Facilitators

Allison Connolly

Allison Connolly

Facilitator - NSW

Alison works for the NSW government in the events area. She loves cooking and entertaining, and likes to combine charity work with work for OzHarvest, doing some cooking for the Wayside Chapel and assisting to facilitate at community dinners. She loves being involved in the Joining the Dots program as it is a tangible way to be involved in bringing together new Australians with current residents in a personal and fun way.

Hannah Bretherton

Facilitator - NSW

From age nine, Hannah’s family showed her the value of standing up for social justice – they were involved in sponsoring refugees from Kosovo so that they could stay in Australia to seek asylum. Having been passionate about social justice from a young age, Hannah majored in Development Studies at University. She feels the only way to change the world is to have a positive influence on the people around you, and that is what the Welcome Dinner does. It brings people together from all over the world, provides the space for people to build friendships and community, and learn and grow from each other. And who can forget the food! Food is a social thing and it is a great way to share culture and tradition. This fantastic project breeds positivity, inclusitivity, openness and of course, welcome.

Diva Hemnani

Facilitator - NSW

Divya loves facilitating, cross-cultural collaboration, and sharing food with new friends. These are the things that compelled her to become a Welcome Dinner Facilitator. She and Penny, the project’s founder, are also both alumni of the Centre for Sustainability Leadership Fellowship Program. Divya’s most passionate about transforming struggle, distress, and disease to gratitude, joy, and ease. She has dedicated her life to understanding the power of belief and the mind-body connection as a Brain Trainer.

Lawrence Rimmer

Facilitator - NSW

Lawrence is an Environmental Scientist, working to help protect native forest both in Australia and Internationally. He volunteers with the Youth Food Movement as a coordinator for their social enterprise project which aims to tackle food waste and improve food literacy in young adults. Lawrence loves talking about food and sharing ideas. He believes deeply in the ability sharing food has on bringing people together and connecting each of us through our shared humanity, which is why Lawrence is a proud supporter of the Welcome Dinner Project.

Krissoula Syrmis

Facilitator - NSW

Krissoula Syrmis is passionate about social justice, educational and environmental issues. She has worked in broadcast media for 25 years as an Editor. She is presently working with her partner Nino Zoccali as owners of Pendolino and La Rosa The Strand. She is married with a 14 year old son.

Margaret Conway

Margaret Conway

Facilitator - NSW

Margaret is studying a Master of Development Studies and is passionate about community development. She is from a multicultural background and has experienced how difficult it can be to find friends in a new place. Margaret has taken on the role of bringing awareness of the project to newly arrived members of the community and other local organisations. In addition to community engagement, Margaret previously worked as a project coordinator for The Welcome Dinner Exhibition and now continues to contribute to the project as a facilitator.

Rosemary Hancock

Facilitator - NSW

Rosie been involved in refugee and migrant community groups in both New Zealand and Sydney since 2006. She is passionate about seeing diverse communities come together to support the isolated, the disadvantaged, and those struggling to find their place. She loves the way the Welcome Dinner Project breaks down barriers between different ethnic communities, and between migrants and settled Australians. She has recently completed her PhD in Islamic Studies at the University of Sydney, and is an Associate Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney. Volunteering as a Facilitator with the Welcome Dinner Project lets Rosie indulge her love for meeting new people and having good conversation.

Vivien Reed

Facilitator - NSW

Born of refugee parents Vivien appreciates the opportunities available in Australia.  After completing a Masters degree focussing on an attitude of tolerance among marginalised Australians, being part of the Welcome Dinner Project was a natural fit.  Vivien is committed to creating a world of connection and collaboration.

Gillian Marshall-Pierce

Gillian Marshall-Pierce

Facilitator - Qld

Gillian Marshall-Pierce is a Brisbane local and mum of 2 young kiddies. She was in the first trained group of facilitators with the Welcome Dinner Project in 2014 and has both facilitated and hosted a dinner. Gillian is passionate about promoting multiculturalism and the rights of all people to expect respect and welcome when they come to a new country for whatever reason. She was very active in the refugee rights movement in the past, but does not have as much time and energy for that now with a young family.  Being a facilitator is a positive way to affect social change in her community.

