2023 National

Settlement Conference

Building the future together

23-24 November | Melbourne


Keynote Speaker

Hon Andrew Giles MP

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs


Akec Makur Chuot

Australian rules footballer, Hawthorn Football Club

SESSION: Plenary session – What was key to your (and your families’) successful settlement?

Akec Makur Chuot is an Australian rules footballer who plays for the Hawthorn Football Club in the AFL Women’s competition. Born in South Sudan, Akec was raised by her single mother in a family of seven and for twelve years they lived in Kakuma, refugee camp in Kenya. The family moved to Perth and in 2009, she tried Australian Rules football for the first time at an East Perth Football Club all-girls carnival. Chuot was drafted by Fremantle with their 18th selection and 139th overall in the 2016 AFL Women’s draft. In 2018, she moved to Victoria to play with Carlton in the VFL Women’s state competition.

At the end of 2022 AFLW season with 4 new clubs joining the AFLW Makur Chuot decided to move to Hawthorn. In Round 1, Makur Chuot played in their inaugural match against Essendon, she had 8 disposals.

Andrea Obeyesekere

Multicultural Services Manager, Centacare FNQ

SESSION: Regional models for delivering settlement services 

Andrea Obeyesekere is the Multicultural Services Manager at Centacare FNQ, a small local community service in Far North Queensland. Her team provides innovative services to both well established and new and emerging diverse communities, including Refugee and Migrant Settlement Services, CALD Community Engagement, and Diverse Employment and Training. With 18+ years of experience in remote and regional Queensland and the UK, her inclusive leadership is evident in leading a diverse workforce, with over 95% being from a CALD and/or First Nation backgrounds. Andrea’s team has gained national recognition for their Women Empowerment programs and COVID-19 Resilience initiatives, along with receiving state and regional accolades for their Diverse Employment and Training Programs.

Last year Andrea authored a state-wide research piece “A Guide to Effectively Engaging with CALD Communities,” based on invaluable lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the CHEP Refugee Health Queensland Project. Passionate about place-based intentional strategies that are ‘all of community driven, and all of community focused’ Andrea is challenging her region through innovative intersectionality initiatives.

Andrew Kiley

First Assistant Secretary of the Refugee, Humanitarian and Settlement Division, Department of Home Affairs

SESSION: Frameworks for the settlement sector- current state and future directions

Andrew is the First Assistant Secretary of the Refugee, Humanitarian and Settlement Division in the Department of Home Affairs. Prior to that, Andrew headed up the Humanitarian and Child Wellbeing Policy and Capability Branch under the same Division, and the Assurance, Risk & Engagement Branch in the Critical Infrastructure Security Division and worked across the critical infrastructure security space for several years. Andrew has also worked across a number of areas in the Attorney-General’s Department including criminal justice legal policy and reform, international crime cooperation which involved treaty negotiation and engagement with the UN criminal justice program, emergency management and national security policy.

Angelica Svensson

Social Researcher, Policy Analyst & Evaluation Practitioner

SESSION FACILITATOR: Emerging research in settlement

Angelica Svensson is a social researcher, policy analyst, and evaluation practitioner with more than 7 years of experience in the for-purpose sector in Australia, having arrived from Sweden ten years ago.

Angelica holds a Master of Arts in International Migration and Ethnic Relations from Malmo University and has a strong interest in migration policy, strategic planning and social impact. She is particularly passionate about improving the settlement experience for new migrants through evidence-based frameworks and measures.

She is currently the Research and Policy Project Lead at AMES Australia, an organisation that provides a wide range of interconnected services in settlement, education, vocational training and employment in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. In her role, she develops policy submissions, oversees monitoring and evaluation activities and manages research projects with partner organisations. 

Betina Szkudlarek

Deputy Dean Research and Professor of International Management, University of Sydney Business School

SESSION: Moving beyond entry level: Career progression for refugees and migrants

Betina Szkudlarek is Deputy Dean Research and Professor of International Management at the University of Sydney Business School. 

Her research and consulting expertise lies at the intersection of cross-cultural management, international human resource management, and management of diversity. Her pioneering work on refugee workforce integration has been recognized with multiple awards, including the International HRM Scholarly Research Award and the Research Impact on Practice Award (Academy of Management, 2022). She is the lead editor of the Sage Handbook of Contemporary Cross-Cultural Management, and her work featured widely in national and international press.

Betina lectured and trained across four continents and has worked with several multinational corporations and not-for-profits on developing intercultural competence and fostering global leadership excellence. She also holds the post of Strategic Sustainability and Grown Consultant with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.

Cassandra Fernando MP

Member for Holt

SPEAKER: SCOA 25th Anniversary Gala Dinner

Cassandra is a proud migrant, a pastry chef, an advocate for essential workers and the Federal Labor Member for Holt.

She came to Australia with her family when she was 11, and she has called Melbourne’s South-East home ever since.

Having made this journey, her parents taught her to never take anything for granted and instilled three values that she upholds to this day: hard work, commitment and gratitude.

Her parents taught her that she was entitled to a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work as well as the importance of being committed to the community.  She began working at Woolies Dandenong Plaza as a teenager, and spent almost 15 years baking, stacking shelves and making lifelong friends.

Prior to her election as the Member for Holt, Cassandra represented workers in the retail and fast-food industries, fighting to improve the pay and conditions of her former colleagues—essential workers who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic.

She has also volunteered to tutor migrants and refugees from non-English speaking backgrounds so they can make the best of every opportunity. Her parents also taught her to be grateful—to her community and to Australia—and never miss an opportunity to repay the gratitude.

She decided to become the Member for Holt because she knows that only a Labor Government can deliver a better future for Holt—a future in which families like hers are not held back or left behind.

Carita Davis

Assistant Secretary, Preventive Health and Food Policy Branch, Department of Health and Aged Care

SESSION: Improving health policy and practice for migrants and refugees

Ms Carita Davis is Assistant Secretary, Preventive Health and Food Policy Branch, Population Health Division at the Department of Health and Aged Care. She leads the Branch responsible for improving the health and wellbeing of Australians through policies and programs designed to reduce preventable mortality and morbidity, support nutrition, food regulation and governance and ensure health equity for multicultural communities.  

Ms Davis has been a member of the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities Health Advisory Group, since leading its establishment in December 2020, when she held the role of Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response Division.  From early in 2021, Ms Davis held the role of Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Policy and Coordination Branch in the National COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce. In this role she was responsible for implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination program across the primary care sector and ensuring it was designed and delivered in a manner that was culturally safe and equitable in access for everyone in Australia. 

Before moving to the Department of Health and Aged Care, Ms Davis was Branch Manager for Women, Families and Children at the National Indigenous Australians Agency and prior to that, at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

She holds a Bachelor of Social Science, majoring in Sociology and Anthropology.


Cath Scarth

CEO, AMES Australia

SESSION: Brokering housing solutions

Catherine Scarth’s career has focussed on the design and implementation of innovative social programs and enterprises in Australia and the United Kingdom. She has achieved this through the creation of partnerships with government, employers and the community sector to deliver programs designed to increase the economic and social participation for newly arrived migrants and refugees.

Ms Scarth is the Chief Executive Officer of AMES Australia, an organisation working with partners to provide a wide range of interconnected services in settlement, education, vocational training and employment in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Ms Scarth is a Board Member of The Social Policy Group and Thrive Refugee Enterprises.

Cathy Preston-Thomas

Deputy Director, NSW Refugee Health service

SESSION: Supporting new arrivals with disabilities

Cathy Preston-Thomas is the Deputy Director of the NSW Refugee Health Service. She has a Master of International Law (USyd) and Master of International Social Development (UNSW). Cathy has worked in the refugee sector since 1998, in community development, research, training, and settlement policy, but her passion is refugee health. Before joining the refugee sector, she worked in disability.

Carmen Garcia

CEO and Founder, Community Corporate

SESSION: Supporting newly arrived refugees to get their first job

Carmen Garcia is the CEO and Founder of national award-winning diversity and inclusion certified social enterprise, Community Corporate. Operating in the niche space of corporate social responsibility, they specialise in culturally inclusive recruitment, maximising migration opportunities and corporate volunteering.

