2020 Multicultural Awards for Excellence recipients

In 2020, 71 Victorians were recognised from more than 450 nominations across 15 categories, highlighting the passionate work of individuals and organisations that are strengthening multiculturalism.

The Victorian Multicultural Awards for Excellence honour outstanding individuals and organisations that foster cross-cultural understanding, support migrants and refugees, and celebrate and preserve the diversity of cultures that make Victoria such a great place to live.

  • This award recognises people and organisations that promote or improve access for multicultural communities to the justice system, support or advocate for multicultural communities to address systemic issues within the justice system or promote diversity and inclusion in the legal sector.


    Dr Stephane Shepherd

    Dr Shepherd has developed an international body of research on cross-cultural issues at the intersection of psychology and the Australian criminal justice system. Dr Shepherd explores the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse individuals in the justice system through a variety of novel approaches and working experiences with multicultural communities and people in custody. His contributions have encouraged researchers and practitioners to ensure that their methods are culturally fair, relevant and non-discriminatory. Dr Shepherd’s research has made a direct contribution to royal commissions, inquiries and reviews related to justice in multiple states and the Commonwealth.

    Highly Commended

    Joanna Abraham

    Joanna Abraham is a refugee and immigration lawyer at Victoria Legal Aid.  Her passion for advocacy and migration law was born out of a recognition that individuals, families and communities are at the heart of the often complex system of immigration law. The Migration Program at Victoria Legal Aid provides legal representation for people from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds, minors, and those facing homelessness and experiencing mental health issues. The program provides a telephone advice service, triage, referrals and support. Joanna advocates for reform of systemic barriers within the legal system that impact on fairness and legal rights.

  • This award recognises people and organisations that develop and implement sporting programs that aim to build social cohesion and harmony across communities.


    Centre for Multicultural Youth and Football Victoria 

    Welcome Football is led by Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY) in partnership with Football Victoria. The isolation experienced by young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds can have a devastating impact on their mental health. The program uses the universal language of football to engage young people from diverse backgrounds and build bridges to the local community. The program delivers in-school, after-school, weekend and school holiday programs. In addition to regular weekly sessions the program has delivered community events and tournaments in partnership with local councils and sporting clubs. With the support of Football Victoria, Welcome Football recruited Community Champions - young people who undertake leadership, project management training, coaching and refereeing courses. The opportunity to gain leadership skills, practical employment skills and pathways into employment in the sports sector, are key elements of the program. These young leaders then volunteer their time to co-facilitate the program alongside CMY staff.

    Highly Commended

    Doveton Football Netball Club

    Doveton Football Netball Club have encouraged multicultural communities to break down barriers and to learn about new cultures by participating in sport. They have welcomed new players from all backgrounds to play sport and connect with each other. The club provides an opportunity for newly arrived migrants to build networks within the community.

    Chris Hatzistavrou

    Chris has been at the forefront of an inclusion program at the Sunshine Heights Cricket Club and has volunteered his time over the last 40 years to mentor young people from multicultural backgrounds. Chris provides leadership and support to vulnerable,  culturally and linguistically diverse young people, to ensure they can participate in sport. He provided opportunities to connect with new friends and mentors in a safe, healthy atmosphere by encouraging participation in cricketing activities at the Sunshine Heights Cricket Club. Chris has been instrumental in supporting these young people financially, socially and emotionally as they make connections in their new community.

  • This award recognises the outstanding contributions of a young person, group or organisation that provides leadership, empowerment and support to young Victorians from culturally diverse backgrounds.


    Sarah Ghassali

    Sarah Ghassali is a 19-year-old Syrian migrant who fled Aleppo, Syria with her family to Melbourne in May of 2012. Sarah established the youth-led podcast Refugees On Air at the age of 16 with her twin sister Maya as a platform to raise awareness and bring a voice to refugee and migrant stories in the Melbourne community.

    The migrant, asylum seeker and refugee communities of Melbourne have benefited greatly from having access to a platform like Refugees On Air to share their stories and shift narratives around refugees. Refugees On Air sheds light on the stories and journeys of people seeking refuge from conflict, but also promotes the positive experiences that refugees and asylum seekers have to share. By challenging perceptions and stereotypes that surround refugees and asylum seekers, Sarah hopes that her work will benefit those who have come to Australia by amplifying their voices and inspiring stories of hardship and success to the wider community.

    Highly Commended

    Aayushi Khillan

    Aayushi Khillan is the student representative on the board of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. Aayushi is passionate about supporting students from all backgrounds. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic she advocated for greater mental health support and increased consideration for isolated communities who lacked access to online learning. She also directly reached out to the South Asian community in radio interviews to discuss the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the education system and provided advice on how migrant parents can support their children during the pandemic. Aayushi is passionate about education and provides free tutoring to multicultural students in Victoria to support them to thrive. 

    Swathi Shanmukhasundaram

    Swathi Shanmukhasundaram is a strong advocate for young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. As part of the Youth Advisory Group at the Centre for Multicultural Youth, Swathi helped develop the ‘Reverb’ program, a co-design project with young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, which addresses the stigma surrounding mental health.  Swathi volunteers her time mentoring other young volunteers in the program, participates on the Reverb Steering Committee and is instrumental in the project delivery. Swathi uses her expertise and lived experience as well as her extensive knowledge, understanding and research of the issues to make positive and lasting change.

  • This award recognises government bodies for major initiatives that meet the needs of their culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse communities.


    Greater Shepparton City Council

    Greater Shepparton City Council Early Years team supports culturally and linguistically diverse families in the community to overcome language barriers and understand the benefits of early learning programs. The Early Years team provides holistic service to multicultural families, including access to translated resources, bilingual support and interpreters where required. The team works with new arrivals and settled communities to identify innovative ways to distribute information, establish or enhance referral pathways and improve service linkages and connections. This ensures that as many families as possible know about early years services, have  information available in their own language and are supported to access early years services. 

