CAMBODIAN-AUSTRALIAN WELFARE COUNCIL HISTORY

 

The Cambodian-Australian Welfare Council of NSW (CAWC) was originally known as Khmer Interagency (KI). It was established in 1983 as an information sharing forum and a means of support for those who work with Khmer clients or who are interested in Khmer issues. The group met monthly to liaise, share information, discuss problems and lobby for better services for Khmer settlers.

 

KI became registered as a charitable organisation and adopted a more formal structure, through election of a Committee. Members elected the following Committee: Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, Treasurer, Secretary and three Committee Members.

1983

1989

The Cambodian-Australian Welfare Council of NSW (CAWC) was originally known as Khmer Interagency (KI). It was established as an information sharing forum and a means of support for those who work with Khmer clients or who are interested in Khmer issues. The group meets each month to liaise, share information, discuss problems and lobby for better services for Khmer settlers. The first meeting was called by the Co-ordinator of the Migrant Education Centre in the then- Cabramatta Hostel, Kevin McAndrew, and workers from various agencies, including Departments of Community Services, Health, Education, Immigration and Social Security, Burnside Welfare Program, TAFE, STARTTS and Khmer Associations attended.

Por Heang Ya, a District Officer with the Department of Youth and Community Service, was nominated as the Convener, and other members included Youvath Sik, Ramy Var, Ravy Heng, Chong-Hean Ang, Ly Chantha Sok and Meng Eang Thai were nominated as contact people to assist with any enquiries. KI was also a training forum for Cambodian workers, to improve their skills in lobbying, leadership, chairing meetings and community management. They were able to join together and assess their needs then request training intended to redress weak areas in their work practices or in their overall performance. There was a range of training, including public speaking, computer skills, strategy planning, report writing, and legal issues relating to constitutions and community management.

KI made strong representation to the Australian Government on issues relating to Cambodian refugees in Thailand, the first Boat People who arrived in Broome in Christmas 1989 and a few more boats that followed. Subsequent to KI;s representation the Australian Government increased their intake under a Special Humanitarian Program to accept more Australian Cambodians; relatives who had been stranded in refugee camps in Thailand. A special visa category, Special Assistance Category (SAC), was created by the Keating Government in 1995 to accept Cambodian Boat People and their relatives straight from Cambodia, after their repatriation.

1992

During Refugee Week, on 26 June, KI presented a one-day seminar on Khmer cultural awareness, Khmer Culture and Customs Seminar. This was designed to inform non-Khmer workers about culture, customs, religion and education relating to people from Cambodia. It was praised, and seen as being very successful. KI was very grateful to the people who contributed to presenting papers and organising the seminar, including Chong Hean Ang, Seminar Convener and Presenter; Por Heang Ya, KI Convener and Presenter; Ramy Var, Facilitator and Presenter; Youvat Sik, Presenter; Saing Heang Seng, President KCNSW and Presenter; Nola Randall, Presenter; Dr Chris Sohan, Presenter and workshop facilitators including Ravy Heng, Tek Heang Ya, Theau Yorth, Vannak Ing, Min Hauv Yorth, Sovannarand Kay and Phiny Ung.

In November 1992, the notes and outlines of this seminar were archived by the National Library of Australia under Khmer Interagency, Resources, Khmer Cultural Seminar.

In 26 July Por Heang Ya called a special mediation meeting between the Management Committees of KCNSW and CBS, led by Presidents Bunna Thei and Sokhan Yim respectively. The Venerable Sakhon Long was also present at this meeting. This meeting was to help both managements define their objectives and areas of responsibility in the management of the Community Centre. It was a very successful meeting, with both organisations agreeing in principle to co-operate with each other and join together in organising all major events at the Centre. CBS would pay the council rates and water rates for the whole complex. Each organisation would pay its own electricity, telephone and insurance bills.

 

In another meeting, on 23 August, both organisations agreed to work together on the extension of the kitchen of the Temple.

KI became registered as a charitable organisation and adapted a more formal structure, through election of a Committee. Members elected the following Committee: Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, Treasurer, Secretary and three Committee Members.

