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About the Alliance

The objectives of the Alliance are:

  • To enable an effective voice for migrant and refugee women in domestic and international policy

  • To advance migrant and refugee women’s participation in economic, social, cultural, civil and political life and

  • To strengthen a strategic approach to the empowerment of migrant and refugee women across policy areas.

Alliance bodies comprise:

Structure map

Our Values

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Reconciliation

In the spirit of reconciliation, Harmony Alliance acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their continuing connections to land, sea, community and culture. We pay our respects to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

We recognise that we live and work on the land that always was—and always will be—Aboriginal land.

As an organisation focused primarily on the rights and issues of women from migrant and refugee backgrounds, we recognise the ongoing impacts of colonisation and seek to ensure that our work is grounded in respect for the right to self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

We acknowledge that we are among the beneficiaries of settler colonial systems and structures that were built on the legacy of dispossession and institutional racism.

We are committed to actively reflecting on our place and responsibility as Australian women from migrant and refugee backgrounds in the context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ rights and self-determination, and have developed a Reconciliation Action Plan to embed this commitment across all aspects of our work.

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Feminist Framework

Harmony Alliance adopts a feminist approach in recognition of the significant impact of deeply embedded gender inequality at all levels of our society. We advocate against all forms of gender-based discrimination and violence experienced by migrant and refugee women in Australia.

The efforts to promote the rights of women from migrant and refugee backgrounds must support the empowerment of all who self-identify as women, as well as non-binary and non-conforming persons who are affected by gender-based norms, discrimination, and violence.

We acknowledge that women are not a homogenous group and are affected by gender inequality in a multitude of ways depending on numerous other factors, including their socio-economic status, physical appearance, ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds.

We uphold that gender equity cannot be achieved until the most disadvantaged of women—including Indigenous, LGBTQI, women with disability, and women of colour—are equally and substantively represented in all areas of life. We believe that feminism aims to achieve emancipation and equity for everyone in the society, including men affected by harmful gender norms.

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Intersectionality

Harmony Alliance acknowledges that Australian women from migrant and refugee backgrounds are impacted by multiple forms of systemic and structural disadvantage and inequality based on unique intersections of our identities and social positions.

It is not our identities that make us vulnerable but systemic exclusion and histories of oppression based on these identities that create entrenched forms of disadvantage for us. Intersectional disadvantage affects our participation in civil, economic, social, cultural and political life, and manifests in the form of harmful societal stereotypes and racism.

In highlighting the intersectional disadvantages faced by women from migrant and refugee backgrounds and in the spirit of reconciliation, we recognise our relative position of privilege in the context of the dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, as well the legacy of institutional and systemic racism.

We support and encourage the embedding of the principles of intersectionality—including ongoing reflection, substantive representation, and commitment to equity—in policy and practice.

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Human Rights

Harmony Alliance adopts a human rights-based approach to the full and effective participation of women from migrant and refugee backgrounds in Australian society. We advocate for migrant and refugee women’s rights under the following international treaties that Australia is a signatory to:

  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

We support an intersectional approach to Australia’s anti-discrimination framework that currently comprises Racial Discrimination Act (1975), Sex Discrimination Act (1984), Disability Discrimination Act (1992), and Age Discrimination Act (2004).

Alliance Council

The Alliance Council carries out the work of the Alliance, on behalf of Alliance Members, in line with set strategic directions. It is made up of:

Elections to the Alliance Council are held every two years, with the next elections due in 2019.

The Alliance Council oversees the implementation of the work plan, considers reports from the Alliance Secretariat and the Young Migrant and Refugee Women’s Advisory Group, and develops recommendations for consideration by the Alliance Members in regard to future directions and projects.

To view the Alliance Council’s Terms of Reference, click here.

Maria Dimopoulos (Chair)

Chair of the Alliance Council and the Harmony Alliance

Maha Krayem Abdo OAM

United Muslim Women Association

Dr Manjula O’Connor

MBBS FRANZCP MMed DPM

Anyier Yuol

Australian National Committee on Refugee Women (ANCORW)

Maria Osman

Violet Roumeliotis

Settlement Services International

Dewani Bakkum

Settlement Council of Australia

Michal Morris

inTouch – Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence

Carla Wilshire OAM

Migration Council Australia

Carmel Guerra OAM

Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network

Sahar Okhovat

Refugee Council of Australia

Governance Advisory Committee

The Governance Advisory Committee supports the Alliance Council and the Chair of the Alliance Council in carrying out their functions. The Governance Advisory Committee provides high-level advice on strategic growth, sustainability, good governance and effectiveness of the Alliance.

To view the Governance Advisory Committee’s Terms of Reference, click here.

