job-seeking clients into real employment, an impact made sustainable in the long-term through the skills and knowledge shared with clients to set them up for a lifetime of independent career success. Clients are also supported during the early stages of their employment to support them to settle into their new working context. As per every year, the sustainability built into our engagement with job seekers are the keys to success.This year, we helped hundreds of migrants and refugees to: • get job-ready, writing hundreds of resumes and submitting countless job applications, • identify their strengths and transferable skills, • clarify their immediate and longer-term employment aspirations, • understand the Australian labour market and how to look and apply for work, and • learn about Australian workplace culture, employer expectations and employee rights and responsibilities. We also worked directly with employers to help them meet their staffing needs through a mix of one-off recruitment and building sustained partnerships in different locations through Brisbane, Southwest and Central Queensland. ■
  • 33. 6564 In the age of digital communication, the media is what we make it. Each and every day brings new opportunities for MDA to help steer the public narrative towards a version that not only embraces our cultural diversity, but that recognises how modern Australia, alongside our First Nations, is built on the back of a million-and-one journeys of those seeking better lives. Whether it’s through our social media channels, through our campaigns and publications, or through working closely with mainstream news journalists in delivering positive stories from our diverse communities, MDA’s media and communications work is promoting greater public recognition of the gifts our cultural diversity brings to Queensland and Australia. CHANGINGTHE CONVERSATION MDA strives to create a fair, balanced and robust community dialogue about our multiculturalism, and all the good it brings 64
  • 34. 6766 t goes without saying that racism has no place at MDA. It never has.We have been proud partners of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s RACISM. IT STOPS WITH ME campaign.This campaign has allowed us to continue conversations about racism in our society and given individuals the power to take a stand against it. Throughout the year, we delivered many initiatives to take the message to the community at events, festivals, sporting games and forums. Here are the highlights. • Our anti-racism video pledge activity at the World Refugee Day Community Festival in June saw over 250 people record 150 pledges. Many more engaged with the campaign throughout the day. • We partnered with AFL Queensland and players from the Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast Suns and Coolangatta Bluebirds to develop a RACISM. IT STOPS WITH ME video that was played at the Lions and Suns’ QClash during the AFL Multicultural Round. • The socially conscious students atVillanova College invited us to their Social Justice Fair in May and ran the pledge against racism activity, introducing these young minds to the campaign and the impact of racism in our community ■ RACISM. IT STOPS WITH US at MDA I
  • 35. 6968 edia reports sometimes frame refugees as a ‘drain’ on the Australian economy - but is there in fact robust evidence to support such claims? And if such claims are in fact merely myth, then why do they continue to circulate? MDA was proud to publish a research paper this year that removed this issue from the realm of speculation and conjecture, subjecting it instead to the rigor of empirical research. Produced by economist and social researcher, Dr Richard Parsons, the study (Assessing the Economic Contribution of Refugees in Australia) found that despite the many barriers to employment encountered by refugees during their settlement, there is no evidence that refugees impose a net economic cost to Australia in the long term. Parsons argues that the lack of evidence-based research on the economic contribution of refugees in Australia has allowed various myths to gain traction in the public sphere, influencing public debate and the actions of policy makers. This study provides policy makers, academics and the public with a new foundation for considering the benefits that refugees bring to the Australian community. Visit www.mdaltd.org.au to access the paper. ■ Research debunks myths surrounding refugees M Multiculturalism – the good, the bad, the funny! ometimes it feels the current state of public discourse about multiculturalism is no laughing matter. Unless, that is, you bring a bunch of Australia’s funniest and most loved comedians together in the same place with the brief to bring some much needed comic relief to the subject. That’s exactly what happened last September when the Brisbane Powerhouse played host to MDA’s provocatively-themed comedy debate - ‘Is multiculturalism ruining our country?’ The ‘pro’ team was lead by the altruistic, affable, amusing and adaptable Henry Stone, amply supported by the razor sharp comedic wit of Katrina Davidson, Desh and Mike van Acker. The second team also put forward the case for multiculturalism, but with ridiculously demanding, culturally insensitive caveats, lead by the ever-so- slightly more mean-minded yet boganly bountiful Steve Allison and supported by Jimmy Poulos, Fred Lang and Stav Davidson. The debate provided the last laugh (literally!) for Queensland Multicultural Week (QMW), bringing weeklong state-wide events and celebrations to a close. S MDA was proud to present two other events during the week, both hosted by the Queensland Multicultural Centre, Kangaroo Point.The hugely well-received ‘Film Fest’ invited culturally diverse people from across Brisbane to create and submit their own short films while the enthralling theatre production,‘I Am Here’, returned to the stage once more for two matinée and two evening performances. ■
