Introducing ‘The More You Know’: A Collaborative Project Featuring Women in the SCARF Community

Introducing ‘The More You Know’: A Collaborative Project Featuring Women in the SCARF Community

To mark International Women’s Day, we launched an important storytelling project that we’ve been working on with Bear Hunt Photography and women in the SCARF Community called ‘The More You Know’.

‘The More You Know’ is a series of photo essays giving a platform to women from refugee backgrounds to share stories and anecdotes that are as full of life as they are.

Too often, we see narratives about people from refugee backgrounds that are one-dimensional. While we recognise that it’s impossible to capture the depth and complexity of a person in their totality, we’re hoping to share stories that are a little more expanded, diverse, and real.

In this first instalment of the project, we’re featuring three wonderful women: Narges, Masoumeh and Golsoum.

You can check out the photo essay here. We hope you enjoy getting to know these three as much as we did!

A heartfelt thanks is owed to Narges, Masoumeh and Golsoum for sharing their home and their stories for this project.

Bear Hunt Photography is the business of the Illawarra- based documentary photographer, Sarah Pulling. To read more about Sarah and see her work, visit her website.

Run for SCARF in 2018: City2Surf, SMH Half-Marathon & Tough Mudder

Run for SCARF in 2018: City2Surf, SMH Half-Marathon & Tough Mudder

If you’re a keen runner or obstacle-courser, or just want to take on a fitness challenge for 2018, then we have an opportunity for you!

You can now take part in the Sun-Herald City2Surf, the Sydney Morning Herald Half-Marathon or Tough Mudder while making a difference for refugee entrants settling in the Illawarra.

All you have to do is sign-up to the event, create your own fundraising page, and begin fundraising by sharing the page with your family and friends.

By raising money for SCARF, you’ll be helping us to provide holistic, friendship-based support to refugee entrants in our community, ensuring they have the tools to build a secure, happy and thriving life. You can read testimonials from our community about the impact that SCARF has had in their lives here.

Through our fundraising platform, you also have the option of forming or joining a team – perfect for you and your running or fitness pals!

Every donation to your page is 100% tax-deductible. Donors will be issued an automatic receipt.

Run for SCARF in the Sydney Morning Herald Half-Marathon:

Event date: Sunday 20 May, 2018
Registrations Open: Now
Fundraising Open: Now

Be sure to register as a participant in addition to creating a fundraising page by visiting the SMH Half-Marathon website.

  1. Visit the SMH Half-Marathon website – raising money page and click ‘start fundraising’.
  2. Create your page title, (e.g Running for SCARF), choose your fundraising goal, and search and select ‘SCARF’ from the list of charities.
  3. Follow the prompts to personalise your page (hint – the more you personalise, the more money you’ll raise!).
  4. If you’d like to join the SMH Half-Marathon SCARF Team, scroll down the page and click the ‘Join an existing team’ link on the right hand side. Here’s a step-by-step instruction on joining a team page.
  5. Begin fundraising by sharing your page via social media or email, asking for donations to a worthy cause.
Run for SCARF in the Sun-Herald CitySurf (Sunday, 12 August 2018):

Event date: Sunday 12 August, 2018
Registrations Open*: May
Fundraising Open: Now

*Registrations for City2Surf are not open yet, but you can create your fundraising page and begin fundraising now. Be sure to register as a participant when registrations open in May by visiting the City2Surf website.

  1. Visit the City2Surf website – raising money page and click ‘start fundraising’.
  2. Create your page title, (e.g Running for SCARF), choose your fundraising goal, and search and select ‘SCARF’ from the list of charities.
  3. Follow the prompts to personalise your page (hint – the more you personalise, the more money you’ll raise!).
  4. If you’d like to join the City2Surf SCARF Team, scroll down the page and click the ‘Join an existing team’ link on the right hand side. Here’s a step-by-step instruction on joining a team page.
  5. Begin fundraising by sharing your page via social media or email, asking for donations to a worthy cause.
Run, jump and climb for SCARF in a 2018 Tough Mudder event:

Event date: 17th or 18th November, 2018
Registrations Open: Now
Fundraising Open: Now

  1. Register for a Tough Mudder event by visiting the Tough Mudder website.
  2. Visit the Tough Mudder fundraising site, scroll down, and click on ‘support another cause’.
  3. Create your page title, (e.g Tough for SCARF), choose your fundraising goal, and search and select ‘SCARF’ from the list of charities.
  4. Follow the prompts to personalise your page (hint – the more you personalise, the more money you’ll raise!).
  5. If you’d like to fundraise as a team, click ‘create team’ on the right side-bar.
  6. Begin fundraising by sharing your page via social media or email, asking for donations to a worthy cause.

If you have questions or need any kind of support such as fundraising materials or information on SCARF, please don’t hesitate to contact us at A heartfelt thanks in advance for your generosity. We can’t wait to hear how your training and fundraising goes!

January News: SES and Legal Aid Collaborations, Grant Successes & More

January News: SES and Legal Aid Collaborations, Grant Successes & More

Welcome to our first monthly ‘News’ post! In these posts, we’ll be sharing ‘insider’ updates on all things SCARF in a summarised, easy-to-digest format. We’re hoping this will help you quickly get up-to-date with changes and plans so you can share in our growth as an organisation without taking too much time out of your busy day. Community and volunteer voices as well as program stories will be published in separate posts.

In usual SCARF style, January has flown by in a whirlwind of activity. Our programs teams have been busy planning for an impactful year ahead, we’ve partnered with some fantastic organisations to leverage our outreach and respond to new challenges, and we’re rolling out brand new initiatives – to name a few of the things we’ve been up to. Read on to learn more!

SCARF and SES collaborate:

SCARF is working together with SES to establish the first Multicultural Community Action Team in NSW. SES sought SCARF’s assistance to identify interested people from within our community and to recommend training needs. Six SCARF community members are currently completing SES fundamentals and first aid training.

Legal Aid Clinic at SCARF:

SCARF is collaborating with Legal Aid to deliver a monthly clinic to assist our community with legal support. This collaboration responds an increase in requests for support with complex documents such as citizenship, travel, immigration and family reunion forms. The clinics will begin on March 8.

Form-Filling Assistance at SCARF:

SCARF now offers form-filling assistance for general forms, including centrelink, housing and Opal Card forms. The drop-in sessions take place at the SCARF Office on Mondays and Fridays, 12-2pm. All community members are welcome to drop in without an appointment.

Grant successes:

In exciting news, SCARF has been granted funding from the NSW Family and Community Services (FACS) and the Premier’s Social Cohesion Fund (Multicultural NSW) for two separate projects. A grant from FACS will fund SCARF’s ‘Let’s Lead’ program, a project delivered in partnership with Explore Discover Act and which develops the leadership potential of young people from refugee backgrounds. The Premier’s Social Cohesion Fund grant will fund SCARF’s Community Education program – a core SCARF program that increases awareness about the refugee experience in the wider community – enabling us to expand and strengthen the initiative in 2018.

Business Connect Workshop:

On Sat 10th Feb, SCARF is hosting a Business Connect introductory workshop for community members interested in learning the basics of starting a small business.  The workshop will cover topics such as setting up a small business, business structure, business insurance and more. We have 15 participants registered to attend and we’ll host further workshops throughout the year to respond to interest within the SCARF community.

English Classes at SCARF:

SCARF has launched a 6-week informal English pilot program with the help of Francis, SCARF’s Community Worker from Burmese background. The English classes are specifically targeting our Myanmar community, many of whom have requested semi-structured English conversation sessions to build confidence and capacity in English for daily life, and who feel shy to attend SCARF’s existing Coffee and Conversation program. In response to this issue, Francis is running a 6-week pilot of English sessions focused on strengthening vocabulary, pronunciation and comprehension in daily conversation. The pilot started on 12th Jan and will finish on 23rd Feb. If there is strong interest for the sessions to continue, SCARF will likely extend the sessions and also expand the activity to include interested community members from other language groups.

Banner image: Bear Hunt Photography

Yasmin’s Story – From Learning English to HSC Success

Yasmin’s Story – From Learning English to HSC Success

Yasmin, a 20-year-old SCARF Youth and Homework Help program participant, delivered a powerful speech about her experience as a refugee entrant adjusting to high school in Wollongong at a SCARF Youth event recently. We loved it so much we requested the transcript! Read on for bucket loads of inspiration….

My name is Yasmin and I am 20 years old. I am from Syria.

I have been in Australia for about 3 years and a half with my grateful family. The family who inspires me to continue and survive through the difficult circumstances that we went through.

The beginning of my journey when I started year 11, I was excited to study and reach out to my dreams, but somehow it was so difficult for someone who speaks two languages and needed to study with a new language. I kept suffering but continued because I believed in myself and in my dream.

Here I am after 2 years, I graduated from high school now with excellent marks.

I got the first for English ESL and Arabic extension.

Also, I have been accepted into Wollongong University to study international studies and I am very pleased of my achievement.

Now after being laughed at for the dream that I am trying to achieve, and have worked hard for. I am nearly there, I got the first step to get to my dream and I am ready to challenge the world and work extra hard to be proud of myself and help the community and the world to be a better place.

I am a social person and I love to work in the community with organisations and help people and defend for the human rights.

I advise everyone to believe in themselves and work hard and don’t stop trying because we can’t be successful if we didn’t make mistakes and challenge ourselves to keep going.

“You have to be confidence and proud of what are you doing even if you see nothing, it could change the world.”

Pretty incredible, right? A huge congratulations from us here at SCARF to Yasmin for all she’s achieved in a short time. Good luck at University next year!



Refugee entrants have left family, friends and communities behind, and must re-build their social networks from scratch. This is a difficult and lonely task for anyone, but particularly so for refugee entrants in a new country where laguage, culture and customs are unfamiliar, and where discrimination is rife. This holiday season, you can help us to give a warm SCARF welcome and ongoing support to refugee entants facing loneliness and isolation.

Support SCARF

14 Community Members Graduate from Road Safety Mentoring Program

14 Community Members Graduate from Road Safety Mentoring Program

Since the middle of October this year, 14 SCARF community members have been volunteering their time to complete weekly training sessions as a part of the Community Road Safety Mentoring Program. 

14 Community Members Graduate from Road Safety Mentoring Program

The goal of the program, which is a partnership between SCARFKiama Community College, Wollongong Police, NSW Legal Aid and NSW Fair Trading, is to build individual and community knowledge of driving laws, road rules and safe driving behaviour.

SCARF Community Road Safety Mentoring Program

Learning about vehicle maintenance with the SCARF car

The graduates, who are now qualified Road Safety Mentors, will use what they’ve learned from training sessions such ‘Overview of NSW Graduated Licensing System’, ‘A Guide to NSW Traffic Laws’ and ‘Driving Risks and Hazards’ to inform and empower their emerging communities to be safe on the road. Countries of origin in the group include Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Congo.

Refugee entrants - SCARF training

On successful completion of all training components and assessments, participants will receive statements of attainment for two units in the Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways program, as well as a certificate of completion in Community Road Safety Mentoring.

Graduation presentation with the Lord Mayor Gordan Bradbury - SCARF

Graduation presentation with the Lord Mayor Gordan Bradbery

A highlight of the program was the ‘A Day in the Life of a Police Officer’ practical session, which took place at the Wollongong Police Headquarters.

Photo from the 'Day in the Life of a Police Officer' session - SCARF

Photo from the ‘Day in the Life of a Police Officer’ session

A huge thanks is owed to our dedicated Community Road Safety Mentors, who have volunteered many hours of their time to help make our roads safer. Thanks is also owed to our partners, Kiama Community College, Wollongong Police, NSW Legal Aid and NSW Fair Trading. 

Photos by Bear Hunt Photography



Refugee entrants have left family, friends and communities behind, and must re-build their social networks from scratch. This is a difficult and lonely task for anyone, but particularly so for refugee entrants in a new country where laguage, culture and customs are unfamiliar, and where discrimination is rife. This holiday season, you can help us to give a warm SCARF welcome and ongoing support to refugee entants facing loneliness and isolation.

Support SCARF

Opening Night Success: 140 Join Us in Celebrating Art, Culture & Community

Opening Night Success: 140 Join Us in Celebrating Art, Culture & Community

It was heartwarming to have 140 guests join us in celebrating art, community and culture in support of SCARF at the Art4Refugees 2017 Opening Night on Friday the 27th of October.

Thanks to our guests and an incredible team of volunteers, contributing artists and sponsors, we were able to raise an unprecedented $17,000 for SCARF at the Opening Night alone.

As a major fundraiser, the money raised through art4refugees plays a crucial role in enabling SCARF to continue our valuable work supporting refugee entrants as they resettle in the Illawarra.

If you missed out on the event, read on to learn how the night went.

The Art of Supporting SCARF

After receiving a glass of champagne on arrival, guests at the Opening Night mingled and had time to browse the more than 80 artworks on display at the venue.

Viewing artworks at Art4Refugees 2017

All of the artworks were also available for purchase, with 100% of profits from artwork sales directed to SCARF. More than a few guests took advantage of the opportunity to purchase something to brighten up their walls at home or work while supporting a good cause.

Guests purchasing artworks at Art4Refugees 2017

Traditional Syrian Cuisine

Early in the evening, guests were treated to delicious Syrian cuisine prepared by SCARF Community Caterers, Ghada and Ahmed, to fuel them for an exciting evening ahead.

Guests enjoying Syrian Cuisine at Art4Refugees 2017

A Diverse Line-Up of Talent

Next, the formalities of the night began. This part of the night was led by our wonderful MC, Manal Younus

After a Welcome to Country, Manal, who was a guest performer as well as MC, performed her Spoken Word Poem, ‘Breathe’, to a captivated audience.

Guests at the Art4Refugees 2017 Opening Night

Next up was Waafa, a SCARF Community Educator and Community Worker from refugee background, who shared some insights from her experience settling in Australia, and her journey with SCARF. Waafa’s speeches are always engaging, and this night was no exception.

Waafa at Art4Refugees 2017 Opening Night

Sako Demenjian, classical guitarist extraordinaire, was up next. Predictably, Sako wowed the crowd with his unmatchable talent and captivating musical style.

Sako Dermenjian at Art4Refugees 2017 Opening Night

Last but certainly not least was Blak Douglas, prominent artist, activist, musician and public speaker. Blak gave a powerful speech, didgeridoo performance, and even gave the audience a crash course in playing the didge!

Blak Douglas at Art4Refugees 2017

A Team Effort

Did you know that Art4Refugees is coordinated by volunteers? These legends have given up many, many hours for a good part of this year to make Art4Refugees possible – all in the name of supporting SCARF and refugee entrants in the Illawarra. Just a few from the team are pictured below.

Volunteers at Art4Refugees 2017

Other key supporters of Art4Refugees include our wonderful contributing artists, without whom there would be no art and no art4refugees. Thousands of dollars worth of art have been donated this year, and we are so sincerely grateful for this incredible generosity.

Our sponsors also played a vital role in making art4refugees possible. We’re grateful for the generous support of Morgans Wollongong, Urban Timber, iAccelerate, UOW Innovation Campus, iTree, PeopleCare, Family and Community Services NSW, Bluescope WIN, KiPrint, Illawarra Brewing Co., Illawarra Master Builders, Permian Storage and HydroSimulations.

Browsing art at Art4Refugees 2017

All photos provided by the wonderful Sarah at Bear Hunt Photography.



Refugee entrants have left family, friends and communities behind, and must re-build their social networks from scratch. This is a difficult and lonely task for anyone, but particularly so for refugee entrants in a new country where laguage, culture and customs are unfamiliar, and where discrimination is rife. This holiday season, you can help us to give a warm SCARF welcome and ongoing support to refugee entants facing loneliness and isolation.

Support SCARF

The Race to Citizenship – A Story from the SCARF Community

The Race to Citizenship – A Story from the SCARF Community

We love hearing stories from our community. Here’s a lovely one, contributed by one of our longest volunteers, Jocelyn, who supports SCARF Community Members through Citizenship test tutoring, Befriending, Computer classes and more.

“After passing their Citizenship Test, Pare Mo and Shay Reh waited 18 months to receive the letters approving their Australian Citizenship. Then they waited another 6 months to receive the letters with the date of their Citizenship Ceremony – Tuesday 19 September. Pare Mo’s new baby was due on Sunday 17 September.

Who would become Australian Citizens first? New baby or the family? Would Pare Mo be able to attend her Citizenship Ceremony?

Good news – baby daughter, Sofie, was very obliging and arrived in the early hours of Monday 18 September and Pare Mo was able to attend the Citizenship Ceremony the next day. What a Super Mum.