Eugenia Tsoulis OAM

Click to read biography >

Libby Lloyd AM

Click to read biography >

Ambassadors

Bianca Elmir

Click to read biography >

Hana Assafiri OAM

Click to read biography >

Young Women's Advisory Group

The Young Migrant and Refugee Women’s Advisory Group provides advice to the Alliance Council and, as appropriate, to Alliance Members on issues relevant to young migrant and refugee women. The Alliance Advisory Group will be responsible for:

The Alliance Advisory Group will comprise up to ten individuals identifying as women from migrant or refugee backgrounds aged 18-28 years representing the three constituency groups of the Alliance.

To view the Alliance Young Women’s Advisory Group Terms of Reference, click here.

Lisa Lewis (Chair)

Click to read biography >

Anyier Yuol

Click to read biography >

Deena Yousif

Click to read biography >

Alliance Secretariat

Migration Council Australia provides substantive and logistical support to the Harmony Alliance and associated bodies through the Alliance Secretariat.

Migration Council Australia
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Hana Assafiri

Hana Assafiri OAM is a tireless advocate for women in the community, a spokesperson for Islamic feminism in Australia and as a long-time Melbourne icon, she is celebrated for both her generosity and success as a businesswoman. Hana has dedicated her professional and private life to removing barriers that prevent women from living prosperous lives. By opening
her first restaurant in 1998, the popular Moroccan Soup Bar in North Fitzroy–now an institution for many Victorians, Hana has provided employment opportunities for marginalised members of the community. In 2015, Hana was awarded TimeOut’s Legend Award for her flair for innovation and entrepreneurship. In March 2017 Hana was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women, celebrating her contribution made to local communities and human rights. In 2019, Hana was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her services to women and the broader community.

Bianca Elmir

Bianca Elmir is a woman of Lebanese and Islamic heritage raised in Canberra. With a degree in international relations and community development, her experience spans various roles: from working on an HIV/AIDS prevention program in rural South Africa, to advising a Greens member of the ACT Assembly, to acting as a film stunt woman and being on reality TV. Defying gender stereotypes, she has won national and international titles in both boxing and kickboxing. By utilising boxing as an instrument to inspire and elevate self-esteem, Bianca facilitates women’s boxing clinics across Australia and the Pacific providing peer-mentoring program for marginalised young women. A feature length documentary about Bianca titled Bam Bam the Movie was released in 2018 and has been selected for various film festivals and awards nationally and internationally.

Dr Manjula O’Connor

Manjula is a Psychiatrist with 4 decades of experience, an applied researcher and a published author. Her primary area of interest for past 10 years has been family violence and mental health in immigrant communities. She chairs the Royal Australian NZ College of Psychiatrists’ Family Violence Psychiatry Network and is Honorary Senior Fellow at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne.

Manjula co-founded the Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health in 2012 and advocates against family violence in immigrant communities. Manjula led the public dowry abuse campaign in Australia that led to the inclusion of laws against dowry abuse in the Victorian Family Violence Protection Act and triggered the Federal Senate Enquiry into dowry abuse. She is a member of South Asian Community Ministerial Advisory Council.

Manjula is also a White Ribbon Advocate.

Manjula’s work has been cited in the Victorian Parliament and the Federal Australian Parliament several times.

Deena Yousif

Born in Baghdad Iraq, Deena draws on her own life experiences to provide an informed voice on what it means to be a CALD woman and thrive in our 21st century.

Through evolving her own beliefs and traditions she has learnt acceptance, resilience, leadership and compassion.

Deena holds a Bachelor of Laws and recently undertook her Masters in International Business on scholarship in Paris, France. She now devotes her time as an eager and passionate humanitarian, cultivating opportunities and managing relationships with philanthropists, to support children in poverty through the transformative power of education.

Deena has spent time volunteering with the Refugee and Immigration Legal Services in Queensland, constructing affidavits for recently arrived refugees in Australia. In Victoria, she has volunteered with Sisterworks a not-for-profit that exists to help women migrants, asylum seekers and refugees become financially independent and happily settled in Australia. Deena continues to connect with her community through Jesuit Social Services' Just Voices Speakers Program.

Lisa Lewis

Lisa is a Master of Social Science (Development, Security and Sustainability) student who advocates for peace, equality and justice within her local community. She currently works at her regional peak body, the Western Sydney Community Forum, in the Policy and Projects team, and has experience volunteering with The Australian Red Cross, Amnesty International, UNICEF and Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network.

Lisa's activism has involved initiatives directed towards supporting people from youth, LGBTIQ+, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, older, lower socio-economic and CALD backgrounds. She has been recognised with a 2018 Outstanding Youth Leader of Greater Western Sydney ZEST Award, 2017 Western Sydney University Vice-Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Engagement and Sustainability and 2016 Dean's Merit List Award. Lisa dedicates her time and effort towards ensuring intersectional and inclusive community development approaches are utilised within the services she contributes to.