Renee Thibault

Facilitator - Qld

Renee is retired and sees the Welcome Dinner Project as an amazing and SIMPLE concept which is the perfect vehicle to ‘think globally, but ACT locally. Renee loves that it is humanitarian, free, non-religious and accessible to EVERYONE. Renee feels it is vital that the silent majority express their caring and love of other human beings.

Dagmar Egen

Dagmar Egen

Facilitator - Tas

Dagmar has over 30 years experience in the field of Computer Science and Information Technology with extensive management experience in both the Public and Private Sectors. Dagmar was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2001 Honours list, for “service to Education, Information Technology, Multicultural Affairs and State Development in South Australia”.  Dagmar has also served the wider community on a number of Boards and Committees and in May 2002 Dagmar was awarded an honorary Doctorate of the University of SA for services in the field of Information Technology and Business Management.  Dagmar’s passion for the Welcome Dinner Project stems from her desire to see Australia as a more inclusive and welcoming society.

Caroline Bommes

Caroline Bommes

Facilitator - Vic

Caroline aims to create positive change (in small ways) by swearing less at the TV and doing more. Coming from Germany, she is an immigrant who feels lucky to be living in a country she loves and that she now calls home.  However, she will never forget the uncertainty associated with the relocation process. Caroline supports the Welcome Dinner Project because she wants to make new Australians feel as welcome as she felt, through something that unites us all – yummy food.

Indrani Perera

Indrani Perera

Facilitator - Vic

Indrani was born in Melbourne to a Sri Lankan dad and German Australian mother. Food was a big part of their lives growing up and it still is – there is nothing better than getting together with friends and family over a good meal. Indrani wants to be part of creating a welcoming Australia for new arrivals and the Welcome Dinner is the perfect way to do just that!

Natascha Flowers

Facilitator - Vic

Natascha is originally from Sydney, and comes from a culturally diverse family.  She moved to Melbourne to train at the Victorian College of the Arts, where she completed a Bachelor of Dramatic Art in 2012.  By the end of 2015, she will have completed a Master of Social Work at Monash University. Natascha has a lot of experience working with culturally and linguistically diverse groups, having worked with the Adult Multicultural Education Services (AMES). She also has a passion for working with young people, and has facilitated mindfulness groups for adolescents.  Fostering positivity and promoting a culture of welcome is important to Natascha.

Sally Wiencke

Sally Wiencke

Facilitator - Vic

Sally Wiencke is one of the two Directors at Momentum-Changing Mindsets, a Melbourne-based group specialising in a wide range of preventative and restorative interventions. Sally has over 25 years of dedicated experience in mediation, facilitation, conflict management, coaching, training, and EAP provision. Her focus is on relationship building, and helping people to have effective conversations. She is passionate about the Welcome Dinner Project, fostering connections between people, embracing diversity and being inclusive of all.

Stewart McLeod

Stewart McLeod

Facilitator - Vic

Stewart has been a financial markets professional in both Sydney and Melbourne over the past thirteen years. Growing up on the north coast of NSW near Byron Bay, he has a keen interest in culture and community. He has always had a keen interest in all aspects of food and is excited to get the opportunity to combine food with volunteer work in the community.

Damian Walsh

Damian Walsh

Facilitator - WA

Damian’s passions are about helping personal relationships work. He works for the Christian Brothers Oceania Province in helping people and communities connect. Welcome Dinners provide an opportunity to acknowledge that all people are important and welcome.

Maria Darby

Maria Darby

Facilitator - WA

Maria was born in Sicily and migrated to Australia with her family when she was three. She is a retired Teacher Librarian with a passion for Education, public schools, social justice, books and reading. Maria has a big extended supportive family, loves travel, food, good friends and AFL football.