Congratulations to Pare Mo, Shay Reh, Caroline Nae and Soe Reh on becoming Aussies! Younger daughter, Christine was the first Aussie in the family as she was born here almost 2 years ago and her new sister, Sofie, was the 2nd one in the family to be born an Aussie. Grandmother, Plae Meh from Melbourne, was able to celebrate with the family.

SCARF welcomes you all.”

– Jocelyn

Art4Refugees 2017: Opening Night Line-up Announced!

Art4Refugees 2017: Opening Night Line-up Announced!

The Opening Night of our annual art exhibition and major fundraiser, Art4Refugees, is a few short weeks away!

This year, we’re thrilled to not only be showcasing a range of quality artworks (all of which are for sale), but to once again to be giving attendees an opportunity to hear from a diverse line-up of talented speakers and performers.

To top it off, there will be traditional cuisine prepared by SCARF community members, champagne on arrival, and a drinks bar. 

Considering in that 100% of proceeds from ticket and art sales go to SCARF to help us support refugee entrants in the Illawarra, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t join us for a special evening celebrating community, art and culture with us at iAccelerate, UOW Innovation Campus on Friday the 27th of October!

Here are the talented who’ll be performing and speakers on the night:

Manal - ad












Manuel Younus: Art4Refugees Opening Night Performer and MC:

Manal Younus is a writer, performance poet and creative producer. As a Muslim woman with Eritrean origins living in Australia, the young artist discovers and strengthens her identity while inciting thought and discussions amongst her audiences in schools, workplaces, conferences and communities. Her background in community work has seen her create inclusive, progressive spaces. In 2015 Manal self published her first book of poetry titled Reap, and has since travelled the country and internationally performing her work. She has been featured at Adelaide’s TedX Conference, appeared on ABC’s Q&A and represented Australia at Malaysia’s Georgetown Literary Festival.

Blak Douglas promotional graphic

Blak Douglas: Art4Refugees Opening Night Performer

Blak Douglas was born Adam Douglas Hill Blacktown (1970) Western Sydney to a Koori Father / Caucasian Mother. He is trained in illustration & photography, and later became self practiced in painting with a style influenced by the study of Graphic Design & devoutly politicised per social justice. He has collections in Blacktown & Liverpool City Councils, City of Sydney, Aboriginal Art Museum (Utrecht), National Gallery of Australia, National Maritime MuseumNational Museum of Australia, Town Hall Collection and Taipei Museum. Blak has been a successive finalist in the Telstra National Indigenous Art Award, the Parliament of NSW Aboriginal Art Prize and a finalist in the Xstrata Emerging Artists Award and a 2015 Archibald Prize finalist.

Sako Dermenjian promotional graphic

Saka Dermenjian – Art4Refugees Opening Night Performer

Sako Dermenjian is an Armenian classical guitarist, born and raised in Syria, now based in Australia. He was given his first guitar at the age of 7 as a gift from his grandmother and it hasn’t left him since. After studying with the great Mazen Al-Saleh for 9 years in Damascus, Sako was already on the path of achieving his dream to become a world-renowned classical guitarist and teacher. Then war broke out and changed his plans. Sako is now an accomplished musician here in Australia. He has been invited to play at the Australia Day Awards, at Tedx Wollongong, and at many gigs at popular venues. Sako is also studying a Bachelor of Performance in classical guitar at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music under the guidance of his teacher Vladimir Gorbach. Sako plays a Jayson Elazzi Cedar top classical guitar.

Don’t miss out – purchase your Opening Night tickets today!

Purchase tickets


Sediqah’s Poems

Sediqah’s Poems

Arrival to a safe place from a refugee’s view:

We arrived on a sunny day,
With our head free of life,
With our shoes full of dust,
In our heart, deepest wounds,
In our mind, memories of death!

Hope was, just a word in our dictionary,
Happiness was, such a big dream,
Peace, joy, laugh and love,
Had no place in our world,
Even breathing was, a disaster!

I call it miracle!

Our story of survival!

A window toward the world:

Little girl is crying,
“mum, mum…”,
.. bomb left her dead!

Pulling his dad out of collapses,
A 10yr old, boy’s school leader!

“I hate every police man”
said yesterday,
6-year-old Saja.
“They shotted my teacher”!

Wafa is looking for water,
“kids had nothing, since 3 days ago”!

Riza returns home,
No money, today too!
Her sister is sick,
The doctor said is TB.

Terrorists hanged his family,
He is only 8,
And forced to stay alone!
Stay alive!

Where is humanity,
Where is friendship,
Where is compassion and empathy today?

A tremendous blow out,
took them all away,
otherwise life,
wan’t just one’s life!


Ask me a name!
A new brand to infinite love,
To friendship without border,
To support with no end,
And to the best ever family!

No doubt, I would say SCARF!
Not only me,
We all say SCARF!

A place for beautiful hearts!

Poems written and submitted by Sediqah – SCARF volunteer and community member











SCARF Welcomes Three Bilingual Community Workers in Newly Created Roles

SCARF Welcomes Three Bilingual Community Workers in Newly Created Roles

SCARF is thrilled to welcome three fantastic Community Workers to our small team of core staff.

As our new Community Workers, Wafaa, Zahra and Francis will be assisting SCARF with a range of priorities, including community outreach and mobilisation and language support. They will also support SCARF as key advisers in the development and implementation of our programs, specifically, Social Inclusion, Continuous Learning for Adults and Befriending.

Until now, in-language community outreach and mobilisation has been delivered almost entirely by volunteers. It has been SCARF’s vision to improve operational outcomes by harnessing the skills and lived experiences of people from refugee backgrounds. Thanks to a grant from the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation awarded this year, SCARF has finally been able to fund these positions.

Wafaa, Zahra and Francis each possess a combination of skill-sets that make them uniquely qualified for the newly created roles. They each speak multiple languages including English, have extensive experience working with refugee communities in Australia and/or overseas.

Additionally, Wafaa, Zahra and Francis each have a personal understanding of the challenges faced by refugee entrants, and are intrinsically driven to support refugee communities. Both Wafaa and Reza are from refugee backgrounds, while Francis is from Myanmar and has immediate family members from a refugee background.

Wafaa, who will be working with our Arabic speaking communties, became interested in the role in part due to her personal experience as a refugee entrant in the Illawarra. “SCARF is the place where we got help when we arrived, and it was fantastic for us,” she explained. “I’m happy to give back and try to help.”

Like Wafaa, Francis, who will be working with our Burmese communities, has a comprehensive understanding of the needs of refugee communities settling in Australia. He was keen to help SCARF to address a gap in our services.

“SCARF has an open door policy” says Francis. “This policy makes the community members feel welcomed and accepted…SCARF needed a community mobiliser and language support, so I want to fill that gap. I want to provide language support and to mobilise community members, to help them access services and to know their rights.”

Joining Reza, Zahra and Francis will be a fourth Community Worker, who will be supporting refugee communities from African backgrounds.

SCARF is looking forward to benefiting from the skills and experiences of Wafaa, Zahra, Francis, and our fourth Community Worker, and is very much excited to have them officially join our team. Most importantly, we’re looking forward to being able to better support our community members as they navigate the many challenges of settlement and rebuild their lives here in the Illawarra.

Banner image: Francis at the site of the Burmese Community Garden Project

“Compassion and kindness are paramount to me”: Artists support refugee entrants through Art4Refugees 2017

“Compassion and kindness are paramount to me”: Artists support refugee entrants through Art4Refugees 2017

Every year for the past 9 years, SCARF has called out to local artists requesting artwork donations for art4refugees – an annual art exhibition and major fundraiser for SCARF. Every year without fail, we receive quality artworks (some worth thousands of dollars) for us to sell to help raise critical funds to support our work.

The incredible generosity of our contributing artists has allowed art4refugees to become a key fundraiser for SCARF each year, and is a wonderful testimony to the values of creative communities here in the Illawarra.

Art4Refugees2016-1303full rez copy

This year, 23 artists have generously donated at least 40 artworks. These donations will join 40 works from last years’ exhibition, forming a catalogue of 80 artworks spanning varying mediums – from sculptural pieces to oil paintings, watercolours, photographs and more.

When asked about why they’re contributing art to art4refugees 2017, many of our contributing artists had heartfelt responses.

“I believe in helping others in need,” said Lara Seresin, who is donating an oil painting. “Compassion and kindness are paramount to me. Sale money of an artwork is a practical way to  help the refugee community.”


Moira Kirkwood and Blak Douglas (in front of Blak’s work), Art4Refugees 2016

Art4Refugees contributing artist and voluntary exhibition curator, Moira Kirkwood, explained her motivation to contribute. “SCARF is all about helping people who are trying to start a new life in the Illawarra. Art4Refugees is raising money for this. What’s not to like?”

SCARF is all about helping people who are trying to start a new life in the Illawarra. Art4Refugees is raising money for this. What’s not to like? Moira Kirkwood

Najla Sbei and her artworks from Art4Refugees 2016

For artist and humanitarian settlement caseworker, Najla Sbei, her motivation to donate artworks art4refugees stems from personal experience. “I came to Australia as a refugee on August 2015, and SCARF was one of the organisations that I was surprised with the amazing work they do for the community, and today i would like to do something from my side to support their beautiful hard work.”

I came to Australia as a refugee on August 2015…today i would like to do something from my sideNajla Sbei

Last year, our contributing artists helped Art4Refugees raise an incredible $10,000 for SCARF. This year, with a new venue, a stellar collection of artworks, and an exciting ticketed Opening Night planned, we’re aiming even higher!

We’d like to express our sincere gratitude to our wonderful contributing artists for their support. We (quite literally) could not hold art4refugees without you!

About Art4Refugees & 2017 Events:

Art4refugees is an annual charity art exhibition and major fundraising event for SCARF (Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families).This unique event sees artists donate their artworks for public purchase with 100% of sale proceeds directed to SCARF.

This year, Art4Refugees will be held at iAccelerate, Innovation Campus (UOW). There will be an Opening Night event featuring Syrian cuisine, performances by Manal Younus (spoken word artist ), Sako Dermenjoan (classical guitarist) and an address and performance by Blak Douglas (renown artist and musician) on Friday the 27th of October.

We’re also holding a Family Day with art and craft activities for the whole family on Sunday the 29th of October. All events will take place at iAccelerate, UOW Innovation Campus.

  • Opening Night Event – Friday 27th October, 6-9pm, tickets $60 (including a drink on arrival and Syrian tasters prepared by our SCARF Community Members)
Purchase tickets


  • Family Day – Sunday 29th October, 10am-2pm, gold coin donation and $5 morning tea/coffee available. There will be craft activities happening including Macrame etc.
  • The Exhibition – Saturday 26th October – Sunday 12th November, 10am-5pm

Venue Address:

Innovation Campus – University of Wollongong
Squires Way, North Wollongong 2500

You can learn more about art4refugees at

Volunteer Voices: Volunteers from Refugee Backgrounds

Volunteer Voices: Volunteers from Refugee Backgrounds

Among the 388 volunteers at SCARF are people who know exactly what it’s like to be on the other side. 

These volunteers began their SCARF journey as refugee community members, and are now volunteering to help others who may be facing challenges previously experienced by themselves.

SCARF’s volunteers from refugee backgrounds are in a unique position to support more recently arrived refugee entrants. Not only do they have first-hand knowledge of the refugee experience and what it’s like to resettle as a refugee entrant in the Illawarra, but often, they can speak multiple languages.

Such is the case for Yousef, who volunteers at SCARF’s drop-in Form Filling Support sessions. “I didn’t mind what I do at SCARF, it’s all helping,” said Yousef. “When I filled in my information I said that I can speak Arabic and English and they said they needed someone who can understand and speak both. I help explain and translate the forms for people….I help with Centrelink forms, housing, bills and things like that.”

SCARF Refugee Support Volunteer

Yousef was studying Philosophy in Syria when War broke out. His family and himself fled to Lebanon and applied for Humanitarian Visas. “After 8 months, they give us a Visa to come to Australia. We are so happy.”

Yousef didn’t speak much English in Syria, but has picked up the language quickly. “Maybe I’m good because I listen to a lot of English music. And I like movies.”

For Nademah, who’s originally from Iraq, volunteering at SCARF is familiar territory.“I like volunteering at SCARF, because it is similar to the work I did in Syria as a Social Worker where I was helping the refugees.”


“I am currently studying Community Services at Tafe. I want to do my Masters of Social Work, and then my Doctorate.”

For Obouko, her drive to volunteer for SCARF stems from a desire to support people who may be experiencing isolation.

Obouko (Pelagie)

“I volunteer with SCARF because i want to help people from non english speaking background feel at home. This is because as an humanitarian entrant, i realised that coming to new country can be very challenging. These challenges such as language barrier and cultural differences make us to feel excluded from our community.”

The challenges of resettlement, as well as a desire to bring people together, were the catalysts for Narges to become a volunteer at SCARF.

“I’ve received a lot of help from SCARF in tutoring programs, driving lessons and lots of other helps. I was feeling that I have to give this back, and help other people who were struggling like I was. I think the most important thing in all we do at SCARF is making friends, making people involved in our community. In our Youth Programs, we did that. We brought everyone together.”


For Azita, helping others was also her motivation to volunteer. “I received many help from SCARF volunteers especially during the first year of my arrival,” she said.

“The volunteers’ dedication, caring personality and empathy to help refugees impressed me the way that i was going to do the same for others”


It’s important that people from refugee backgrounds have a voice and platform within an organisation like SCARF. After all, it is the people who’ve been refugee entrants themselves that are the experts in refugee resettlement support.

SCARF’s culture of inclusivity and collaboration has allowed it to be guided by the unique experiences and expertise of people from all backgrounds, including refugee backgrounds. This has diversity injected a rich variety of skills and knowledge in to SCARF, which has ultimately benefited the communities we serve.

To encourage this further looking ahead, SCARF seeks to secure funding for bilingual community workers from new and emerging communities, who will become part of a core team of staff and will be key contributors in our growth and development.







Refugee Week 2017: Here’s How We Celebrated!

Refugee Week 2017: Here’s How We Celebrated!

Refugee Week is one of the highlights of the year for SCARF. It’s a chance to showcase and celebrate the courage, resilience and contribution of people from refugee backgrounds. It’s also an opportunity to shed light on the challenges of the refugee experience, and discuss how we can address these as a community.

This year, SCARF partnered with Merrigong Theatre Company to deliver two unique events on Wednesday the 21st of June. These were Multilingual Storytime/Rhymetime for pre-school and primary aged children and their carers, and ‘A Mile in My Shoes’ – a story and culture sharing event at Town Hall featuring stories and traditional cuisine from the SCARF Community.

Wollongong joined hundreds over other towns and cities across Australia in celebrating Refugee Week 2017. According to the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), Refugee Week 2017 was officially Australia’s biggest to date, with over 500 events celebrated across the country in every state and territory. According to RCOA’s National Director, Tim O’Connor, “The number of events hosted across the country has almost doubled in just one year. This just goes to show the incredible support Australians have for people seeking safety here.”

Multi-Lingual Storytime/Rhymetime

Bright and early on Wednesday the 21st, Lillian Rodrigues-Pang ran a multilingual rhyme-time for pre-school aged children with stories, songs and games. Children, babies, parents and adults all attended, and were full of excitement as they participated in the activities.


Encouraged by Lillian, the audience shared and celebrated their cultural differences. Children who spoke more than one language stood up and taught onlookers how to say ‘Hello’ or ‘Goodbye’ in their language. Some taught Greek, Arabic and Japanese. The crowd also learnt ‘thank you’ in Karenni.


Storytellers from refugee backgrounds, Wafaa and Ghada from Syria and Sophie Bu Meh from Myanmar, all told engaging stories in their first languages as well as English.


Multi-Lingual Storytime/Rhymetime was presented by SCARF, and supported by The Red Room and City of Sydney Libraries.

‘A Mile in My Shoes’ Event and Sound Exhibition

SCARF partnered with Merrigong Theatre Company to deliver ‘A Mile in My Shoes’ Event and Exhibition, held at Wollongong Town Hall on Wednesday the 21st of June.

The evening event featured stories from four SCARF community members and traditional snacks from Liberia, Syria, Afghanistan and Myanmar. The ‘A Mile in my Shoes’ exhibition, created by Lilian Pang, featured a display of shoes from SCARF community members, accompanied by audio recordings of stories about journey and transition.

After viewings of the ‘A Mile in my Shoes’ sound exhibition wrapped up, it was time to begin the evening event. A crowd of 150 people began filing in, taking their seats at tables set up in the Hall.


First up were Jodi Edwards and Talia King, who did a ‘Welcome to Country’ and a vocal performance.