Maria Osman

Maria Osman is a leader with over 30 years’ experience in gender equity, diversity and human rights as a senior government policy adviser, consultant, speaker, trainer and community activist.

As the former Executive Director of WA’s Office of Multicultural Interests and Office for Women’s Policy, she has led the development and implementation of cutting-edge policies and programs.

Maria has always combined her senior roles with grass roots advocacy with migrant and refugee women. She was appointed as Australia’s official delegate to the 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York and has served on numerous national, state and community boards.

She is currently the Chair of the Humanitarian Group, member of the Multicultural Advisory Group advising the WA Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Interests, the WA Premiers Supporting Community Forum and the Ministerial Expert Panel and Voluntary and Assisted Dying and the Somali Womens Association.

Maria was awarded the WA Government Multicultural Community Service Award in 2007 and a National Living Legends Award, awarded to the 100 most influential African-Australians in 2012. Maria is of Somali heritage, is a mother and grandmother.

Anyier Yuol

Anyier Yuol is the chair of the Australian National Committee on Refugee Women (ANCORW).
Anyier was born in a refugee camp in Kenya and moved to Australia when she was ten years old. In 2015 she completed a Bachelor of Arts Major in Development Studies, Sociology and Anthropology at UNSW and is currently studying her Masters in International Development (Refugees and Displacement).

She is currently employed at Community Migrant Resource Centre (CMRC) as a Youth Transition Support Worker, where she works particularly with newly arrived refugee youth to connect them with education, sporting and employment opportunities, as well as to the local community.

Anyier Yuol currently divides her time between refugee community activism, youth leadership, mentoring, playing soccer and being a sports advocate, and modelling. She is determined to encourage, inspire and support her fellow women to find and exceed their potential within the modelling world and all other facets of their lives and those around them.

Anyier has extensive experience speaking and performing to large and diverse audiences. She is acknowledged and credited for leadership and motivational skills, as well as her drive, perseverance and capacity to engage a wide variety of groups and individuals.

Michal Morris

Ms Michal Morris is the CEO of inTouch Multicultural Centre against Family Violence, based in Melbourne, Victoria.

Michal has a deep commitment to social justice evidenced by a senior executive career across the government and third sector, driving access and equity in client centred care and evidence based service and program delivery.

Michal has 20 years’ experience working in the multicultural sector, as well as leading a range of health programs including mental health, suicide prevention and drug and alcohol.

Carla Wilshire OAM

Ms Carla Wilshire represents Migration Council Australia – an ex-officio member of the Council.

Carla is the CEO of Migration Council Australia, the national research and policy institution on migration, settlement and social cohesion.

Carla has a background in policy development, corporate governance and tertiary research. She has worked as a public servant and as an advisor to Government, principally in the area of migration and resettlement, including as Chief of Staff to the Minister for Multicultural Affairs.

Carla is a member of the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity, which provides policy advice to the Council of Chief Justices of Australia on improving access to justice for culturally and linguistically diverse Australians.

Carla is also a member of the National Anti-Racism Partnership and co-founded the Friendly Nation Initiative, which aims to link corporate Australia with the settlement community to improve employment outcomes for refugees.

Eugenia Tsoulis OAM

Ms Eugenia Tsoulis has 40 years of work experience across a number of sectors focusing on multicultural policy research and review, leadership management, mental health, education, the arts, and employment and training.

Eugenia is the CEO of the Australian Migrant Resource Centre, and over the past 20 years, she has overseen its expanding work, ensuring a critical leadership position in South Australia’s social, cultural and economic development.

Previously, as the Director of the Migrant Workers’ Centre, her work furthered migrant women’s employment, training and participation. Eugenia has established programs that serve to empower migrant and refugee women and young people through the Stronger Families initiative that counters domestic violence and through women’s training and employment.

She was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1994, ZONTA Woman of the Year Award in 2007, and the Governor’s Multicultural Award—Individual Achiever of the Year in 2012. Eugenia was a founding member of the Settlement Council of Australia, and has served on a considerable number of State and Commonwealth boards and advisory committees.

Eugenia received the inaugural Harmony Alliance Award in 2017, for lifetime contribution to empowering migrant and refugee women.

Violet Roumeliotis

Ms Violet Roumeliotis represents Settlement Services International, a NSW community‑based, not-for-profit organisation that provides support services for refugees, asylum seekers, people with disability, job seekers, and children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who require foster care.

Violet has steered SSI through a major growth period, from a staff of less than 70 just four years ago, to over 500 in 2016. She was named in Pro Bono Australia’s 2014 and 2015 lists of the 25 most influential people working in the not-for-profit sector.

