Previous reports

Launch of the Sunshine Coast Multicultural Action Plan 2017-2020

On Tuesday 18 July, Mayor Mark Jamieson officially introduced the Sunshine Coast’s inaugural Multicultural Action Plan at the Caloundra Community Centre. The plan is the result of significant contribution and dedication by individuals, community organisations and government agencies. It aims to recognise, respect and embrace diverse cultures and to strengthen the resilience and prosperity of our multicultural Sunshine Coast. Around half a dozen Buddies members attended the launch which was hosted by the women from the Global Hub group.

Council acknowledged and extended its sincere thanks to the following Groups:

University of the Sunshine Coast

TAFE East Coast

Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland

Caloundra Community Centre

Nambour Community Centre

Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre

Maleny Neighbourhood Centre


Carers Queensland

Volunteering Sunshine Coast

Primary Health Network

Buddies Refugee Support Group

Department of Social Services

Department of Human Services


– Diana Woolley

Buddies visit to Immanuel Lutheran College in Buderim, Thursday 13 July 2017


Several Buddies members and refugees we’d met through the Buddies Learn English Holiday program recently visited the Year Ten students at Immanuel Lutheran College in Buderim. The students divided into three groups and a Buddies member and refugee speaker joined each group. The refugees told their stories and the Buddies were there as support and to answer questions if needed.


This is the third time Buddies have been invited to the school. It’s a great opportunity to introduce students to the refugee experience and for them to learn firsthand the difficulties faced by people who’ve been forced to leave their homelands and carve a new life for themselves in a foreign country.


A huge thank-you to Nasser and Maryam, Raghad and Murhaf who all travelled up from Brisbane to be part of this visit. Thank you also to Buddies members Kendall and Tara who accompanied them.


– Bronwyn Bell

Belonging in our community, Thursday 22 June

Buddies received an invitation to a recent community event put on by the Sunshine Coast Council plus the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland.

Around five or six Buddies members attended and participated in the various conversation tables. We all changed tables several times and as such enabled the conversation to be further developed amongst the varied community organisations in attendance. As Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane mentioned in his introduction, many of us perhaps assumed we’d simply be listening both to himself and the Queensland Anti-discrimination Commissioner Kevin Cocks, however it was a great idea to have us all involved in the conversation.

There was quite a mix of community groups in attendance and I feel sure that everyone would have benefited greatly from the various discussions. At one stage Buddies director Angela had a turn at speaking from one of the tables. At another point someone from another table spoke up about how good it would be to have the Sunshine Coast declared a Refugee Welcome Zone. There were a few there from the anti-Muslim Sunshine Coast Safe Communities group and hopefully they took on board some of the many good points made around the importance of inclusion and avoiding discrimination.

All-in-all, it was an excellent event and I’m pleased I attended.

– Diana Woolley

Movie screening fundraiser:
Constance on the edge

Monday 19 June

The screening of ‘Constance on the edge’ was

well received by the 75 people who attended

and who also enjoyed refreshments beforehand. 

The film was a mixture of humour, social issues,

unconditional love, relationships, survival, fear,

confusion, hope and happiness. The guest speakers were Bronwyn Bell from Buddies, Gabby Sutherland who has worked on Nauru and Vivianne Dawalibi who has worked with the UNHCR in Sudan and who herself came to Australia as a refugee. The speakers gave an insight into the different emotional, physical, and human aspects of being a refugee and the journey that refugees undertake. The night ended with the drawing of raffles where there were a variety of lovely gifts for nine winners to choose from. 

The collaboration between Caloundra Community Centre, Nambour Community Centre and Buddies Refugee Support Group and with the support of the Sunshine Coast Multicultural Network was a great success. Thank you to those who were part of the planning, those who spread the word and those who attended. Thanks also to those who helped set up refreshments and raffle and info tables in the foyer and to those who donated finger food and raffle gifts. Everyone’s time and effort was much appreciated.