Next up was Wafaa Izz Eddin, who shared her ‘shoe story’, the theme for the evening. Wafaa told the audience about her journey to buy her daughter new shoes, as well as her experience of fleeing Syria to seek refuge. After her story, audiences were invited to ask questions.

20170621_SCARF_RefugeeWeek-3After Wafaa’s story, guests were treated to traditional snacks from Syria. Eugenia Pyne was up next, sharing her shoe story from Liberia. Eugenia was joined on stage by her young daughter, Joy.


Following questions and traditional African snacks was a story from Arif Khan. Arif shared a story about traditional afghan shoes, and his experiences both in Afghanistan and growing up in Australia. Guests were again invited to ask questions, and many took the opportunity.

20170621_SCARF_RefugeeWeek-23The last person to share their story was Baw Meh Bird, who shared a powerful story from Myanmar (translated by Francis Htjaru).

20170621_SCARF_RefugeeWeek-20After yet another round of questions followed by delicious traditional cuisine, this time from Myanmar, the evening had come to an end. Guests left with full bellies and no doubt a greater understanding of refugee experiences from around the world.

A huge thanks is owed to SCARF community members who shared stories, the wonderful Lilian Pang who MC’d the event, and the SCARF and Merrigong volunteers who made the event possible. Thanks also to the event sponsors, FACS (Family and Community Services), MCCI (Multicultural Council of the Illawarra) and Navitas.

‘A Mile in my Shoes’ was presented by SCARF and Merrigong Theatre Company.

Meet the Champions Making Wollongong a More Welcoming Place

Meet the Champions Making Wollongong a More Welcoming Place

To help SCARF continue our important work, we called out for some passionate people to become Champions of Welcome and raise vital funds for SCARF. Forty-nine people responded, and together, they raised $36,365 for SCARF. We think that’s pretty amazing!


What is ‘Champions of Welcome’?

Champions of Welcome is based on the peer-to-peer fundraising model. In this model, fundraisers (in this case, the Champions of Welcome) ask for support in the form of donations from their own personal networks for a cause they’re passionate about. The money raised is tracked on individual’s fundraising pages, as well as on a central campaign page where the total amount raised is visible.

For SCARF’s Champions of Welcome campaign, we wanted to make the experience of being a Champion as enjoyable and exciting as possible. So instead of choosing a single fundraising method, we encouraged our champions to fundraise in a way that suits them.


We also wanted our Champions to not just be fundraisers, but to help us champion compassion, humanity and welcome by having positive and empowering conversations about refugee entrants.

By raising vital funds for SCARF, and by championing a more truthful and compassionate message about refugees along the way, we believed that the Champions of Welcome could help to make the Illawarra a more welcoming place for refugee entrants (spoiler: they totally did!).

The Champions of Welcome Launch and Workshop

To help the Champions of Welcome get geared up and ready to make a big impact out in the community, we held a Workshop and Launch event at Flourish Australia on the 2nd of May.


After speeches from SCARF’s founder, Sharyn Mackenzie OAM, and our founding patron, The Hon. Sharon Bird MP, there were presentations on SCARF’s services, fundraising and positive conversations workshops, stories from SCARF community members and idea-generating games. Later, guests enjoyed a dance performance from the Karenni Dance Group, and traditional Syrian snacks to keep energy levels high.


By the end of the workshop, the Champions were skilled up, and fundraising ideas were already being exchanged. We were confident that our Champions would go on to achieve great things!

What The Champions Got Up To:

We were blown away by the ingenuity, dedication and enthusiasm of our champions, not to mention their incredible successes!

The Champions held a wide range of events and activities, from running half marathons and getting sponsored to ride a bike tens of kilometres, to selling artworks, holding unique events, fundraising through their business’ and much much more.


Neave creating artworks of friends and family in exchange for donations

Our incredible top fundraiser, Vanessa, asked for gifts in lieu of a major birthday. She raised $3700!


Our top fundraiser, the wonderful Vanessa!

The Retro Surf Comp raised a super impressive $3200 by donating proceeds from their annual event.


Penny from The Wine Bulb raised money by holding a wine education evening at The Throsby.


Penny from the Wine Bulb at ‘Kevin Loves Giuseppe’, a wine education event.

…And Inaia and her mum Lucy made the awesome tie-dyed shirts and gave them away in exchange for a donations.


Inaia and Lucy Janssens’ tie-dyed shirts

These are just a few examples amongst many impressive ideas. To see more of what the Champions of Welcome got up to, check out this video at 1:56 mins!


A massive, heartfelt thanks to all involved – from our incredible Champions, to those who worked hard behind the scenes to make it all happen. The funds raised through Champions of Welcome will help SCARF continue to ensure each refugee entrant in the Illawarra is welcomed, supported to rebuild their life, and has access to the tools for self-empowerment. That’s something worth celebrating!

Primary school students from refugee backgrounds supported at Homework Club

Primary school students from refugee backgrounds supported at Homework Club


There aren’t many students who enjoy doing their homework. But primary students from refugee backgrounds at SCARF’s Homework Club, who are tutored by high school students from St Mary Star of The Sea College, may be the exception.

“We play and we do our work and read our books and we do some fun things,” Hiba, a student in Year 3 at Wollongong Public School, says. “We play on the computer and we do maths. [Our tutors] are like our friends.”

Rajaa, whose also in Year 3 at Wollongong Public School agrees, saying “we learn and do our homework here and it’s fun.”


To create a supportive and mutually enjoyable environment for students and tutors is an ideal result for SCARF and St Mary Star of the Sea College, who work in partnership to deliver SCARF’s Homework Club program.

The aims of the program are to provide academic support to primary school students from refugee backgrounds, to enable an opportunity for students from refugee and non-refugee backgrounds to connect and to help St Mary’s students fulfil their Social Justice Course requirements, which includes a community service component.

The primary students are in years 3 – 6, and come from diverse backgrounds, with countries of origin including Iraq, Syria, Burma, Congo and Afghanistan. Tutors are in years 9 – 12.


Kerrie, the St Mary’s Social Justice Course Coordinator, has watched Homework club grow for 10 years. When SCARF first blossomed so did the the Homework Club, where it was once held at the Piccadilly centre.

“[We were] in a tiny little room. There was probably 6 students and it grew to 10 then we outgrew it.” Kerrie said.


Now, the space for Homework club is generously provided by St Mary’s, and engages 22 primary school students and 70 volunteers on a rotating roster.

Homework coordinator, Jessica, thinks the students gain a lot out of Homework club:

“They feel a sense of belonging being with us. They feel a sense of connection knowing they [the students] have that support. I know they would struggle a lot coming from a non-English speaking background and family, so we’re able to give them that opportunity to learn all the language and skills they need to succeed in their primary education. Helping them is a very worthwhile cause which we can get a lot out of.” She said.


Similar to the majority of SCARF’s programs, the opportunity to form friendships is a core aim. In Homework Club, the primary school students from refugee backgrounds and the High school students who are the tutors form bonds. The tutors are very passionate about helping the primary school students and in turn the students appreciate their company.

Ana from Year 12 is very grateful for the program and is happy to escape the pressures of the HSC through the hour spent in Homework club.

“I enjoy coming here. When we come here we see an improvement, their writing is neater, their reading is better. I feel like I’ve accomplished something teaching them and I have learnt things from them as well. They’re a really great bunch of kids, all different individually obviously….We love looking after them. It takes us away from our hectic life, we have so much to do but it’s an hour where all we focus on is them, we don’t think about ourselves and it calms us down.”


The program provides a safe, supervised environment for primary school students to engage in homework, reading, computers and other fun learning activities.

A huge thank-you is owed to St Mary’s for providing the Homework Club space, transport, food and resources. Another big thank-you is due to Jenny, SCARF’s hardworking Homework Club Coordinator, Kerrie from St Mary’s, and Mary from Wollongong Public School. Lastly, thanks is owed to all the St Mary’s students who give up their time on a Wednesday afternoon to give back to community.



Refugee entrants have left family, friends and communities behind, and must re-build their social networks from scratch. This is a difficult and lonely task for anyone, but particularly so for refugee entrants in a new country where laguage, culture and customs are unfamiliar, and where discrimination is rife. This holiday season, you can help us to give a warm SCARF welcome and ongoing support to refugee entants facing loneliness and isolation.

Support SCARF


Garden Helps Burmese Community Connect to Traditions from Home

Garden Helps Burmese Community Connect to Traditions from Home

Tucked away on a sloping plot is a ‘secret garden’ bearing a colourful array of veg and wildflowers.

The attentive and patient gardeners responsible for establishing and nurturing the hidden oasis are the Burmese (Myanmar) Gardening Group – a group of families from refugee backgrounds who’ve found a way to pass on gardening skills and connect to traditions from home.

The very first Burmese family arrived here in the Illawarra in 2007. Now, there are 50 families who’ve resettled in the region. Many people in the Burmese Community are from refugee backgrounds, and have lived in refugee camps on the Thailand/Burma border for up to 22 years awaiting resettlement in a host country.


The land for the Burmese Community Garden is kindly arranged by St Therese Catholic Parish. Support for the project has been provided by Multicultural Communities Council of the Illawarra (MCCI) and SCARF.

The Burmese Community Garden project has been active for 4 to 5 months. Members from the Burmese community have been visiting the garden and ensuring that it continues to grow. Each family is allocated their own individual plot where they can grow and harvest any kind of vegetable they like. Francis, the garden’s passionate coordinator, is thankful for support of the project.

“It is free land for us and we are lucky to have that.” he said.


Families grow a colourful range of vegetables such as mustard, beans and pumpkins. The produce gets turned in to delicious meals and is mostly for family consumption. The Burmese community stay linked to their culture through harvesting produce from in the garden.

“It’s a Community Garden where vegetables such as Burmese pumpkins, all kinds of beans; long, short, green, mustard, different kinds of chilli’s, and cucumbers are grown.”

“I like to cook curry… Something like pumpkin and pork or beef and chilli. A lot of chilli.” Francis said.


“I must say every Burmese family has had support from SCARF, for many years. Without the support of SCARF, it is impossible for them because of the language barrier.”

“The tutoring helps the students a lot. It helps them catch up in their lessons because they come from a different education system. They have to struggle a lot, so tutoring helps…” Francis said.

Although, Francis feels strongly about potential literacy programs that could help young people learn Burmese languages. Living in Australia, many Burmese people of the younger generation speak only English so unfortunately, they forget their mother tongue.

“I want them to feel rooted in their own culture, to value their culture, so they can value the cultures of other people.” he said.

For the Burmese Community, growing and harvesting vegetables is a valued practice from home that’s important to maintain. The community garden is a special bridge of connection for the Burmese community to feel close to their traditions.

If you have garden space that needs some love, Francis has a solution. “I’m sure there are many people who have waste land or uncultivated land, so if people have these lands, we are willing to work on those farms, because most of our people are good at farming, especially in Wollongong or Illawarra region. So our people would love that. Not being able to farm is a waste of skill.” he said.

20170425_SCARF_BurmeseCommunityGarden_BearHunt-33This community garden is a wonderful way for the Burmese community to share their skills and culture, which contributes to our rich and diverse community here in the Illawarra. We look forward to seeing the garden continue to flourish and provide plentiful bountiful veg for the community.

Photos: Bear Hunt Photography



Refugee entrants have left family, friends and communities behind, and must re-build their social networks from scratch. This is a difficult and lonely task for anyone, but particularly so for refugee entrants in a new country where laguage, culture and customs are unfamiliar, and where discrimination is rife. This holiday season, you can help us to give a warm SCARF welcome and ongoing support to refugee entants facing loneliness and isolation.

Support SCARF


Our Friendship: April and Bolena

Our Friendship: April and Bolena

It’s often commented that one of the best things about SCARF are the friendships formed in our community. Indeed, many SCARF friendships have become lifelong, continuing outside the parameters of volunteer roles and SCARF activities.

SCARF actively encourages friendships through our Befriending Program, where volunteers are paired with community members. To a similar end, an inclusive atmosphere is fostered through Social Inclusion activities such as our weekly Coffee and Conversation group and Social Hangout Nights.

April and Bolena, A SCARF Befriending duo, share the kind of friendship that typifies what we hope our initiatives can encourage – friendships that are supportive, mutually enjoyable  and beneficial.


Bolena, originally from Iraq, joined SCARF after one month of being in Australia. “I had to leave Iraq because I had war in my country. I’m also a journalist, so that’s very big trouble. I didn’t have safety….After one month in Australia, I came to SCARF.”

She explained that she was eager to improve her English, as she saw it as key to achieving her goals. “The first thing is language, then after that I can make everything I want. I can find a job, I can study. I want to go very far… My goal is to go to university to become a manager for a medical clinic.” she told us.

For such a simple thing, a friendship can make a big difference. Through her friendship with April, Bolena has been able to improve her English, as well as feel supported and welcomed.

“My SCARF friend, April, has helped me for many things. She’s helped me find my unit, she rings me all the time, we hang out. She’s very a beautiful girl. She’s also helped with the language. She’s my friend. That’s really good for me,” Bolena says of the friendship.  “Every person, like refugee, need someone to say ‘Welcome’, and ‘I’m a friend here.”


The friendship is just as enjoyable for April, a Law and International Studies student at UOW, and SCARF’s volunteer Coffee and Conversation Coordinator.

“I’ve learnt so much from Bolena, besides learning about her experience and culture in Iraq, I’ve been able to improve my communication skills,” says April.

“Bolena and some of her friends came over to my house for Christmas. We’ve also gone out  to Humber and Pepe’s – gone dancing and had some wine. SCARF is honestly such a lovely organisation to be apart of, everyone is so welcoming, it’s such a warm environment. I’ve got a beautiful friend out of it. It’s been incredibly rewarding.”

In a broader sense, friendships between Illawarra locals and refugee entrants is positive for the  community we live in. An inclusive community is more cohesive, culturally rich, and just a better place to be. As Bolena reflects, “Aussie and refugee are together, and that’s a very good thing.”




Refugee entrants have left family, friends and communities behind, and must re-build their social networks from scratch. This is a difficult and lonely task for anyone, but particularly so for refugee entrants in a new country where laguage, culture and customs are unfamiliar, and where discrimination is rife. This holiday season, you can help us to give a warm SCARF welcome and ongoing support to refugee entants facing loneliness and isolation.

Support SCARF

Wollongong a ‘destination for safe driving’ for refugee entrants

Wollongong a ‘destination for safe driving’ for refugee entrants

Can you believe that collectively, volunteer driver mentors in SCARF’s L2P program held 353 driving sessions with community members in 2016? Not a bad number – especially considering there are only 8 driver mentors!

Now, SCARF’s small but mighty program is expanding – thanks to a grant from Transport for NSW. The grant will fund SCARF’s Destination Safe Driving Project, a new initiative which operates in partnership with various community agencies. The project aims to introduce a range of targeted driver education and awareness-raising activities for people from refugee backgrounds, as well as strengthen the existing L2P program.

SCARF’s L2P Program:

Founded 7 years ago, SCARF’s L2P program connects volunteers, called mentors, with people from refugee backgrounds who are seeking support to gain their Australian driver’s license. What follows is a series of driver mentoring sessions, in SCARF’s L2P car or a learner’s car, where community members are taught NSW road rules and driving skills.

The learners are a diverse group, with some joining L2P for a few sessions before the test, while others taking a little longer. On average, learners require approximately 70 hours of on-road driving practice to develop the skills necessary to take the NSW practical driving test. In that time, whether it is short or long, mentors develop valuable relationships. Mentors are also put in their own learning environment, where they learn about a different culture and another person’s journey.


A challenge for many refugee entrants seeking to gain their license in Australia is to unlearn rules already internalised from driving in their home countries. As John Ruperto and Carole Carter explain, L2P’s hard-working coordinators, many learners held a licence in their home country and come with a perception that they are already quite skilful drivers. However, their driving experience in their home country does not always equip them to be safe drivers in NSW.

This isn’t made easier when Australian drivers on our roads don’t adhere to the rules and learners witness this. As Carole and John point out, patience is an important virtue for mentors in L2P!

John and Carol (L2P)
Along with the physical challenges come logistical road blocks. Lessons only run at times that are available to both mentors and learners – making organising quite interesting. It can be difficult to match people up, but once it works out, special friendships are formed.

This year, five learner drivers are on the path to success with L2P, with one person having already achieved their P’s. The number of learners is sure to increase and the L2P team are hoping to welcome more mentors in the case of higher demand.

“When they pass, that’s the best moment” – Carole

The Destination Safe Driving Program

There are four main objectives of the program: to run information sessions, strengthen the existing L2P program, provide driving instructor training and deliver community road safety mentoring.