Violet has an extensive background in the leadership of large not‑for‑profit organisations and providing services to at‑risk communities. She has developed specialised knowledge and skills in working with people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, refugees, women and families in crisis, and prisoners.

Violet has a Bachelor of Arts Degree majoring in Sociology and History from UNSW, and a Masters in Management from UTS. She is also an accredited mediator.

Sahar Okhovat

Ms Sahar Okhovat represents Refugee Council of Australia – an ex-officio member of the Council.

Sahar is a Senior Policy Officer with the Refugee Council of Australia, the national umbrella body for refugees, people seeking asylum and the organisations and individuals who support them. Her work involves research, policy and advocacy on issues impacting refugees and people seeking asylum.

Sahar previously worked with Australian Red Cross as a caseworker and a team leader in Migration Support Program and later on as a Humanitarian Observer, monitoring conditions of immigration detention centres. She holds a Master of Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Sydney.

Libby Lloyd AM

During her career Ms Libby Lloyd has been: President of UNIFEM/UN Women in Australia (2002-05); co-founder and board member of White Ribbon Foundation (2003-2013); Chair of Australia’s National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children (2008-09). Libby has worked internationally with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); in the Commonwealth Public Service and in the private and community sectors.

Libby is or has been CEO, chair or member of a range of government advisory boards, private and not-for-profit organisations and continues to hold a number of senior roles in the community sector. She is Patron of the indigo foundation and of the Gold Coast Centre against Sexual Violence.

In 1992 Libby’s work with the United Nations and for Australian communities overseas was recognised when she was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to refugees and to the international community in Iraq and Kuwait.

Maha Krayem Abdo

Ms Maha Krayem Abdo represents the United Muslim Women Association.

Maha has spent over three decades working together with the Muslim Women Association to help give Muslim women safety and assurance in difficult and trying circumstances.

Today she represents and gives voice to all women abroad as well as in Australia. She works at the local, national and international levels advising government on policy, services and strategies to create a harmonious community for future generations of Muslim and non-Muslim women.

In 2016 Maha was the NSW Seniors Week Ambassador as well as the BreastScreen NSW Ambassador. In 2015 Maha was a finalist for the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights Medal, and in 2014 she was the NSW Human Rights Ambassador for 2014-15.

Carmel Guerra OAM

Ms Carmel Guerra represents Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network – an ex-officio member of the Council.

For over 30 years, Carmel has been a strong advocate for young people of refugee and migrant backgrounds in Victoria. Carmel has used her extensive experience to improve advocacy and support networks for young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. As the CEO of the Centre for Multicultural Youth, she is at the forefront of innovative service delivery and policy development.

Carmel’s contribution and service to multicultural youth in Victoria has been recognised with a Victorian Premier’s Award for Community Harmony in 2015 and a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2016. Carmel is the Chairperson of the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network (MYAN), the national peak body representing multicultural youth issues in Australia.

She also serves on numerous boards and committees, including the Youth Parole Board of Victoria, the Victorian Children’s Council, the Migration Council of Australia, and the Settlement Services Advisory Council advising the Federal Minister for Social Services.

Dewani Bakkum

Ms Dewani Bakkum represents Settlement Council of Australia – an ex-officio member of the Council.

She has been involved in the community and charitable sectors for the past 40 years in Australia and in Fiji, and has an extensive background in developing and delivering services for disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. Dewani is the CEO of the Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services of the ACT.

She has a strong understanding of the migrant experience and a passion for helping migrants, refugees and humanitarian entrants to participate in their new communities and to become proud and engaged members of a diverse Australian society.

Dewani is passionate about her Fijian heritage, serving as past President, Vice President and Secretary of the Fiji Australia Association of the ACT.

Dewani has qualifications in Community Services and Development, and Business Management and Accounting. She is a member of the ACT Chief Minister’s Advisory Committee to the Office of Fair Trading, the Ministerial Multicultural Advisory Committee, and the Advisory Committee for Welcoming Cities.

Dewani was awarded the FECCA Multicultural Award and the ACT International Women’s Award for Multiculturalism in 2008.

Maria Dimopoulos (Chair)

Ms Maria Dimopoulos is the independent Chair of the Alliance Council and the Harmony Alliance.

Maria is a nationally and internationally recognised expert specialising in the intersections of cultural diversity, gender equality and the law. As Managing Director at Myriad International Consulting Services she has had extensive experience in policy formulation for Government, research for social planning and in community legal education.

Much of Maria’s work has been aimed at promoting and enhancing cultural diversity and gender informed approaches in the ongoing complex legal and political reform processes and in ensuring the meaningful inclusion of diverse voices and perspectives in those reform processes.

Maria continues to deliver judicial education programs across Australia and currently sits on a number of boards including the Coronial Council of Victoria, the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity and the Castan Centre for Human Rights.