    Highly Commended

    Brimbank City Council

    Brimbank Council Neighbourhood House provides families with culturally safe programs for keeping children engaged with education and staying mentally healthy. It provides opportunities for young people to contribute and support others within their communities. Brimbank City Council’s Neighbourhood House programs encouraged young people in local communities to continue with their education during the challenges of remote learning and physical disconnection throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. 

  • The award recognises projects or programs that have been established in the last 18 months that use outside-the-box thinking to address a problem facing a diverse community or that shares knowledge about a culture with a wider audience.


    Dr Michael Akindeju

    Dr Michael Akindeju is a proud Victorian and a proud African Australian. He helps others in his community (African and non-African) to embrace their identity, enhance their self-esteem and work through challenges and barriers to realise their potential and full economic participation. Dr Akindeju is involved in many multicultural organisations in Ballarat, including the Multicultural Business Ministerial Council, Regional Advisory Council and Ballarat African Association. Under his leadership the Ballarat African Association embarked on a ‘Re-Branding African Australian Identity’ Project, which transformed the association into one that other associations look to as a model. Dr Akindeju also helps mature age students to navigate the challenges of returning to study, guiding them to develop their written and verbal skills, and effective study skills. 

    Tim Lo Surdo

    Tim Lo Surdo is the founder and National Director of Democracy in Colour, Australia’s first racial and economic justice organisation led by people of colour. Democracy in Colour delivers programs that tackle structural racism, empowers people of colour to shape the critical issues that affect their lives, and builds leadership capacity in multicultural communities. In two years Tim has built an organisation with more than 50 campaigners of colour and 57,000+ members working for racial and economic justice. Democracy in Colour has led campaigns on anti-racism, marriage equality, multicultural LGBTIQ issues and more, engaging tens of thousands of people and fostering acceptance among different cultural groups. Over the past 18 months Tim launched first-of-their-kind leadership fellowships at Democracy in Colour for more than 260 people of colour. Democracy in Colour has also delivered anti-racism and bystander intervention training attended by over 2,100 non-CALD allies.

    U3A Myrtleford and District

    The U3A Myrtleford and District has documented more than 150 years of Italian migration to Myrtleford in its successful book ‘For a Better Life’. The project began as a way to reach out to and expand social participation for socially isolated older people in the community. The community responded enthusiastically, and interest in telling migration stories rapidly expanded. The book documents the history of 29 local families. It is a thoughtful, lesson-filled, inspiring and respectful narrative. Strong friendships developed both within the volunteer project team and with the families featured in the book. The book was very well received, and 500 copies have been sold with only minimal promotion. 

    Highly Commended

    Rotary Club of Canterbury & M.A.T.E.S for Change

    The Rotary Club of Canterbury (RCC) and M.A.T.E.S for Change are pioneering a pathway for multicultural youth engagement within the non-profit and social service sector through an innovative project, FORaMEAL.  In 2020 the FORaMEAL project has provided over 143,000 meals to vulnerable individuals and families, many of whom are from multicultural backgrounds. The FORaMEAL packs were designed and ormulated to provide a balanced and nutritious meal.  Each pack provides a meal for five to six people and is Halal, Kosher and vegan compliant. Over 3,000 volunteer hours have gone into fundraising, packing, distributing and managing the project so far. The opportunity to engage, mentor and upskill a sizeable volunteer core means that the RCC and M.A.T.E.S partnership is building human capacity and social awareness among the next generation of leaders.

    Project Respect

    Project Respect provides support for women caught up in traficking. With data indicating a significant rise in recent years of women from Chinese backgrounds in the sex industry, Project Respect employed a Mandarin speaking worker and in June 2019 commenced outreach in licensed brothels to women from Chinese backgrounds.  Support and information included translated resources, use of WeChat, WhatsApp and QR codes to direct women to translated resources on the Project Respect website, and a friendly and knowledgeable person to contact when seeking referrals to safe and non-stigmatising services.  Project Respect built partnerships with other agencies supporting the Chinese community, and shared information to build the capacity of the other organisation as well as their own.  

    Nelson Xavier Kizhakkekunnil Sandhiyave

    Nelson’s unceasing enthusiasm in serving the Ballarat community is a motivation and model for the younger generation.  Nelson has volunteered in the community ever since he arrived in Ballarat with his family.  He has cooked and served a variety of tasty Indian (Kerala) dishes free for the vulnerable community of the Ballarat region. He has been an active member in many of the food festivals conducted by different Indian associations in Ballarat and is a member of the Ballarat Keralites Foundation of Australia.  Using donated funds, Nelson buys around 20 kilograms of fruit and delivers it every week to children at Alfredton Primary school. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Nelson took leave from work, a day in every month, to cook for the Ballarat Soup Bus for the homeless and vulnerable community of Ballarat. When people were struggling to get masks, Nelson and his wife made nearly 230 reusable masks and distributed them free of charge among the homeless and disadvantaged.

  • This award recognises outstanding reporting of issues of importance to diverse communities and reporting that contributes to Victorians’ improved cross-cultural understanding.


    Stephanie Corsetti

    Journalist Stephanie Corsetti is dedicated to giving multicultural communities a voice in media. Her work relays the experience and explores the stigma of family violence in culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Stephanie chooses appropriate words and descriptions to convey the complexity and severity of Australia’s family violence crisis to a multicultural audience. She uses storytelling to raise awareness about the challenges faced by victims of family violence and interpreters in the justice system. Stephanie is passionate about multiculturalism, mental health and family violence, and her reporting shines an important spotlight on ways the system could better address the needs of multicultural communities.

    National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters Council

    On 1 May 2020 the NEMBC launched a Multilingual Radio News Service in seven languages: Spanish, Greek, Hindi, Arabic, Punjabi, Pacific Islander English and Mandarin. News editors collected and provided news scripts at 8.00am every morning, which were translated and produced as audio files for the morning and daily news. 