There have already been two positive presentations run by the L2P Coordinators this year. Most recently, a presentation focusing on “road safety and the role of the police” was held at the SCARF office, with the help of local police officers.


The need for programs like L2P for refugee entrants is great. Driving is an important step toward independence, and often critical to gaining employment. Masoumeh, a participant in the L2P program who successfully gained her license, told us how driving support helped her:

I love driving…I don’t need to wait for my kids to come home and take me out. I can go by myself. My son has just started high school and I can take him to school. I feel much more relaxed because I don’t have to worry about how I will do the things I need to do. I can drive myself and be independent…- Masoumeh



SCARF is in a critical time. With an unprecedented amount of refugee entrants arriving in the Illawarra in recent years, our resources are stretched, now more than ever. You can help us to help refugee entrants in our community by donating to SCARF or becoming a Champion of Welcome and fundraising. We’re so grateful for any level of support. 

Advice for Young Community Members

Advice for Young Community Members

SCARF volunteer and community member, Obouko, was born in Benin, Africa. At 17 she moved to Australia with her family, and was thrust into the NSW School Curriculum with limited English knowledge. Obouko accessed SCARF’s programs to help develop her English and catch-up at school.

And catch-up she did. In fact, Obouko, a determined and capable student, excelled in her studies. Recently, she graduated with a Distinction average in International Studies & Arts in 2016.

Now, Obouko has some advice for younger community members who may be going through a similar journey:

  1. Don’t compare yourself to other people
  2. Don’t let a language barrier determine who you are
    – it’s just in the back of your brain, if you want to do something and you believe in it then you will do it no matter what
  3. If you want to do anything, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise
  4. Put your brain on it and you can actually achieve it

We love this advice from Obouko! Feel free to pass it on to anyone who may need some encouragement.

Harmony Day 2017

Harmony Day 2017

This year’s overall message of Harmony Day highlighted that ‘everyone belongs’. We held an event at SCARF to celebrate our cultural diversity and highlight that multiculturalism helps make the Illawarra a wonderful place.


Community members and volunteers shared with us their personal meaning of harmony.

Kel Mackenzie shared:

“Harmony to me means living peacefully firstly, with your neighbours, new arrivals and particularly in the context in Wollongong with SCARF it means being able to help and work with new arrivals. Learning from their culture – it’s amazing how we’re all able to learn off each other and live with a more rewarded life. I’ve got so many rewards from doing this and learning about other cultures, it’s changed my life.”

We look forward to celebrating harmony every day at SCARF.

SCARF Welcomes 90 New Volunteers into Strengthened Program

SCARF Welcomes 90 New Volunteers into Strengthened Program

Thanks to the wonderful legacy of SCARF Founders, Sharyn and Kel Mackenzie, SCARF has always been powered by a thriving community of dedicated volunteers. Now, a grant from the IMB Community Foundation has enabled us to establish our Vibrant Volunteers Program – a robust volunteer management framework designed to support new and existing volunteers in their vital work across SCARF. This week, the final group from the intake of 90 volunteers will complete their training and induction in the program.


SCARF’s Vibrant Volunteer Program

SCARF’s Vibrant Volunteer program is headed by Lindsay Burlton, SCARF’s Volunteer and Program Manager (previously Volunteer Coordinator), whose background in volunteer management and sensitivity to refugee support has seen her capably drive the planning and implementation of this new initiative.

Uniquely, the program harnesses the skills, knowledge and experience of former refugees who now volunteer with SCARF. This has allowed the program to be tailored to the specific needs of both our volunteers and community members from refugee background.

Eugenia Pyne, SCARF volunteer & community member, briefing new volunteers on working with people from refugee background

SCARF volunteer and community member, Eugenia Pyne, briefing volunteers about working with people from refugee background

Key components of the program include a newly developed Volunteer Handbook & Service Directory; information, training and induction sessions for new volunteers; and a specialised volunteer database. “It’s about ensuring that volunteers have everything they need to succeed in their roles providing front-line support to people from refugee backgrounds,” Lindsay explained.

“I thought the induction process was brilliant, with great diversity in conversation and information provided” – New SCARF Volunteer

Lindsay was quick to point out that SCARF has always had a positive relationship with volunteers, referencing a feedback survey conducted in 2015 that indicated the vast majority of volunteers were very satisfied with the work they do with SCARF. The survey, however, also revealed that volunteers would welcome clear role descriptions, induction training and increased ongoing support. “That’s what we’ve been striving to provide with the new structure.”

Lindsay Burlton, SCARF’s Volunteer and Program Manager, addressing volunteers at an induction


The New Volunteer Intake

Our latest volunteer intake has seen us welcome a staggering 90 new volunteers to SCARF. This group will join a community of over 200 volunteers who, through SCARF, work on the frontline of refugee settlement support in the Illawarra.

The new intake is made up of people from a diverse range of backgrounds, with ages spanning 18-82. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people and by the range of skills and experiences they bring,” Lindsay said. “Everyone from students, to current working professionals, to retirees who have so much to offer. One of the wonderful things about SCARF is that we run such a large range of programs and activities, so there’s an opportunity for everybody to make a real difference.”


A thriving culture

Lindsay’s work in volunteer management in Canada and Australia places her in a unique position to observe the culture of volunteering here in Australia. “I think the culture of volunteering is growing here in Australia and particularly in the current climate where people are feeling that there is a need to actively engage with their communities and the issues they believe in.”

In refugee support specifically, there seems to be a groundswell of people who feel compelled to take action in response to the global refugee crisis. “People are hearing a lot about refugees in the news, and are wanting to do something about it,” Lindsay explained. “SCARF provides an opportunity for people to let refugees who are arriving in our region know that they are welcome and supported.”



Volunteering at SCARF

Here at SCARF, volunteers are foundational to who we are and what we do – a value established by Sharyn and Kel. “SCARF has always been a volunteer-led and volunteer-powered organisation, and that is thanks to Sharyn and Kel Mackenzie, the founders of SCARF,” Lindsay noted, also praising the couple’s ability to “engage and activate people.”

Echoing the feelings of many in our organisation, Lindsay described the culture of SCARF being akin to that of a family. “I started off at SCARF as a volunteer as well, and it’s just an organisation that I love being a part of. It sounds a little bit cheesy but it does feel like SCARF is this big family that’s made up of our community members from refugee backgrounds as well as our volunteers.”

“It is an inclusive community. The friendships that are formed are just beautiful to see, inspiring, mutually beneficial, and life-long in many cases. It’s wonderful to be a part of.”



If you’re interested in volunteering with SCARF, you can register your interest by filling out a form on our Volunteering page. Our next intake will be in May.



Refugee entrants have left family, friends and communities behind, and must re-build their social networks from scratch. This is a difficult and lonely task for anyone, but particularly so for refugee entrants in a new country where laguage, culture and customs are unfamiliar, and where discrimination is rife. This holiday season, you can help us to give a warm SCARF welcome and ongoing support to refugee entants facing loneliness and isolation.

Support SCARF

Our 2016 Annual Review is here!

Our 2016 Annual Review is here!

To say that 2016 was a big year for SCARF would be an understatement.

We saw the retirement of SCARF Founder, Sharyn Mackenzie, from operational management, significant developments in SCARF programs, board and operational team, and we welcomed 240 new refugee entrants into the SCARF community.

From our management committee to our volunteers, community members, staff and supporters, our entire community has worked with relentless energy, enthusiasm and dedication throughout the year to achieve our common goals.

As former SCARF community member, now volunteer, Elizabeth, commented after seeing this review:

“When I work alone, I don’t feel I can make a difference, but when I see everyone in this book, I know we are part of something bigger. That is really nice.”

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We hope our Annual Review 2016 will provide you with an insight into the people, programs and future direction of SCARF, as well as an overview of the collective impact of our wonderful community.

In our Annual Review 2016, you’ll find:

  • Reports from our Executive Officer and President of Management Committee
  • Messages from our patrons and ambassadors
  • Voices from our refugee community
  • Voices from our volunteer community
  • Program reports
  • SCARF Strategy & finances

Plus so much more!

Download our 2016 Annual Review HERE

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Power to the People: Books to Inspire You in 2017

Power to the People: Books to Inspire You in 2017

If your emotional response to the state of the world in 2017 has oscillated between mildly concerned to deeply depressed – you’re probably not alone. 

Trump’s executive order, which blocks immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, and stops all refugee resettlement for at least 120 days, is a heartbreaking attack on the values of equality, empathy and common humanity that many of us hold dearly. Devastatingly, the policy change is predicted to have lasting and damaging impacts on refugees, including Syrian refugees, who under Trump are blocked from entering the US indefinitely.

Witnessing this systematic cruelty unfold can naturally feel disempowering. But now is not the time for despair. Now is the time for action. Whether it’s supporting and welcoming former refugees with SCARF (Volunteer recruitment open NOW!), standing up for what’s right through your creative practice/work/social network, or advocating change at policy level, history will tell you that it all counts. You count. 

If you’re a SCARF volunteer or donor, now is a probably a good time to remind you that without you, SCARF would. not. exist. Because of you and others like you, we’ve been able to provide friendship, an atmosphere of welcome, and practical support to thousands of former refugees navigating the challenges of resettlement in a new country. You did that (yes you!).

To help you turnaround what might have been shaky start to the year, we’ve compiled a list of books to ensure you stay positive and keep fighting the good fight in 2017. These stories will remind you of your own power and the power of communities to make a meaningful, positive impact.

1. I Am Malala – ‘The Girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban’ – Malala Yousafzai

If ever you need reminding that one person can inspire change in the world, read up on Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousefzai. In ‘I am Malala’, Malala tells the story of her journey from  a remote valley in northern Pakistan, where she was shot by the Taliban for standing up for girls education, to the halls of the United Nations. In the years since, Malala has come to represent the power of peaceful protest and bravery in the face of injustice. If you’d prefer to watch rather than read her story, you can check out the equally powerful documentary, ‘He Named Me Malala’ (2015).

2. Hope in the Dark – Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities – Rebecca Solnit

In Hope in the Dark, Solnit argues that the consequences of activism are slow to emerge and progressives should not see setbacks as defeat but as part of a long history of transformative victories. She argues that hope is a commitment to act in a world where the future holds unknown possibilities, and that pessimism and despair rest on an unwarranted presumption that what will happen next is knowable. Solnit’s book is both reflective and a powerful call-to-action for activists. Funnily enough, the decade old novel has recently had surge in sales!

3. The Help – Kathryn Stockett

The Help, a fictional novel, is a deeply moving portrait of three women who start a movement of their own forever changes a town. Set in Mississippi circa 1962, the novel explores racial and gender inequality, courage and hope. We can’t promise you won’t cry reading this, but we can promise you’ll be inspired. The Help also has a commendable film adaption you can check out.

4. Switch – How to Change things When Change is Hard – Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Written using engaging storytelling, the Heaths bring together research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or personal growth. A must-read if you’re interested in the psychology of social change, and how to utilise this to your advantage.

5. Little Daughter: A Memoir of Survival in Burma and the West – Zoya Phan and Damien Lewis

Little Daughter follows the tumultuous journey of Zoya, who was born to committed resistance fighters in the Karen State of Burma. Despite the horror faced by Zoya (oppression from Burma’s military regime, the hardships of a refugee camp, facing uncertainty in the UK) you’ll be uplifted by her courage, resilience and determination in the face of many challenges. If you’re a SCARF volunteer working with someone from the Burmese community – you’ll find Little Daughter particularly informative and enlightening.

6. Unbowed – A Memoir – Wangari Maathai

In Unbowed, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage. When Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, she began a vital poor people’s environmental movement, focused on the empowerment of women, that soon spread across Africa. Maathai’s story will remind you of the power we have when we act with courage and persistence.

We hope that these books will put a spring back in your step as you continue working towards a better future in big and little ways. Because without people who care, who get up and volunteer, donate, share and advocate – the world would be a bleak place. You only have to look around at how far we’ve come (granted, with some setbacks) to see the collective impact of the game-changes and world-shakers!










Volunteer Voices – Jocelyn Booth

Volunteer Voices – Jocelyn Booth

We interviewed one of our invaluable long-standing volunteers, Jocelyn Booth, about her involvement with SCARF over the years. In the time that Jocelyn has been volunteering with us, she’s impacted many lives. Her time and expertise have been an incredible gift to the SCARF community. Here’s Jocelyn’s Story: 

“My name’s Jocelyn, I’ve been involved with SCARF for about 7 or 8 years now.

When I began with SCARF, I started volunteering with one Burmese family – a single mum and a young daughter. Her daughter was 3 when I started, and now she’s 12 – so I’ve been a family mentor for a long time. I’ve seen some very happy events occurring, such as the arrival of the husband of the family to Australia. I’ve seen two more little Aussies born in the last 5 or 6 years. There’s been exciting progress with this family – both Mum and Dad got licenses, their Australian Citizenship, and now they’ve taken the big step and secured a mortgage and bought a house. 

So there have been some fantastic achievements in about 8 years for this family. I’ve also helped with Citizenship with the extended family. Just today I helped an Auntie register her new baby with Services NSW and get Medicare cards. So the variety of things that you do is just incredible – I find it very rewarding. With the little bit of time you’re able to give, you’re able to make a difference in the lives of our newest citizens that are part of the SCARF community.

Over the years I’ve mainly been a Family Mentor and helped people with Citizenship tests. But the other aspect that I really enjoy is helping with ‘An Introduction to Computing’ classes… The variety of things that you do is just incredible – I find it very rewarding. With the little bit of time you’re able to give, you’re able to make a difference in the lives of our newest citizens that are part of the SCARF community.

Seeing the families gain their citizenship is one of the really exciting and happy moments. And just getting hugs from the kids when you visit is lovely. I feel very honoured in the Burmese community because everyone calls me ‘Pi Pi’ which means Grandmother, even the Grandmothers call me Pi Pi! The other exciting thing is seeing the children grow up and do well at school.”

All of our volunteers, both new and long-standing, are the lifeblood of our organisation. It’s more than just the donated time and effort – it’s the warm welcomes and friendship from our volunteer community that ensures SCARF is a supportive, inclusive environment for all. The great work of SCARF would not be possible without Jocelyn and the rest of our volunteer community!


Did you know that SCARF relies entirely on public donations and small grants to keep our life-changing programs funded, rent paid and welcome mat out for former refugees? Your support, big or small, means we can keep doing what we do best: providing wrap-around, friendship-based support to former refugees navigating the many challenges of life in a new country. Every dollar you give counts for our community! Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to SCARF today.

SCARF Launches ‘Let’s Lead’ Youth Leadership Program

SCARF Launches ‘Let’s Lead’ Youth Leadership Program

SCARF is excited to be working with Cameron Brown from Explore Discover Act to facilitate a year-long leadership program for SCARF Youth (young people aged 16-24 from refugee background), beginning this February 2017.

1. Intro session 17 DEC

‘Let’s Lead’ has been developed in response to the needs of SCARF Youth, many of whom have expressed an interest giving back to their communities and developing their capacities as leaders.

3. Intro session 17 DEC

The program will aim to develop an ability to lead in daily thoughts, words, and actions through monthly workshops. There will be a focus on both individual and collective leadership as the group explore possibilities, discover potential and act authentically.

2. Intro session 17 DEC

For young people from refugee background – many of whom have experienced varying degrees of trauma, upheaval, or social isolation – the challenges of growing up may be more pronounced. With thanks to Cameron Brown from Explore Discover Act, the ‘Let’s Lead’ workshop is a meaningful program with tangible impact for SCARF’s young people, supporting them to navigate challenges, unlock their potential, feel confident and thrive.

SCARF is thrilled to have an opportunity to support and nurture the next generation of leaders and game-changers. Watch out for SCARF Youth on the world stage!


Did you know that SCARF relies entirely on public donations and small grants to keep our life-changing programs funded, rent paid and welcome mat out for former refugees? Your support, big or small, means we can keep doing what we do best: providing wrap-around, friendship-based support to former refugees navigating the many challenges of life in a new country. Every dollar you give counts for our community! Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to SCARF today.

‘A Night From The East’ – Our First Women Only Event

‘A Night From The East’ – Our First Women Only Event

In response to the needs of newly-arrived women in our SCARF community, we held our first ever women-only event on Saturday December 10. The night featured belly dancing, henna artistry, home cooked food, and an opportunity for women and girls from all cultural backgrounds to meet and socialise. Over 50 women came along to the inaugural event, prompting us to ensure women-only events are a permanent feature on the SCARF calendar in 2017!


The night began with a performance and workshop from our wonderful belly dancers, Tara and Nadia, who set the scene for a night of dancing and fun.