In 2021, Community Corporate won National Social Enterprise of the Year at the Australian Small Business Champions Awards. This social entrepreneur has an MBA and Degree in Public Policy, and brings over 20 years’ experience working in refugee resettlement, community development, training and workforce strategy across the public, private and community sectors. Carmen is a member of the Australian Multicultural Council, South Australian Multicultural Commission, Convenor of the Solstice Media 40 Under 40 Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs Alumni, Board Member of the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority, and Philippine Consul a.h. to South Australia. She has won several individual awards including the Women in Innovation Award for Social Impact and was listed as one of the Top 50 Small Business Leaders in Australia by Inside Business. She is also a co-author of “Social Impact Investment: An Australian Perspective”.


Chantal Mousad

Board Member, CareerSeekers

SESSION: Moving beyond entry level: Career progression for migrants and refugees

Chantal is originally from Syria and moved to Australia as a refugee with her daughter Ayla in 2017 as part of the humanitarian program. She came as a single mom after fleeing to neighbouring Iraq with her family, leaving behind the pain of losing her twin children.

Previously, Chantal held the position of Chief Risk Officer in the Middle East. In 2018, she moved again from Brisbane to Sydney and join the CareerSeekers program, where she had the opportunity to restart her career at Commonwealth Bank as an intern, just like any fresh graduate, in order to gain new knowledge in the Australian work environment. Over time, Chantal progressed through various roles in banking, starting as an intern and moving up to become a Digital Analyst, Risk Manager in Wealth Management, and eventually taking on the role of Senior Manager in Risk with Westpac.

Furthermore, Chantal is an ambassador for Westpac Foundation, supporting HBE (Happy Brain Education) in Melbourne. She has also been actively involved in research related to refugee immigration across several universities in Australia,  Speaker in several governmental and international forums to raise awareness about how to settle refugees. In February 2023, Chantal joined the CareerSeekers Board after being an alumna of the CareerSeekers program in 2018.

Dr Charishma Ratnam

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University

SESSION: Regional models for delivering settlement services

Charishma Ratnam is a social scientist working across the fields of human geography, sociology, and migration studies. Her research spans a number of areas, primary focusing on refugee resettlement. Charishma works on projects that examine refugees’ digital practices, recreations of home, and uses of public spaces in host countries. Charishma is currently an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University.

Cindy Carpenter

Chair, Bread & Butter Project

SESSION: Supporting newly arrived refugees to get their first job

Cindy Carpenter is Chair of the Bread & Butter Project, Australia’s first social enterprise artisan bakery, investing 100% of profits to provide training and employment pathways for refugees and asylum seekers.

Cindy also leads the advisory groups supporting three other refugee-focused social enterprises; CommUnity Construction, FoodLab and Aunty’s Ginger Tonic. She co-founded the work-integrated-social enterprise hub within Social Enterprise Australia, which advocates for payment by outcomes funding models for social enterprises, and convenes a knowledge-sharing group of refugee-focused social enterprises. She also sits on the national judging panel for Westpac Foundation’s Social Change Fellowship.

She is a Board Director for Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia, and a member of the Governance Group for Settlement Council of Australia’s ‘Road to Belonging’ national strategy. She also convenes a group of chief executive women to secure safe passage for Afghan career women to Australia via skilled visas, and co-leads a diaspora group providing education and work opportunities for young women inside Afghanistan.

Cindy was a Principal and then General Manager Aust/NZ for the Boston Consulting Group before co-founding the strategy consulting firm, Cast, 13 years ago. She thrives on helping organisations achieve their boldest aspirations and has advised many corporates as well as not-for-profit and public sector organisations.

She has an MBA from AGSM where she was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship, with an exchange to the Wharton School of Finance in University of Pennsylvania.

Constance Jones

Manager, African Women’s Federation of South Australia

SESSION: Our role in supporting women experiencing violence

Constance Jones is a passionate advocate for promoting multicultural diversity and inclusion, in our communities. Her commitment to empowering women and communities, saw her take up positions as the first female community leader in her community, she also, pioneered a Women’s Association in SA for which she held the Chairperson position.  Currently, Constance is the Manager for the African Women’s Federation of SA representing the interest of African women and their families. Her leadership roles allowed Constance to venture into what she is passionate about, and what truly represents her as a person – strengthening communities, creating a safe and inclusive multicultural society, and empowering individuals.

With a formidable reputation within the multicultural sector nationally and here in SA, and possessing great leadership skills, Constance has received numerous awards and recognitions for developing programs that promote inclusion and celebrate multicultural diversity. Constance is known to be a great role model, leader, and mentor, with much of what she does being undertaken in a volunteer capacity.

Dr Dinesh Palipana

Deputy Chair, National Ethnic Disability Alliance

SESSION: Supporting new arrivals with disabilities

Dinesh was the first quadriplegic medical intern in Queensland. Dinesh is a doctor, lawyer, disability advocate, and researcher. Halfway through medical school, he was involved in a motor vehicle accident that caused a cervical spinal cord injury. Dinesh has completed an Advanced Clerkship in Radiology at the Harvard University. 

Dinesh works in the emergency department at the Gold Coast University Hospital. He is a researcher and senior lecturer at the Griffith University. Dinesh is a researcher in spinal cord injury. He is a doctor for the Gold Coast Titans physical disability rugby team. Dinesh is a senior advisor to the Disability Royal Commission. He is an ambassador to the Human Rights Commission’s Includeability program. He is a founding member of Doctors with Disabilities Australia. He is an advisory board member to HealthyLife.

Dinesh was the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service’s Junior Doctor of the Year in 2018. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2019. He was the third Australian to be awarded a Henry Viscardi Achievement Award. He was the 2021 Griffith University Young Alumnus of the Year. Dinesh was the Queensland Australian of the Year for 2021. In 2022, Dinesh was listed as number 33 in the Courier Mail’s top 100 power list for Queensland’s most influential in health and wellbeing. His autobiography, Stronger, was published by Pan Macmillan in 2022.

Erfan Daliri

CEO, Kind Enterprises

SESSION: Addressing inequity within multicultural affairs and settlement

Erfan Daliri is an author, poet, activist, social change consultant and anti-racism educator, with a long and diverse career in community development, settlement services, multicultural affairs, advocacy and social change strategy. His professional experience includes communication for social change, participatory community development, First Nations and refugee rights advocacy, youth engagement and motivational speaking. 

Erfan is currently the CEO of Kind Enterprises, where he leads a team of consultants, academics and strategists providing professional development and strategic consulting to public and private sector organisations seeking to build a more just, equitable, and cohesive society. He is the founding Director of Newkind Social Justice Conference and has a Masters Degree in Communication for Social Change.


Emily Chipman

Senior Durable Solutions Officer, UNHCR

SESSION: Future directions in complementary pathways for refugee settlement

Emily began her role in Australia in June 2019 and works with governments and other partners to strengthen the protection of refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons in the Pacific, as well as enable durable and lasting solutions for refugees.

Emily has fifteen years of experience working in various humanitarian and refugee contexts,including Guinea, Kenya, Burundi, and South Sudan. Before coming to Australia, she was the
Senior Regional Resettlement Officer at the UNHCR Regional Office for West Africa based in Dakar (Senegal). Emily helped establish an Emergency Evacuation Transit Mechanism to facilitate the processing of the most vulnerable refugees trapped in detention in Libya, which
enabled them access to protection and durable solutions. In between her deployments, she has also worked in Paris for the French Office for Protection of Refugees and Stateless (OFPRA) conducting refugee status determination for persons seeking asylum in France.

Emily is French Canadian. She has a Master of International and European Law, International Humanitarian Action from Paul Cezanne University (Aix-Marseille III, France) and an Undergraduate Degree of Clinical Psychology from Lumiere University (Lyon II, France).

Prof Farida Fozdar

Professor of Sociology and Global Futures, Curtin University

SESSION: Emerging research in settlement

Farida Fozdar is Professor of Sociology and Global Futures at Curtin University. An experienced ‘real world’ researcher, her work explores social inclusion, migration, multiculturalism and nationalism. She is particularly known for her work on refugee settlement, and on racism.

Farida has published widely in a range of academic and other outlets, and successfully applied for over $3 million in research grants, and has taught units on social research methods, social impact, diversity and inclusion, social inequalities, community development, and cultural awareness. Farida works closely with NGOs and government to ensure research and teaching is impactful.

Farhad Arian

Stakeholder Engagement Manager, CORE Community Services

SESSION: Supporting communities to be their own advocates

Farhad Arian is Stakeholder Engagement Manager at CORE Community Services, a not-for-profit organisation that has been supporting South West Sydney for over 43 years. Farhad coordinates the development and implementation of multicultural stakeholder engagement strategies and leads the organisation’s community development initiatives, stakeholder engagement, service providers interagency forums, and advocacy and research projects. 

