Sydwest Multicultural Services AGM

I'm such a big fan of an organisation called Sydwest Multicultural Services. You might remember them from my stories with HDI News about the Multicultural Mums groups in Riverstone and Seven Hills. The organisation has been in operation for 31 years now, but has only recently opened its Rouse Hill office.

I wish I'd thought to get a photo when I reached the door of Sydwest. Standing either side of that door in a welcoming party were around eight Sydwest staff members, smiling and welcoming me to their new digs. I've never seen such an impressive welcoming party in my life. I'm usually painfully shy, but from this point I felt like I had found my tribe. We all took a seat and pretty soon were underway.

First we heard from Dr Michelle Byrne, Mayor of Hills Shire Council, who opened by acknowledging work and effort made by Sydwest to make the community a better place. She remarked that cultural diversity in the Hills goes back a long way, citing the earlier days of Chinese migrants working on local citrus orchards.

Dr Byrne said that her vision for the Hills is to "create a place where everyone feels that they belong and have a role to play; a community that is mentally healthy."

Also present was CEO Elfa Moraitakis who presented the CEO's Report and Future Directions. She appraised the year, while also acknowledging that "success is not always easy to recognise, but Sydwest's success is a combination of each individual's success."

This success was so easy to see both in the infectiously positive vibe of the gathering and the more tangible information presented in a video made by the team to showcase staff and youth participants in the "Navigating Resettlement Project". This program focuses on youth creativity and works via painting and digital media to explore identity and its interplay with the process of acculturation.

Young people aged between 15-24 come to the program as refugees or migrants. Most of them are recent arrivals, and Western Sydney University is working in partnership with Sydwest Multicultural Services to explore how they construct their aspirations.

Dr Karin McKay of WSU says the aim of the project is to help young people find their hopes and dreams, and take the necessary steps to achieve them.

"We know that these young people want to aim high. They want to have opportunities, and sometimes they're not given those opportunities. They're having to navigate a whole range of challenges. They have expectations from their parents, from themselves. They seem to have almost a double-stream of ambition."

You can find out more about Sydwest Multicultural Services at

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