    Within two months the news was being distributed in metropolitan Melbourne, regional Victoria and beyond, from 29 stations. The NEMBC also established a radio player on their website to replay the radio programs. When the second wave of coronavirus (COVID-19) occurred  the Victorian Government provided funding to expand the new service to 22 languages. When the heightened restrictions were implemented for residents in the public housing highrises, the NEMBC partnered with the Federation of Community Legal Centres to record podcasts of critical information translated into 18 languages and distributed them to nine highrises via email, WhatsApp and SMS.

    Highly Commended

    Olivier Nzovu

    Filmmaker Olivier Nzovu arrived in Wodonga from a Congolese refugee background two years ago. He has since worked hard to draw attention to local multicultural communities and give voice to newly arrived and established culturally and linguistically diverse individuals and communities in regional Victoria.  Olivier has been the director, editor, photographer, camera operator and sound editor for several film projects, and worked tirelessly with interpreters to ensure his films are accessible to non-English and English speaking communities. His recent short film for Refugee Week helped to increase social cohesion between the mainstream community living in Wodonga and emerging CALD communities from refugee backgrounds. 

    SBS Radio

    SBS Radio is the world’s most linguistically diverse public broadcasting service. SBS provides Australian news and information in 68 languages on radio, online, via digital television and on social media. When coronavirus (COVID-19) began impacting Australia in March 2020 the SBS Content and Digital teams launched the SBS Multilingual Coronavirus Portal, comprising a website, video content, infographics and more, to promote the ‘stay the home’ message, dispel myths and deepen community understanding of issues related to COVID-19 and public health. The portal curates all coronavirus (COVID-19) content in one location, links to daily news and is updated regularly as the situation changes across Australia.  


  • The award recognises artists, performers and organisations that develop and implement arts programs or initiatives that aim to improve intercultural learning or social cohesion through participation and performance.


    Aseel Tayah

    Aseel Tayah is an installation artist and curator who has worked tirelessly since her arrival in Melbourne in 2016 to give a platform to refugee and asylum seeker stories through her signature project Bukjeh. Aseel is the artistic director and co-producer of Bukjeh, as well as a featured artist. In 2020, when coronavirus (COVID-19) disrupted major Bukjeh projects in the Cities of Whittlesea, Kingston and Darebin, Aseel quickly pivoted to presenting 14 digital workshops, panels, and performances across Refugee Week, engaging more than 20,000 people online. Bukjeh has foregrounded the experience of refugee and asylum seeker stories within the arts establishment, demonstrating their diversity, richness and power to move. Victoria’s mainstream cultural sector has benefitted from Aseel’s insight, honest reflection and advocacy. Aseel is a trusted and sought-after advisor and a fearless agitator for change at the highest levels of our cultural agencies and institutions.

    Highly Commended

    Te Pasifika Redevelop team and Immigration Museum team, Museums Victoria

    The Te Pasifika Redevelopment and Immigration Museum teams in Museums Victoria have collaborated with Pasifika artists, performers, advocates and communities to deepen understanding of Pasifika communities and culture through a range of incredible events. Together, the travelling exhibition Tatau: Marks of Polynesia, Marks of Mana film screening, and performances Salon X and Pacific Essence: Tales of a Migrant Plantation attracted attendance from Pasifika community looking for opportunities to engage with their culture, and for non-Pasifika attendees to gain an understanding of Pasifika culture. Through this series of events the two teams have promoted and supported cultural expression and social cohesion, and showcased the talents of Pasifika artists, performers and creatives.   

    Amal Abou-Eid

    Amal Abou-Eid has written and published two children’s books about her culture and faith. ‘My Muslim Mate’ and ‘Why Does Mum Wear A Hijab’ have been used in multiple education settings to promote the importance of celebrating diversity and accepting differences. Both books discuss aspects of Islam that are often misunderstood and misrepresented. Amal’s books encourage people to tap into their own identities and narratives. They empower people to believe in the value of their own voice and strive to make it heard. Amal believes that when people see themselves in the stories they read, they feel validated, empowered and uplifted. They feel part of the multicultural community.

  • This award recognises early childhood services, schools, vocational education and training settings and not-for-profit organisations that deliver outstanding learning and teaching programs that enhance the social inclusion, wellbeing and education outcomes for students from CALD communities.

    Winner – Early Childhood

    Merri Health, Ready Set Prep!

    Coordinated by Merri Health, Ready, Set, Prep! is a place-based, collective impact initiative that aims to improve early childhood development and school readiness for pre-school children and their families. Originating in the suburb of Fawkner, the project is currently scaling up across northern Moreland.  

    In June 2020 Ready, Set, Prep! released the 'Transition to Primary School' resources to support local migrant families to navigate the Victorian early childhood and education systems and answer some of the common questions that families have about early childhood services, kindergarten and starting school. These resources include a series of six short videos and a ‘Journey to Primary School’ poster that has been translated into six community languages. The resources were co-designed with over 200 stakeholders including a large number of community members. Since their release they have reached over 13,500 people. 

    The positive impact of Ready Set Prep! has been highlighted by Australian Early Development Census results, which show that the number of children starting school who are developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains has decreased during the four years that the initiative has undertaken collective action in Fawkner. 

    Highly Commended – Early Childhood

    ECMS, Tarneit Central Kindergarten

    The Tarneit Central Kindergarten’s Bilingual Early Childhood Language Program provides children with the opportunity to learn in Punjabi.  About a third of families with children attending the kindergarten speak Punjabi as either a first or second language. The program has provided these children with a platform and empowered them to share their language and culture with their peers and educators. Educators have observed that the children have become more connected with one another and more willing to share aspects of their own culture through the program. 

    Tarneit Central Kindergarten’s Bilingual Early Childhood Language Program has a broader positive impact for families. Families can discuss barriers to participating in kindergarten with the bilingual teachers, for example, difficulties with transport or work demands. The teachers have been able to find solutions for the families, for example, linking families with one another, or linking families to daycare.  