Previously, Farhad had worked in various management, community development and research roles with non-government organisations, academic institutions, government departments and international development agencies, including Edmund Rice Centre, Western Sydney Migrant Resource Centre, Western Sydney University, The Asia Foundation, the United Nations Development Programme, and the United States Agency for International Development. 

Farhad holds a Master of Research from Macquarie University and two additional master’s degrees in Conflict Analysis and International Relations from the University of Sydney and the Australian National University. 

Senator Fatima Payman

Senator for Western Australia

Fatima is an Australian Muslim with cultural roots from Afghanistan. The eldest daughter of four children, she was raised in the Northern suburbs of Perth. Fatima’s dad arrived in Australia as a refugee and worked hard to provide for her, her mum and her siblings. While her Dad worked around the clock as a kitchen hand, a security guard and a taxi driver, her Mum looked after the family before starting her own small business of providing driving lessons.

Since 2017, Fatima has worked closely with WA Police to help them better understand the barriers faced by youth and culturally diverse communities. Senator Fatima Payman was awarded Australian Muslim Role Model of the Year, 2022.








Northern Region Program Manager, Community Migrant Resource Centre

SESSION: Plenary session – From Lived Experience to Professional Insight

Being a former refugee, born in Pakistan as a member of the Hazara ethnic minority, Farzana holds a   Master of Business Administration from Western Sydney University. In Pakistan, she worked as a Master Trainer with UNICEF on a girl’s empowerment initiative called The Girl Child, that addressed the needs and challenges girls were facing by promoting their empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights. Being an educated woman in Pakistan wasn’t an easy life. In 2010, Farzana was forced to leave her home country and flee to Australia due to the increasing level of discrimination and persecution.

In the first year of living in Australia Farzana was offered a role working with Navitas Skilled Futures (formerly Navitas English) who recognised her skills and qualifications, coupled with the asset that she spoke five languages (Hazaragi, Farsi, Dari, Urdu and Hindi) in addition to English. Through sheer hard work and dedication her talent was recognised and appreciated and was able to move her way up in the organisation; Navitas English in different roles such as Program Administrator, Operations Manager and Stakeholder Engagement Manager. 

To take her portfolio to the next level of success and to further help the community, in particular refugee women, Farzana Joined Community Migrant Resource Centre as a Program Manager. Farzana  has been able to communicate effectively with clients and refugee support groups in the local community as she is able to relate to the challenges new migrants and refugees face arriving in a foreign country during a time of immense change in their lives. Farzana has been instrumental in supporting programs to improve settlement outcomes clients and vulnerable members of local communities. 

Farzana is currently the Steering Committee Member of the Kateb Hazara Association, the largest Hazara Association in NSW, bord member of Women’s Shed Hornsby Ku-Ring gai and board member Multicultural Integration Community Support (MICS). In Farzana’s current role as Northern Region Program Manager, she works closely with government and community organisations to improve settlement, education and employment outcomes for people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Grace Benson

PhD Candidate, American University, Washington DC

SESSION: Frameworks for the settlement sector – current state and future directions

Grace Benson is a PhD candidate at the School of International Service at American University in the US. She earned a MPhil in International Relations from American University and a BA with high distinction in Public Policy and Ethics from Duke University. Professionally, Grace worked for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants as a program director and case manager. She also worked in New Zealand for the Ministry of Social Development as a policy analyst and as a case manager in a youth development program. Her research focuses on displacement and forced migration, refugee resettlement policy, and international human rights and humanitarian policy. Her dissertation utilizes both qualitative and quantitative methods to compare global refugee resettlement practices and help inform policy decisions.

Hedayat Osyan

Westpac Foundation Social Change Fellow

SESSION: Plenary session- What was key to your (and your families’) successful settlement?

Hedayat (Nick) Osyan is dedicated to uplifting, supporting, and training fellow refugees. He is a social entrepreneur, inspirational speaker and an advocate for the refugee community. In his desire to empower fellow refugees, he founded @ CommUnity Construction in 2018, a social enterprise whose mission of “building homes, building lives” has seen 89+successful refugee trainees, 159+ projects with the government and private sectors, and four trainees who have since founded their own companies.

Since arriving from Afghanistan in 2010, Hedayat has studied politics and international relations (Hon. Arts and Design), and studied Entrepreneurship and Innovating in the Age of Change at the London School of Economics (LSE) and has been a youth advisor to multiple organisations including @CMRC, @MYAN NSW and @SSI.

Currently a 2023 @Westpac Foundation Social Change Fellow and recently recognised as the Western Sydney Champion @Committee for Sydney, Hedayat has gained numerous other accreditations and recognitions during his career including Young Social Pioneer 2018 (FYA), First Gens Accelerator 2019 (Ygap), Humanitarian Award Winner 2019, TEDx Speaker 2019 (ICC Sydney), Social Traders Certification 2021, Refugee Entrepreneurship Pitch Winner 2021 (Center for Entrepreneurship London) and was shortlisted for the 2022 Impact 25 Awards. Hedayat also manages a refugee soccer team (OQAB TEAM) to help young refugees to feel belonging and overcome the trauma and stress. Hedayat is an active community leader, youth activist and mentor.

Huy Truong

Co-founder and Executive Chairman, Thrive Refugee Enterprise

SESSION: Plenary session- State of the sector and future directions

Huy arrived in Australia in 1978 as a boat refugee and has since developed a diverse entrepreneurial and social impact career.

Huy has a portfolio of not-for-profit, government and commercial activities including: 

  • Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Thrive Refugee Enterprise
  • Member of the Immigration Minister’s Settlement Advisory Council
  • Chairperson of the Economic Participation committee for refugees and migrants 
  • Board Director of the Migrant Justice Institute
  • Board Director of the Centre for Policy Development
  • Chairperson of Save the Children’s Impact Fund Investment Committee
  • Chairperson of DS3 Global – Emergency Shelters for Displaced Peoples
  • Managing Director of York Avenue Investment 

Huy’s previous activities have included ALI Group (Owner and CEO), Yarra Capital Partners (Co-Founder and MD), Jurlique International (CEO); Carter Holt Harvey Tissue (CEO), Wishlist.com.au (Co-Founder and CEO), Boston Consulting Group, Asialink (Board Member) 

Huy has graduated with an Economic Honours Degree from Monash University and a MBA from Harvard Business School.

Huy has a particular interest in entrepreneurship, refugees/migrants and contributing back to Australia.

Jasmina Bajraktarevic-Hayward

Chairperson, Settlement Advisory Council

SESSION: Plenary session – From Lived Experience to Professional Insight

Jasmina Bajraktarevic-Hayward is a Social Worker who came to Australia in 1993 as a refugee from Bosnia-Herzegovina. She manages STARTTS’ Community Services Program which consists of over 100 staff including the teams: Community Development, Rural and Regional Community Development, Youth, School Liaison, Families in Cultural Transition (FICT), Mental Health Community Living Supports for Refugees (MH-CLSR) and Health in My Language; as well as staff covering STARTTS’ LGBTIQA+ Project, volunteer management, policy analysis and input, community development evaluation, community cultural development, grant and tender writing and community capacity building. Jasmina has significant Board experience and is currently the President of the Refugee Council of Australia and a member of the NSW Refugee Communities Advocacy Network as well as a member of the World Pride Sydney Advisory Committee.

Jo Spangaro

Professor of Social Work, University of Wollongong & Chair, SAHAR Advisory Committee

SESSION: Our role in supporting women experiencing violence

Jo Spangaro is professor of social work at the University of Wollongong and an internationally recognised researcher on responses to gender-based violence. Her research builds on 20 years experience in frontline practice with both people who have experienced sexual and domestic violence, as well as perpetrators. She also has extensive experience in training and policy development in these fields. Her research focuses interventions to address gender-based violence. With Australian Research Council and SSI funding she is currently testing an screening and a brief response to for former refugees who have experienced intimate partner violence. Other current projects include: evaluation of an parent-child group work intervention following domestic violence; and pathways life outcomes following treatment for young people who engage in sexually harmful behavoiur. Prof Spangaro regularly advises state and national governments and is a member of the NSW Ministerial Council for Sexual and Domestic Violence.