– Carmel Dobson

(A big thank you to Carmel Dobson for initiating and driving this very worthwhile event)

Annual general meeting of Buddies Ltd

28 May 2017


The following were elected as directors for 2017-18:

Angela Mercuri

Diana Woolley 

Lesley Willcoxson 

Scott Grimmett

Multicultural Development Association (Mitra Khakbaz nominated representative)


Kristi Nageli

The Annual Report at right also contains the Financial Statement July 2016 – May 2017 and the Audit Report May 2017

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Report: Buddies are the A Team at Eumundi Markets

12 May 2017

Our 2017 Car Parking Squad has done such a great job that Management now refers to them as the A Team! As a result, we were offered an extra shift on the busiest day of the year... Easter Saturday! It was insanely busy, but Buddies remained cool under pressure, almost breaking the record for cars into the Top Car Park in 4 hours!


Congratulations to Team members ... Lyn Wild, Barbara Hocken, Penny  Rivlin, Dee Williams, Sue O’Brien and her son Toby and grandson Pascoe, Brian and Marion Robertson, David Walters, Zanette Perinoni and Yokki and Kendall. Money raised for the month of April was $770. Top job Buddies!


If you’d like to take a turn on the car parking roster, please contact Kendall Snowden 5472 7209.

Buddies Donates $6000 to Salvos Asylum Seeker Clinic


Buddies has a long and strong partnership with the Multicultural Development Association (MDA), as exemplified by the election of Mitra Khakbaz (Executive Manager, Regional Settlement, MDA) as a director of Buddies Ltd at the inaugural general meeting in June this year.


Under an auspice agreement with MDA, Buddies has been making monthly donations of $500 to MDA since July 2013. The money has been used primarily to assist asylum seekers and refugees in Brisbane with the cost of public transport.


After extensive discussions with MDA in 2014-15, Buddies further agreed to an additional monthly donation of $300 specifically to build a fund for vocational job-ready training at an accredited institute, for asylum seekers without work rights. This donation commenced in April 2015. In the event the training program didn’t proceed for various reasons.


Once again following discussions between Buddies and MDA, we decided to allocate the accumulated funds ($6000 by this November) to the newly established partnership between MDA and Salvos Legal – Asylum Seeker Clinic. The Clinic provides asylum seekers with legal assistance in their complex protection visa application process. There are currently approximately 3000 unrepresented asylum seekers in Queensland. The government is seeking to fast track the processing of this so-called ‘legacy caseload’, following amendments to the Migration Act in 2015.


The Salvos Legal program is similar to the Buddies Immigration Support Group’s work with some of our ‘asylum seeker friends’, where we provide emotional and material support for legal costs in making their applications for protection visas. We are currently assisting 14 Buddies asylum seeker friends. The Asylum Seeker Clinic is currently supporting another 47 asylum seekers, all clients of MDA.


Buddies, MDA and Salvos Legal all believe that directly supporting asylum seekers with their claims for protection is one of the most important activities we can undertake for these vulnerable members of our community.


The nature and extent of Buddies on-going financial support for MDA will be discussed at the next meeting on 27 November.


For more information on the Asylum Seeker Clinic see attached document.


– Fergus FitzGerald, Director

Learn English Holiday

September 25-30, 2016

Our September LEH was a record! After the disappointment of cancelling the July LEH for lack of numbers, this time we had 32 applications and after 5 cancellations ended up with 27 students. We were really pushing the walls in the classroom at Solutions 4 Learning!


Thanks to the hospitality offered by 18 Buddies Homestay Hosts our students enjoyed a truly Australian welcome. Buddies hosts, including 6 first time hosts, opened their hearts and homes to 17 men, 6 women and 4 girls, including 4 families. Their countries of origin included Bangladesh, (7 guys form Kilcoy who some of you have met at a Buddies meeting), 5 from Iraq, 5 from Syria, 3 from Sri Lanka, 2 from Iran and 1 each from Congo, Sierra Leone, Somalia, New Guinea and Vietnam.


Under the inspiring leadership of coordinator/teacher Margaret Norris, the teaching team, consisting of Buddies teachers, more than 12 Buddies support teachers and visiting presenters, we put together a varied, interesting and fun program in which students learned English through themes of Australian culture, cultural diversity, Aboriginal culture, Australian animals, art, music, beach safety, filling forms and letter writing. There was a substantial range in English language ability but with so many support teachers we were able to give individual help to those who needed it.