    Winner – School Education

    Sacred Heart Primary School, Fitzroy

    Throughout 2020 the dedicated teachers at Sacred Heart School in Fitzroy have demonstrated innovation, creativity and responsiveness to support their students and families from culturally diverse backgrounds. 

    The school’s proactive approach to learning and family engagement throughout 2020 has helped students at Sacred Heart to stay connected and engaged, leading to a near perfect attendance rate throughout the remote learning period.

    During remote learning, the school embarked upon a program of online face-to-face teaching of every student every day. Staff responded to many challenges with a range of practical and creative responses, including sourcing and distributing devices, helping families with internet access, conducting regular community briefing sessions via interpreters to support parents, and facilitating access to health and wellbeing supports.

    Staff also came up with creative ideas, including a new ‘curl up with a book’ initiative in which staff and volunteers shared a story online each night. This sort of innovation strengthened the school’s engagement and connections with families that will continue well beyond the pandemic.

    Highly Commended – School Education

    B'nai B'rith Courage to Care Victoria

    B’nai B’rith Courage to Care is an innovative and impactful upstander program.

    Due to celebrate its 30th birthday in 2022, the Courage to Care program, which has reached over 142,000 students since 2000, teaches school students through regional exhibitions and facilitated incursions about the actions of courageous individuals who acted to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust. The program also enables students to explore a range of stories to highlight the upstander actions of many individuals, including local heroes such as William Cooper – an Aboriginal leader and upstander against the Holocaust. 

    The Courage to Care message, which is as relevant today as ever, creates a model of moral and ethical behaviour to inspire young people about the importance of standing up to prejudice, racism,  bullying and all forms of discrimination, and to challenge their own prejudices.

    Highly Commended – School Education

    Hampton Park Secondary College

    The team of Multicultural Education Aides delivering the Multicultural Support Program at Hampton Park Secondary College have demonstrated the college vision to be ‘rich in diversity and wholehearted in pursuit of excellence’ through their unwavering commitment to their students.  

    The MEA team, which speaks 10 different languages, supports the engagement, wellbeing and learning outcomes of Hampton Park students, many of whom are from disadvantaged, migrant and refugee backgrounds.

    The MEA team provides extensive one-on-one in-classroom and small group tutoring and after-school learning to hundreds of students.

    The program provides recreational opportunities, excursions, cultural events and celebrations for students, including Lunar New Year, henna workshops and an annual Eid celebration. It also provides a range of wellbeing and settlement supports, such as interpreting support during enrolment and parent/teacher interviews.

    The team has worked hard to create a truly welcoming and multicultural school community, enabling students to achieve  their best and parents to be involved and engaged in school activities.

    Winner – Vocational Education and Training accredited training

    Victoria University Polytechnic – Youth Program, Western Melbourne English Program

    The Victoria University Polytechnic English as an Additional Language Youth Program provides young people from migrant and refugee communities with access to education and  the opportunity to develop their skills for future employment. 

    The Youth Program has created a truly unique learning experience that integrates community participation, social connection, personal development, and career pathways through exposure to numerous partnerships with external organisations that support settlement outcomes. Delivered by a team of dedicated and experienced youth specialist teachers, the program improves English language and literacy and provides opportunities for personal development, connection, and cultivation of lifelong social and communication skills.

    The Youth Program exposes students to Australian culture via course content and activities that help them overcome settlement challenges including social isolation, housing, health and safety, enabling them to successfully embark on fulfilling careers in Australia. The program also incorporates activities that promote inclusion and development including a range of sports, water safety, driving programs and health and wellbeing. Participants improve their confidence, enhance academic achievements and improve prospects for employment. 

    Winner – Vocational Education and Training pre-accredited community-based training

    Banksia Garden Community Services

    Banksia Gardens Community Services (BGCS) provides essential services and programs to 80,500 CALD participants annually within the Hume City Council community. Their 43 programs and services include pathways to work, English skills programs, IT, arts and craft, and health and fitness.  BGCS provides opportunities for individuals who are experiencing disadvantage and poverty with a focus on social justice and advocacy. Their programs help hundreds of CALD participants to strengthen their links to the community, participate in work, learning and volunteering, improve their communication skills and enhance their quality of life. 

    In order to adapt to coronavirus (COVID-19), BGCS expanded their services to allow their participants to remain connected to learning and provide vital support to the community. They transitioned to an online learning platform by providing most participants with refurbished laptops, with many on loan to those who could not afford one, enabling participants to remain engaged in their programs and services. 

    As a result of this transition to online learning, the tutors and facilitators at BGCS have been able to further develop the digital literacy skills and EAL skills of the participants, which in turn has resulted in the improved mental health of participants, and an overall sense of community. 

  • These awards recognise outstanding contributions to multicultural harmony in the field of policing.

    Police Annual Multicultural Award

    Sergeant Damian Lehmann

    Sergeant Damian Lehmann focussed his attention on a suicide cluster of South Asian women in the Whittlesea area in early 2018 and 2019, working with community-led Crossroads to Community Wellbeing to reduce social isolation and to provide support to South Asian women. Sergeant Lehmann has displayed leadership, dedication and commitment to helping women from this cohort to be safer.  

    Leading Senior Constable Nektarios Parissis

    For the past 23 years Leading Senior Constable Nick Parissis has devoted his police career to community engagement in the inner north and north-western Melbourne, particularly with Horn of Africa communities. In early July 2020 during heightened restrictions at the Flemington and North Melbourne public housing highrises he facilitated dialogue between residents and Victoria Police. Leading Senior Constable Parissis visits terminally ill children at the Royal Children’s Hospital and he has engaged with international students at Melbourne University and RMIT University.