Tara performed belly dance for the group. Later, she led a workshop.


Later, the group shared cuisine made from home. Attendees enjoyed a variety of foods from around the world.



Next, the group had a chance to decorate their hands with gorgeous Henna designs.

Thanks to our wonderful social inclusion volunteers and community members, our first women-only event was joy-filled evening of friendship and culture. We were glad to have received some positive feedback, with one woman from Syria remarking:

“I’ve been in Australia for more than 3 years now, and haven’t seen such an amazing event. You made us happy.”

Facilitating opportunities for community connections and social inclusion is critical to the successful resettlement process for people from refugee background, and thus forms an integral part of our wrap-around SCARF support. If you’d like to come along to our next social activity, keep an eye on our Facebook or Upcoming Events page. 


Did you know that SCARF relies entirely on public donations and small grants to keep our life-changing programs funded, rent paid and welcome mat out for former refugees? Your support, big or small, means we can keep doing what we do best: providing wrap-around, friendship-based support to former refugees navigating the many challenges of life in a new country. Every dollar you give counts for our community! Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to SCARF today. 



Help SCARF win $10,000!

Help SCARF win $10,000!

We’re in the running to WIN $10,000 in cash! To win, we need your vote in Chorus Call’s campaign.

Show your support and love for SCARF by clicking a few buttons.

Your vote and your support will help SCARF survive and thrive into the future, as we respond to the needs of people from refugee backgrounds, and develop new programs focused on training, skills-development, and employment opportunities.

Voting commences on the 1st December and ends soon, on the 31st December. But… you can vote every day!

To vote, visit the link below:

Thank you in advance for your support!

Elizabeth’s Story

Elizabeth’s Story

My name is Elizabeth Jowanie, I came to Australia in 2008, that was 8 years ago. My parents were born in Myanmar (Burma). After my parents fled Myanmar, they settled in a refugee camp in Thailand called Maesuri. So, I was born and raised in the refugee camp near Burma & Thailand border for 12 years. I didn’t have a country to call home. I came to Australia with my 2 brothers and my parents. I am grateful that we are still together.

Growing up in Australia as a refugee teenage girl, I felt very different from other people. I was different in the way I look, the way I behave, the way I dress, the way I speak and many more, I felt less confident in myself.

In school, I was worried if the other students would accept and understood me for who I was. I didn’t know how to begin to explain to them that I was different from them. What I have lived through, what I have felt and what I have seen were mountains, rivers, green forest, bamboo built houses, laughing neighbours, crying neighbours, insecurity, poverty, desperation, happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, violence, compassion and much more. I couldn’t share my story because I wasn’t in the position, I couldn’t speak English confidently, I was afraid that I will be disrespected and I was embarrassed to tell an experience that was not positive.


Elizabeth (centre) at a UOW Awards night with Eugenia and Narges

Then, I met SCARF volunteers. They helped me with my homework. They also listened to my story. They understood me, they supported me and it made me feel like I was a star. It made me feel that people in Wollongong were lovely. That was how Wollongong became so dear to me. It became my home where I have my family, many friends and colleagues. I felt that I belonged here for the first time. What I learned from SCARF volunteers was that I could brush off the negativity that was thrown at me, keep shining brightly and be the best I can be.

In the past, I didn’t know what I had and what I could do with my skills. SCARF supported me and opened opportunities for me to take part in many leadership skills development programs. Today, I feel equipped and I am using my skills to give back to the community.

I volunteer with SCARF and help with interpreting in Karenni and Karen languages. Mostly, I work with SCARF volunteers to assist the Burmese Karenni community members with form filing and more. I casually take part in the SCARF youth development activities. I got to know some amazing multicultural young people, I believe that they have potential and they also need support to help them uncover what they can do.

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Elizabeth at a leadership workshop as a part of SCARF Youth

I work with Navitas as a causal case worker, I have learned so much over the past 2 years working with clients and experienced/friendly staff members. I am an interpreter for Centrelink and soon I will be able to be an interpreter for the health service. I hope to make communication barrier a thing that can be overcome for the community members. I would like to make it known that diversity is a good thing. Currently, I am studying Bachelor of Nursing, it is a 3 year course and I am in 2nd year. I want to become a registered nurse.

I am thankful to the lovely volunteers who gave so much and expect so little in return. It’s been said to “give more than you take” and you have proven that and you have inspired me to do the same. I wish for you, your family and friends all the joy, goodness and blessings.

To everyone who is reading my story, I want you to take a way a very special message that is “you are special no matter what and you are loved”, it is a silent confidence that’s going to help you get through anything.

SCARF Representatives in the Community

SCARF Representatives in the Community

We’re proud as punch of the SCARF Community Members who’ve represented SCARF in the broader community. Recently, representatives have attended the Affinity ‘Women of Culture’ Dinner, and a UOW Awards night.

Affinity ‘Women of Culture’ Dinner

Community members and volunteers, Elizabeth and Narges, Volunteer Coordinator, Alex, and SCARF Founder and Ambassador, Sharyn, attended a Women of Culture dinner hosted by Affinity Intercultural Foundation last Sunday. The event was brought together from partnerships with JCI Illawarra, The Illawarra Grammar School, and SCARF. Ten dollars from the proceeds of each ticket went to supporting SCARF. It was a beautiful evening of sharing experiences and culture.

A delicious meal was shared as attendees reflected on the theme of the night, ‘Finding Home’. This theme was then beautifully expressed by the keynote speaker, Tamana Daqiq. The idea of life as a journey and home being not a tangible place, but a feeling and a state of mind was expressed.


Sharyn Mackenzie gave a beautiful vote of thanks to the organisers of the evening before the tables were cleared, to finish off the lovely evening with dancing.

UOW Awards Night

Adnan, Elizabeth, Narges and Eugenia represented Sharyn Mackenzie at a recent UOW Awards Night.


Congratulations to all!

Missed our Annual General Meeting 2016? Here’s a Recap!

Missed our Annual General Meeting 2016? Here’s a Recap!

On Friday the 25th of November, SCARF held its Annual General Meeting for 2016. In addition to reports on SCARF in 2016 – our successes, challenges, and future outlook – the event featured a graphic artist, musical performances, Syrian cuisine, performances, trivia quizzes and community member guest speakers. How very SCARF!

Reflecting the diversity of the SCARF community, the night was attended by SCARF refugee community members, volunteers, staff, the management committee, friends of SCARF, and special guest and SCARF Founding Patron, The Hon. Sharon Bird MP.

The first and arguably most adorable segment of the night was a storytelling performance by SCARF kids and Lillian Rodriguez-Pang, Storyteller and SCARF Volunteer, who together shared ‘a settlement story.’


Next up was a welcome address by The Hon. Sharon Bird MP, who having just returned from Parliament in Canberra, spoke about the need to challenge divisive political commentary, the benefits of diverse societies and the importance of welcoming all Australians.


After some formalities (apologies and confirmation of minutes), Drew Arthur, President of SCARF’s Management Committee and MC of the night, shared his ‘Presidents Report.’ Drew discussed where we began, SCARF in transition, our transformation strategy, activities, successes and challenges in 2016, keys to sustainable success, and future directions. If you’d like to read the President’s Report in full, you can download it here. 


Next, guests were spoiled with a performance by classical guitarist, Sako Dermenjian, who wowed there audience with an incredible live set.

Following Sako’s performance, guests at the AGM heard stories from SCARF community members and leaders, Elizabeth and her brother Peete, and Ghada.

Elizabeth shared a story of her journey to Australia and involvement in the community, and her brother, Peete, read a moving poem he had written about his Mother’s refugee journey. Ghada, a community leader originally from Syria, shared her story of escaping conflict in Syria and building a new life here in Wollongong with her family. These stories of strength, resilience and determination were told to a captivated audience, some of whom commented how moved they were at the end of the night. 

After community stories, it was time for reports from each of the operational teams. A testament to the diversity of programs and initiatives that make up SCARF, the team’s presentations were wide-ranging in style – from a trivia-style quiz, to jokes and comedy, to more serious presentations. We heard from Sherryl Reddy (SCARF’s Executive Officer) first, followed by Lindsay (Volunteer Coordinator) and Lyndall (Long-time Volunteer), Asher and Alex from SCARF Youth, John and Carole from L2P, Caroline and Maureen from SCARF Social Inclusion and Administration, Andrew Crichton from Homework Help, Sophie-May Kerr from the SCARF Speaker Program, Maddie and Bernadette from SCARF Communications, Meredith Young-Whitford from Art4Refugees, and Emmett and Amanda from SCARF Trivia.

Lindsay (SCARF Volunteer Coordinator) with Lyndall (Long-time SCARF Volunteer)

Lindsay (SCARF Volunteer Coordinator) with Lyndall (Long-time SCARF Volunteer)

Emmett anf Amanda from SCARF Trivia

Emmett and Amanda from SCARF Trivia


Presentations from the operational team were followed by more formalities – the appointment of auditor and the election of SCARF Management Committee for 2017. We’re pleased to announce that SCARF’s Management Committee for 2017 are as follows:

President – Drew Arthur, Vice-President – Kath McCollim (also filling role of Human Resources & Risk Management Advisor), Secretary – Andrew Crichton, Treasurer – Irene Latoa, Fundraising Advisor – Joanna Stuart, Business & Strategy Development Advisor – Jo Mould, PR & Marketing Advisor – Alina Azar

The evening concluded with a comedy skit from Sherryl Reddy, who nodded to some important, but often overlooked, members of the SCARF community. These being the in-volunteers – the partners, children, parents, friends and pets of SCARF volunteers and staff, who put up with the at times all-consuming SCARF work, and are regularly roped in themselves to help out.

Overall, the evening was an engaging and informative event, and one that reflected the people, programs and values that make up SCARF. We’re proud to celebrate another year, and grateful to the countless people who have worked tirelessly to keep SCARF surviving and thriving.


Thanks are owed to many, but here are just a few people and organisations that we’d like to recognise for their contributions in 2016:

SCARF Empower Business Partners

Mo Chi Dining & Caveau Restaurant, Access Law, Rotary Club of Wollongong South, Rotary Club of Fairy Meadow, Rotary Club of Corrimal

SCARF Empower Individual Supporters

We would love to name you individually, but also wish to respect your privacy. THANKYOU for your truly kind and generous support to SCARF.

Program partners

Big Fat Smile, Community Gateway, Explore Discover Act, Eaton Gorge Theatre Company, Flourish Australia, IMS, Kiama Community College, Lillian Rodrigues-Pang, MCCI, Navitas, Refugee Council of Australia, STARTTS, Outdoor Education Group, St Marys Star of the Sea College (Interact Club), St Therese Parish, UoW/UoW Cares, Wollongong City Council

SCARF Pro Bono Supporters

Daniel Parsons Media, David Thompson – Storyboard Artist, Genevieve Swart, 2515 Magazine, Mark Broadhurst, MPC Automotive, Scarlet Design Group, Sifters, Social Impact Systems, The Illawarra Grammar School, The Little Prince, Torilo Studios, Unitive Consulting, Urban Timber, Zayra Dolores

SCARF Funding Partners

Collegians Rugby Club, Commonwealth Bank, Dept of Family & Community Services, Illawarra Master Builders Club, IMB Community Foundation, Multicultural NSW, Partners in Recovery, Transport for NSW

SCARF Fundraising Supporters

Affinity, Beechies Espresso Bar, John Whiteside, JCI Illawarra, Edmund Rice College, Figtree Anglican Social Justice Group, Rotary Club of Gerringong, Hydro Simulations, Rotary Club of Kiama, Oliver Ellis, Permian Storage, Thirroul Anglican, Wollongong Baptist Church

SCARF In-Kind Supporters

Bright Star Kids, English Family Foundation, Illawarra Quilters, Jo Napier Quilting Group, Kiama Welcomes Refugees, The Nowra Quilting Mouse, Gateway City Church, Second Life Stationery, San Churro, Samaras, Mylan restaurant, Little Vietnam restaurant.

SCARF Management Committee and Strategic Advisors 2016

Drew Arthur, Jo Mould, Svetlana Kovalevskaya, Andrew Crichton, Irene Latoa, Rob Ringer, Sharyn Mackenzie, Georgina Pearman, Kath McCollim, Alina Azar, Joanna Stuart, Greg Knight, Joe Ringer, Bobby Mehta

SCARF Patrons

The Honourable Sharon Bird MP, Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery

SCARF Operational Team 2016

Adnan Aboukasem, Obouko Agnatson, Azita Azimi, Mitra Bakshihzadeh, Ted Booth, Jocelyn Booth, Amanda Bottomley, Kuer Bul, Maddie Burkitt, Lindsay Burlton, Maureen Burt, Carole Carter, Bernadette Clarke, Andrew Crichton, Lyndall Dawson, Caroline Dempsey, Ann Duffy, Rand Faied, Elisa Fellows, Ryan Frazer, Claire Gerson, Jarryd Gillen, Alexandra Harden, Francis Htjaru, Marion Jacka, Carl Jackson, Elizabeth Jowanie, Sophie May Kerr, Pamela King, Moira Kirkwood, Sharyn Mackenzie, Kel Mackenzie, Christina McLellan, Narges Mirzaee, Georgina Pearman, Alexa Peggie, Bill Pyne, Eugenia Pyne, Joe Reminis, Rob Ringer, John Ruperto, Asher Taccori, Emmett Weatherford, Steve Winter, Maaike Veenkamp, Talei Vulatha, Kate Wall, Meredith Young-Whitford, Burhan Zangana

It’s a big team that keeps the wheels of SCARF turning – hope we haven’t forgotten anyone!

The SCARF Community

You are the magic of SCARF – we can’t name you all, but we thank each and every one of our volunteers, involunteers and community members who participate in and support our programs and activities. Together, we build a home, a community and a genuine sense of belonging for us all!

SCARF Community Picnic Day & Appreciation Event

SCARF Community Picnic Day & Appreciation Event

On Saturday the 5th of November, we held our annual Community Picnic Day and Appreciation Event at Illawarra Live Steamers (the place with the miniature trains!). The event was open to community members and volunteers, and was an opportunity to enjoy and celebrate our diverse SCARF community. Once again, our Picnic Day was hugely popular, with over 130 people coming along!

The kids (and big kids) loved the miniature trains!



There were games in the sun…

Games in the sun

…and face-painting! Thanks to the kind students from St Mary’s, who volunteered their time:


The Rotary Club of Corrimal kindly facilitated a barbecue lunch, that was thoroughly enjoyed by guests.


Overall, fun was had, friendships strengthened, and all felt welcome.


Thanks to all who came, and to Maureen, Rob and Caroline for organising.

Looking to the Future: Employment Support Key to Settlement Success

Looking to the Future: Employment Support Key to Settlement Success

“Most of us refugees have problem in getting job. Yes we get people to help us with medical things, (for example), but how to get job? What skills do we refugees need living in this country?” – Kwibe Nickolas, 27, SCARF Community Member

Kwibe Nickolas, a determined young man originally from in the Congo, stressed the critical importance of employment support for people from refugee background in an interview with SCARF.

It’s a sentiment that’s echoed widely in our community, and consequently, it forms a key part of our strategic plan as we look to the future. You can read more about our future directions in the President’s Address to our 2016 AGM. 

It’s not as easy as ‘just finding a job’: 

For Kwibe Nickolas and for the majority of refugee entrants, finding a job in Australia is a significant challenge – despite the diverse skills, qualifications and experience entrants bring with them, and a determination to work. This is because refugee entrants face specific barriers to employment. Just a few of these barriers, as recognised by The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), include:

  • English proficiency challenges
  • Lack of Australian work experience
  • Lack of access to transport and affordable housing close to employment
  • Lack of knowledge of Australian workplace systems and culture
  • Lack of targeted services to support employment transitions
  • The refugee experience and resettlement (Past experiences of torture and trauma, destitution and extended periods of time living in refugee camps)
  • Discrimination in employment
  • Difficulties with recognition of skills, qualifications and experience

The ‘Entrepreneurial Spirit’ of refugee entrants: 

Despite a web of barriers to navigate, refugee entrants are particularly determined to find work, even if it means building a business from scratch.

Data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009-10) indicates that refugees are the most entrepreneurial of all migrants, with the study reporting refugee entrants as the category with the highest proportion of their incomes that year “from their own unincorporated businesses.”

It’s no surprise to us – given the determination to survive inherent to all refugees. Additionally, many refugees are impatient to work, after having spent years waiting in limbo. Kwibe Nickolas explained his own eagerness to be earning his own money to us:

“I’ve been in a camp for 5 years receiving help from UNHCR, so when I came to a new country, I can’t just be waiting for help from the Government. I can work and make my own money, so the Government can give that money to other people. This was hard for me.”