John Kamara

President, Culturally Diverse Alliance Tasmania

SESSION: Addressing Inequity within Multicultural Affairs and Settlement

Mr John Kamara arrived in Tasmania 19 years ago as a refugee and he is the 2023 Tasmanian Australian of the Year. He is the co-founder and President of the Culturally Diverse Alliance Tasmania (CDAT), an organisation which delivers advocacy, mentoring and education and promotes social cohesion. John also co-founded the African Communities Council of Tasmania. It strives to build relationships between African Australians and the wider community. 

Sitting on multiple boards and involved in many community groups, John helps to highlight the systemic disadvantages that migrants face, such as racism, labour exploitation and the need for recognition of their overseas qualifications. He also assists with migrants’ resumes and their search for jobs and housing, is active in multicultural choirs and takes many other roles in the community. John and his wife Mavis have also established the Kamara’s Heart Foundation, a charity to help provide educational resources for school children in Sierra Leone and Ghana.

John Buraho

Multicultural Services Program Manager, CORE Community Services

SESSION: Plenary session – From Lived Experience to Professional Insight

John Buraho is the Multiculutral Services Program Manager at CORE Community Services, a not-for-profit organisation that has been supporting South West Sydney for over 43 years. Arriving in Australia in 2004 under Humanitarian visa program, John embraced a career in the Human Services sector, learning English and achieving a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science and a Master’s in Mediation and Conflict Resolution.

With over 10 years of experience working with Refugee and Migrant Communities, John leads a dedicated, diverse, and passionate team at CORE, with a mission to deliver integrated Settlement and Community Programs that recognise challenges and embrace opportunities to reflect, respond, and facilitate effective and smooth transitions for individuals and families into the social, civic, and economic life of their new home -Australia.

Joseph Youhana

Country Director, HOST International

SESSION: Plenary session – From Lived Experience to Professional Insight

Joseph is a recognised global advocate for the refugee crisis since 2010 through his direct professional work experience. He is considered as one of the influencers in the Australian community leadership space. Joseph holds a bachelor in Applied Management and more than 16 years’ experience in the Australian NGO management sector. Joseph is a public speaker, a mentor, a thriving leader, and one of the key persons to access grassroots communities at the local and state levels.

Joseph made a recorded impact through sitting on a number of community positions including the Refugee Council of Australia board. Joseph works closely in advocacy space in partnership with the UNHCR to improve refugee participation and the level of engagement. He has been participating in the global UN consultation on refugees since 2013 through being a member of the Refugee Advisory Group for the Global Annual Tripartite Consultation for Resettlement ATCR. Additionally, Joseph is a founder of many initiatives including the founder for the only Assyrian peak refugee-led organisation named by the Australian Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Advocacy Network AACSAN.

Joseph’s passion to revive the role of real refugee voices through regular visits to refugee camps and build evidence based reports about the crisis on ground. His recent experience is recording more than 20 hours of recordings to publish a global film documentary about forgotten refugee minorities in the Middle East.

In 2021, Joseph was recognised as the Citizen of the Year for the Hume City Council in Victoria.

Julie Robert

Sector Development Lead, Settlement Council of Australia

SESSION: Frameworks for the settlement sector – current state and future directions

Julie is the Sector Development Lead at SCOA. She has worked for health and community peak bodies for almost a decade, in both the drug and alcohol sector and blood-borne virus sector. She has expertise in workforce development, capacity building, research, and partnerships coordination.

Julie is currently leading SCOA’s sector capacity building activities such as training, case studies, National Settlement Workforce Profile and supporting the work of the Road to Belonging Working Group 1 and 4.


Kate Colvin

CEO, Homelessness Australia

SESSION: Brokering housing solutions

Kate Colvin is the CEO of Homelessness Australia, the national peak body for homelessness. Kate’s professional life has been dedicated to advocacy for social justice. This includes more than 20 years in leadership and management roles in policy and campaigns across peak bodies, youth, homelessness, housing and international development sectors.  

Kate joined Homelessness Australia in 2022, following her role as the national spokesperson for the national housing and homelessness campaign, Everybody’s Home and Deputy Director at the Victorian peak body for homelessness, Council to Homeless Persons. Kate is passionate about achieving the changes needed to end homelessness. 

Lisa Button

CEO, Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia

SESSION: Future directions in complementary pathways for refugee settlement

Lisa has been leading the work of CRSA and its predecessor, CRSI, since she instigated its establishment in 2018. She began her career as a commercial lawyer and has been working in refugee law and policy for more than a decade with organisations such as the Centre for Policy Development, Save the Children and Refugee Legal. Lisa is also a Fellow with the Centre for Policy Development and has been a director of a number of refugee-led organisations. Lisa holds a Masters in Public and International Law in addition to her BA/LLB(Hons) from the University of Melbourne. Lisa is one of the seven members of the Settlement Advisory Council advising the Australian Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. She lives in Melbourne and is the proud mum of three boys.


Loudeen Lam

Research Assistant, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

SESSION: Bridging the gap between academia and practice

Official Full Name : A’eoainu’u Dr Loudeen Moetunai Fualautoalasi-Lam

Loudeen is a Research Assistant with the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute bringing her expertise to bear on issues related to infectious diseases, social determinants of health and wellbeing of the Pacific community in Victoria.

As the director of Gagana-ole-Moana (GoMoana) Consultancy, Loudeen works alongside local government agencies with a growing portfolio in the community, health and education sectors.

As a Victoria Multicultural Commission regional advisory committee member for NW Metro, she plays an active role in promoting diversity, advocating for the needs of Oceania/Pacific people while shaping policies that support the local multicultural community.

Loudeen is a medical doctor with post graduate qualifications in Surgery and Health Services Management. She has over twenty years of health sector experience in and around the Pacific Region. Having been educated in Samoa, Fiji, Japan, New Zealand and Australia and prior to calling Melbourne Australia home, Loudeen worked as a Consultant & Head of Clinical Serivces, Samoa, a tutor and regional supervisor for the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) Trainee Internship program for Fiji National University and a clinical tutor & Anatomy lecturer for the Oceania University of Medicine. She is an accredited international instructor for Primary Trauma Care Course & an honorary member of the Society of Medical Practitioners in Samoa and the Pacific.

In addition, Loudeen is a proud Rugby Football Union supporter, cheering on her sons who play for The Melton Warriors.

Dr Louise Olliff

Senior Policy Advisor, Refugee Council of Australia 

SESSION: Bridging the gap between academia and practice

Dr Louise Olliff works as a senior advisor for the Refugee Council of Australia, where she has been employed in policy, research and advocacy roles since 2009. Her current role focusses on RCOA’s international and community engagement work. Louise completed a PhD in Anthropology and Development Studies at the University of Melbourne in 2018, where her research explored the ways in which refugee diaspora communities in Australia are involved in helping people living in refugee situations in different parts of the world.


Mandi Wicks

Director of News and Current Affairs, SBS

PLENARY FACILITATOR: What was key to your (and your families’) successful settlement?

Mandi Wicks is the Director of News and Current Affairs.

Prior to this, Mandi was the Director of SBS’s Audio and Language Content for almost 10 years. This included overseeing SBS Radio’s 68 language services and three music channels – SBS PopAsia, SBS PopDesi and SBS Chill.

Mandi has more than 30 years’ experience in the media industry and oversees a team of journalists delivering news and current affairs on television, online, via audio and social media, with trusted content such as SBS World News, Insight, Dateline and SBS News in Arabic and Mandarin.

Maha Krayem Abdo OAM

CEO, Muslim Women Australia

SESSION: Our role in supporting women experiencing violence

Maha Krayem Abdo OAM is a passionate advocate for social justice and uses the common language of faith to clarify in the community how Islam regards justice and equality. She serves as the CEO of Muslim Women Australia (MWA), a representative body for Muslim women working to enrich humanity, advocating for equality and the rights of all women, through authentic leadership based on Islamic principles. Maha knows the migrant experience firsthand having moved from Lebanon to Australia with her family in the 1960s. She has completed a Bachelor of Social Work, a Masters in Social Science, and Graduate Diploma in Family Dispute Resolution. 

Today Maha represents and gives voice to Muslim women abroad as well as in Australia. She advises government on policy, services and strategies to create a harmonious community for Muslim and non-Muslim women. In 2022, Maha received an Honorary Fellow from Western Sydney University, and was appointed as a Panel Member of the NSW Treasurers’ Women’s Economic Opportunities Review. In 2021, Maha was awarded the Committee for Sydney Unsung Hero Award, in 2016 Maha was the NSW Seniors Week Ambassador as well as the BreastScreen NSW Ambassador. In 2015 Maha was a finalist for the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights Medal, and in 2014 she was the NSW Human Rights Ambassador for 2014-15.