  • 36. 7170 DA and friends enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience in November when one of Australia’s finest writers and living national treasures,Thomas Keneally graced the Brisbane Multicultural Centre (BMC) to launch his latest book, A CountryToo Far. Keneally first became an international household name in 1982 when he won the Man Booker Prize for Schindler’s Ark, which was later transformed by Steven Spielberg into the Hollywood movie blockbuster, Schindler’s List. Hundreds of book lovers attended the launch at the BMC where they relished the opportunity to meet Thomas Keneally, have their own copy of the book signed, and participate in a Q&A discussion with both Thomas and co-editor Rosie Scott. In the new book, Keneally along with Scott and a host of Australia’s leading writers, explore how throughout its history, the diverse journeys to Australia of people from all over the world is part of the Australian mindset and is deeply embedded in our culture and personal history. A CountryToo Far is a vivid anthology that brings together the minds and imaginations of some of Australia’s finest authors, casting a new light on the extremely difficult and often life-changing decisions made by people fleeing death, persecution, starvation or poverty to seek safety in Australia. ■ National literary treasure visits the BMC M
  • 37. 7372 he old saying goes that if a tree falls in the forest but no one is there to see or hear it fall, then did it really happen? Those of us lucky enough to work in this sector are all too aware of the many fantastic stories within our multicultural communities. And not just the stories about food and music, but also the amazing contribution new arrivals have and continue to make to our state. In some respects, many of these stories have been trees in lone forests; going unnoticed, unreported and uncelebrated by the whole community. When these stories are not part of the wider community’s dialogue about the benefits of multiculturalism, it means the conversation is not as fair, balanced and robust as it can be. Instead, it becomes dominated by negative, damaging and disruptive stories. Often, this means the public debate about migrant and refugee matters sometimes creates the impression that “we”, the Australian public, do not welcome migrants and refugees into our community. This is not our experience at MDA. But we are in a good position to see the full picture, witness the great stories and sometimes, help make them happen.We know the only way to get the wider community to see things in a new light is to change their perspective. Over the last two years, MDA has actively set out to help create this new perspective. Our communications work has one goal; to "change the conversation" in the wider community about cultural diversity in Queensland, and change it for the better. It is a big challenge and we are giving it a go. We have made investments in dedicated media and communication experts who enable us to drive our work in telling the alternative and more balanced story. From TV, radio, newspapers and news sites, we have had success in engaging the mainstream media to tell the stories of culturally diverse communities and promote a culture of welcome. We also work with the media to deliver diversity in the day to day stories they tell, ensuring stories about marriage, friendships, home ownership and high achievers include people that reflect Queensland’s diversity. Over two years, our Communications team has successfully delivered more than 60 positive print articles, over 30 radio stories and more than 10 different television news stories. Our engagement on social media has seen us become custodians of a growing and vibrant audience through Facebook and Twitter. These platforms allow us to directly create and drive the conversation with our online community. In two years, we have organically tripled our Facebook community to over 4,000 ‘friends’ who, through their networks, help us reach and engage with ➢ Communicating for change T 14,000 people a week. Beyond passive ‘likes’, our audience is active in the way they connect with us and each other on our social media platforms. The social marketing we do to bring our major events to the wider Queensland community is another way we are changing the conversation. Our focus on bringing new people - everyday Queenslanders - to experience the positive ways in which migrants and refugees are reinventing virtually every aspect of our social, commercial, creative, cultural and civic fabric. Our success in growing our LUMINOUS Lantern Parade audience from 5,000 to 12,000 over the last two years has given more people from all walks of life the opportunity to attend, enjoy and welcome new Queenslanders. Our proactive efforts have enabled us to build meaningful and positive relationships with news media outlets to identify, link with and produce stories about newly arrived Queenslanders. We are proud of this achievement and it has been pleasing to see the inroads we have made in changing the conversation over the two years. But we know we have only made a dent. We know there is much more to be done. And we know we can’t do it all on our own. And we haven’t been; there are many more in our sector who have and are continuing the work to #changetheconversation. There is room for more on this journey we have embarked on; taking the community to the forest to see the trees fall, get a different perspective, and hear their stories reverberate across Queensland. ■ #changetheconversation
