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Winners announced for first-ever refugee support awards

Winners announced for first-ever refugee support awards

Winners have just been announced for the inaugural RASNZ Awards for individuals supporting refugee background communities in Auckland.

Thursday night’s awards ceremony, to be held at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre, will be attended by a diverse cross-section of the Auckland community, including former refugees, volunteers, sector representatives and philanthropists.

The awards consist of 5 categories and nominations were open to the public. Categories include: Community, Sector, Youth, Volunteer and RASNZ Supporter. More than 30 people were nominated, from myriad ethnic, cultural and professional backgrounds.

The RASNZ Awards are organised by refugee mental health and wellbeing support service, RASNZ, in an effort to acknowledge everyday kiwis who are making a positive impact on resettlement outcomes for former refugees.

RASNZ CEO, Dr Ann Hood, says her team was “blown away” by the calibre of nominees.

“It was incredibly difficult for our panel to select winners for the first-ever RASNZ Awards,” she says. There are so many wonderful people in our wider community who are striving to support refugee background families as they rebuild their lives.”

Dr Hood says one thing that stood out from the nominations was the number of nominees who are from refugee backgrounds themselves.

“This just goes to show the powerful, positive impact that resettled communities have on New Zealand society,” she says.

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“Every day, we see people from refugee backgrounds standing alongside born-and-bred kiwis and traditional migrants, helping to make our neighbourhoods vibrant, safe and welcoming to all. The RASNZ Awards are a chance to celebrate this hard work and passion.”

2018 RASNZ Award Winners

Community Award: Someone from a refugee background who is working to improve resettlement outcomes for others.

This year’s joint winners are: Cicilia Dwe & Eh Doh Soe.
Cicilia Dwe arrived in New Zealand aged 10 in the second group of Karen refugees from Burma/Myanmar. Having been educated in the New Zealand system she has used that background, in her own time, to help her community in multiple ways. For example, in the recent tragic drowning of two Karen parents at Muriwai Beach, she was the community spokeswoman.

Eh Doh Soe arrived in New Zealand in 2011 and, while learning English, has involved himself in voluntarily supporting the Karen community. His working life also shows his concern for others. While studying, he worked as a Teacher Aide assisting Karen and Kayah students and he is now completing a Social Work Diploma.

Sector Award: Awarded to a person who has worked within the refugee sector and made a significant contribution over time.

This year’s winner is: Sue Elliott
Sue Elliott has dedicated many years to the refugee sector in New Zealand. She was instrumental in the establishment of RASNZ Auckland; founding secretary of the Auckland Refugee Council, headed the AUT Refugee Education programme at Mangere and is a trustee of the Auckland Refugee Family Trust. She is a lecturer, researcher, mentor and evaluator. At some point in time she has supported most agencies in the sector by conducting service evaluations, advising on governance and management structure and systems, stepping into key roles when gaps have arisen, and always advocating for better outcomes for refugee communities. She is a tireless worker who is not afraid to speak up on the issues that matter.

Volunteer Award: Awarded to a person who goes above and beyond by giving generously of their time and energy within the refugee sector.

This year’s winner is: Irena Madjar
Irena Madjar volunteers countless hours every year in support of the Sir Robert Jones Refugee Daughters’ Scholarship programme. Her efforts include painstakingly matching scholarship recipients with suitable volunteer mentors, advocating and championing the students within the New Zealand tertiary system, and personally encouraging students via text, emails, face-to-face meetings and phone calls. Irena advises students, proofreads assignments, and has even opened her home to one young lady while she was on a placement near Irena’s home. Dozens of young women from refugee backgrounds have completed degrees and are thriving because of Irena’s involvement.

Youth Award: Awarded to a young person from a refugee background who is making a positive difference in their community.

This year’s winner: Louise Nibarema
Louise was collectively nominated by representatives of Auckland’s Burundian community. At just 19, she is already someone that other young people call when they need guidance or advice. She helps to organise cultural activities and performances, ensuring that children and young people from the Burundian community remain connected to their traditional culture and even offers pick-ups and drop-offs for youth to help them make rehearsals and performances. Louise is a student at the University of Auckland and we are excited to see where the future takes her.

RASNZ Supporter: Awarded to a person who has demonstrated loyal commitment to RASNZ’s work with refugee background communities.

This year’s winner: Cathy Downey-Parish

Cathy Downey-Parish is RASNZ’s key contact at Michael Park School in Ellerslie, where staff and students at have passionately supported RASNZ for more than 2 years. They’ve conducted fundraising appeals, offered opportunities to promote RASNZ at school events and invited RASNZ staff to discuss refugee issues at school assemblies. Michael Park School student volunteers, organised by Ms Downey-Parish, recently painted a chalkboard mural in the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre art shed. We greatly appreciate the continued support we’ve received from Michael Park School, whose staff and students showcase New Zealanders at their best: compassionate, welcoming and committed to creating vibrant, inclusive communities.


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