Maria Dimopoulos

Director & Principal Consultant, Myriad Kofkin Global

SESSION FACILITATOR: Our role in supporting women experiencing violence

Maria brings well over 30 years of continuous contribution to building strategic capability within a breadth of sectors and within peak bodies across Australia. She has worked across all tiers of government advocating for human rights and social justice informed policy responses, areas that have been a lifelong passion and professional commitment. Her extensive relationships and deep knowledge of many communities represented across multicultural Australia have been amassed over decades of untiring efforts to support inclusion and contribution towards building Australia’s future.

Maria’s incomparable contributions have seen her awarded the Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order Of Australia for significant service to women, to cultural diversity, and to the prevention of domestic violence, and a Lifetime Achievement award by the Migration Council of Australia in 2017 for her tireless devotion to Australian multiculturalism and support for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse women. She has held numerous advisory positions to government including the National Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity, the National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children and the Federal Multicultural Affairs Access and Equity Inquiry panel.

Mary Ann Baquero Geronimo

Chief Executive Officer, FECCA

SESSION: Plenary- State of the sector and future directions

Mary Ann has held key leadership positions in the not-for-profit sector and her experience merges significant work in systems thinking and evidence-based policy advocacy that are rooted in people and communities in Australia and in the East and Southeast Asian region.

In her previous role as Director of Policy for Health and Ageing at FECCA, she led a strong representation on access and equity for culturally and linguistically diverse communities in the pandemic response, primary healthcare, and reforms in the aged care sector. Prior to joining FECCA, she led initiatives that informed policies on community-based care, chronic disease management, and women’s financial security in six countries in the East and Southeast Asian region for a decade.

Mary Ann has led research and co-authored academic publications on ethnography, bio-psychosocial approaches to health and ageing, and public health communication in multicultural settings, among others. She studied public policy and public administration as a Lee Kuan Yew Scholar at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy-National University of Singapore.

Michael Zgryza

Community Services Manager, Multilink Community Services

SESSION FACILITATOR: Bridging the gap between academic and practice

Michael Zgryza has worked across the youth and multicultural community services sector for over 30 years and is currently the Community Services Manager with MultiLink Community Services Inc. in Queensland. He has oversight of the Settlement, Youth, Community Engagement & Support, Financial Wellbeing, and Employment & Training service teams, as well as previously managing MultiLink’s Aged Care and Disability services area and a formal 6-month period as acting MultiLink CEO. Michael has been the Queensland Representative on the SCoA Board since June 2020 and is currently also Deputy Chair of the Board.

Mirsia Bunjaku

CEO, Australian Migrant Resource Centre

SESSION: Supporting newly arrived refugees to get their first job

Mirsia has almost 19 years’ experience working at the Australian Migrant Resource Centre and has held leadership positions in various programs across the organisation working with refugees, asylum seekers, children, young people, women, people with disabilities, the elderly and other migrants. Her roles within AMRC included the management of Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS), Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS), Complex Case Support (CCS), in service improvement and development such as Home Care Packages through My Aged Care, service provision through National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and employment initiatives such as Launch into Work, Women’s Employment into Action and management of the MRCWorks as an RTO. She is passionate about supporting and empowering migrants and refugees and developing stronger communities. She is currently on the Board of the Settlement Council of Australia and Palliative Care SA, Chair of the Woodville Gardens School Governing Council, a member of the SA Ambulance Consumer and Community Advisory Committee and is a regular member of a number of networks within the Settlement and Health sectors. 

With a wealth of information about diverse communities’ expectations and vulnerabilities, she is driven by the need for cultural understanding and safety to assist in the empowerment of refugees and migrants and better outcomes for all to belong and thrive.

Neil Pharaoh

Co-founder and Director, TANCK

SESSION: Collaborating for more impactful influence

Neil is a founding Director of Tanck, and a government engagement and campaigning guru with a depth of experience in social purpose, government, public policy, and advocacy.

Having led corporate affairs, business development and marketing teams, he has been the driving force behind leading social policy and advocacy campaigns, as well as national and international philanthropic and development work, in child welfare, education, refugee and LGBTIQ+ issues.

Neil was a founding director of LGBTIQ+ philanthropic group, GiveOUT, and was national co-convenor of Rainbow Labor, where he led the internal campaign which achieved over 200 legislative and regulatory reforms, including changing the Labor Party’s position on marriage equality. Neil was featured in the Deloitte ‘2018 Outstanding 50 LGBTI Leaders’ list and ran for parliament in 2014 and 2018 as the Labor candidate for Prahran, Victoria.

After many years working across the not-for-profit, private and government sectors, both in Australia and internationally, Neil formed Pharaoh + Associates, and in 2021, co-founded Tanck, a government engagement consultancy firm who believe there is strength in strategy. 

In a few short years he has already delivered a range of highly successful government engagement, advocacy, business development and funding outcomes for a variety of clients spanning different sectors. United by shared purpose, he is committed to building highly motivated, engaged and effective teams within an organisation.

Neil has a Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing and Accounting) as well as a Bachelor of Laws from the Australian National University, and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (MAICD). Neil has qualifications in Media Training, Project Management and has completed a Harvard University (Club Australia) Short Course on Executive Leadership. Neil sits on a number of private, public and community boards.

Neil is proud of his culturally and linguistically diverse background, and of being a member of the LGBTIQ+ community. He brings these connections, strengths and diversity to every engagement.

Dr Nora Amath

Refugee Settlement (SETS) National Manager, Islamic Women’s Association of Australia

SESSION: Addressing Inequity within Multicultural Affairs and Settlement

Dr Nora Amath is an expert community developer whose research focuses on multiculturalism, social exclusion, racism, and community development.  She is a published solo author and her other publications have appeared in several edited volumes and journals. She is an adjunct Research Fellow at Griffith University and also works at the Islamic Women’s Association of Australia as the National Manager of Refugee Settlement and the CAMS program, a state funded program to ensure equitable access to services and resources for multicultural communities. She is also a co-founder of Sakina Refuge, a short-term accommodation for CALD women and children experiencing DFV.

Nora has lived experience as a refugee from Vietnam. She also has strong connections to the community across a number of areas, including youth, women and multi-faith groups. She has served on the Minister’s Queensland Multicultural Advisory Council and the Queensland Government Taskforce looking at Women’s Safety and Justice. She currently sits on the Australian Multicultural Council. In 2006, she was the Australian Muslim Woman of the Year. In 2017, she was a finalist for Australian of the Year.

Nyrob Majak

Community Advocate

SESSION: Supporting new arrivals with disabilities

Nyrob Majak is a young woman who lives with a disability and comes from a culturally diverse background. Now living in Melbourne, Nyrob travelled here from South Sudan, via Egypt, then Hobart. Nyrob has recently completed a Diploma in Community Services while working in a part-time facilitating role in the Diversity & Disability Program with the Migrant Resource Centre. More recently Nyrob completed placement with Romsey Neighbourhood House helping with research into short and long-term housing solutions for vulnerable community members to be submitted for government funding. 

Nyrob has aspirations to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work with her mission to help the community and individuals facing similar challenges to those she faces each day. She is confident that with the combination of her background and determination she will be able to make meaningful contributions to society.

Olayide Ogunsiji RN, PhD

Associate Professor, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Western Sydney University

SESSION: Improving health policy and practice for migrants and refugees

Olayide Ogunsiji is a registered nurse and Associate Professor at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Western Sydney University, Australia. Originally from Nigeria, she migrated to Australia in 1999 with a Masters’ degree in Sociology. Associate Professor Ogunsiji continued her academic pursuit and obtained her PhD in Nursing in 2009. Her research interest is in migrant and refugee women’s health. She is the founder of African Women’s Health and Support Organisation (AWHASO), a not-for-profit support group for women’s health issues. Associate Professor Olayide Ogunsiji is the Chair, Community Migrant Resource Centre, Parramatta, Sydney. Olayide has publications in referred and peer-reviewed journals and has presented in local, national and international conferences. 

Om Dhungel

Author, Bhutan to Blacktown- Losing everything and finding Australia

SESSION: Plenary session – What was key to your (and your families’) successful settlement?