Thank you to all who helped with the teaching program and to Libby, Kay and Jane who provided the morning tea every day. Again we used the premises at Solutions 4 Learning in Nambour. Although the main classroom upstairs was crowded with 27 students, we could use breakaway spaces downstairs for smaller groups and individual teaching when required. The large space downstairs was used for basketball, pool and table soccer, which brought the students from different nationalities together.


The great highlight of the week was the traditional Multicultural Dinner when our guests prepared dishes from their ethnic cuisine. Thanks to Shine Jang from the Nambour Community Centre who organized the CWA hall in Nambour for us. It was a very happy evening with over 60 people and a wonderful selection of delicious ethnic food.


The success of this program relies on the dedicated teamwork of many people. Thanks to all of you who contributed in any way at all. A special thank-you to Kendall and Yokki, who missed this event as they were overseas, but who’d worked tirelessly to raise money to cover the travel costs of our students.


Our next LEH will be April 2-7 in 2017. This is the first week of school holidays. If you would like to participate as a teacher or support teacher, please contact Margaret Norris and if you would like to be a Homestay Host please contact Kayla Szumer Kayla Szumer, Coordinator Learn English Holiday


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Afghan Volleyball Tournament

12 August 2016


Buddies has provided three donations over the last twelve months to assist the Afghan asylum seeker volleyball team in Brisbane with equipment and registration fees to enable them to compete in state and national titles. 


Team member, Azim Mohammadi emailed Buddies recently:

“… Anyway, about our tournament, it was very great. Though our boys team didn't have a win but our girls team got first position, here are a few photos from the team. And thanks for the support and backing as always you have done, we will always be thankful to your organisation.”


Azim and a couple of team mates attended a Buddies meeting a few months ago and spoke briefly about the significant benefit of playing volleyball to relieve the stress and uncertainty of their tenuous situation in Australia.


– Fergus FitzGerald

Click to see the full image

Visit to Immanuel Lutheran College

20 July 2016

As in 2015, Buddies has again visited the Immanuel Lutheran College in Buderim and spoken to their Year Ten students. The visit was part of an intensive day of immersement in social justice issues which the school runs each year for that particular cohort.


A group of nine Buddies members and refugees attended the school on a recent Wednesday afternoon and divvied up amongst the three groups of around 25-30 students for almost an hour. The refugees told their stories and answered the students’ questions and the Buddies members were there to support them and to provide context more broadly.


The students listened attentively and engaged positively with the refugees’ stories. Their eyes were opened a little wider to the struggle of refugees to find freedom and safety, something to which they’ve been born into and have never had to think about. They saw firsthand that refugees were just like them, with the same aspirations to achieve and be happy.


As with all our school visits, this occasion was an important step in breaking down barriers and furthering understanding of what it is to be a refugee. A huge thank you to our very capable participants, Hirushi, Wasantha, Niroshi, Ranjan, Abdulsalam, Natalie, Jean and Linda.

– Bronwyn Bell

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Reza is leaving Maleny

22 July 2016

Many Maleny State School kids have been very lucky to work with Reza over the last three years. They have shared many good times learning maths and playing soccer with him and enjoying his company. The children have celebrated his positive result with Immigration and being granted his refugee status. However, after waiting so long for permanency and with no prospect of a life to settle down free of limbo he decided to leave his job and our town.


The kids came together to say goodbye to someone who had a great impact on their lives and who made the difference. They spoke openly of the treasured memories they have experienced getting to know Reza and their great affection was evident when they spoke about the things that he did for them that mattered.


As a teacher at Maleny I feel the 80 students who have become friends with Reza have gained something that they will treasure and remember fondly. We have been very fortunate to work with Reza over the last three years. We will miss him very much. 

– Lou Walsh, Buddies member and teacher


When watching the news of fighting and troubles in the Middle East it seems so far away and totally different to Australia.


