2021 Victorian Refugee Award recipients

In 2021, 10 Victorians were recognised across 4 categories, highlighting the achievements and contributions of Victorians from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.

Victorian Refugee Awards recognise people, businesses and organisations who have excelled through study, work, entrepreneurial or volunteer efforts. 

The awards are proudly coordinated by the Victorian Multicultural Commission.

  • This award recognises refugees aged 25 or under who have made an outstanding contribution through study, work or volunteer efforts.


    Taj  Aldeeb

    Taj Aldeeb is a public speaker, musician and actress passionate about sharing stories and empowering young community members from refugee backgrounds in Victoria. In her recent work, Taj has led programs to promote storytelling by refugees and asylum seekers during the COVID-19 pandemic, including in a documentary series that focused on the 2020 social housing lockdowns. Taj also shares her own lived experience with primary and secondary school students and teachers, raising their understanding of migration and refugee stories. Taj’s talents in the performing arts also broaden the public's awareness and appreciation for the refugee experience, with her appearances in 'The Fall' at the Sydney Film Festival and in ‘THEM’ at the Arts Centre Melbourne.

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    Paw Ku Htee

    Paw Ku Htee is a young community leader who has excelled in supporting the broader Bendigo area, and in particular the Karen community, since arriving from a refugee camp in Thailand. Through Paw’s firsthand experience adapting to a new life in Victoria, and the skills she gained through her certificate III through the Bendigo Community Health Services Karen Traineeship in 2020, she has come to contribute greatly, for example in co-facilitating sessions with the CFA and SES to help prepare the Karen community for emergency weather events. Paw also staffs the Bendigo Karen phone hotline to support new arrivals with everyday life questions such as negotiating traffic, pedestrian safety and using the public transport network. Paw's work informing, translating and codesigning culturally appropriate information is making a lasting impact on the Karen community.

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    Yusuf Liban

    Yusuf Liban is a youth group leader, active volunteer and role model for Muslim youth. Playing an active role at the Heidelberg Mosque, he has provided support at interfaith events and open days and assisted with the coordination of multicultural Iftar dinners at the Elsedeaq Islamic Society. During 2020, Yusuf supported small businesses and communities of non-English-speaking backgrounds by providing interpreting services and translations of government health advice and lead the communication of COVID-safe plans, QR codes and public health guidelines. Yusuf was also involved in COVID testing campaigns and fighting against the spread of misinformation. Yusuf is leading by example and continues to actively engage with his community by running a popular youth group at the Heidelberg Mosque.

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  • This award recognises the outstanding achievements of refugees who have personally or professionally excelled through study, work, entrepreneurial or volunteer efforts.


    Ali Nazari 

    Ali Nazari is a Hazara refugee and is the youngest of four multilingual community engagement team members at Tenants Victoria. Ali has made significant contributions to their extensive outreach program, connecting with multicultural communities throughout Victoria, in particular the state’s local Afghan and Iranian communities who speak Dari. Ali’s area of focus is in community education on tenancy rights and supporting people to access emergency COVID-19 rental protections, including financial aid. Ali has worked on a range of successful projects with Tenants Victoria, including conducting a radio interview with SBS Dari, hosting live Facebook sessions in English and Dari with the Victoria Afghan Association Network and designing information posters in language.

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    Nayran Tabiei

    Nayran Tabiei is a business owner, multilingual chef, volunteer and swimming instructor who has become an integral figure in her community. Nayran’s journey to Australia in 2012 from Syria and Iran inspired her passion for advocacy, and now she works to shine a light on Australia's migrant and refugee communities experiencing disadvantage, marginalisation and disengagement. Nayran is a qualified swim instructor for the successful program Swimmin’ Women, supporting adult migrant women learning to swim while breaking down cultural and language barriers. Nayran's impressive talents with cooking have also helped her forge new connections with people while providing food relief and food education for migrants and the broader community.

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  • This award recognises refugees who have demonstrated outstanding leadership within the community.


    Elvis Martin

    Elvis Martin is a community advocate who has tirelessly volunteered at over 30 organisations in support of issues faced by minority groups. He has advocated and lead projects on issues such as homelessness, mental health, asylum seekers, domestic violence, the LGBTQIA+ community and gender equality. Elvis is currently the Principle Ambassador of the National Youth Commission Australia and R U OKAY? Day. His significant work contributing to boards and supporting groups such as International Students at Work has helped educate international students on their rights around workplace bullying and harassment.  By sitting on councils, boards, and groups, Elvis also delivers valuable insight and perspective into the challenges faced by marginalised groups.

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    Philip Moo Eh

    Philip Moo Eh is the Chair of the Australian Karen Organisation that supports and organises programs, activities and events to promote the rights of refugees in Victoria. Some of Philip's recent achievements include creating a quick response program to assist Burmese families, individuals and international students impacted by the health and economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, and fundraising following the 2020 black summer bushfires. His active participation in the community and leadership through the Australian Karen Organisation, as well as convenor of the Victorian Karen Communities Network Group, has resulted in greater representation and outcomes for refugees and migrants in Victoria. In a collaborative effort this year, Philip also submitted a petition to the Australian Parliament denouncing the recent violations of human rights of Karens in their state in Burma.

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  • This award recognises organisations and businesses that are implementing innovative practices to support the employment, contribution and/or participation of refugees.


    Happy Brain Education

    Happy Brain Education (HBE) is a not-for-profit organisation offering a range of programs to help young refugees excel within the Australian education system. HBE provides one-on-one tutoring sessions to support refugees academically as well as a mentoring program providing critical connections between students and skilled mentors, predominantly from tertiary institutions. The mentors, all volunteers, are young and passionate members of the community who are driven by the belief that newly arrived migrants, asylum seekers and young people from refugee backgrounds deserve equal opportunities and access to a good education. HBE has supported over 1500 refugee students so far, and continues make a deep and lasting impact on young people with difficult backgrounds.

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    Eva Hussain has spent over 20 years working towards improving communication with multicultural communities on important issues, such as healthcare and social inclusion. Eva arrived in Australia in 1986 as one of the last Jewish refugees from Poland, at the age of 18. Since then, Eva has overcome social barriers such as homelessness, lack of education and domestic violence, eventually establishing her own business, Polaron Language Services. Polaron is now a thriving enterprise that delivers language services to tens of thousands of Australians and supports many initiatives, such as Cultural Diversity Week, the Asylum Seekers' Resource Centre and Slawik Awards, as well as many grassroots community events. Eva also provides administrative and linguistic support to Holocaust survivors.

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    Hollywood Nails

    Trung Dzung Le, a Vietnamese-born entrepreneur and community advocate, is an institution in Victoria. The founder of Hollywood Nails, an icon in the beauty industry in Melbourne, Trung Dzung has created hundreds of jobs across the state and had a wide-reaching impact on the lives of those he has employed. Trung's support for and employment of migrants, in particular those with a refugee background, has offered critical opportunities and pathways to education and empowerment in these marginalised groups. Trung Dzung also makes philanthropic contributions to the Victorian community and holds key advocacy roles across charities, local hospitals, ethno-specific aged care residences, multi-cultural community organisations and temples.

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Reviewed 25 June 2021

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