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2016 Winners

Stepan Kerkyasharian AO Harmony Award – Jeremy Jones AM

For more than 40 years, Jeremy Jones has been a champion of multicultural and interfaith dialogue as founder of a number of organisations, such as the Australian Partnership of Religious Organisations, Community Alert Against Racist Violence, Together for Humanity Foundation, Faith Communities for Aboriginal Reconciliation and Australian National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Mr Jones has served on bodies such as the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Ethnic Communities Council of NSW, and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. His involvement with social issues began when he was a student working as a volunteer with indigenous children in inner Sydney.

He has developed strong bonds with leaders in Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Baha’i, Buddhist and Hindu faiths, and has worked for community harmony within Australia and globally, through co-chairing the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism. Mr Jones also serves on the NSW Police Commissioner’s Multicultural Advisory Council and was made a member of the Order of Australia in 2005. He won the 2007 Australian Human Rights Medal for his work against racism and for community harmony.

Stepan Kerkyasharian AO Harmony Award – Jeremy Jones AM

Lifetime community service – Om Dhungel

As founding president of the Association of Bhutanese in Australia (Sydney), Om Dhungel has provided leadership within his community and worked with government agencies and service providers to support refugees from Bhutan who arrive under Australia’s humanitarian program.

Mr Dhungel established the Marrickville/Dulwich Hill Amnesty International Group in 2002 while he was looking for a job and struggling to resettle after arriving in 1998. He also helped establish the Nepalese Community of Western Sydney, increasing participation by women and young people. An engineer by profession, he volunteers at SEVA International, a non-profit group supporting South Asian communities, working with diverse communities to develop partnerships.

Among his achievements are launching soccer teams for boys and girls, helping people plan careers, establishing English classes and visiting elderly people. Mr Dhungel also organises training for community leaders, arranges courses for job seekers and establishes projects in arts, literature, sports and music. He was recently awarded a fellowship to study refugee resettlement in Canada, the United States, Norway and New Zealand.

Lifetime community service – Om Dhungel

Youth award - Ram Khanal

Ram Khanal, 22, graduated as dux of his high school just two years after arriving in Australia as a refugee from a Bhutanese camp in Nepal, later graduating in medicine from the Australian National University. However, he saw the need to help fellow Bhutanese refugees who resettled in Albury Wodonga and in 2015 decided to volunteer for community activities full time. He ran an interstate soccer championship that brought together more than 500 Bhutanese young people from all over the country, in an event that promoted mental health and well-being.

Mr Khanal also formed the Albury Bhutanese Cricket Team from scratch, strengthening ties with other diverse communities, and is vice president of Bhutanese Association in Albury Inc, a non-profit group that promotes harmony, cultural exchange and empowerment.

He also volunteers with the Multicultural Settlement Services team at the Albury Wodonga Volunteer Resource Bureau, helping to raise skills and confidence among young people and increasing dialogue between young people from different backgrounds. On Australia Day 2016, he was named as Albury Young Citizen of the Year.

Youth award - Ram Khanal

Arts and culture – Saba Vasefi

Expelled from her job as lecturer at Shahid Beheshti University in Iran for her campaign against the death penalty, Saba Vasefi arrived in Australia in 2010. Since then, she has used her work as a poet and filmmaker to raise issues of social justice and promote diversity.

She has published international articles on executions of women and children, and the asylum seeker crisis, is a director of the Sydney International Women’s Poetry and Arts Festival, a director of the Woman Scream International Poetry Festival, and has been named as Ambassador for the Asylum Seekers Centre.

Her work has included documentaries on Muslim lesbians, child executions in Iran, and the life of pioneer Australian parliamentarian Edith Cowan. Ms Vasefi is also a member of the Bridge for Asylum Seekers Foundation and has organised symposiums on the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. She holds a postgraduate degree from the Australian Film Television and Radio School and is studying for a master’s degree in feminist cinema studies at Macquarie University.

Arts and culture – Saba Vasefi

Regional communities – Joan Saboisky

Joan Saboisky has been a tireless volunteer in supporting the resettlement of refugees and migrants who have settled in Wagga Wagga. In the 1970s, she helped form the West Wagga San Isadore Refugee Committee which offered help to recently arrived Vietnamese refugees. It still welcomes families to the area and helps support them during their settlement journey, and Ms Saboisky still attends community weddings and graduations arising from those early friendships.

She formed a group of interested Christians and Muslims to encourage interfaith dialogue and promote understanding and appreciation of our similarities, and also helps source and match material aid needed by families suffering economic hardship.

In addition, Ms Saboisky launched the annual Prayer for Peace service, bringing many faiths together to pray during Refugee Week, and also hosts annual events to raise money to help families sponsor their loved ones from overseas. For more than 40 years, she has acted as a conduit between the broader community and refugee and migrant communities, helping to break down barriers and promote social harmony.

Regional communities – Joan Saboisky

Economic participation – Anne Bi

Arriving in Australia in 1989 as a student from Beijing, Anne Bi established a business empire called the B1 Group, ranging from mining to real estate development and helping attract overseas investment to Australia. Her choice of development sites was influenced by changing demographics, which has enabled her to contribute extensively to Chinese community projects and charities.

The B1 Group built B1 Tower in Church Street, Parramatta, selling 20% of the apartments to overseas investors after establishing a sales team in China, and B1 Square in Burwood, which mixes retail and commercial space.

Since 2002, Ms Bi has volunteered her time and sponsored the Eyes on China project run by China Vision Project, which performs cataract operations in many remote areas in China. Ms Bi has been a trustee of the Australian Chinese Charity Foundation since 2003, which has raised funds to support disaster relief efforts after bush fires, tsunamis and earthquakes, both in Australia and throughout China and Southeast Asia. She is also a major sponsor of Chinese language schools and cultural exchange projects.

Economic participation – Anne Bi

Stepan Kerkyasharian AO Harmony Award – commendation Together for Humanity Foundation

The Together for Humanity Foundation aims to teach people to replace prejudice with mutual respect and cooperation. Established in 2002, this multifaith organisation runs workshops to bring together children and adults from diverse backgrounds, with Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Aboriginal and atheist educators. It also brings together clergy from many faiths at times of crisis, such as after the 2014 Martin Place siege. Its programs have reached about 100,000 students, teachers and community members across the country, working to break down barriers of fear and prejudice.

Stepan Kerkyasharian AO Harmony Award – commendation Together for Humanity Foundation

Youth – commendation to Mawa Sannoh

Mawa Sannoh helps young people from West Africa to settle in Sydney through her membership of NSW Mandingo Youth, a non-profit group that aims to help young people establish their identities while retaining links to their culture and heritage, within the context of Australian culture and values. Providing free homework classes for children, she has helped the community in Mount Druitt to develop social capital and support new arrivals. Mawa, who was born in Guinea, has also established a youth soccer team that now includes more than 30 members from all parts of Africa, and has helped stop youngsters from dropping out of school due to pregnancy, isolation, or family breakdown, forging relationships with Blacktown Council and the NSW Muslim Association. She has recently joined the management committee of Mount Druitt Ethnic Communities Agency.

Youth – commendation to Mawa Sannoh