    Ansam Sadik

    Ansam Sadik arrived in Australia as a refugee from Iraq in 2002. In 2011 she became a New and Emerging Communities Liaison Officer operating out of Northcote Police Station, and has worked with the Australian Multicultural Education Services. She has exercised her influence through membership of many community organisations, especially with Islamic, Horn of Africa and interfaith groups, helped considerably by her proficiency in Arabic. The breadth of her influence and commitment is reflected in her membership on 15 committees, and she is involved in an impressive and wide-ranging number of initiatives.

    Leading Senior Constable Diana Quick

    ‘Community Encounters’ is a highlight of training at the Victoria Police Academy for many recruits. Community Encounters is a community oriented education program auspiced by the Centre for Professional Policing.  This unique volunteer program provides an opportunity for members of Victoria’s diverse communities to directly engage with future members of Victoria Police. The program’s success is in large part due to Leading Senior Constable Diana Quick, who has ensured that Community Encounters has endured and flourished for over a decade. Through this program Leading Senior Constable Quick has had an immeasurably positive influence on multicultural excellence in policing services.

    Acting Sergeant Greg Garrisson

    Acting Sergeant Greg Garrisson is a vivid example of proactive policing thanks to his work with newly arrived refugee and humanitarian groups in eastern metropolitan Melbourne. His work includes organising tours of police stations for refugee young people, African and Islamic youth leadership programs, youth soccer programs, safety presentations to international students, and work with local interfaith programs. His open, approachable and professional interactions with young people from African family backgrounds have helped break down barriers and increased understanding between young people and police.

    Senior Constable Sara Coe

    Senior Constable Sara Coe works in the Eastern metropolitan region improving relationships between police and multicultural communities. She works with Chinese and other Asian communities to encourage them to report crime. She has worked with victims of robberies and done security audits to build up these relationships. She has played a leading role in local ‘Say No to Racism’ initiatives. And she participates in multicultural community festivals and gives presentations to international students at Monash University.

    Acting Senior Sergeant Rowan Epstein

    Acting Senior Sergeant Rowan Epstein has given much attention and time to working with the Jewish community from his base at the Camberwell police station. He established and now chairs the Victorian Police Jewish Network, which maintains the identity and esprit de corps of Jewish members of Victoria Police as well as articulating the concerns of the Jewish community. He meets regularly with Jewish community leaders and synagogue management groups and works closely with the Jewish Community Security Group. He has been an excellent advocate for and a bridge with the Jewish community. 

    Senior Sergeant Andrew Gardner

    Senior Sergeant Andrew Gardner has been with the Priority Communities Division since 2017 and has been deeply involved in the African Community Taskforce and the implementation of its Action Plan. He has made a significant contribution to positive justice outcomes for African Victorians during a period of heightened societal concern. Senior Sergeant Gardner has also worked with the Islamic Council of Victoria on its Islamophobia project. He has undertaken many speaking engagements to present ‘Racism: Understanding Your Rights’, including to lawyers’ groups.  

    Leading Senior Constable Ash Dixit

    Leading Senior Constable Ash Dixit has done valuable police liaison work with Punjabi and Sikh community groups in the Cities of Hume and Whittlesea to address family violence.  Senior Constable Dixit works across numerous multicultural communities and has been described as a true multicultural champion by community and police alike for his steadfast dedication to ensuring that Victoria remains a safe place to live for those newly arrived persons who seek to call Australia home.

    Police Multicultural Media Award

    Senior Constable Kim Gammon and Senior Constable Travis Ellams

    Senior Constable Kim Gammon and Senior Constable Travis Ellams identified barriers to safety for multicultural communities and used social media to address these. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Senior Constables Gammon and Ellis consulted a literacy expert and produced 19 videos to address home-schooling issues. The videos showed police officers reading stories about different cultures. The videos were shared across Victoria Police’s Dandenong, Cardinia and Casey Eyewatch pages. The initiative was widely praised by local educators and the local multicultural communities. 

    Police Community Exemplary Award

    Chuol Puot

    Chuol Puot works closely with Victoria Police through his role as Community Engagement Officer at the Department of Justice and Community Safety. He provides advice, consultation and guidance to Victoria Police to strengthen the relationship between police and African young people and to build social cohesion. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic he worked with the Dandenong Police Station to increase testing rates among African Australian members of the Youth Offender Network. Chuol has also featured on Victoria Police social media to speak about racism. He is a role model for the African community.

    Saara Sabbagh

    Saara Sabbagh founded Benevolence Australia in 2008 in East Doncaster to strengthen the Muslim community and to share information about Islam with the wider community.  Benevolence Australia has forged strong links with Victoria Police, not least with the Victoria Police Muslim Association. Saara has been involved in cross-cultural training days for Victoria Police informing them about the Islamic faith and its manifest practices as well as about the geopolitical context in the Middle East. Saara’s vision is for greater social cohesion and interfaith understanding in Australian and Victorian society.

    Pamela Kosij

    Pamela Kosij is the Multicultural Community Development Officer at Monash City Council and Chair of the Monash Settlement Services Network. She has been the driving force in many local community and youth initiatives such as the ‘Say No to Racism’ campaign and safety presentations to the Chinese community. Ms Kosij facilitates tours of places of worship with the Monash Interfaith Network. She works closely with regional police units in many initiatives, not least on youth targeted programs, including an African youth leadership program.

    Dilnaz Billimoria

    As a CALD and interfaith community advocate and leader and as a Zoroastrian, Dilnaz has been involved with many organisations, especially the Whitehorse, Manningham, Monash and Boroondara interfaith networks. She has implemented an impressive array of events and initiatives such as faith music festivals and the Matter of Trust elder abuse project for multicultural communities. She has been a strong ally to local police who cite her as being a major contributor to the positive relationships that exist between Victoria Police and the multicultural communities in those locations.

    Helen Jurcevic OAM

    Helen Jurcevic OAM is President of the Manningham Women’s Friendship Group network, which represents 33 different cultures. Helen has been a tireless advocate and worker for multicultural communities in Manningham over a long period of time. She has also done international aid work, including in Kenya. Helen has long been the catalyst and a main driver in shaping positive relationships with local police, which has resulted in better social justice outcomes for many women with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in the Manningham area and beyond.