A trained telecommunications engineer turned ‘Inner Engineer’, Om Dhungel is a consultant, trainer and a mentor, and a practitioner of Strength-Based Approach to refugee settlement and community engagement. A former refugee from Bhutan and an author of: Bhutan to Blacktown – Losing everything and finding Australia, Om Dhungel combines his cross-sectoral professional expertise and rich lived experience to help shift thinking and drive transformational change. A Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, he serves on different Committees including the NSW Health Ministry and NSW Police. Amongst many other accomplishments, Om is a recipient of the ZEST 2021 Outstanding Volunteer Leader Award, 2017 University of Technology Sydney (UTS) International Alumni Award and 2016 NSW Premier’s Multicultural Community Medal for Lifetime Achievement.

Paul Power

CEO, Refugee Council of Australia

SESSION FACILITATOR: Future directions in complementary pathways for refugee settlement

Paul Power has been CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia since 2006. As head of the national umbrella body on refugee policy, he helps to lead NGO advocacy with the Australian Government and United Nations agencies. Paul is a board member of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), having served in leadership roles with the network since 2012.

In 2023-24, Paul is co-chair of the global Consultations on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways, which draws together UNHCR, governments, NGO and refugee representatives from nations involved in refugee resettlement. He previously co-chaired this forum in 2011-12 when it was the Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement. 

Under Paul’s leadership, RCOA has supported the development of refugee-led advocacy networks at state, national, Asia-Pacific and global levels, assisting in the planning of the first Asia-Pacific Summit of Refugees and the Global Summit of Refugees in 2018.

Dr Pilar Rioseco

Senior Research Fellow, Australian Institute of Family Studies

SESSION: Emerging research in settlement

Dr Pilar Rioseco is the Program Lead of the Building a New Life in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Humanitarian Migrants (BNLA) and has been involved with the study since 2016. A psychologist and demographer, Pilar has a particular interest in the design, implementation, and analysis of longitudinal studies. Pilar’s research has focused on understanding the health and wellbeing of different populations from a life course perspective, including children and young people, humanitarian migrants, older adults and military families. Pilar has extensive experience in the analysis of large-scale longitudinal studies, including the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA), the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), and the Building a New Life in Australia (BNLA).

More recently, Pilar managed the design and implementation of Wave 6 (2023) of the BNLA, marking the 10th year of BNLA participants’ settlement journey in Australia. Pilar has several publications using the BNLA data and has presented these findings at national and international conferences. Pilar is also involved in the evaluation of the Community Refugee Integration and Settlement Pilot (CRISP), a collaborative project, led by the University of Queensland, for the Department of Home Affairs. 

Pino Migliorino AM

Managing Director, Cultural Perspectives

SESSION: Supporting new arrivals with disabilities

Pino is also the founder and Managing Director of the Cultural Perspectives Group: Cultural Perspectives, and CIRCA Research, sector leaders in consulting to, researching and communicating with culturally and linguistically diverse and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia. Pino is also distinguished in his pioneering work around multicultural policy and multilingual communications, applying communications theory and strategies to the fast growing and diversifying CALD segment in Australia. 

Pino is a passionate advocate and ally for people with disability and has been providing leadership in facilitating cultural and institutional change in the generalist and multicultural disability sector. Pino also brings superior organisational governance skills and will work to ensure that the NEDA Board has the capacity to govern well and meet strategic objectives as the Council’s Secretary.

Pino is a Fellow of the Public Relations Institute of Australia (FPRIA) and a Qualified Practicing Market Research (QPMR) and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAIDC). Pino was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2017 and made a Commendatore (Knight Commander) all’Ordine della Stella della Solidarieta Italiana in 2009.

Rana Ebrahimi

National Manager, Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network

SESSION: Supporting communities to be their own advocates

Rana Ebrahimi is the National Manager of the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network Australia (MYAN). She leads MYAN to advocate for young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds’ rights and best interests in policy and practice. She is an expert in social inclusion and humanitarian ethics. Recently, she has been appointed as the reference group for this Multicultural Framework Review (The Review). Rana is the first Iranian woman to be a National Head of Office for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Iran. She is also President of the Equal Employment Opportunity Network, Director on board of Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, and member of several advisory groups including Welcoming Australia.


Renee Dixson

Co-founder, Forcibly Displaced People Network 

SESSION: Addressing inequity within multicultural affairs and settlement

Renee Dixson is an emerging academic and co-founder of the Forcibly Displaced People Network. More than ten years ago, they were forced to leave Ukraine.

Renee is at the forefront of efforts to raise awareness about the unique challenges faced by LGBTIQ+ refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants, nationally and globally.

Renee advocates for intersectional policies and services to be provided to LGBTIQ+ individuals who have been uprooted from their homes to create a more just and equitable society.

Renee is leading the first organization in Australia led by LGBTIQ+ displaced people. They are building bridges to make systematic changes for LGBTIQ+ displaced people.

Robyn Matthews

Team Leader- Education, Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services

SESSION: Moving beyond entry level: Career progression for migrants and refugees

Robyn Matthews is the Team Leader for Education at Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services (LCMS). Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services (LCMS) is a member of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria and is the peak body for multicultural communities in central Victoria. LCMS provides services including employment support, education, community development, Redress and cultural celebrations. A core element of our work is as a secondary settlement provider.

Robyn has over 25 years’ experience teaching English as an Additional Language in a variety of settings including Japan, China, and Taiwan. She has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) focusing on linguistics, a TESOL qualification as well as qualifications in massage and yoga. Robyn is also fluent in Japanese. For the last four years Robyn has worked closely with multicultural communities, stakeholders and employers to create and deliver several award-winning pre-accredited employment pathways programs for multicultural communities living in the Bendigo region. Courses are designed with a specific focus on empowering those from a refugee background to understand their work rights and employment options. Integral to the success of these programs is the cultural inclusion training and support that Robyn provides to the employers, thus improving employee retention and career progression opportunities for multicultural community members. Robyn also leads LCMS’s “Racism it stops with me” campaign, and delivers unconscious bias and cross cultural awareness training.

Rory Parker

Senior Associate, TANCK

SESSION: Collaborating for more impactful influence

Rory brings a diverse and creative skillset to his role at Tanck, with a focus on values-driven policy and people-led campaigns. He joins Tanck after working for a number of years in the political realm, as an Advisor in Federal Parliament, as well as recently as a Policy Advisor for a senior state government Minister.

Rory has worked across a diverse range of Ministerial portfolio areas – tending to complex policy matters, overseeing major infrastructure projects, and supporting the roll-out of small grant schemes. Through this experience, he has a strong knowledge of the structures and processes of government, as well as how to effectively engage with politicians, political staffers, and bureaucrats.

Rory understands how to navigate a complex media landscape and develops strategies across multiple channels to achieve proactive media, or to manage crises and mitigate risk. He draws on his broad comprehension of framing, communication, and political messaging to build campaigns and amplify brands.

With a decade’s worth of political campaigning experience – as a volunteer, as a staffer, and as a campaign manager – Rory knows what political candidates, major parties, and governments want from organisations and how to best deliver it.

Rose Dash

Chief Client Officer, Multicultural Australia

SESSION FACILITATOR: Frameworks for the settlement sector- current state and future directions

Rose Dash holds qualifications in social work and business, and has been working in the refugee and multicultural sector in Queensland and internationally in client service delivery, torture and trauma services, and community development for over a decade. Rose has a demonstrated history of working holistically and collaboratively with diverse communities, and complex, vulnerable, resilient individuals and families. She is experienced in developing organisational strategies and turning them into achievable operational plans and modelling for direct service delivery and community development. Rose is passionate about leading teams in best practice, creating moments that matter and impact for new arrivals through empowerment, opportunity generation, and building safe, inclusive, and welcoming communities in Australia.


Sam Matti

President, Australian Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Advocacy Network (AACSAN)

SESSION: Supporting communities to be their own advocates

Sam, a former refugee from Iraq, arrived in Australia in 2015. Began his journey as a volunteer with AMES Australia helping refugees with settlement upon their arrival. Sam is an engineer and project manager, has worked on some of multi-billion-dollar transport infrastructure projects city-shaping projects like the North East Link Project, Melbourne Airport Rail and recently the Inland Rail project. Sam has won the Victorian Project of the Year 2019 and the National Engineering and Construction Project of the Year 2019 from the Australian Institute for Project Management AIPM.

Beyond his professional achievements, he has a deep passion for refugee rights and tirelessly advocates for the Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac community both in Australia and internationally. Sam was part of AACSAN’s committee in 2022 that helped resettle a refugee family via the CRISP program and was elected in Apr 2023 as the President of AACSAN.