When meeting Reza you soon realise that these troubles are happening to normal decent people like you and me. We are so lucky to live in such a safe and beautiful place as Australia. Reza has come here to escape problems that he did not cause. He came here for a better life and why not. Especially when he has come here not to take from Australians but give to people like us. He has given us knowledge of how to do multiplication, addition, subtraction and division and lots of other things. He has given smiles and inspiration and occasionally chocolates too.


He has taught us about places and traditions from his country. It’s wonderful when he comes in and teaches us amazing things (and occasionally his brother Marco).

It’s sad to see Reza go but I will remember him in my heart.


– Rowan, Year 3/4 student at Maleny

Ladies Day at The Spit

Saturday 9 July 2016

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day at the Mooloolaba Spit where Buddies members hosted a picnic for a group of around fifty Burmese and Iraqi refugee women. The ladies arrived early and were starving, as they’d been busy preparing for the picnic and had not had breakfast. Buddies went into full gear to feed them.

The photo dress-up props proved to be a great hit, with everyone having their photo taken. After the photos Lyndon Davis arrived and performed the ‘Welcome to Country’. The ladies may not have spoken English very well but they seem to have understood Lyndon and his didgeridoo and were thoroughly entertained. They also loved seeing him create fire.

Lastly, we had a lucky dip where all the ladies received something special just for them – twice – as there was such an abundance of gifts.


Thank you to all our generous Buddies members for their donations.

Zanette Perinoni (


Inaugural general meeting of Buddies Ltd

26 June 2016


A total of 38 members attended the meeting, along with 3 proxies. The meeting was chaired by Garry Bates (outgoing initial director).


The annual report and annual financial statement presented by Fergus FitzGerald (initial director, and finance group representative, respectively) were approved by the members.


The following were elected as directors for 2016-17: Zanette Perinoni, Fergus FitzGerald and the Multicultural Development Association (nominated representative, Mitra Khakbaz). Margaret Norris was appointed as secretary.

Report: Learn English Holiday: Sunday 3 - Friday 8 April


Our first Learn English Holiday Program for 2016, which took place 3-8 April, was different in two ways from previous programs.We became aware that we had an untapped resource of Buddies TESOL and language teachers. This enabled us, under the leadership of coordinator/teacher Margaret Norris, to develop our own curriculum and run our own five-day Learn English Program with eight teachers and other support Buddies who were rostered on different days.

   This was also the first time LEH was held during the school holidays so we were able to accept referrals of three families with children. This was possible due to the generosity of three Buddies Homestay Hosts.With four last minute cancellations we ended up with a total of eight adult students. Altogether, our guests were hosted by eight Buddies families, five of whom were first-time hosts. On three days we included five primary school aged children in the program as we had extra Buddies to support separate age related activities for them.

   The countries of origin of our guests included Afghanistan, Iran, Vietnam, Sudan, Sri Lanka and India and ages ranged from 5 to 32.We found suitable premises at Solutions 4 Learning in Nambour which provided the space and classrooms for a variety of learning activities and learning settings with each day devoted to a specific theme. The large space also had indoor basketball, a small pool table and table soccer which were well used by participants and teachers, young and old! They also used the oval for soccer and cricket. These sporting activities encouraged the integration of the participants so that by the end of the week they were all friends.

   The curriculum was based around a daily theme. Monday’s theme, led by Leslie Wilcoxon, was our cultural similarities and differences. Tuesday’s theme was Australian animals and was led by Kendall Snowden who organized Wilvos carer, Donna Anthony, to bring along some wildlife, including a baby wallaby. Wednesday’s theme was Art and Music and was led by Jan Kent and visiting music therapist Kylie Hinde and art therapist Veronica Hughes. Thursday’s theme was beach safety, led by Margaret Norris and assisted by Leslie Wilcoxon in her Life Saving uniform. This was followed by a visit to Mooloolaba Surf Club, a talk about beach safety by Manager, Sally Taylor, a swim for some and a fish and a chips dinner at the Spit. Friday’s theme, led by Robyn Dobson and assisted by Ana Perez, was on practical ways around the kitchen, computer, forms and questionnaires.