Our Strategic Plan for Employment Support 

Almost 40% of the SCARF community are of working age (aged 18 – 40 years [539 individuals out of 1420 community members registered with SCARF]).

In line with our commitment to providing support that’s responsive to the changing needs of our community, we aim to orientate our services to fill the gap in employment assistance for our community in 2017 and beyond.

But we know that employment support alone won’t equip our community to tackle the challenges of working in Australia. It’s going to take SCARF’s wrap-a-round support to ensure people from refugee background feel confident, supported and empowered in the short, medium and long-term.

Our priorities for 2017 and beyond will comprise of a combination that we know works – English, Education and Employment support, coupled with social inclusion initiatives.

Specific initiatives in 2017 and beyond include:

  • SCARF, with much appreciated support from Kiama Community College, is currently conducting a career skills survey for working age people from refugee backgrounds. The purpose of the survey is to map existing skills, interests, qualifications and experience among refugee entrants and gather information on key challenges to obtaining sustainable employment. This will help us to develop programs that support skills-development, work experience, and employment for people from refugee backgrounds in the Illawarra through SCARF and/or partner agencies.
  • SCARF, with support from Unitive Consulting, plans to convene an inter-agency workshop with key refugee support agencies in the Illawarra to openly explore ways that we can collaboratively respond to the most pressing needs in effective end-to-end settlement support. This will include exploration of key gaps in service such as:
  • Establishing a multicultural community hub space for delivery of a range of services including informal English language support, form-filling support, tutoring for primary school children, social inclusion & community engagement activities
  • Establishing an employment agency & work transitions hub providing specialised ‘JobActive’ support for people from refugee/CALD backgrounds in the Illawarra.

We’re excited to be taking on a new challenge, and working with our community to overcome a significant barrier to successful settlement. As always, we’re grateful to our community members, volunteers, supporters and partners for their continued handwork and dedication – without you, none of this would be possible!




Art4Refugees Junior and Big Fat Smile Workshop

Art4Refugees Junior and Big Fat Smile Workshop

For the first time, SCARF has held an Art4Refugees Junior event as a part of the annual Art4Refugees exhibition and fundraiser. Art4Refugees Junior gave high school students the opportunity to take part in an art workshop hosted by Big Fat Smile, and have their artworks displayed at Art4Refugees Junior exhibition at The Illawarra Grammar School (TIGS).

Big Fat Smile Workshop

Artists aged between 12 to 18 years old came together at Big Fat Smile’s Artspace for a free workshop on Saturday the 10th of September to create artworks for the Art4Refugees Junior event in October. The workshop was hosted and organised by Big Fat Smile and SCARF (strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families). Young artists from refugee and non-refugee background created their own masterpieces using Artspace’s resources, with artworks centred around the Art4Refugees Junior themes of “home” and “belonging”.


“It’s a fantastic opportunity for them (the participants) to create in this environment… it’s really nice to see everyone working off each other.” said Artist at Artspace, Angela Forest.

With the help of SCARF volunteer, Caitlyn, and the expertise from Artspace artists, Tamara and Angela, the young artists were able to hone their craft and express themselves creatively in a fun and safe environment.

Art4Refugees Junior Exhibition at TIGS

On the 1st and second of October, SCARF held our first ever art4refugees junior exhibition at The Illawarra Grammar School.

The event featured an art exhibition by high school students from refugee and non-refugee background around the theme of ‘seeking home’, as an exhibition by Art4Refugees featured artist, Najla Sbei.



Guests were treated to musical performances by Sako Dermenjian, and the Myanmar Children’s Dance group, along with Syrian finger food.

img_1651A variety of workshops facilitated by local creative practitioners took place on Saturday and Sunday to keep guests young and old entertained.


On Sunday, attendees enjoyed a Storytelling performance with Lilian Pang and children form refugee background, as well as a film-screening of ‘Cast form the Storm.’

This wonderful event would not be possible without the support from a fantastic team of volunteers, and Art4Refugees Junior sponsors, The Illawarra Grammar School, Big Fat Smile and LBPR.

Art4Refugees 2016 is a wrap!

Art4Refugees 2016 is a wrap!

Our month-long Art4Refugees 2016 has wrapped up!

Thanks to the generosity and dedication of contributing artists, a fantastic volunteer team, Art4Refugees sponsors, and the many people who attended our opening nights and/or purchased art, we’re proud to report Art4Refugees 2016 a wonderful success. The major fundraiser was able to support the work of SCARF by contributing over $17,000, as well as bringing together community members from diverse backgrounds to support refugees and to celebrate art in the Illawarra.

Project Contemporary Artspace Opening Night – Friday the 7th of October

The evening event at Project Contemporary Artspace was a wonderful introduction to SCARF’s annual charity art exhibition and major fundraising initiative, and a vibrant celebration of art community and culture. Attendees were spoiled with food, beverages, entertainment, inspiring speeches and of course, the display of beautiful artworks. The Opening Night raised just over $10,000 – with every dollar going directly to SCARF to help us support community members from refugee backgrounds as they settle in the Illawarra.

art4refugees2016-1387full-rezTorilo Studio photography


Generous Artists donated their artworks to SCARF, filling the Project Contemporary Artspace with a diverse range of mediums including photographs, paintings, sculptures and craft. Among artists who kindly donated their work are renowned Artists; Glen Preece, India Mark, Paul Ryan, Moira Kirkwood and Pamela King.

art4refugees2016-1336full-rezTorilo Studio photography – George Gittoes

SCARF volunteer,Kuer Bul, was our wonderful MC for the night. Richard Davis kicked off the event with a fantastic Welcome to Country, and Paul Scully representing The Hon Sharon Bird MP, gave a welcome address. Later, internationally renowned artist and film-maker George Gittoes and Archibald finalist, Blak Douglas, also engaged the crowd with animated speeches. Next, Najla Sbei, Art4Refugees featured artist and former community member from refugee background, gave a powerful speech, speaking of her journey as a refugee and inspiration as an artist. Myanmar singers ended the speeches beautifully, performing an original song dedicated to their home-country.

Executive Officer of SCARF, Sherryl Reddy, expressed her excitement towards the event:

“It’s been a fantastic turnout tonight for Art4Refugees 2016 – and a wonderful celebration of art, community and culture in support of SCARF. We’re very fortunate to have over 60 supporting Artists who have generously contributed their artwork to this exhibition”

Wollongong Art Gallery Opening Night – Friday the 14th of October

Whilst Art4Refugees has been held annually for 7 years, this year is the inaugural year of Art4Refugees exhibition as a month-long celebration, meaning artworks displayed are available at not only the Project Contemporary Artspace but also the Wollongong Art GalleryOn the evening of Friday the 14th, SCARF held the second opening night for Art4Refugees. The free event launched the exhibition at Wollongong Art Gallery, and provided an opportunity to acknowledge and thank Art4refugees volunteers and contributing artists.

The evening began with browsing the fantastic art exhibited, followed by guest performances by classical guitarist Sako Dermenjian and the Myanmar Children’s Dance group. Next, SCARF community members and volunteers Ghada, Elizabeth, Narges and Kwibe addressed the audience, giving guests insight into the refugee experience and SCARF services.

Delicious Syrian food was provided by Adnan, keeping guests fed before more art browsing and buying ensued.

Art4Refugees Supporters:

Art4Refugees would not be possible without a dedicated team of volunteers and a host of generous contributing artists.

“We would like to thank the Art4Refugees coordination team, and all of the volunteers for their hard work in organising and supporting this new look, month-long Art4Refugees event. Special thanks to all the Artists whose generosity and kindness made this possible.”   – Sherry Reddy

The event was also supported by a number of financial and pro-bono business supporters. We’d like to acknowledge and thank Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra (MCCI), Social Impact Systems, Gerringong Sunrise Rotary Club, The Illawarra Grammar School (TIGS), Urban Timber, Permian Self Storage, Torilo Studio, Hydro Simulations, LBPR, Illawarra Master Builders, Project Contemporary Artspace and Wollongong Art Gallery.


More information at

SCARF Farewells L2P Founder and Coordinator, Ted Booth

SCARF Farewells L2P Founder and Coordinator, Ted Booth

SCARF will miss one of our longest and most dedicated volunteers, L2P Founder and Coordinator, Ted Booth.

We’d like to publicly acknowledge and thank Ted for his longstanding commitment, support and contribution to SCARF over several years!

Ted’s journey with SCARF:

Ted has taken on many different roles in his time with SCARF including as President of SCARF’s Management Committee in 2012-13; L2P Program Coordinator since 2009, a driver mentor, and a friend to many refugee families who have joined the Wollongong community over the past 10 years.

Ted established SCARF’s L2P learner driver mentor program in 2009, recognising the need for accessible, affordable driving sessions for learners from refugee backgrounds. Ted realised that most refugee entrants cannot afford professional driving lessons. For those under 25 years old, the lack of affordable driving lessons is particularly challenging as they are required to complete 120 hours of driving practice prior to sitting the practical test.

Ted’s founding of the L2P program filled a very real gap in services and support for refugee families starting a new life in the Illawarra.


For many SCARF families, only one member of the household may have the confidence or capacity to learn to drive in Australia. The opportunity to become a fully licensed driver can have a significant impact on the successful settlement of the entire family as gaining a license increases capacity to access essential services, work opportunities and community participation. Licensed drivers become a valuable community resource in relation to safe road use, mobility and inclusion for people from refugee backgrounds and may also act as supervising drivers for other family/community members.

Since 2009, under Ted’s guidance, the L2P program has continued to grow thanks also to the hard work and commitment of co-coordinators, Carole Carter and John Ruperto.

The L2P coordination team have not been alone in their mission to assist learners from refugee backgrounds to gain their license. They have worked with a trusted team of volunteer driver mentors – with nerves of steel – who demonstrate patience, compassion and an ability to calmly deal with the unexpected in every driving session they deliver.

L2P featured in the Illawarra Mercury.

L2P featured in the Illawarra Mercury.


This special team of people continue to work tirelessly to support learners from refugee backgrounds who otherwise would not have access to a supervising driver, to gain the skills, knowledge and practice necessary on the pathway to becoming licensed.

Thanks to Ted’s energy and creativity, the L2P program has offered a range of additional activities and supports including:

  • production of a Road and Traffic Signs DVD as an innovative teaching and learning tool demonstrating what drivers should do when approaching different signs; and
  • workshops on ‘Buying Your First Car’ and ‘Keeping Your Car on the Road’ to help community members navigate the process of buying and owning a car in Australia.
Volunteer Team of the Year Award, awarded to the L2P team in 2011

Volunteer Team of the Year Award, awarded to the L2P team in 2011


Ted’s achievements with L2P:

Over the past 7 years, under Ted’s guidance, the L2P program has helped over 70 refugee learners gain their license. For each of these former learners, this is undoubtedly a skill and an achievement that they appreciate every day.

And for SCARF, the need for the L2P program continues to grow. SCARF receives at least 10 – 15 enquiries per month from people seeking driving education & mentoring support at different stages in the process of gaining a license. In addition, SCARF is currently in the process of welcoming 70 new families (from Syria and Iraq) who have arrived in the Illawarra between May – July 2016, most of whom have requested driving education/mentoring support for at least one member of their family.

It’s a testament to the robust foundation that Ted and the dedicated team of driver mentors has built over the past 7 years, that we are now exploring ways to expand and sustain SCARF’s L2P program in future:

Thank you Ted for this tangible and invaluable legacy that you have created for the SCARF community. We wish you all the best in your new role as Chair of IMS.


SCARF Youth Consultation

SCARF Youth Consultation

On Saturday the 24th of September, SCARF hosted a youth consultation meeting to engage young people aged 12-24 years old from refugee backgrounds to explore key interests of this age group. Over 35 youth members of the SCARF community came out and had the chance to nominate what activities they wanted to be a part of. The day was held at Flourish Australia and involved fun games and challenges, the chance to hear about upcoming summer camps, an amazing drumming performance from Junkyard Beats, and finished up with a soccer game at the park!

SCARF Youth consultation

Cameron Brown, from Explore Discover Act, kindly got involved and led the group through fun challenges to get to know new friends and identify activities of interest. This was followed by a presentation from Mark Stewart from the Outdoor Education Group which got everyone very excited about upcoming summer camps!


After a delicious Syrian and Burmese lunch, the group was on their feet drumming and clapping along to an incredible performance from Junkyard Beats. The Sydney-based performance group led a high energy workshop which was a ton of fun! With spirits high, the group head down to MacCabe Park to finish of the day with a soccer game in the beautiful sunshine.

SCARF Youth consultation

The event was a ton of fun and a lot of great insights were made into how SCARF can best develop programs to build a sense of belonging for young refugees.

SCARF Youth consultation

Watch this space for upcoming SCARF Youth activities!

Alex – Youth Coordinator 

Hard Work Pays Off for HSC Students & SCARF Volunteers

Hard Work Pays Off for HSC Students & SCARF Volunteers

The last year of High-School is the hardest.

Wi Meh and Neema Ushindi, SCARF community members, are currently studying at The Illawarra Grammar School (TIGS) in their last year of high school, close to completing their Higher School Certificate (HSC). The subject Textile & Design is amongst the more challenging subjects that they are studying, requiring completion of a major work.


SCARF Volunteer, Cathy, and Wi-Meh


Endless hours of hard work go in to completing a HSC major work. So, SCARF volunteers Cathy Smith and Georgina Buttel have devoted their own time and expertise to the girls, meeting them once a week from January through to October 2016, helping create the Textile & Design projects.

Cathy and Georgina are SCARF Volunteers, former Textile & Design teachers and HSC markers. They were contacted by a Home-work Help volunteer to initially assist Neema, Wi meh joined later on.

“They have helped us with anything and everything… We couldn’t have done it on our own.” Neema said.

Neema’s work is inspired by her African cultural background and drawings she has done, designing a collection of African styled cushions, submitted in the ‘furnishings’ category to the Board of Studies. Neema’s work features embroidery, ribbon weaving, applique and fabric dying.


Progress shot: Neema’s HSC textile major work.



The embroidery details!


Wi Meh’s work was inspired by the ocean, her Burmese heritage and contemporary Australian fashion. With those elements she chose to create a 2-piece Contemporary Australian/Burmese fusion garment, and will be submitted to the ‘apparel’ category. Wi Meh’s work features bobbin work, couching and basic construction/tailoring.


Wi Meh’s contemporary Burmese-Australian HSC textiles major work


Both Wi meh and Neema have been dedicated and consistent students, and have learnt a “whole variety of techniques” in a short time, Cathy expressed.

The support and knowledge Cathy and Georgina provided helped “tremendously” Neema explained.

Both students have been working not only on these pieces, but the compulsory 12 page portfolio which will accompany the works. We wish Wi Meh and Neema all the best finishing their HSC year, and we’re sure that they’ll be happy with the marks they receive on their beautiful Textile & Design major works.


Did you know you can support students like Neema and Wi Meh (and have a fabulous time) by attending our #Art4Refugees Opening Night? Tickets available here >

SCARF Program Snapshot: Homework Help Centre

SCARF Program Snapshot: Homework Help Centre

Many of you will be familiar with one of SCARF’s popular programs, Home-Work Help. We thought it was time to shine a light on this wonderful initiative!

Homework Help is held on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 4pm to 6pm at the Wollongong City Library. The program is run by dedicated volunteers who give up their own time to lend extra support to secondary school students from refugee backgrounds.


“All of our tutors here are volunteers giving their time freely and willingly. They build special bonds with the children as well. We couldn’t do it without them.” – Homework Help Coordinator, Andrew

Whether students are new to the NSW school syllabus, learning english, or just needing extra support with school assignments, the homework help centre is a great environment to develop their study skills, build confidence and help reach their education goals. 

“It helps me a lot, especially with science because science has a lot of English and long words. The teachers help me do my home-work and teach me more about science and chemistry.” – Student, Nadine – 18.

The volunteer tutors cover subjects from Maths and Science to English. For the students who attend, Homework Help is a chance to understand the content of a particular assignment and how to complete it. This enables students to demonstrate their true academic potential.


SCARF founder, Sharyn, with a homework help student

“I’m a retired school teacher. I thought if I came along here I could use my knowledge and teacher skills. I’ve been doing it for three years now, loving every minute of it. It’s like working with the senior class every day because they want to learn.” – Volunteer, John

At a time where there is a lot of negativity around refugees in the media, people may feel disempowered and wish to lend support. This program provides an avenue for volunteers to directly support students from refugee backgrounds in their journey to a bright future.