Sandra Elhelw

Chief Executive Officer, Settlement Council of Australia

SESSION: Plenary- State of the sector and future directions

Sandra is the CEO of the Settlement Council of Australia, the peak body representing Australia’s migrant and refugee services. The Council has 125 member organisations that work with migrants and refugees to build a new life in Australia. In her current role, she leads the sector in building an inclusive society where migrants and refugees belong and thrive. Sandra is a second-generation migrant, whose parents came to Australia from Egypt. Her experience growing up in a migrant family significantly influences her work.

Prior to joining SCOA, Sandra has had roles working in government, and frontline social services. She is also undertaking a PhD on domestic and family violence in Australian Muslim communities.

Dr Sally Baker

Associate Professor of Migration and Education, Australian National University

SESSION: Future directions in complementary pathways for refugee settlement

Sally Baker is an Associate Professor of Migration and Education at the Australian National University. Sally’s teaching and research interests centre on equity in higher education, particularly the educational access, pathways, and experiences of students with forced migration backgrounds. Sally is the founder of the Refugee Education Special Interest Group for/with students from refugee backgrounds.




Samira Husic

Manager- Multicultural Services, MercyCare 

PLENARY: From lived experience to professional insight

Samira Husic is a general manager of multicultural services with Mercy Care in WA. Prior to this she worked with the City of Stirling and Association for Torture and Trauma Survivors (ASeTTS) where she developed and fine-tuned her skills in working with refugees, trauma survivors and overall Humanitarian arrivals in Australia. Samira experienced refugee life firsthand in the 1990s war torn Bosnia. She has been living in Australia for 22 years.

Samira holds qualifications in:

  • Primary school teaching (Bosnia)
  • Psychology and Children and Family Studies (double Major, ECU Australia)
  • Postgraduate degree in Counselling and Psychotherapy (ECU Australia)
  • Global Mental Health: Trauma and Recovery Certificate Program (Harvard University)
  • Currently studying an MBA course at Edith Cowan University in WA 

Additionally, Samira is also a registered trainer with Living Works Australia for providing ASIST – suicide prevention training.

Samira has spent the last 20 years working as a trauma counsellor, group facilitator and had developed and implemented various programs including individual and family counselling, youth work, group work, community development initiatives, and asylum seeker supports. Most of Samira’s work is guided by strong passion, her ability to understand the broader national and international context of displacement and working with re-settlement. Has a strong belief in measuring the work done in this sector, using research evidence to build body of knowledge but also to ensure ongoing funding for the multicultural sector.

Sarah Yassien

Director of Corporate Strategy, SBS 

SESSION: Bridging the gap between academia and practice

Sarah Yassien is the SBS Director of Corporate Strategy, responsible for Corporate Strategy, Audience Data and Insights and Audience Relations. Prior to her appointment to Director, Sarah led SBS’s digital transformation and product strategy, driving the transformation of the digital offering to deliver a deeper audience connection with SBS’s distinctive programs and services.  

With close to 20 years’ industry experience, Sarah has led strategic business transformation in Australia and overseas. Previous roles include senior positions with the BBC, Amnesty International and Westpac Group. 

Sarah holds a Bachelor of Business from the University of Technology Sydney, and a Master of International Studies from the University of Sydney.

Sarya Alsayed

Talent Beyond Boundaries

SESSION: Future directions in complementary pathways for refugee settlement

A passionate Syrian lady who writes magic code to make life easier, my experience in software engineering and building applications gave me wings and moved me to Australia, Adelaide after living ten years as a refugee in Jordan through the TBB program.

As I love helping the clients in Aligent company by providing and creating fast, stable, and flexible solutions to meet their business and e-commerce goals, I love helping others find their way in this life and supporting them to hold their dreams and move to the peaceful side.

I really enjoy learning new things and technology and working with brilliant people from different cultures, everything in life for me is a new adventure which adds to my experience and takes me to the next level.

Sharon Daishe

CEO, Mosaic Multicultural Connections

SESSION: Regional models for delivering settlement services 

Sharon Daishe is the CEO of Mosaic Multicultural Connections, delivering settlement and complementary programs across a significant area of regional NSW for over 40 years. With headquarters in Newcastle, Mosaic also has offices on the Central Coast and in Tamworth and Armidale. Newcastle and Armidale are designated refugee settlement locations and in Armidale, a highly traumatised cohort of over 700 Ezidi humanitarian entrants have settled since 2018. Sharon is no stranger to regional Australia, having raised her family on cattle stations and served as CEO of two ‘outback’ local governments with predominantly Indigenous populations. Sharon’s credentials include a Master of International and Community Development, an executive internship with the Alola Foundation in East Timor, and a year in Tanzania establishing governance systems for a not for profit in a rural Maasai area, now delivering an impactful youth-driven and community-led education program.

Shabnam Safa

Director, Centre for Multicultural Youth

SESSION FACILITATOR: Supporting communities to be their own advocates 

Shabnam is a driven community development practitioner passionate about cultivating true partnerships between communities and structures of power to create social change. She grew up as a Hazara Afghan refugee in Pakistan before arriving in Australia at the age of 15. Grounded in her own experience of forced displacement, she advocates for meaningful participation of refugees in addressing the complex challenges of resettlement, inclusion, and belonging. She is part of a small national team at the Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia (CRSA) building a community-led refugee sponsorship movement in Australia. She also leads the National Refugee-led Advisory and Advocacy Group (NRAAG), a refugee-led organisation creating spaces for effective elevation of voices with lived experience in key decisions, policies, and discourse about refugees.

Shabnam was one of the leading voices behind the Action For Afghanistan campaign galvanising mass support in urging the Australian government to take action when the Taliban forcibly took over Afghanistan in 2021. A Director at the Centre for Multicultural Youth, Shabnam also serves on multiple government advisory boards influencing policy design and delivery in addressing the unique challenges and opportunities facing multicultural communities in Australia. She was recently inducted to the Victorian Honour Roll of Women for her work in promoting refugee rights and social cohesion


Sheetal Challam

Multicultural Strategic Advisor, Cancer Institute NSW 

SESSION: Improving health policy and practice for migrants and refugees

With 20 years of experience behind her, both in multicultural and refugee sectors, Sheetal Challam has held various roles in the areas of policy development, stakeholder engagement, and government relations. Sheetal currently leads the multicultural program at the Cancer Institute NSW where she provides strategic advice to Institute staff and facilitates key partnerships to improve cancer outcomes for the state’s culturally diverse communities. Prior to her stint in the government sector, Sheetal spent close seven years in the settlement sector coordinating programs for new and emerging communities in the Blacktown area. 

Sheetal as completed a Masters of Arts degree (School of Cultural Histories and Futures) on a scholarship. She is particularly passionate about refugee health and keenly interested in ethics and social responsibility.  Sheetal occasional dabbles in filmmaking and writing.  


Sonia Di Mezza

CEO, Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services

SESSION: Brokering housing solutions

Sonia Di Mezza is the CEO of Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services, headquartered in Bendigo, Central Victoria. She is a human rights lawyer, and solicitor. Sonia has set up a human rights project in Pakistan for Afghan widowed women; set up a legal aid project in Sudan; worked as a Resettlement Officer for UNCHR and an Indian NGO supporting child labourers. She worked for four years as a refugee lawyer in Australian immigration detention centres. 

Violet Roumeliotis

CEO, Settlement Services International

SESSION FACILITATOR: Employment and career progression for migrants and refugees

Violet Roumeliotis AM has spent more than 35 years leading for-purpose organisations, providing human services that promote equal opportunity and change the lives of individuals and families experiencing inequality.

 She is currently the CEO of Settlement Services International (SSI), a community organisation and social business that supports newcomers and other vulnerable individuals to achieve their full potential. During her 11 years as CEO, Violet has taken SSI from a Sydney-based organisation with 68 staff to a 1200-plus workforce that supports more than 56,000 people nationally each year across a range of human services. 

Violet is a previous National Telstra Business Woman of the Year and one of the AFR 100 Women of Influence. Her Non-Executive roles include Australian Council of Social Services board member; the NSW Domestic and Family Violence and Sexual Assault Council; the NSW Ageing and Disability Commission Advisory Board; the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Expert Advisory Group for the Racism. It Stops With Me campaign; and the NSW Commissioner’s Modern Slavery Advisory Council.