  • 38. 7574 Whether it’s the beauty and palpable energy of our major events, or the many smaller community events and gatherings that celebrate our unity in diversity, or the enthusiasm of our community and corporate volunteers who embrace new Queenslanders in countless ways, MDA strives for a Queensland where our diversity is not only harmonious and productive, but is viewed as the very heart of community life and a source of pride for all. We see more and more the power that comes from community celebrations in places around Brisbane,Toowoomba and Rockhampton, with increasingly wider circles of the old and the new coming together in recognition of the strength and positivity our diversity brings. CELEBRATING COMMUNITY MDA creates opportunities for all Queenslanders to come together in celebration of our vibrant cultural diversity 74
  • 39. 7776 ibrant pockets of cultural diversity around greater Brisbane are now gaining recognition for their potential to attract visitors from all walks of life seeking a unique food and retail experience. With support from MDA's Community Engagement team, business owners in the vibrant melting pot of Moorooka have joined the likes of Sunnybank and Inala, opening their doors to say ‘Welcome’ to the wider community. Presented by MDA, driven by local businesses and supported by the Brisbane City Council, ‘Discover Moorooka’ events held in April and May invited Brisbane to experience African and Middle Eastern cultures through guided late night shopping tours, cultural entertainment, delicious food tastings and children’s activities. ‘Discover Moorooka’ followed on from the highly successful Moorooka Women in Business Walking Tours and Night Market Shopping Tour held in November and December last year, with the aim to promote Moorooka as a destination for shopping, food and a different cultural experience. The strip of small commercial premises that line Beaudesert Road in Moorooka had a thriving earlier history, but ran into trouble with the opening of large shopping centres across Brisbane during the 80s and 90s driving many of the local shops out of business. But when newly arrived African refugees started settling in the area around 2001, the many vacant shopfronts presented a perfect opportunity. African entrepreneurs were quick to step in and breathe new life into the neighbourhood through a diverse array of small business ventures that remain the commercial and social hub for African people Wider Brisbane discovers retail with a multicultural twist in Moorooka V right across greater Brisbane. The ‘Discover Moorooka’ events have helped foster a greater connection between local residents and Moorooka business owners, while encouraging locals to reap the benefits of their diverse and culturally rich business community. It was also a great way to help build the skills and confidence of business owners to receive and welcome customers from diverse cultural backgrounds, and offered a great platform for the largely refugee-led enterprises to strengthen and grow their businesses. ■ Vibrant festival a warm welcome to refugees ustralia’s largest refugee festival returned again with 17,000 gathering in Annerley for the sixth annual World Refugee Day Community Festival, presented by MDA and supported by the Brisbane City Council. World Refugee Day is celebrated around the world each year to recognise the place and importance of refugees on the world’s stage. This year’s festival brought together South-East Queensland’s diverse communities to promote understanding, harmony, respect and admiration for refugees. Woodford, Blues Fest, Port Fairy – they all have their particular unique atmosphere – but for sheer A raw physical and emotional energy and zest for life, there is nothing to compare to the palpable throb of the World Refugee Day Community Festival with this year no exception. Featuring food, entertainment, activities, sports competitions, live cooking demos, and opening with a Citizenship Ceremony, the day also offered plenty of opportunities for festival- goers to get footloose and shake their tail feathers. The ‘Global Spin’ tent pumped out electric, pulsating grooves of live dance music performances and DJ'ing drawn from diverse cultures around the world throughout the day. Above all, the festival offered a unique opportunity for people from Brisbane's broader community to experience first-hand the unique contributions that former refugees are making to virtually every aspect of our cultural, creative, sporting, economic and civic fabric here in Brisbane and Queensland. The large numbers of people from non multicultural communities attending this year was a particular highlight, and came as another sign of the overwhelming public support that exists for refugees and asylum seekers in the wider community. The festival was part of World Refugee Week celebrations, with support from Football Queensland and TAFE Queensland English Language and Literacy Services. ■