   A great highlight of the week was the traditional Multicultural Dinner when our guests prepared dishes from their ethnic cuisine. Thanks to Linda and Shine from the Nambour Community Centre, we were able to use the facilities at the Centre. To begin the evening, our students described their dishes and to end the evening they completed a task from Day 1, whereby each one reported back on one of the similarities they had found in their discussion group of three different cultures.

   It was a fantastic week culminating in the excellent article by Bill Hoffman in the Friday’s SCD with a great beach photo. We sent each of our participants home with a copy! The success of this program relies on the dedicated teamwork of many people. Thanks to all of you who contributed in any way at all. A special thank you to Kendall and Yokki who tirelessly raise money to cover the costs of paying for the venue and the travel costs of our students.

   Our next LEH will be from July 10-15. This is not in the school holidays but in the first week of Term 3. If you would like to participate as a teacher or support teacher, please contact Margaret Norris and if you would like to be a Homestay Host please contact Kayla Szumer


– Kayla Szumer, Coordinator Learn English Holiday





Report: Harmony Day at Maleny State School

Friday 18 March 2016


As we have for many years now, Maleny State School celebrated Harmony Day and at the same time raised funds for Buddies. Our principal spoke movingly about recognising our differences and we all contributed our special messages to our Community Heart that hangs in our school hall. Every child from Prep to year 6, along with the River School students as well, wrote what they thought about Our Diversity is Our Strength. It was a wonderful day! 

   We made $430 to donate to Buddies, our best effort for many years. The whole school got involved and we all lined up our donations on our sports house colours. This was the perfect way to bring everyone together to support a special cause. The children were only asked to make a gold coin donation, but one boy gave a $20 note and there were a few $5 notes in the lines as well. For the children to see someone choosing to give a $20 note for this cause was a fantastic lesson in itself. 

   On the following Monday, three classes from Maleny and one class from the River School sang for the community. Stephanie and Lisa from the Sweet Chilli Choir had been teaching the classes three songs.  One song was written by a 13-year-old for a peace conference and contained four prayers in different religions. The second song was a Swahili song from Africa about being one family and the third was Imagine by John Lennon.  The harmonies in all three songs were magnificent!

   Our Harmony Day Display is now hanging in the town library.


– Lou Walsh, Buddies member and Maleny SS teacher 




Report: Refugee Welcome Zone proposal

January 2016


I would like to share with you the very positive reception that Diana and I gained at the RWZ meeting on Monday 14 December 2015. Representatives from Council Departments, MDA, and the Federal Dept of Social Security (from Brisbane) attended as well as the local Sunshine Groups that I requested be invited. Unfortunately, Anne Jacobson of Australian Homestay Network could not attend when the meeting was slipped one week. I advised Council that Buddies was now incorporated and Cr McKay expressed her congratulations for this step, advising that it helped Council to interact with us as a recognised and credible community body.

   We tabled our Draft RWZ proposal as edited and professionally formatted by Wendy and Diana tabled her report on examples of success from Regional Councils RWZs. We spoke openly for one and a half hours, all in favour of delivering a RWZ Declaration for the Sunshine Coast. The local Council and the Federal Dept of Social Security both suggested that Harmony Day (March 2016) was an inappropriate aiming point for the declaration for two reasons:

  1. The local council elections will prevent reasoned consideration of the merits during a politically sensitive period of time.

  2. The council schedule will not allow preparation for consideration of the proposal by the full council prior to election time.

   Both bodies suggested Refugee Week in June 2016 as an attainable goal for the Declaration.

   I was invited to present to the full body of Council at a Strategic Discussion Forum to be arranged by Cr McKay in March 2016 at which our final RWZ Proposal will be printed and presented. Council will then deliberate and report their decision which will be passed to the incoming Council for ratification in April 2016. Cr McKay suggested that we arrange to stage a “Celebration of Declaration” for Refugee Week. Cr McKay also directed her staff to investigate the status of the SHEV in QLD and the process by which the Sunshine Coast might be considered a Regional Area.

   An interesting discussion emerged from the Dept of Social Security who outlined the Humanitarian Settlement Program in which Settlement Grants of up to five years were enacted for the new refugee arrivals and that this structured process would be the basis for those arrivals under the Government Syrian Refugee crisis intake. Diana will follow up with these attendees.