    Preston Mosque

    The Umar bin Al-Khattab Mosque in West Preston is a testament to the memory of Sheik Fehmi El-Imam, one of Australia’s great Muslim leaders. The mosque works closely with Victoria Police to run mosque open days, police community forums, police training sessions and a Ramadan dinner. In 2020 during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic the mosque helped the community to understand the restrictions and to raise awareness about mental health and family violence. This award honours the many achievements of the Preston mosque, its leaders and its community working in harmony with Victoria Police over many years.

    Whittlesea Community Connections

    Whittlesea Community Connections (WCC) promotes community participation and strengthens the skills of new migrants and newly arriving immigrants and refugees. As the population expands along the Plenty corridor the role of WCC has become more important than ever. The Settlement Services Team and local Victoria Police work closely together to educate newly arrived migrants about the role of police in Victoria, the laws and the justice system. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic WCC adapted to online ways of working, and supported communities by communicating important messages about adhering to restrictions and staying safe. 

    Victoria Police Cricket Club

    The Victoria Police Cricket Club works with Monash Health and their All Nations Cricket Team to engage with refugees and asylum seeker communities right across the metropolitan region and beyond, through the sport of cricket. The club held 13 sporting engagements in the 2019-20 summer. Led by Mr Steve Oates the club has built strong relationships between new and emerging communities and Victoria Police. The club exemplifies how sport can be used to change perceptions and create harmonious relationships between police and at-risk groups in the community.

    Protective Services Officer Award

    PSO Ratul Biswas

    Over the last four years PSO Ratul Biswas has shown great initiative in encouraging members of the Bangladeshi community to join Victoria Police. He has acted as a role model for the Bangladeshi community in Victoria and assisted many candidates during the recruitment process. PSO Ratul Biswas is committed to increasing the diversity of the Victoria Police workforce.

  • The award recognises people, units, clubs or stations working or volunteering for Victoria’s emergency services that promote and champion diversity and/or address the specific needs of multicultural communities.


    Veronica Canziani

    Veronica has volunteered at Box Hill Community Information and Support Centre for the past 11 years. The Centre provides emergency relief to people in financial distress, for example, victims of domestic violence, homeless people, asylum seekers and international students. The Centre helps people from all cultures, religious groups, all age groups and genders.

    Veronica is the chief coordinator and manages the day to day running of the Centre. She organises rosters, mentors staff, orders supplies and processes bills. She ensures that hygiene and safety procedures are followed, and that services are provided fairly and consistently to those seeking help. This year Veronica has dedicated even more time to the Centre due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. She has been instrumental in keeping the Centre going, and fostered an open, inclusive and welcoming community service. Veronica promotes values like empathy, kindness and generosity.

    Highly Commended

    Life Saving Victoria

    Life Saving Victoria developed an education, training and employment pathway that engages over 22,000 people annually, in partnership with over 400 multicultural agencies, organisations and schools. Young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds learn swimming and lifesaving in the classroom and in the water. The initiative has delivered over 50 volunteer surf lifesavers, pool lifeguards and swimming teachers, with another 12 young people training to become Ambulance Community Officers. Participants secure volunteer positions at local lifesaving clubs or employment in the aquatics industry. Through more than 440 separate pathway activities and courses, this project has engaged people of all ages, genders and ethnicities in education and training, resulting in great youth employment outcomes. 

    Colin Campbell

    Colin Campbell is a Multicultural Liaison Officer with Fire Rescue Victoria. He displayed exemplary leadership during the heightened restrictions at the Flemington and North Melbourne public housing highrises. He helped responders and the community to work together to deliver food, essential supplies and critical information to the residents through community and cultural representatives. As a vital link between community leaders and attending agencies, Colin helped educate both agencies and community members about cultural differences and provided strategies for mitigating issues. Colin has used this experience to engage the emergency management sector more broadly on multicultural issues, meeting with senior leaders to discuss learnings and successful approaches. This has led to an increased focus on multiculturalism within Fire Rescue Victoria, including their participation in regional multicultural committees.

  • This award recognises people, groups or organisations that have directly supported multicultural communities impacted by a crisis, or people, groups or organisations of diverse backgrounds that have volunteered to support crisis response and recovery efforts in Victoria.


    Sukhvinder 'Sunny' Duggal

    Sunny Duggal is recognised for his inspiring efforts in supporting communities across Melbourne and East Gippsland during the Victorian bushfires and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Through his incredible work delivering over seven tonnes of food and other essential items to frontline healthcare and emergency services workers, residents of aged care, international students, and other communities in need, Sunny has demonstrated how much impact one person can have on so many. Sunny’s passion and drive to serve the community throughout 2020 has motivated individuals and organisations to follow his lead, as an exemplary model of what support of multicultural communities in Victoria should look like. 

    Vincenzo De Paolis, Gracie Lolicato and Katrina Lolicato

    Vincenzo De Paolis, Gracie Lolicato and Katrina Lolicato established the Mano Nella Mano community drive, connecting community donors and people in need to provide material aid and emotional support to Italian temporary visa holders affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In March 2020, when Italy was experiencing high numbers of cases and Victoria was entering into restrictions, each party initiated separate fundraisers and within days had connected online. United by their common immediate goal, they united the community. By providing immediate financial, emotional and social support to Italian migrants on temporary and student visas, the collaborative effort between Vincenzo De Paolis, Katrina Lolicato and Gracie Lolicato embodies the positive potential for grass-roots multiculturalism in Victoria. Mano Nella Mano demonstrates the potential for individuals to unite in times of crisis through compassion, to provide immediate assistance.