“Helping kids get educated seems like the best form of activism helping refugees” – Volunteer, Charmaine

A special thank you to Collegians for their ongoing support of this program. Their generous assistance enables us to provide the students with transport to and from the centre and snacks to keep their energy levels high.


Time Poor? You Can Still Help Promote an Atmosphere of Welcome for Former Refugees

Time Poor? You Can Still Help Promote an Atmosphere of Welcome for Former Refugees

When compared with the very tangible, ‘hard’ forms of refugee resettlement support such as accommodation, financial and language services, providing an atmosphere of welcome may seem like secondary priority. But in actual fact, forming community connections, feeling a sense of social inclusion and a sense of belonging are essential conditions for a quality life. Actively nurturing these values is important for all of us – but for people from refugee background, who have been uprooted from their communities and support networks, and have often experienced trauma and loss – it is especially critical.

Indeed, research on the experiences of refugees resettled in an Australian community has indicated that feeling ‘a sense of belonging’ is essential for wellbeing. Without this, people from refugee background can experience feelings of isolation and may develop mental health issues as they cope with past trauma and prolonged stress.

Furthermore, the study outlines that programs and policies designed to promote belonging (such as what SCARF does) can only be effective if embedded within a broader socially inclusive society. So, crafting the best resettlement programs for people from refugee background only works if the broader community is on board!

So, what can you do to help foster a sense of belonging and social inclusion for former refugees in the Illawarra?

You can volunteer: 

SCARF aims to provide as many opportunities for community connections as possible. All of our programs are volunteer-based, meaning not only are our community members receiving those essential ‘hard’ forms of support, like English language assistance, education and tutoring, and form-filling support – but they’re also being connected to the broader community. These relationships often turn into friendships, and are usually a lovely, rewarding experience for all people involved. Learn all about volunteering at SCARF here. 

If you’re time-poor, but still want to help: 

Becoming a SCARF volunteer is one way to assist us in fostering an atmosphere of welcome – but we know that many people are just too time poor to commit to a weekly appointment. For these people we have two options:

  • SCARF’s ‘Coffee and Conversation’ events: Every Wednesday between 10.30am and 12pm, SCARF hosts an informal group meet-up where people from refugee and non-refugee background can meet, chat and practice english. We provide coffee, tea, and light snacks. You don’t have to commit to coming weekly, just drop in whenever you’re free. Learn more here. 
  • Social Hangouts at Sifters:  Recently SCARF has launched bi-monthly Social Hangout Nights at Sifters. These free events are an opportunity for the SCARF and broader community to listen to great live music, taste multicultural cuisine, meet new friends and hang out with old ones. Learn more here. 

Becoming a SCARF volunteer or coming along to one of our social events will indeed be helping to foster a sense of belonging and inclusion for people from refugee background – but it will also benefit you. Life-long friendships and extraordinary learning experiences are common occurrences within the SCARF community!





Workshop Series: Acting Games & Skills with Eaton Gorge Theatre Company

Workshop Series: Acting Games & Skills with Eaton Gorge Theatre Company

SCARF has collaborated with Eaton Gorge Theatre company to launch an Acting Games and Skills, a 6-week workshop series which kicked off to a flying start on Wednesday. The workshop is the third instalment of our youth workshop series, alongside side belly dancing and darbuka drumming classes.

The classes involve learning acting skills and playing games and competitions, with a focus on teamwork, communication and confidence building. Classes are designed for children aged 10-16 years, and are open to both refugee community members and the broader SCARF community.

SCARF's acting skills workshop

“Pretend you’re in the desert!”

SCARF’s youth workshops have been developed following a consultation with SCARF’s community members aged between 16 and 24. This consultation has allowed SCARF to develop programs that we know are relevant, interesting and helpful to young people from refugee background. Watch our founder, Sharyn, explain how we have used the generous support from IMB Community Foundation to establish SCARF’s Youth program for 2015/16.

Ensuring young people from refugee background feel included, engaged and stimulated in our community is essential to their successful resettlement in Australia. We hope that these recreational workshop series will be an engaging and fun way to for young people from refugee background to gain skills, make friends and feel a sense of belonging.

Workshop Details:

SCARF refugee support workshop series









Community Support Helped Make Refugee Week 2016 A Success

Community Support Helped Make Refugee Week 2016 A Success

Refugee Week is one of the highlights of the year for SCARF. It’s a chance to showcase what we see everyday – the strength, resilience and contribution of people from refugee background. It’s also an opportunity to shed light on the challenges of the refugee experience, and discuss how we can best support people through these as a community.

This year, various agencies in the Illawarra hosted an impressive array of events in recognition of Refugee Week. There was the Illawarra refugee challenge community night, the IMS Community Dinner and Scavenger Hunt and Find Your Family event held by the Red Cross, amongst others.

SCARF held two events for Refugee Week 2016: ‘A Celebration of Harmony’ at Forager’s Markets, a showcase of local talent and celebration of culture, and a Winter Warmer Morning Tea Event, held during our weekly coffee and conversation, where we gave away donated blankets and quilts.

We were pretty chuffed with how these events went, and were heartened to see other successful Refugee Week events held in the community. But these events don’t organise themselves – there’s almost always a whole bunch of generous, talented and hard-working people working behind-the-scenes (and performing on stage!) to make it all happen. In the case of SCARF’s events, we certainly know this was the case!

Here’s how our SCARF’s Refugee Week events went down, and how support from the SCARF community and beyond ensured they could happen. If you run into any of the legends mentioned below, be sure to thank them from us!

Winter Warmer Giveaway:

Our Winter Warmer’s morning tea during our weekly Coffee Conversations on Wed 22nd June.  Thanks to the kind support and wonderful donations of blankets and quilts from The Illawarra Quilters, the Nowra Quilting Mouse, and Kiama Welcomes Refugees (KWR), we were able to give away warm winter bedding to SCARF families originally from Myanmar, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, iraq, Togo and Congo. A huge thanks is owed to Adnan, who baked delicious Syrian shortbread biscuits for us to share.

SCARF Winter Warmer Giveaway

‘A Celebration of Harmony’ At Forager’s Markets


Our Refugee Week event at Forager’s was intended to be a celebration of the cultures of our diverse community – and thanks to talented performers and many, many helping hands – it did just that! We also managed to raise over $2800 to support SCARF’s community-based programs and services for people from refugee backgrounds.

Our talented performers wowed market-goers at the outside stage, while SCARF volunteers ran an information stall and raffle inside, collected gold coin donations in exchange for delicious Syrian Sweets – once again prepared by Adnan.

The day began with SCARF Patron, Lord Mayor Gordan Bradbury, giving a welcome address to the Forager’s crowd. Thanks Gordan! A big thank you is owed to our talented performers, who shone on the day and brilliantly showcased the diverse talent the Illawarra has to offer. We’re grateful for the performances of Big ErleArlin, Elemental GroovesVictor Steele**, House of MaqamSako Dermenjian, Karenni dance group and Chin dance group.

** Fans of Victor Steele will be happy to know that you can download his album for free on his website! 

SCARF was lucky enough to have some key supporters behind our refugee week event. Sincere thanks to the following individuals and organisations for your help in making this event happen:
Foragers markets – special thanks to Kirrily, Sally, Mary, Amber, Navitas EnglishSTARTTSWollongong City CouncilSusie Fagan, Lana Patrin – event coordinator, Madeleine Zahra photography. The people/businesses who generously supported us with donations for our prize draw: Anh DoStonegrill SteakhouseBright Star Kids and Wollongong Comedy Club. Thank you all SO much for your generous support.
Lastly, we’d like to thank Executive Officer Sherryl Reddy, and all of the SCARF staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to coordinate these events.
Thankyou all so very much for making Refugee Week 2016 the special event it was!


We’re Launching Social Hangout Nights at Sifters!

We’re Launching Social Hangout Nights at Sifters!

If you’re in the SCARF community – you’ll know that one of the best parts of being involved with SCARF are the friendships you make, and the sense of being part of one big, diverse, welcoming family. Not only is this enjoyable for those who experience it, but importantly, it fosters an atmosphere of welcome and social inclusion for all.

In the spirit of encouraging this even more, we thought we’d dedicate a bi-monthly event series to socialising, sharing culture, meeting new people, making new friends and hanging with old ones!

• Sifters Espresso, 82 Market Street, Wollongong (weather permitting)


  • 25th August
  • 22nd September
  • 20th October
  • 17th November

• Free! Registration necessary via eventbrite. See SCARF’s Facebook for ticket details. 

• Live music performance by classical guitarist Sako Dermenjian
• Delicious Food prepared by SCARF Caterers.
• Many cultures/experiences/histories to learn from & potential new friends to make :)

~ ALL Welcome (including kids) ~

Whether you’re part of the SCARF community or not, we invite you to come along by yourself, with your family or with friends – and join us for the launch of this special SCARF event series.

See you there!

Workshop Series: Belly-Dance For Fun and Fitness

Workshop Series: Belly-Dance For Fun and Fitness

As part of our youth workshop series (kindly supported by IMB Community Foundation), we’re launching Belly-Dancing Workshops for women and girls in the SCARF community.

Belly-dancing, a type of Middle Eastern dance, is a challenging but fun activity, and a great way to build fitness. This workshop series is suitable for all levels, including beginners.

Tara and Nadia, our workshop leaders, are talented performers with experience in teaching belly dance.

This program will run for 6 weeks on Monday evenings 5:00pm-6:00pm, starting Monday 11th July and ending Monday 15th August.  This activity will be held at the Richmond PRA Building, 3 Station Road (5 mins walk from SCARF Office).  Please use the back entrance to access the building.

**Women and Girls only.**

Come along and join the fun – places are limited to 15 peoplePlease email with your name, age and phone number to book your place. 


Belly Dancing (1)

Richmond PRA:

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Workshop Series: Bang That Drum – Darbuka Drumming w. Atef Bdrea

Workshop Series: Bang That Drum – Darbuka Drumming w. Atef Bdrea

We’re very excited to be launching a 6-week course for young people wanting to learn Darbuka Drumming!

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to listen to Atef Bdrea play the darbuka drum, you’ll know just how lucky we are to have such a talented artist heading up our latest youth workshop series at SCARF.

This program will run for 6 weeks on Wednesday evenings 5:30pm-6:30pm, starting Wed 13th July and ending Wednesday 17th August.  This activity will be held at the Richmond PRA Building, 3 Station Road (5 mins walk from SCARF Office).  Please use the back entrance to access the building.

Come along and join the fun – places are limited to 15 peoplePlease email, stating your name, age and phone number, to book your place. 
Darbuka Drumming Workshop Bang That Drum
Location: Richmond PRA Office, 3 Station Street Wollongong (Please use back entrance)
Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 9.41.12 am



SCARF Program Snapshot: L2P Driver Mentoring Program

SCARF Program Snapshot: L2P Driver Mentoring Program
SCARF L2P driver mentoring programSince the program’s beginnings in 2009, we have supported over 70 learners to transition from their L-Plates to their P-p
lates.  We also conduct a variety of driving-related education workshops including our recent workshop, “It’s more than colour and price” where our L2P coordinators shared advice and tips with SCARF community members, on the topic of buying a second hand car.

John Ruperto led the ‘metal and rubber’ section of the afternoon using the SCARF L2P car as the demonstration vehicle. Tyres, paint, panels, controls, oil level and more were all on the checklist.

The team also explored the ‘real’ running costs of owning a car.  It was an eye-opener for some to learn that the type of car (eg Toyota or Saab), style, number of seats and engine size all make a difference to running costs, so it is worth considering these details when buying a car.

Other topics covered in the workshop included insurance options (which promoted gasps as the ‘excess’ charges for new drivers was explad!); where to buy car; and how to finance the costs, along with service suggestions.ine

“It’s a bit complicated,” remarked SCARF community member, Michael, “but I have a bit of an idea of how much I need to get wheels and run the car for a year.”

Ted, Carol and John (the L2P coordination team)


SCARF Welcomes Empower Business Partners!

SCARF Welcomes Empower Business Partners!

We’re excited to welcome our first SCARF Empower Business Partners!

Local businesses Mo Chi Dining and Caveau Restaurant and ACCESS Law Group have shown generous support to SCARF by joining us as Gold Business partners.


(Left to right) MoChi and Caveau Head Chef, Peter Sheppard; SCARF community member, Adnan; MoChi and Caveau Restaurant Manager Nicola Sheppard; SCARF community member, Ahmad; SCARF volunteer, Alex.


The support from these local businesses will help fund our core programs, such as homework help, L2P driver mentoring, and family mentoring, as well as fund critical resources necessary to ensure SCARF can continue to support refugees as they rebuild their lives in the Illawarra.

From all of us at SCARF, we’d like to extend a HUGE thank-you to and ‘welcome aboard’ to our new SCARF Empower Business Partners!

If you’re an individual or a business in the Illawarra and you’d like to assist local refugees by supporting SCARF, please email us at All donations are gratefully welcomed.


Mo ChiMo Chi Dining and Caveau







Access Law group



What’s On In The Illawarra For Refugee Week

What’s On In The Illawarra For Refugee Week

There’s a lot to celebrate when it comes to the contributions of refugees in the Illawarra, so accordingly, there’s a lot going on this Refugee Week!

Add these to your calendar:

Sunday, 26th June: ‘A Celebration of Harmony’ at Forager’s Markets

SCARF has teamed up with Forager’s Market to host ‘A Celebration of Harmony’: A showcase of music, dance and culture from performers of refugee and non-refugee backgrounds. Come along and enjoy an eclectic mix of local music and dance (see lineup below) + a SCARF stall. Ofcourse, the regular Forager’s stalls will be there too!

When: This Sunday, the 26th of June, 9am-2pm.
Where: Forager’s Market (Bulli Showground, Grevillea Park Rd, off Princes Hwy.)
Cost: Free! (Optional Gold Coin Donation)

Line-up: House of Maqam, Arlin, Hani Aden, Karenni Dance Group, Big Erle, Chin Dance Group, Elemental Groove, Victor Steele.

RSVP to the Facebook event here. 

Monday, 20th June: Find your family

Presented by Red Cross International Tracing Service, ‘Find Your Family’ aims to help people find family and re-establish contact between separated and long lost family members and clarify the fate of the missing. Come and learn more and enjoy a morning tea provided by SCARF.

Where: Warrawong District Library,
11am – 12noon
Wollongong Central Library, 2:30 – 3:30pm

Wednesday, 22nd June: IMS soccer tournament

Where: Fraternity Club, Fairy Meadow, 3.30-5.30pm

More info: Lee Robinson
4229 6855

Thursday, 23rd June: IMS community dinner & scavenger hunt

Where: New Outlook, Burelli St, Wollongong, 4 – 8.30pm.

More info: Sam Burgio, 42296855,

Monday, 8th August: Illawarra refugee challenge community night

Meet people from a refugee background, learn about refugee experiences and journeys through an interactive display.

Where: Woonona High School, 6pm More info:

The ultimate aim of Refugee Week is to create better understanding between different communities and to encourage an atmosphere of welcome, enabling refugees to live in safety and to continue making a valuable contribution to Australia. These events are a wonderful opportunity to further this aim, and celebrate our diverse, vibrant community. So, get involved!

Learn more about the meaning of Refugee Week here.

It’s Refugee Week! Here’s Why It’s So Important

It’s Refugee Week! Here’s Why It’s So Important

Refugee Week is an annual week-long celebration of the positive contributions of refugees to Australian society. It’s an important addition to the Australian calendar, for so many reasons. 

Refugees bring incredible strengths, knowledge, wisdom, skills, resilience, and lived histories to their newly settled lives. The diverse and thriving Illawarra is a wonderful example of how the contributions of refugees can enrich a community.

Learn about how you can celebrate Refugee Week in the Illawarra here. There’s plenty going on!

It’s also a time to engage with the challenges faced by refugees, and an opportunity to reflect upon how best we can provide a safe and welcoming environment for refugees.

Leaving everything behind in one life and beginning another in a different country with different laws, different education and health systems, different languages and different cultural expectations requires a period of adjustment. Often, people from refugee background face significant trauma from their past, making this process all the more difficult.

By walking alongside people from refugee background during this difficult transition time – forming friendships, extending a helping hand when needed, and providing a warm welcome – our community is strengthened as a whole.

The Illawarra is a leader in refugee support, with SCARF’s dedicated network of volunteers being just one testament to this. But there’s always room to strengthen our support through responsive action, and to continue to educate the broader community about the refugee experience.

This year’s Refugee Week theme is ‘with courage let us all combine.’

Taken from the second verse of the national anthem, the theme celebrates the courage of refugees and of people who speak out against persecution and injustice. It serves as a call for unity and for positive action, encouraging Australians to improve our nation’s welcome for refugees and to acknowledge the skills and energy refugees bring to their new home.