Caroline Grandjean-Thomsen

Caroline Grandjean-Thomsen

Facilitator - NSW

Caroline (“Caz”) is a trilingual human blend between Brazil, Denmark and Indonesia. Caz was born in São Paulo, Brazil to a Danish father and Indonesian mother. Her parents had immigrated from their respective countries to Brazil as kids, and therefore grew up as “Brazilians”. When she was four, Caz’ family immigrated to Sydney, Australia, which his where she calls home today. Yet, Caroline doesn’t consider herself 100% Australian. Nor 50% Danish. Nor Indonesian. Nor Brazilian. She is a little bit of everything and proud of it. Caz loves being part of The Welcome Dinner Project because of the authentic connection it gives her to many people from such diverse backgrounds. This helps Caz see things from different perspective, keeps her open-minded and allows her to explore cultures around the world without spending a cent on a plane ticket!

Ruth Pickering

Facilitator - NSW

Although Ruth’s family have been in Australia for about 150 years, Ruth has lived among people of other cultures all her life. She spent her childhood in Papua New Guinea, and more than 10 years in China where she worked as a teacher and also learned Chinese quite fluently. In recent years Ruth has moved to live in the heart of the nations in SW Sydney and delights in her work teaching adult ESL and literacy to people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. Ruth immediately saw the great potential of the Welcome Dinner Project and in Sept 2015 was thrilled to facilitate a dinner that basically saw her students (and families) meeting her ‘Aussie’ friends. She hopes to enable a partnership between her workplace and WDP, and to see many more dinners in her special part of Sydney.

Paul Metcalfe

Facilitator - NSW

Paul Metcalfe’s commitment to the social sector is extensive and ongoing including involvement with The Welcome Dinner Project (2015 Facilitator), The School for Social Entrepreneurs, The Centre for Sustainability Leadership, Manly Surf Life Saving and his own social enterprise, Rethinkers – experiential events linking Indigenous stories with the latest thinking in arts, science, business and social enterprise to lift, shift, make and shake up action on social and sustainability issues.  As a Welcome Dinner Project Facilitator Paul brings experience working across cultures, with NGOs and social enterprises, a passion for developing relationships, a love of food and a willingness to continue to deepen his own understanding the diverse cultures within the complex social fabric of a modern day Australia.

Sharny Chalmers

Facilitator - NSW

Sharny has been contributing to social justice campaigns and the Community both as a Professional and community member for the past 30 years. Her experiences reach across a very broad range of cultures and practices. Sharny has both academic and practical qualifications which greatly enhances her ability to achieve positive results in diverse situations, including working with Migrant people, refugees, Indigenous people and women, organised labour, and in social entreprise and innnovative project management.

Donna Bowe

Facilitator - Qld

Donna is a community development worker and feels very fortunate to both live and work in culturally rich and diverse communities. On a personal level, she would like to meet more people in the community, build quality relationships, and learn and grow through these experiences. The WDP gives her a wonderful opportunity to contribute to, and benefit greatly from, supporting her community and all of its members to thrive.

Don Wyatt

Facilitator - Qld

Don and his wife are committed to being a voice of reason in favour of new arrivals in Australia. They welcome the immense and fascinating diversity that is part of the Australian population, and would do anything to make new settlers and refugees feel that they are wanted and appreciated by us. Don came to Australia as a migrant and have valued feeling welcome.

Margaret McIvor

Facilitator - Qld

Margaret was born in Bairnsdale, East Gippsland and did her nursing training at the Alfred, spending 18 months overseas soon after graduation. She married a Research Scientist with CSIRO in 1973, lives in Townsville and has 3 children. After moving to Brisbane in 1994, and having been out of the workforce a long time, She worked in Mater Children’s Emergency which saw a challenging but rewarding 20 years.  She cared for many children and their families from diverse backgrounds and realised some of the issues ‘newly arrived’ families face.

Jane Forest-Wyatt

Facilitator - Qld

Having been part of minority groups in other countries, Jani understand what it is like to receive the warmth and care of the majority. She is appalled by the unwelcome that is often portrayed in the media in Australia and with her husband, is committed to redressing this harsh injustice and to show new settlers and refugees that they are valued and welcome.