    Islamic Council of Victoria

    In the past year the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) has played a critical role in supporting the Muslim and multifaith community in many areas of service and advocacy. The ICV raised more than $43,000 for the Victorian Bushfire Appeal and collected donations for bushfire effected communities in Queensland and New South Wales. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic the ICV ran fortnightly community sessions about COVID-safe practices, reducing the spread of infection, as well as sessions on family violence and mental health support. They raised funds to provide over 1,500 Halal food hampers to those in need including international students. They worked with the Victorian Government to provide video conferencing capability to over 30 mosques to stay in contact with the local community. They also organised community volunteers to help with testing and contact tracing. The ICV has shown leadership to build solidarity and social cohesion while helping the broader community.

    Residents of the North Melbourne Flemington public housing high rises 

    The residents of the North Melbourne and Flemington public housing highrises experienced heightened restrictions and personal hardship 
    in July 2020 in order to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Residents supported their neighbours and advocated to ensure those who were elderly or isolated were connected with services. Community-led organisations on the estates mobilised to meet residents’ needs with culturally appropriate food, essential medicines, digital devices to support remote learning, crisis counselling and family support. This collaboration and support improved the public health outcomes for families, neighbours and the whole resident community. The North Melbourne and Flemington Community Working Group representing diverse cultural and faith groups raised issues and developed actions to support public health measures to suppress the spread of the virus and support each other during restriction periods. The sacrifices made by the residents in an extraordinary situation prevented the spread of the virus into the broader Victorian community.

    Carlton Communities Network

    Carlton Communities Network is a network of over 50 agencies and services in Carlton. Following the heightened restrictions at the North Melbourne and Flemington public housing highrises, the Carlton Communities Network  supported the immediate needs of the residents in the Carlton highrises. Within one week of the North Melbourne and Flemington events, a testing site was established in Carlton. The network set up the CLAN COVID-19 Response Coordination Committee to respond to the immediate needs of residents. Residents were supported with critical information from agencies and leaders they knew and trusted, as well as access to essential goods and services. The feedback provided by residents helped inform the Victorian Government response and procedures at Carlton, leading to more effective community engagement, improved trust between residents and agencies, increased testing rates and responses that involved the community.

    Highly Commended

    Professor John Catford

    Professor John Catford has been a Professor of Public Health for over 30 years and is currently a Public Health Specialist Adviser to the Victorian Government in the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic response. Professor Catford has spent the last year working intensively with the Islamic Council of Victoria, Faith Communities Council of Victoria and communities of many faiths providing advice and guidance on how to manage and prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). He has gone above and beyond giving countless numbers of hours meeting with individual communities, running briefing sessions, and speaking on radio and online. 

    Mubarek Imam

    During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic Mubarek Imam led a number of projects to improve health, employment and social cohesion outcomes for residents of public housing in Yarra. As a resident of the Richmond public housing estates and someone with significant work and volunteer experience, Mubarek Imam stepped up  to provide accessible and timely advice through videos, brochures and COVID safety packs.. Mubarek brought residents to the centre of decision making. Without his leadership and dedication, residents of Yarra public housing would not be in the position they are now, which is preparing to collectively take on recovery.   

    InTouch Cultural Centre Against Family Violence 

    InTouch has been working with multicultural communities to respond to family violence in Victoria for more than 35 years. At the onset of 
    the pandemic, the inSpire team observed the dramatic increase in requests for support from inTouch clients, and quickly pivoted to provide vital emergency relief directly to women and children most in need. Their inSpire emergency relief project has been providing culturally appropriate, nutritious food, essentials, in-language health information, masks and social connection for women from migrant and refugee backgrounds who have experienced family violence. This project reflects a true community response, connecting with social enterprises to provide much needed food and health supplies.

    Bendigo Food Relief Network

    The 70 organisations making up the Bendigo Food Relief Network, including schools and early years services, faith communities, health services, and community houses, came together during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to provide vital food relief people from culturally diverse backgrounds. Together these organisations supported around 1,700 people from July to September 2020. Members of the Food Relief Network rely on the contributions of the incredible volunteer community. Volunteers come from diverse backgrounds and age groups, and the experience of coming together to support those in need has unified and strengthened communities. It has been a practical demonstration of unity in a time of crisis.

  • This award recognises businesses that provide outstanding service to multicultural communities in Victoria and are leading the way in encouraging diversity in their workplace.


    CareerSeekers New Australian Internship Program

    CareerSeekers is a non-profit social enterprise that works with leading employers across both the public and private sector to create paid professional internships for refugees and people seeking asylum. CareerSeekers breaks down barriers to employment for mid-career professionals seeking to reignite their careers in Australia, provides employment pathways for university students from a refugee background, and supports employers to build workforce diversity. Since 2016 the program has worked with 40 different employers to create 343 employment opportunities for refugees or people seeking asylum, including 99 opportunities in 2020. About 43 per cent of participants hear about CareerSeekers from a former intern, demonstrating the acceptance the program has in the refugee community. In a recent survey of participants 93 per cent highly recommend the program. In the same survey 80 per cent reported feeling they belonged in Australia after the internship compared to 28 per cent beforehand.

    Highly Commended

    Christina Chia

    Christina Chia is recognised as a leading authority in creating opportunities and building connections for multicultural communities, promoting diversity and inclusion for positive change. In the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as the COO and Principal of North Shore Coaching College, a coaching institution that delivers tuition to students in primary and secondary levels, Christina successfully pivoted and reinvented the College business model by providing remote learning to thousands of culturally and linguistically diverse families. About 30 per cent of teaching staff and 90 per cent of support staff come from culturally diverse and migrant backgrounds. Christina recalibrated the company culture, workforce, processes and systems to achieve positive outcomes for both employees and customers. Christina is an inspirational leader who embraces a people-first culture by promoting cultural awareness and trust, celebrating diversity, fostering flexible models of working, bolstering wellbeing support and empowering innovative thinking.