  • 40. 7978 March this year marked a special milestone as MDA’s CEO, Kerrin Benson celebrated the 10th anniversary of her commencement with MDA. A surprise party was organised to honour the occasion, with MDA staff and Board members, Community Leaders, stakeholders, partners,VIPs and well-wishers all gathered in the Brisbane Multicultural Centre for one purpose – to commemorate a decade of remarkable achievement in which we have all had a part to play. In sharing some of her reflections on ten years in the making, Kerrin is quick to praise the legacy she first inherited. “I guess my first thought on starting is that I was really lucky, because it was an organisation that had experienced a lot of growth, but was clearly very committed, very passionate about its work, well organised, well managed and I think also highly respected for the work it was doing,” said Kerrin. With 17 staff on board when she started, Kerrin has clearly overseen a lot of organisational growth herself, but refers to a strong alignment between her own personal values and practice frameworks, and those already embedded in MDA ten years ago.These, she says, have remained a constant feature over the last decade. Kerrin acknowledges the dynamic nature of working in fluid tendering and policy environments as ongoing challenges, but believes that the capacity to thrive in the throes of chaos have become true MDA hallmarks. “Individually and collectively, we have really good skills at working in a dynamic environment. It’s become part of who we are.” Honing in on particular highlights, Kerrin rates the decision to commence working with asylum seekers as the ultimate - particularly as the impacts of long-term detention on the mental health of protection visa holders became increasingly distressing to witness. She says that ‘stepping up’ was the only possible moral decision, but adds that it was “a big ➢ 10 years of inspired leadership 14 organisational shift for us, and a very big gear up in only a short amount of time." “The terror and the gift of resumption” then surfaces as Kerrin recounts the initial shock of learning that MDA’s former main office in South Brisbane would be resumed at short notice to make way for major extensions to the Mater Hospital. “That was kind of terrifying, but again I think indicative of who we are, that we refused to allow ourselves to become paralysed by the situation and instead turned our attention to where the opportunities are. Eventually we were able to work with the Brisbane City Council and QPSATT with the compensation from the resumption to get this great base in the Brisbane Multicultural Centre. It was terrific work to do, and came from a big dream that I think many thought was impossible, but we worked hard to make it happen. It took a lot of acts of faith to get us here.” Kerrin mentions the growth of the annual Lantern Parade, now ‘LUMINOUS’, as the other major personal highlight of the past decade. “It was this little idea that we had which seems to have struck a chord in people's hearts and minds.We started with 50 people six years ago, with police estimates of 12,000 people there this year,” she said. “For me, it has been a really centering public symbol each year that the people of Queensland support the work we are doing.” “I really love this work. I’m really just pleased every day to be working with people who share the same values. And I’m keen to leave the world a better place…not that I’m planning to leave any time soon!” ■
  • 41. 8180 It’s the beauty and palpable energy of our major events, and the many smaller community events and gatherings that celebrate our unity in diversity It's the enthusiasm of our community and corporate volunteers who embrace new Queenslanders In countless ways, MDA strives for a Queensland where our diversity is not only harmonious and productive, but instead, viewed as the very heart of community life and a source of pride for all
  • 42. 8382 Queensland is a place of rich and varied opportunities for all.Whether it’s the opportunity to work and earn a living, or the opportunity to take a meaningful part in Queensland’s diverse and vibrant community life, MDA plays an active role in connecting the goodwill, talents and energies of Queenslanders to help unleash the contributions our newcomers have to share. We have seen in recent years how the mobility and motivation of our newcomers can reinvigorate regional economies and communities, just as our own recruitment of staff and volunteers continues to highlight the benefits of Queensland’s diversity. SHARING OPPORTUNITIES Every person can be both a source and beneficiary of opportunity, knowledge and compassion 82
  • 43. 8584 n innovative new program is allowing motivated and hard- working MDA clients the opportunity to ‘give back’ to the Queensland community that has offered them safety and a new start at life. The desire to live a productive and fruitful life is an indomitable part of the human spirit, but for asylum seekers living in the community without work rights, finding ways to fulfill this need was posing a formidable challenge. MDA has responded, partnering with a host of charity organisations in real need of hands-on support, and in turn creating new opportunities for a large pool of client volunteers to make a difference. Many of our clients are now volunteering their talents and skills across Brisbane and our regions.They are hard-working, eager to make community connections and learn new skills. Client case managers are now noticing real improvements in the wellbeing and outlook of clients who are taking part in volunteering opportunities. There have been significant regional partnerships resulting in client placements