Road to Belonging- Chairs

Christine Castley

CEO, Multicultural Australia

Chair, Road to Belonging Working Group 1

SESSION: Road to Belonging: Empowered settlement journeys

Christine is the Chief Executive Officer of Multicultural Australia, with substantial expertise in organisational transformation and change management, strategic governance, policy, community engagement and service delivery. Prior to this, she was Deputy Director-General in the Queensland Department of the Premier and Cabinet and the Queensland Department of Housing and Public Works. Christine has a strong track record in delivering significant reform and innovation projects, including for adult and youth justice, disaster management response and recovery and public sector ethics and integrity reform.   

Christine is a passionate advocate for equal access to justice and services for everyone regardless of their gender, beliefs or circumstances, drawing on her lived experience as a migrant. She has a personal belief that we all have a part to play in tackling disadvantage and exclusion, and to making the world a better place for all. Christine holds a Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Arts (English and Communications) and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Queensland. 

Clement Meru

Head of Settlement Services, SydWest Multicultural Services

Chair, Road to Belonging Working Group 2

SESSION: Working with local migrant and refugee communities

Clement Meru hails from the Republic of South Sudan and arrived in Australia in 2003 under the Humanitarian programme. He worked for CORE Community Services (formerly Cabramatta Community Centre) since 2004 and served in various positions in the organisation for 12 years, supporting newly arrived refugee and migrant communities settle in Western Sydney. He was involved in the design and establishment of the NSW Settlement Partnership, a consortium of community organisations with Settlement Services International as the lead agency delivering settlement services in agreed areas of NSW. Clement has held the position of Community Engagement and Disability Services Manager at SydWest Multicultural Services, managing a multi-disciplinary Division across a large portfolio, including settlement services, women, families, youth and Disability Employment Services. Clement currently serves on a number of local forums and government advisory committees in New South Wales : he is convenor for the Blacktown Local Government Area Multicultural Interagency(BMI) and currently serves on the NSW Police Multicultural Advisory Council(PMAC), Blacktown City Council’s Multicultural Advisory Committee and the Joint Partnership Working Group for Refugee Settlement in NSW. Clement has over 13 years’ experience in governance ranging from small and medium sized, incorporated organisations to peak bodies, including Settlement Service International, Settlement Council of Australia Clement has qualifications in welfare and community sector management.

David Keegan

CEO, HOST International 

Chair, Road to Belonging Working Group 5

SESSION: Building monitoring, evaluation and data capability

CEO and founder of HOST International. Social work Leader, Social Entrepreneur Trainer, manager, and investor in good ideas. He has led small and large projects in refugee settlement, international protection, youth homelessness and child protection throughout his 20 year career.  

David has a passion for doing things differently and supporting others to bring their ideas to life.  He brings this passion to the work of HOST and is committed to working to create better lives for people on the move and the communities that host them.

David’s vision is for an inclusive world where people on the move and host communities work together to create better lives for all.  He believes that this is best achieved by fostering a common sense of humanity, dignity, and a shared hope in a better future.

With this passion and vision HOST currently operates across the Asia Pacific Region (Australian, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and New Zealand) providing support to individuals and communities whilst seeking to make systemic change in refugee protection.

Dor Achiek

Head of Settlement Services, Settlement Services International

Chair, Road to Belonging Working Group 5

SESSION: Supporting workforce and organisational capacity

Dor Akech Achiek is the Group Head of Settlement Services at SSI, a community organisation and social business that supports newcomers and other Australians to achieve their full potential. In his role, Dor provides strategic and operational management of Settlement Services across SSI’s programs in the Australian Eastern Seaboard locations, including SETS program services provided by the NSW Settlement Partnership (NSP), SETS in QLD, YTSP, CSP in national locations, Youth in Power Program, to ensure high quality standards and performance are maintained.

Previously as SSI Youth Projects Coordinator, Dor coordinated the Youth Collective; an initiative of SSI and Migrant Resources Centres (MRCs) in NSW that focuses on service delivery outcomes that reflect the needs and aspirations of multicultural youth in New South Wales, with a focus on migrant and refugee youth.

He sits on a number of advisory committees including NSW Office of Sports, Asia Pacific Network of Refugees (APNOR), African Alliance NSW, JWL Youth Ministry Australia, Kushtek Holdings Group, Lead Beyond Education, and many more ethno-religious bodies.

Dor is a former refugee from South Sudan who came to Australia in 2003 after 9 years living in Kakuma refugee camp as a result of war in the then Sudan.

Dor holds a master’s degree in international law and international Relations, a BA in Politics and International Relations, A Diploma of Community Services Coordination and a Diploma of Children Services.

Dor is well acquainted with the issues facing refugees, migrants and people seeking asylum. He began as a volunteer youth engagement worker, a mentor and community educator shortly after completing High School in 2006 at St Ignatius College, Riverview. Since then he has worked as a Youth Project Worker at number of community services organisations and landed in management position this year.

Outside work, Dor is known for his commitment to community work which earned him the AMP Tomorrow Foundation’s award as one of the Tomorrow Makers for establishing and running the South Sudanese Youth Cultural Activities Program to engage young people from South Sudanese backgrounds living in the Western Sydney in cultural activities.

Dor has presented at a number of international conferences in New York – UN Head Quarters, Geneva – UNHCR head Quarters, Istanbul – World Humanitarian Summit, Bangkok – APRRN Conferences, Copenhagen – Danish Foreign Ministry and New Zealand – Settlement Services Exchange Program representing refugee communities and advocating for durable solutions to global refugee issues.

Diana Sayed

CEO, Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights

Chair, Road to Belonging Working Group 6

SESSION: Driving research and systems change

Diana is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights. She joined the organisation in October 2019 as an international human rights lawyer with experience working in both Australia and the United States.

She is the former Campaigns Manager at Fair Agenda and Senior Crisis Response Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia.

Diana has appeared as a regular panellist on The Drum, ABC The World, SBS, Al Jazeera, MSNBC and ABC Q&A. With a Master in International Human Rights Law she is an expert on issues pertaining to gender equality, social justice, and human rights. She has worked as a lawyer, advocate, and campaigner for over a decade, and has the lived experience of being a visible Muslim woman of colour in Australia, as a former refugee from Afghanistan.

Esta Paschalidis-Chilas

CEO, Canterbury City Community Centre

Chair, Road to Belonging Working Group 3

SESSION: Connecting with other sectors and broader Australian society

Esta is the CEO of Canterbury City Community Centre, a proud Co-Founder of SCOA and SSI and a former Councillor in Local Government.

As the grand-daughter of Pontian Greek refugees and a Daughter of migrants to Australia, it is this experience that has built her long personal and professional commitment to multiculturalism and social justice in Australia.

Esta currently serves as Chairperson of SCOA’s Road to Belonging Working Group, Connecting with Other Sectors and Broader Australian Society.

Conference MCs

Darren Mara

Journalist, SBS

Darren Mara is a journalist and presenter with almost two decades’ experience in Australian and international news and current affairs across television, radio, print and digital. He has previously worked for media outlets in Southeast Asia and Europe and more recently with Australia’s flagship daily world news program, SBS World News, where he covered stories across Europe, Asia, the Americas and Australia. He is currently filing for long-form international current affairs program, SBS Dateline, producing and reporting documentary films around the world.

Darren is a proud Maltese-Australian who maintains a strong connection to Southern Europe. He also traces his Australian lineage back over 150 years, including ties to First Nations. He’s a passionate advocate for underprivileged communities, having grown up in similar circumstances, and regularly engages in fundraising drives for cancer treatment and research. When not working, Darren is a weekend footballer (soccer), boulderer and family man.

Preeti Jabbal

Executive Producer, SBS Hindi

Preeti Jabbal is the Executive Producer of SBS Hindi since May 2021. She has worked in Australian and Indian media for over 20 years previously as Melbourne Communications Coordinator for Indian Link, and prior to that as editor for Montage Magazine under the banner of Lokmat Times, India. 

She completed her Post graduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication after graduating in Commerce. She migrated to Australia in 1995 and has worked in Insurance and Telecommunications in leadership roles before joining SBS. 

She won the Victorian Multicultural Commission Media award in individual category in 2014 and Top 100 Indians in media category in 2022. She is also the Vice President of the Australia India Community Organisation (AICO) a Not-for-Profit organisation dedicated to arts. She considers herself to be out and out a people’s person and enjoys networking and building relationships and engaging with people.