Migrant advocates recognised with NSW Multicultural Community Medal awards


The outstanding contribution of migrants and those who work in the field of multiculturalism have been recognised at the NSW Premier's Harmony Dinner.

Saba Vasefi and Om Dhungel are former refugees whose experiences have driven their passion to help Australian migrants.

They are two of the winners of the NSW Multicultural Community Medal awards, which recognise the contribution of those working in the field of multiculturalism.

Ms Vasefi is a filmmaker and human rights activist who fled Iran when her life was at risk, after she made a documentary about child execution.

Now residing in Sydney, her latest film explores her struggle to reconcile life in Australia.

She has been recognised for her contribution to arts and culture.

“After five years living in Australia as a refugee, I still feel I don't belong here somehow,” she said in the film.

“My continuing search made me reach out to asylum seekers living in detention and drove me to work for the powerless women and children incarcerated there.”

Her future aspirations are to help new arrivals by challenging government policy.

"I think that western governments claim that their policies promote an equal society... however refugees, asylum seekers and refugees in Australia are stigmatised, marginalised, abused and silenced,” she said.

“And, their contribution to the public discourse on the issues that affect them is misunderstood and rejected.”

Om Dhungel received the Premier's Lifetime Community Service Award for his work with Australia's Bhutanese community.

He fled arrest and torture in Bhutan in 1992 before arriving in Australia, as a refugee, six years later.

In his role as the the founding president and advisor to the Association of Bhutanese in Australia, Mr Dhungel has a community-focused approach in overcoming migrant hardships.

“Rather than a top down funding approach, we don't take that, it's always a collaborative partnership approach,” he said.

“So in the process we build skills and capacity within the community so that we don't become dependent.

“Each of us you know if we believe we can make a difference and believe we can make a difference in five people’s lives. That's going to multiply and you are soon going to see some of that multiplication effect you know.”

Mr Dhungel was at the airport to welcome Hemanta Acharya when she arrived as a refugee from Bhutan in 2008.

A host on a Nepali television show based in Australia, Ms Acharya has taken Om’s lead in becoming a community leader in her own right.

“Since the first day he would tell me, encourage me to get involved in things that sounded unachievable at the time but he was like we can work on these thing together,” she said.

A special 'Champions of the Community' award also given to Sydney Siege survivors Jarrod Morton-Hoffman and Louisa Hope.

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