Blacktown City Multicultural Awards
Published on 27 April 2021
Refugees from Iraq and Western Sudan, alongside an Indian dance academy, are among the winners of Blacktown City’s inaugural Multicultural Awards, announced at a colourful and festive celebration of diversity.
The Blacktown City Multicultural Awards recognise the extraordinary contributions and leadership of residents from multicultural backgrounds and local multicultural service providers and businesses.
The Volunteer of the Year, Inspirational Person of the Year, and Organisation or Business of the Year were named at a recent awards ceremony hosted by Blacktown City Council with representatives of more than 20 cultures in attendance.
NSW Labor leader and Shadow Multicultural Minister, Jodi McKay MP, the Member for Greenway, Michelle Rowland MP and Multicultural NSW Chairperson, Dr Hari Harinath were special guests at the event.
Mayor of Blacktown City, Tony Bleasdale OAM, said the first Blacktown City Multicultural Awards were a spectacular display of the best diversity has to offer.
“Our residents come from more than 185 countries and speak more than 180 languages,” Mayor Bleasdale said.
“We are a wonderful, unified, multicultural City where everyone is welcome – and if you are a refugee, you are doubly welcome.
“The Blacktown City Multicultural Awards are designed to shine a light on the outstanding achievements and contributions of the countless locals from so many different backgrounds who work tirelessly for our community.
“Congratulations to all the well-deserving winners of the 2021 Multicultural Awards.”
Volunteer of the Year was jointly awarded to Hanna Shamoka and Gladyss Panoncillo.
Hanna came to Australia in 2013 as a humanitarian entrant from Iraq and has volunteered with SydWest Multicultural Services since 2016, assisting people from Arabic speaking backgrounds to settle successfully in Mount Druitt.
Gladyss, who is of Filipino background, is a compassionate and hardworking mother of a son with special needs, as well as a part-time registered nurse at Blacktown Hospital.
She has volunteered for 10 years as a facilitator for Carers NSW and has organised numerous events for parents, carers, and families of people with disability through the Rooty Hill Multicultural Carers group.
Inspirational Person of the Year was awarded to Ahmed Shmela.
Originally from the Nuba Mountains in Western Sudan, Ahmed arrived as a refugee in 2003 and has grown from a client of SydWest to a leader in the organisation.
Ahmed is tireless in his efforts for the Blacktown City community, including offering his services as a Justice of the Peace, as a volunteer Arabic teacher at the Seven Hills Centre, as manager of the Blacktown Workers Club under-10s soccer team, and as the founder of the Charity Society of Nuba Mountains.
Organisation or Business of the Year was awarded to Nartan Institute of Performing Arts, which provides training in Bharatnatyam, Bollywood and Folk Dances of India for all ages and abilities.
Director, founder and principal teacher Dr Kanan Shah established the Institute in 2012 after migrating to Australia. The organisation has since trained more than 600 people from a variety of cultural backgrounds, instilling students with confidence and leadership, and the values of respect, patience, hard work, and care.
The Blacktown City Multicultural Awards also included the public launch of Council’s Multicultural Strategy and Action Plan.
The Plan was developed by consultants Embrace Society with Council’s Multicultural Advisory Committee, chaired by Councillor Susai Benjamin.
“The Multicultural Strategy and Action Plan, is designed to enshrine diverse voices in Blacktown City and to draw on the manifold cultures, faiths, and experiences of our community as part of the ongoing transformation of our City,” Cr Benjamin said.
“The strategy focuses on social inclusion, community resilience, justice and fairness, social and civic participation, and economic benefit.”
Mayor Bleasdale thanked Paula Masselos, Managing Director of Embrace Society and the Mayor of Waverley Council, for authoring such a progressive piece of social policy for Blacktown City.
“I strongly believe that this Strategy will make our great City even more accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds, building on our already strong policies of inclusion and community cohesion,” Mayor Bleasdale said.
For learn more about Blacktown City’s multicultural community or to download a copy of the Strategy, please visit: https://www.blacktown.nsw.gov.au/Community/Our-people/Multicultural-community.
Volunteer of the Year – joint winners Hanna Shamoka and Gladyss Panoncillo
Hanna Shamoka arrived in Australia in 2013 as a humanitarian entrant from Iraq. Hanna understands what it is like to flee her home country and be separated from loved ones, and is passionate about helping new arrivals to settle peacefully and successfully in Australia.
In 2016, Hanna became a volunteer at SydWest Multicultural Services where she assists people from Arabic speaking backgrounds to settle in Mount Druitt. Over the last 5 years Hanna has become an outstanding and inspirational community leader.
Hanna's tireless commitment, team work, and communication skills have earned her enormous respect among hundreds of SydWest clients, including new arrivals from Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Sudan.
Gladyss Panoncillo is a compassionate and hardworking mother of a son with special needs, as well as a part-time registered nurse at Blacktown Hospital.
She has volunteered for 10 years as a facilitator for Carers NSW and has organised numerous events for parents, carers, and family of people with disability through the Rooty Hill Multicultural Carers group.
Gladyss was appointed a member of the Carer’s NSW Advisory Council in June 2019, and has received multiple awards from the community including an International Women’s Day Award from West HQ.
Inspirational Person of the Year – Ahmed Shmela
Originally from Western Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, Ahmed arrived in 2003 as a refugee, and has grown from a client of SydWest Multicultural Services to a leader in the organisation.
Ahmed started with SydWest as a generalist caseworker and in 2018 was appointed Team Leader of Youth Development. He has personally mentored most of his team, supporting their growth and development in the specialized area of youth development, and works tirelessly to inspire local youth to engage with and contribute to their community.
Ahmed is a local Justice of the Peace and, as an Arabic speaker, regularly helps community members with translations, paperwork, identity documents, and with bringing family members to Australia.
Ahmed is a volunteer Arabic teacher at the Seven Hills Centre and helped found the Charity Society of Nuba Mountains. He is working with TAFE NSW to develop community computer training, and with NSW Health to develop a women’s health program.
Organisation or Business of the Year - Nartan Institute of Performing Arts
The Nartan Institute of Performing Arts provides training in Bharatnatyam, Bollywood and Folk Dances of India.
Director, founder and principal teacher Dr Kanan Shah established the Institute in 2012 after migrating to Australia. Dr Shah shows incredible patience and perseverance with her students, teaching them the values of respect, patience, care, and hard work.
The organisation has trained more than 600 people from a variety of cultural backgrounds and has provided practical support to Blacktown City’s multicultural population.
Picture: (L-R) Councillor Carol Israel and Cr Kathie Collins OAM, with 2021 Multicultural Awards winners Ahmed Shmela, Gladyss Panoncillo, Dr Kanan Shah (on behalf of the Nartan Institute of Performing Arts), Hanna Shamoka, and Blacktown City Mayor, Tony Bleasdale OAM, Blacktown City Mayoress, Nina Bleasdale, and Cr Susai Benjamin.