   The outcome of this initial meeting with Council was positive, but much work remains to be done. I envisage direct engagement with the Refugee Council of Australia, Australian Homestay Network, MDA and the “Friendly Nation Plan“ of the Business Council of Australia as well as all our local supporting groups who contributed so willingly to the Draft Proposal. I intend to seek Buddies members to join a RWZ Working Group so that we can share the load of communicating and documenting these activities for presentation to Council. I have resigned from my role in the BISG to focus on RWZ requirements.

   At this stage the RWZ Working Group consists of:

Garry Bates - RWZ Campaign Manager

Diana Woolley - Media and Government Liaison

Fergus FitzGerald  - MDA and Police Liaison

John Salter - SC Refugee Support Group

John Ennis - Local Support Group Liaison

Wendy Oakley - Editor and Printer


   I invite all Buddies members to express an interest in any facet of this undertaking and to contact me accordingly.


– Garry Bates




Learn English end of year party: 11 December 2015


A rainy day in Brisbane last Saturday didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of any of those at Buddies’ Learn English Holiday end-of-year get-together at the beautiful Roma Street Parklands. About 25 refugees, asylum seekers and Buddies host families shared good food, good memories and catch-up news.

   It was great to see friends from several years ago, such as Serge from Russia and to meet his wife, Svetlana, who was reunited this year after many anxious years apart; as well as newer friends, such as Ramesh and Viji and their two beautiful children, born in Australia.

   Whilst the year has been quite challenging under the tough new asylum seeker laws, we were able to celebrate some notable successes. Nadir’s imminent deportation to Afghanistan early in the year has been averted for now through a very successful national media and on-line campaign that attracted over 57,000 supporters. Anton has been granted a 3-year TPV under the new fast-track assessment process. Natasha will receive her citizenship on Australia Day after 6 years waiting.

   The best aspect of the day was sharing real friendship with wonderful people from all corners of the globe. In particular, seeing those whose circumstances are still quite dire being able to laugh as they conversed in their adopted English or another common language. These moments are the reward for all of Buddies hard work and generosity supporting these vulnerable members of our community.


– Fergus Fitzgerald




Report: Learn English Holiday:

25-30 October 2015


Our third and last Learn English Holiday Program for 2015 was a great success and enjoyed by guests and hosts alike. Many thanks to Rachel and her team of teachers from the Language Training Institute for the English classes and to Kendall for providing the morning teas.

We had 12 participants who were hosted by 10 Buddies families, three of whom were first time hosts. The countries of origin of our guests included Afghanistan, Iran, Vietnam, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Myanmar and ages ranged from 19 to 41.

   A great highlight of the week was the traditional Multicultural Dinner when our guests prepare dishes of their ethnic cuisine. Thanks to Linda and Shine from the Nambour Community Centre, we were able to use their facilities, which on a very rainy night was much appreciated. It was a very happy night!


– Kayla Szumer




Report: Film night, 21 October 2015


A wonderful Film Night ... “Tangerines” was an excellent movie! We had 190 patrons which was great for a mid-week event.


With the help of her son and Buddies members, Karis mounted a fantastic display of refugee paintings which she offered for sale as framed A4 prints! Yokki and Carmel suffered from writers’ cramp selling raffle tickets for an hour. We made $500 from 6 excellent prizes which included a beautiful painting kindly donated by Val Ross.


Once again, Buddies members provided an amazing smorgasbord of delicious food. Special thanks to Marnie Greer and her kitchen helpers who kept a steady stream of food coming from the kitchen and to Dee and Carolyn who manned the tea/coffee bar. 


The Information Table created interest and the Donation Box drew further support as patrons left the venue.


Heartfelt thanks to the amazing staff members at the Nambour Civic Centre who halved the fee for ticket bookings, opened the bar at no cost to Buddies and all volunteered their services for the evening to show their support!


The final profit for the night is as yet unknown as we await a cheque from the Sunshine Coast Council.


Thanks to all for a truly great team effort!


– Kendall Snowden

2018 Buddies Refugee Support Group

Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia


 PO BOX 367, Buderim 4556


 0412 673 028 or by email