    John Holland Group

    Through the John Holland graduate and undergraduate program, John Holland has created a legacy of sustainable skills uplift and employment by increasing the numbers of young, culturally diverse people entering the construction industry. By supporting various Victorian Government initiatives and developing their own programs and partnerships aimed at increasing cultural diversity, John Holland has seen a steady increase in CALD engineers, graduates and undergraduates join their projects. These young people become mentors to the next intake of graduates, and their involvement in John Holland changes the way projects are designed and delivered through diversity of thought and breadth of life experience. Through strong partnerships with social enterprise partners, John Holland has placed more than 100 refugee and asylum seekers into roles on John Holland projects, helping them build professional networks while also creating experience to develop a sustainable career in Victoria.

  • This award recognises health practitioners, researchers and organisations that address the needs of people from diverse backgrounds and/or provide outstanding health care, support or services to multicultural communities.


    Bendigo Community Health Services

    For the last 10 years Bendigo Community Health Services (BCHS) has delivered a range of refugee settlement, support and information services providing solid foundations during a period of new and intensive settlement. BCHS provides high-quality, culturally appropriate healthcare as well as building health and service literacy in refugee communities. Initiatives include a healthy eating booklet for the Karen community and tailored, culturally appropriate information about mental health in Karen and Dari. In early 2020 BCHS conducted over 700 emergency preparedness sessions with refugee communities. In mid-March 2020 BCHS began communicating coronavirus (COVID-19) safety messaging using multiple mediums. They established a Coronavirus Refugee Resource Hub and produced over 30 factsheets and 40 videos in Karen, Dari and Dinka to keep refugee communities informed. Benefits to the refugee communities include increased employment opportunities for people with lived refugee experiences, increased health and service literacy, and improved safety / knowledge in times of emergency.

    Highly Commended

    Alison Coelho

    Alison Coelho manages the Multicultural Health and Support Service at the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health. This service works with communities and health professionals to address the poorer health outcomes experienced by people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, asylum seekers and mobile populations. Alison established the Multicultural Community Action Network, a partnership between the health service, workers and community members that advocates for health improvements among communities. In local government Alison developed the first health and wellbeing plan in the state through the Diversity Strategy. Alison is a strong advocate for community-led solutions, human rights and health equity. 

    Multicultural Centre for Women's Health

    Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health has played an important part in improving the health and wellbeing of migrant women in Victoria, especially during the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. The Centre shares health information with women from migrant and refugee backgrounds to help them manage their health for the best possible outcomes. Their Health Education team delivers interactive health education sessions in over 20 languages and 70 health topics across Victoria. During Victoria’s coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, the Centre rapidly and successfully adapted its health education approach to provide migrant women with continued access to health information. The Centre mobilised a large team of bilingual educators and community workers to provide timely and appropriate coronavirus (COVID-19) information in community languages.

  • This award recognises people and organisations that support or advocate for the rights and needs of newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers, improves access to settlement services and/or employment pathways, and creates opportunities for participation, contribution and belonging.


    Refugee Communities Association of Australia

    RCAA was established in November 2019 as an independent refugee-led peak national advocacy organisation providing a unified voice for people with a lived refugee experience in Australia. RCAA established the RCAA COVID-19 Relief Taskforce to support asylum seekers and other temporary visa holders and international students affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) in partnership with Help Himalayan Youth Foundation. The RCAA has distributed food relief to hundreds of families in Wyndham, Hume, Moreland, Moonee Valley, Brimbank, Maroondah, Whitehorse, Melbourne, Whittlesea, Dandenong and Maribyrnong. Established communities like the Vietnamese community, many of whose members came to Victoria as refugees some three decades ago, have come forward to support the newly arrived refugee communities. This has strengthened social cohesion and harmony in those communities. RCAA has created opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers to participate, contribute and belong by providing material relief and employment opportunities.

    Highly Commended

    Level Crossings Removal Authority

    Level Crossing Removal Project (LXRP) believes in Victoria’s diverse communities and is committed to developing an inclusive diverse workforce that can deliver the Victorian Government’s rail infrastructure projects. LXRP has developed training programs and pathways that build inclusive workforce capacity; provided training programs and employment opportunities for disadvantaged and marginalised communities and delivered benefits through social procurement. LXRP’s Training for the Future program is a testament to its determination and commitment to multiculturalism. The program provides training and employment opportunities to refugees and asylum seekers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people with disability, long term unemployed and women. LXRP believes that inclusive economic participation for all Victorians strengthens multiculturalism in Victoria.

    Gandel Philanthropy

    Gandel Philanthropy has a long-standing commitment to supporting refugee and asylum seeker communities in Australia. They have supported projects to create opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers, particularly women and youth, with the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre and Centre for Multicultural Youth. They have also worked on projects to improve access to settlement services and pathways to employment with Youth Activating Youth and the Social Studio. Furthermore, Gandel Philanthropy have advocated for the rights and needs of newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers by funding research to determine factors of a successful transition to life in Australia.  They have also worked with Multicultural Arts Victoria to profile multicultural artists and advocate for more inclusion in mainstream arts activities and organisations. 

  • This award recognises an individual or organisation that has made a significant contribution to increasing understanding, acceptance and cooperation between different faith and cultural groups.


    Sheikh Alaa Elzokm

    Egyptian born Sheikh Alaa Elzokm is an Imam of the Elsedeaq Heidelberg Mosque and Assistant Secretary of the Board of Imams Victoria. Imam Alaa provides spiritual support and guidance to people of all ages and promotes understanding of Islam to the Muslim community and the wider Victorian community. Through interfaith events and by supporting and inspiring young people, Imam Alaa builds bridges and establishes peaceful and cohesive relationships with multicultural communities and people of different faiths. Imam Alaa opened the mosque to the community and organised other interfaith gatherings that provide an opportunity for people of all faiths to come together and gain a better understanding of the peaceful message of Islam and the Muslim community in Australia. Imam Alaa is a wonderful ambassador for peace, respect and harmony. He makes Victoria a better place to be. 

Reviewed 17 December 2020

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