Zade Watson

Zade Watson

Facilitator - Qld

Zade grew up in a very multicultural school, where there was little thought about the race or religion of the other.  Sadly, Zade feels there has been very big change from the “Fair Go” Aussie culture, to a “Go Back To Where You Came From” culture.  Zade learned about the Welcome Dinner Project when on an internship with Amnesty International, and felt very inspired and humbled by the kindness and wisdom of everyone after attending a Welcome Dinner Facilitator Training session. Zade believes the Welcome Dinner Project is important as it brings people together and restores their humanity toward one another.

Annie Girdwood

Facilitator - Vic

Annie is currently studying Medicine and is keen to work in refugee, Indigenous and global health in the future. She grew up in a half Hungarian, half Australian home in Melbourne and feels very lucky to have travelled widely from a young age. Facilitating dinners is always a wonderful reminder of the things most important to her: connectedness, culture and community.

Dan Peade

Facilitator - Vic

Dan is a self described “civic technologist”, interested in the confluence of technology, community and social and environmental change. In addition to his day job as a software developer he has worked with on renewable energy projects in Sierra Leone and taught English in Guatemala and China. He sees the Welcome Dinner Project as a way of forging positive social connections in his local community.

Melissa Mahoney

Melissa Mahoney

Facilitator - Vic

Melissa has a passion for social change philanthropy, global equity, mental health and working with the culturally and linguistically diverse community. Melissa has over 10 years of experience working with State and Local government, international development, community services and not-for-profit sector. Melissa holds postgraduate qualifications in International and Community Development.

Nikhil Arora

Nikhil Arora

Facilitator - Vic

Nikhil is a newly arrived international student from New Delhi, India and currently pursuing a Masters degree at The University of Melbourne.  Nikhil has fallen in love with Melbourne because of its rich cultural diversity and breathtaking landscapes. Nikhil is proud to be a part of the great Welcome Dinner Project, which unites people from all walks of life over a shared meal and facilitates cross-cultural communication and celebration. By volunteering for the project, Nikhil aims to make the most of the study-in-Melbourne experience.

Sophie Moore

Sophie Moore

Facilitator - Vic

Sophie is an energetic facilitator and recovering Law graduate who has facilitated over 100 workshops for organisations, schools and teams around Australia. Her experience with the Welcome Dinner Project has been just as nourishing for the soul as it is for the belly. She would encourage everyone to sign up for a dinner and experience how a room full of strangers can meet, learn each others stories and leave the dinner as friends.

Ailsa Paterson

Ailsa Paterson

Facilitator - WA

Ailsa has retired from a career working in a community agency and has always been passionate about human rights, social justice and equal opportunities for everyone. Ailsa loves meeting people from all walks of life and likes to think we can create a world where people can be good friends and neighbours regardless of their nationality or background. Ailsa loves hearing from people about their stories, experiences and culture, so the Welcome Dinner project joins all the dots for her!

Lana Robinson

Lana Robinson

Facilitator - WA

Lana currently works in community services, helping to coordinate a community support program for asylum seekers living in local WA communities. As an avid volunteer both locally and globally, Lana is actively looking for simple ways in which she contribute to society. Passionate about food, social justice and meeting new people, the Welcome Dinner Project was the perfect volunteering opportunity she was looking for. Lana feels privileged to be able to be part of such a wonderful and simple initiative which aims to connect people from diverse cultures whilst enjoying a shared and delicious meal!

Lucy Clyde

Lucy Clyde

Facilitator - VIC

Lucy is passionate about food and people, combining these to facilitate Welcome Dinners is her idea of the perfect meal!  She lives in rural Victoria but can be tempted to a meal anywhere with dessert.  She is currently studying teaching and has a background in project management, volunteer coordination and corporate training.  Lucy believes that when we share a meal we connect with what it means to be human and we recognise what we have in common.  She looks forward to meeting you (and learning your recipes) at a dinner soon!

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I felt there was a shift from unease and awkwardness, to feelings of connectedness, harmony and joy.

– Maria (Established Australian)

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