including DownsSteam and Forest Park Rangers. To date, our Brisbane client volunteers have donated their time and energy to the following: • Helping Hands • Salvation Army • StVincent de Paul • Creek Road Church • St Paul's College • Milpera State High School • Southern Cross Tigers Basketball Club • Nundah Activities Centre • ConservationVolunteers Australia • Annerley Bookshop • QLD Maritime Museum • Eastern Food Alliance • Samford Land Share • QE II Hospital • Junction Park State School • MacGregor State School • State Library of Queensland • Sunnybank State School • Dress for Success • Cannon Hill State School • Kenmore State School ■ MDA clients give back through community volunteering A Light of human spirit shines on through eelings of gratitude and the drive to reciprocate through positive actions are among the most special of human traits. It’s all the more remarkable though to see these same values sum up the men, women and children that MDA supported through our work with asylum seekers during 2013-14. F Client workers support this group through the practical steps of adjusting to life in Queensland while lending emotional support around the complexities and ongoing uncertainty that defines their situation. But the most powerful part of this work has come from simply listening to their immediate aspirations which can be summed up in a few short words – to ‘get involved’ and ‘take part’. MDA has supported these aspirations over the last year by sharing opportunities through our ClientVolunteering Program along with other structured activities that allow clients to make progress towards other personal goals during a time where they have little control over the bigger picture. ■ “We had a couple of clients who were just beaming at being able to reciprocate.Volunteering is giving them the sense of being able to ‘give something’ by being able to return some of what’s been given to them by Australia.That’s stuff they talk about.” Jason Spierings, MDATeam Leader
  • 44. 8786 he volunteering efforts of MDA clients are helping revive an important part of Toowoomba’s past. Perched aloft the Great Dividing Range around 100km due west of Brisbane,Toowoomba is crisscrossed by a series of trade routes connecting towns in western, central and northern Queensland with hubs in New South Wales andVictoria to the south and Brisbane to the east. Nowadays, enormous trucking rigs do much of the heavy lifting, but in erstwhile times the mighty steam locomotive was the true hero, with part of Toowoomba’s identity something akin to the proverbial ‘railway town’. DownsSteam is a community- based organisation in Toowoomba dedicated to keeping this part of the region’s history alive, and relies on the enthusiasm of volunteers to help restore defunct steam trains to their former glory. Helping to preserve an important part of Toowoomba’s history T MDA’s client volunteers in the region are playing a key part in making this happen, says MDA Toowoomba Employment Advisor, Eddy Iles. “Our approach to connecting volunteers with DownsSteam has been a bit different to other volunteering partnerships where we’ve actively pitched opportunities to clients who we think will fit in closely based on their existing skills and needs,” said Eddy. “One of the shining lights we sent there was a guy who had painting experience and was just really unstimulated sitting around doing nothing. He was able to fit in instantly. He knew about the work, knew what to do, and was able to become an asset really fast. He’s formed really good relationships with pretty much every volunteer there. He wears the uniform, his co-workers pick him up and take him home each day - he is ➢ well and truly part of the team,” he said. The art of train restoration draws on a wide variety of skill sets and Eddy says the existing skills of the client volunteer pool offer tremendous opportunities for DownsSteam and other partnering organisations in the region. “They have a long-term goal to develop a tourist railway through the Southern Downs... Part of the program will be to build a whole new railway system on which they can run their trains,” said Eddy. “The problem is that most of the volunteers are elderly and retired. By introducing some of our younger men, they’re building up a muscle pool. Once they get around to building the railway line, there’s a great opportunity for a lot more of our clients to take part,” he said. ■ Connecting communities with opportunities to shine ach and every year, our culturally diverse communities forge new aspirations around celebrating their cultures and achievements with the wider community. Meanwhile, grant funding opportunities exist to help bring these dreams to reality. MDA exists to connect the dots.Through a combination of information sessions and hands-on support, MDA’s Grants Access program worker supports our culturally diverse communities to find the right grant at the right time and to prepare the right application to help transform these aspirations to reality. One of many success stories this year was supporting the Bundaberg Filipino community to access funding to help celebrate the 116th Philippine Independence Day celebrations and the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Bundaberg District Australian Filipino Association Inc. BDAFAI has been providing social support and settlement assistance to migrants from the Philippines and their families for three decades. The event was open to all Queenslanders in the Bundaberg region. ■ E PhotocourtesyofDownsSteamwebsite