Read more Refugee Week and this year’s theme at Refugee Council of Australia.

Want to join in the celebrations this Refugee Week? Check out what’s on in the Illawarra here.

SCARF Presents: Storytelling with Lillian Rodrigues-Pang

SCARF Presents: Storytelling with Lillian Rodrigues-Pang

SCARF is excited to launch a series of new recreational and cultural programs for our SCARF community this year!

Storytelling is a creative, fun way to express our experiences and emotions, and can be a powerful healing process. This is particularly pertinent for people from refugee background, who may have experienced trauma in their past.

The storytelling workshop program, developed and facilitated by professional storyteller Lillian Rodrigues-Pang, is launching next week on Tuesday, May 17.  The program is open to all community members, ages 7 years and over.

The storytelling workshop series is a safe and social space, and a chance for people from refugee background to have a platform to be heard.

See below for more details and how to sign up:


SCARF Youth Consultation

SCARF Youth Consultation

Thanks to a generous grant from IMB Community Foundation, SCARF will be establishing a host of social and recreational programs supporting SCARF Youth – community members from refugee background, between the ages of 16 and 24.

But before we went ahead to design these specific programs, we needed to consult the people who we’re aiming to assist. An important step to ensure SCARF can provide the best, most relevant, young-people-friendly programs.

The Consultation/Hangout: 

SCARF invited young people along to an informal social gathering in the Sifters space (cheers, Sifters!).  SCARF Youth facilitators Maaike, Obouko and Ryan organised for a range of activities including music, dance and drama to be demonstrated. For this, they engaged a group of wonderful creative specialists who kindly offered to share their talents– and weekly workshops – in these areas.

The meeting started with food and refreshments on arrival and an introduction to the evening. This was followed by four interactive activity workshops including classical guitar and doubek drums, dance and theatre improvisation. The demonstrations were led by local specialists who gave their time for free for the evening. The aim of the showcased activities was to provide examples of the type of activities SCARF can run for its youth programme over the coming months.

After these performances, some delicious nibbles, much chit-chat and mingling, SCARF youth facilitators set out to gauge interest in the suggested activities, and record new ideas.

The attendees moved into round the table discussion in small groups to talk about ideas for future sessions within the SCARF youth programme. Individual sheets were handed out for the attendees to feedback their ideas and what they would like from a SCARF youth programme.

Feedback from SCARF Youth: 

Exercise/fitness, Classical guitar/Doubek drums, Dance, Yoga, Social Hangouts, Storytelling/percussion and Theatre/drama were all popular with SCARF Youth. There were also some new ideas suggested, including volleyball, table tennis and swimming.

Some of the families who attended suggested that  SCARF host a ‘family night’ once a week at the Sifters space. A great idea!

The night was an engaging and fun event which served an important purpose – to consult with SCARF Youth. SCARF looks forward to analysing the feedback gained, and developing programs which support and enhance the lives of young people from refugee background in the Illawarra community. A huge thank-you to all involved!


SCARF Youth wrote down their ideas and preferences.


Playing theatre games!


SCARF Youth Facilitators, Maaike and Ryan, leading the round table discussion.



SCARF is in a critical time in it’s life. For 10 years, SCARF has assisted people from refugee background by providing vital tools for empowerment, enabling them to rebuild their lives in Australia. We want to do this for another 10 years and beyond, but we need your help. Will you empower SCARF by becoming an ongoing supporter? 
Your generosity can and will change lives.
Take the SCARF Empower Pledge Today. 

SCARF 2015 Review

SCARF 2015 Review
SCARF’s 2015 Review is now available! Please click here to view a copy. SCARF’s 2015 Review reflects SCARF at a critical moment – a time of celebration and a time of transformation.
In 2015, we celebrated a decade of connecting volunteers from across the Illawarra with refugee entrants from around the world, with a commitment to strengthening diversity and harmony in the place we all call home.
Take a look at the SCARF story over the past 10 years and celebrate your part in it. Thanks to all who contributed to the Review, with special thanks to our volunteer designer, Christine, and editor, Claire, for all their time and expertise and sheer hard work.

Medal of the Order of Australia

Medal of the Order of Australia

Australia Day 2016: OAM for Wollongong refugee advocate Sharyn Mackenzie

The SCARF community extend their heartfelt congratulations to Sharyn on her enormous achievement!

As a co-founder of Wollongong volunteer refugee aid group SCARF – Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families  – Sharyn has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her service to the community through refugee support.

“It’s my vision, it’s my passion, but it’s a wonderful story of community engagement”, she has told the Illawarra Mercury. Find the entire news story here.

She described her OAM as “very humbling”, adding the recognition would be shared among everyone at SCARF.

“I’m being recognised for something that I absolutely love to do.”

Sharyn Mackenzie (centre) with Sara Gholami, Eugenia Pyne and Joy Farley. Mrs Mackenzie receives a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). Picture: Georgia Matts

Sharyn Mackenzie (centre) with Sara Gholami, Eugenia Pyne and Joy Farley. Mrs Mackenzie receives a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). Picture: Georgia Matts


Austi Summerfest 2016

Austi Summerfest 2016

Gathering community, enjoying summer, looking beyond our own shore and supporting refugees. Austi Summerfest, North Wollongong Janurary 17 – 24 is an initiative of Austi Anglican Church in collaboration with local businesses and artists, and is kindly supporting SCARF through this all ages event. Kick back and relax with some local live musicians and food stalls, settle in for a night of beach games and a movie under the stars, enjoy the relaxed summer church as well as the annual sand sculpture competition and BBQ at Austinmer Beach. Can you think of a better way to spend your summer nights?

Find the details below or at their Facebook.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 7.02.25 pm Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 7.02.47 pm


Time to Celebrate!

We are so excited and extremely grateful to be the winners of Chorus Call Australia’s ‪#‎12for12‬ annual donation competition!

We are absolutely thrilled to receive this gift to SCARF. Sincere thanks to Chorus for their generosity and support. SCARF relies on small grants, public donations and volunteer resources to carry out our work. This generous donation from Chorus Call will help SCARF to continue supporting refugee children, youth, adults and older people to lead independent and fulfilling lives in the Illawarra. The prize package will contribute significantly to SCARFs core programs – including personal/family mentoring, homework help programs for primary & secondary school students, computer literacy classes, L2P Mentor Driving Program, youth programs including leadership & wellbeing camps, sport and recreation activities, and social inclusion events. With these funds, we are also excited about the opportunity to develop new programs focused on training, skills-development, work experience and employment opportunities for people from refugee backgrounds.

Many worthy organisations participated this year and we would like to thank them for all their warm wishes and congratulations. Thank you to all the other NFPs who participated in the Chorus Call competition – for the great work you do serving communities in need of help and support. It’s a privilege for us to a part of such a wonderful NFP community.

THANK YOU to our loyal crowd of SCARF supporters out there – and special thanks to John, the SCARF volunteer who nominated us! We would never have known about the Chorus Call competition without John’s kind nomination. We are inspired every day by the wonderful support of our volunteers and our community members from refugee backgrounds, all of whom demonstrate the power to change lives through friendship, understanding and humanity.

SCARF 10th Anniversary

Film-maker Daniel Parsons celebrates in this short film the journey of SCARF over the past ten years. Growing from providing assistance to one family from South Sudan in the Wollongong area to an organisation supported by over 250 active volunteers, SCARF is a sustainable, life-long family that is proud to celebrate this achievement.

Play Sports & Get Active

Play Sports & Get Active

 Summer Sports Clinics for people age 12 to 24, from a multicultural background.

Water Safety – Soccer – Cricket – Volleyball – Beauty (Girls only) – Aerosol Art (Boys only).

FREE – See details and dates on the poster.

RING – Anthony on 0412 132 183 to register – or email him at

Vote for SCARF – help us win $12,000

Vote for SCARF – help us win $12,000

We are excited to announce that SCARF has been nominated for Chorus Call Australia’s annual donation competition, #12for12. Your support will put SCARF in the running to win $12 000 in cash + prizes.

VOTE SCARF, once a day, every day from the 1st – 31st DEC. Spread the word!


Your vote will help SCARF survive and thrive into the future, as we respond to the needs of newly arrived refugees and develop new programs focused on training, skills-development, work experience and employment opportunities.

Chorus Call Logo 12for12-square


Illawarra Folk Festival for SCARF

Illawarra Folk Festival for SCARF


The annual Illawarra Folk Festival is four exciting summer days of folk, world, roots, bluegrass, gypsy and Celtic music, as well as poetry, comedy and dance. There will be 170 acts from all over the world and Australia in 13 venues at the Bulli Showground.

The festival will be celebrating its 31st Anniversary in 2016, and the engine room is full steam ahead with plans for the biggest and best festival yet!

Buy your festival passes with our promo code: SCARF1 and the festival will donate the following to us:IFF2016_POSTER-WEB1-1

  • $40 for each Adult Season Pass
  • $40 for each Adult 2 Day Pass
  • $20 for each single Adult Day Pass (Fri/Sat/Sun)
  • $10 for each single Adult Evening Pass (Fri/Sat)

BUY ONLINE from or call 1300 887 034

Please note that you need to apply the promo code SCARF1 first when ordering.
1. apply the promotional code first ( even though it’s at the bottom”)
2.then enter the quantity of tickets they want.
3.Then click on “order now”


  • ADULT EARLY BIRD SEASON (4 DAY) PASS (until 18 Dec 2015) $135 save $55 on full price
  • ADULT ADVANCE SEASON PASS (until 14 Jan 2016) $155 save $35 on full price
    *See website for other prices including youth. Children (U12) free

We hope you’ll buy a festival pass to this amazing event with the bonus of supporting us financially as well!

 Illawarra Folk Festival Program Details

Please go to Illawarra Folk Festival Program Website

TAFE Job Skills Free!

TAFE Job Skills Free!

FREE Job Skills Courses at TAFE!

TAFE Illawarra offers free short courses to humanitarian visa holders and permanent residents.

The courses run when enough people enrol. You can learn basic skills for useful work, to help get a job.

To enrol, go to North Wollongong TAFE Administration Office, at Foleys Lane, ASAP (as soon as possible)

Bar Skills  – North Wollongong TAFE – Starts Monday 7 December – for 1 week on Monday and Friday.

RING 1300 766 123 for more information.

Home Abroad

Watch this video to learn more about how SCARF helps refugee families feel at home in the Illawarra.

Coffee & Conversation

Coffee & Conversation


SCARF and Community Gateway join to invite you to improve your English in a friendly informal group.

At Coffee & Conversation you can practice your English and make friends, with no stress.

The Coffee & Conversation group meets 10.30 to 12.00 every Wednesday.

The group meets at Community Gateway Hub, 26 Atchison Street, Wollongong. (In the old Portofino Function Centre building.)

Please ring 1300 657 473 to book your space – or just come along.

Share coffee, yummy treats to eat, and lots of fun, as you practice talking in English.

Improve your language skills, and meet new people.

Funds for Homework Help, and Citizenship Studies

Funds for Homework Help, and Citizenship Studies


We are delighted to announce that we were successful in the recent ClubsGRANTS funding round.

We have received support from the Collegians Rugby League Club for our Homework Help Project. Homework Help for Primary School students now runs on Wednesday afternoon at  Saint Mary Star of the Sea high school. Students from the St Mary’s Interact Club help the younger students with homework and with friendship.

BuildersWe have also received a grant from The Builders Club, which is supporting a new initiative of a series of continuous learning workshops for SCARF community members and volunteers.

This new program includes CV workshops, citizenship studies, and training on ways to engage respectfully with young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

With no government support we depend very much on philanthropic and project-specific funding. SCARF is so grateful for the ongoing support we receive from NSW ClubsGRANTS.

SCARF has Moved!

SCARF has Moved!

SCARF has moved to 26 Atchison Street Wollongong – close to Wollongong Station.

We are now in the Community Gateway Hub building – (the old Portofino Function Centre)

Our New Phone Number is 4224 8646

Please come and visit us in our lovely new home!

We've Moved MAP

Trivia for SCARF last night in 2015!

Trivia for SCARF last night in 2015!

You have been selected to compete in Wollongong’s War of Knowledge where the brightest of the bright battle it out in a fight to the intellectual death.

Tickets: $15, (All proceeds go to SCARF)
This entitles you to one free house drink courtesy of The Little Prince.

GET TICKETS HERE at Eventbrite:

Time: 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Who: Join with a trivia team of 3-8 people

When: Tuesday November 24th, 2015

Where: The LIttle Prince, Tapas Bar Restaurant. (Globe Lane, central Wollongong, near Myer back entrance)


SCARF turns 10 this year

SCARF turns 10 this year

SCARF began in 2005, and we have grown and thrived along with our refugee families. We are proud of the unique wrap-around, tailored and open-ended support we provide for our refugee community members.

Stay posted  – we are planning exciting events to celebrate our 10 year anniversary!


February News: New Venue for Coffee & Conversations, Let’s Lead 2018 Launched & More

February News: New Venue for Coffee & Conversations, Let’s Lead 2018 Launched & More

February has been all about implementing planned activities and ‘getting stuck in’ to the job of making 2018 an impactful year here at SCARF. Our programs have been ticking along, we’ve held a Social Inclusion event, launched a new activity and hosted training sessions, to name a few of the things we’ve been up to!

SCARF Women’s Night:

On February the 24th, we held the first Women’s Night of the year here at SCARF. Our Women’s Nights are a part of our Social Inclusion program, and are an opportunity for women from all backgrounds to share culture, friendship and enjoy a night out in a safe space. The evening was an all-round success, with plenty of dancing, laughter and lots delicious home-made food devoured. Thank you to our Social Inclusion Coordinators, Maureen and Caroline, for making the event possible.

‘Let’s Lead’ Leadership Program Launches:

On the 3rd of March, the ‘Let’s Lead’ program was officially launched following a pilot program last year. ‘Let’s Lead’ is a 12-month leadership project for culturally and linguistically diverse youth (particularly refugee youth) offering opportunities for personal development, cross-cultural learning and community engagement. SCARF has partnered with Cameron Brown from Explore Discover Act for the delivery of the program. We can’t wait to see the wonderful young people engaged in the program realise their potential in 2018!

Coffee and Conversation has moved!

Coffee and Conversation is a casual weekly get-together for community members from refugee backgrounds to meet each other, make new friends and practice English with the SCARF volunteer Coffee & Conversation Team. The sessions have moved from the SCARF office to Pioneer Hall, MacCabe Park, 84 Church St, Wollongong.

Record numbers at SCARF’s Homework Club:

SCARF’s Homework Club for primary school students from refugee backgrounds, delivered in partnership with St Mary Star of the Sea College, has enrolled 24 students – the highest amount in the program’s history. Congratulations to the hard-working Homework Club team for increasing our outreach and impact in our community.

‘The More You Know’ Storytelling Project Launches:

Bear Hunt Photography, SCARF and women from the SCARF community have collaborated to produce ‘The More You Know’: a series of photo essays featuring women from refugee backgrounds from within the SCARF community. Accompanying these photographs are stories told by women – about their own lives, experiences, the world and everything in between. The first instalment features Narges, Masoumeh and Golsoum – three generations of Afghan-Australian women living in the Illawarra. Further essays will follow over the coming weeks and months.You can view the first photo-essay here. 

RCOA Community Education Program Training:

On 17th and 24th March, SCARF hosted a training program for community members from refugee backgrounds interested in joining SCARF’s Community Education program.  Under this program, SCARF volunteer community educators and speakers from refugee backgrounds prepare presentations for students, teachers, local businesses and other interested groups to build understanding the refugee experience. Through sharing personal stories and giving audiences the opportunity to learn about refugee journeys, we aim to provide an informed narrative on refugee issues and promote the positive contribution that refugee entrants make to our community and our country.


Training facilitators from the Refugee Council of Australia – Deena, Maya and Jonell delivered a ‘hands-on’ practical training for 12 participants from refugee backgrounds.  Training content included:
  • An overview of SCARF’s Community Education program
  • Techniques for planning and presenting personal stories in a safe and empowering way
  • Strategies for answering questions from the audience
  • Skills in working as a team with a co-presenter
  • The importance of self-care and support

Participants included community members originally from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Congo.  All participants delivered eye-opening and empowering presentations at the end of the training, and all appreciated the opportunity to  gain skills and experience in sharing their story with different audiences.  The training was supported by SCARF’s dedicated Community Education team – Sophie-May, Teegan and Keziah.


We would like to thank the wonderful trainers from the Refugee Council of Australia for travelling to Wollongong and generously sharing their time, experience and expertise for the benefit of SCARF participants.