KI also provided advice on Khmer issues and made referrals to appropriate contacts. For example, KI was asked for advice on Cambodian culture and customs by the Australian Army contingent before their departure to Cambodia to join in the UN-supervised General Elections of 1992.

1994

In June, Por Heang Ya resigned as Chairperson of KI to stand for KCNSW President. Kim Ann Chy acted as Chairperson.

1995

Ramy Var was elected Chairperson. On 27 August 27, Khmer Interagency became Khmer Interagency Incorporated. Its constitution was amended in accordance with the requirements of the Association Incorporation Act 1984. Committee members were elected annually by the membership at the Annual General Meeting.

Sovannairand Kay was elected Chairperson.

1997

Chong Hean Ang was elected Chairperson.

 

In 1997, funding was received for a Level 3 worker from the then Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs under its Community Services Settlement Scheme (CSSS). This provided the funds to employ a worker to continue the organisations work of establishing infrastructure and supporting Khmer organisations and workers.

1998

On 7 August, a State Conference with the theme Australian Khmer: Thriving on the Waves of Change was held at Granville College of TAFE. The aims were first, to celebrate the survival and determination of our remarkable Khmer refugee community, and second to examine difficulties and challenges faced by the Khmer community in NSW.

 

Later this year, Soour Hai Gov was elected Chairperson.

1999

Further funding was received from DIMA for two years for a CSSS worker.

 

On 24 August, the name of the organisation was changed to the Cambodian-Australian Welfare Council of NSW (CAWC).

2000

Tek Heang Ya was elected as Chairperson.

 

One the most exciting projects of this year was the Living in Harmony Project, a costume and dance party held at Bankstown Maxim Restaurant.

2001

CAWC was involved in cultural projects such as Diana Gieses Changing Sydney.

 

CAWC received DIMA funding for a further two years.

 

Chong Hean Ang was elected as Chairperson until 2004. 2002.

 

Early in the year additional funding was received from various sources, including from the Department of Community Relations, for a part-time worker to support the Women Support Network; NSW Premier Department for a part-time worker to provide educational activities on drug issues to Khmer families; from the Department of Industrial relations, a full- time worker to educate Khmer Outworkers; and Fairfield City Council for training and educational activities for Khmer families.

2004

Tek Heang Ya was elected Chairperson.

 

CAWC grew from having two full-time Workers to a staff of seven for its projects. There was one CSSS Worker; a Worker for the Khmer Leadership Projects; for the Khmer Women Outworker Project; for the Capacity Building for Older Women Project; for Promoting Community Access; and for Developing Networks for Families with Young Children who are affected by Domestic Violence; and a Program to promote Youth Leadership and Community Harmony.

 

Cross-Cultural Training Seminar held in Liverpool.

 

Another successful annual Living in Harmony event, with the planning participation of young people.

 

CAWC hosted Diana Giese Travel at Home tour group to a delicious lunch during their visit to the Temple.

2006

Tek Heang Ya was re-elected as Chairperson.

 

On 29 September, CAWC in collaboration with the Drug and Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre, ran a half-day workshop on Working with the Cambodian community: an essential guide to cultural knowledge for understanding and effective practice, for those working with clients from a Cambodian background.

2007

In June CAWC produced a resource kit entitled: Cambodian Cultural Information for Age Care Service Providers: Special Focus on the Khmer Aged Population. This was developed by worker Bamathy Somasegaram, with assistance from Debbie Giacomin, Nola Randall, Professor Sivayogan and Yvonne Santalucia. It was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health.

 

In August, the 7th annual Living in Harmony Multicultural Dinner Dance Gala was held. There were a number of cultural performances including Spanish singers, a belly dancer, and Australian bush dancing, as well as singers from Cambodia.

 

On 14 December, a conference on issues for young people, A Focus on Cambodian Young People in Australia was held at Cabramatta High School. Its objective was to explore issues facing Cambodian young people and to develop strategies to get them involved in community activities.

2008

On 21 June, to coincide with Refugee Week, CAWC celebrated at its Centre in Bonnyrigg, with the theme 30 Years of Cambodian Settlement in NSW, and launched the Project Settlement of People from Cambodia in NSW, a collection of data.

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