Founder of joiningthedots and National Coordinator of The Welcome Dinner ProjectMotivated by a deep sense of connectedness with all living things, Penny’s life goal is to be a catalyst for profound shifts towards a hope-filled, just and sustainable world, especially focusing on providing pathways for people to share their giftedness, enthusiasm, time and energy by collaborating with others to create the world we dream of. Penny’s background is as an educator and coordinator of a global youth event. She is also a musician and passionate activist regarding a number of social justice issues. What led Penny to establish joiningthedots was a conviction that although there are so many people doing amazing things to make a difference in the world, what is needed now is a mass movement towards “joining the dots” – on behalf of individuals and organisations focused on social change. Her conviction is that at the root of all social issues lies disconnection – and the solutions lie in reconnecting to ourselves, each other and our sense of place (land/country). Penny is also a strong advocate for paying attention to the ‘spaces in between’. This requires an openness to discovering something other than what may ‘fit in’ with our current understandings, our plan or even our vision for the world. In addition to directing joiningthedots, Penny recently worked part-time with the Families in Cultural Transition Team at STARTTS and consults for the Grail Centre’s Training for Transformation program.
State Coordinator - QueenslandLibby spent many years working with special needs children: she taught them practical skills and they taught her humility and compassion. In more recent years she has worked as a communication specialist and as a volunteer event facilitator and planner for local community events. Libby is married to Paul and together they are the proud parents of two sons and two daughters. Libby seeks out opportunities to learn about other cultures and social issues through her involvement in social justice commissions, committees and community engagement. Through her initiation into The Welcome Dinner Project her worldview has broadened and she is even more aware of the impact that one person is capable of making.
State Coordinator - WARachelle has a husband and two beautiful children and started her career as a Chartered Accountant. She currently works part time as the Financial Controller of a landscaping company. Rachelle was dismayed by the growing attitude of intolerance and distrust of new arrivals in Australia and wanted to do something to change that. With no prior experience in this area she believes that an open heart and a willingness to get involved is all that you need to make a difference, and loves that the Welcome Dinner Project allows ordinary people to show that there is a welcoming Australia.
State Coordinator - Northern TerritoryWith a long (ongoing) career as a public servant, it was time to do something different… something that really makes a difference. So in 2011 Amanda tried her hand at volunteering in various things. A couple of years later she found herself helping to settle a newly arrived Congolese family into the community and from there it was off to Africa to volunteer in a school. Amanda is now involved in an organisation that provides support and advocacy to people in detention. It was however early in 2015 when she came across a wonderful project – The Welcome Dinner Project. It was a match made in heaven – the joy of meeting new people, sharing food, culture, stories, friendship, kindness and helping others to make a connection. Amanda truly believes we can make a difference – one dinner at a time!
Blacktown/Penrith Area Coordinator Facilitator (NSW)
Sydney Lower North Shore Area Coordinator (NSW)
Parramatta/Auburn Area Coordinator
Outer-Eastern Melbourne Regional Coordinator (VIC)
State Co-coordinator - Victoria
I’m so excited to be part of the Victorian team, in partnership with my Co-coordinator, Michelle, to build on the fabulous work Meagan has been doing in Victoria. I’ve been part of the broader WDP team since 2014 as a Facilitator and have loved the practical role of community strengthening it has offered me. I have always been passionate about working with individuals and communities to develop a more inclusive and engaged society based on mutual respect, curiosity, and understanding. In other roles I have worked as an English Language teacher, as a trainer in the community development and settlement sectors to support services working with newly arrived young people, and as a coordinator for a project that connected Australian students and their schools with students in East Timor.
State Co-coordinator - Victoria
Michelle’s work centers around storytelling and bringing diverse groups of people together into unassuming spaces to co-create playful, surprising & transformative experiences. She started on this path as a science communicator – working with physicists in Melbourne, climate scientists in Paris, forestry scientists in Indonesia to help them find their voice amongst the technical jargon of their day to day research and use this voice to better impact policy and public opinion. In 2011, she relocated to Indonesia as the youngest staff member to work at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). She founded the institute’s blog and social media channels, which quickly became leading examples in the development sector. She has published hundreds articles and organized and run dozens of workshops to train policymakers, journalists and teachers science communication and social media skills. For the past few years, she has been helping young farmers and foresters more effectively participate in conferences (see www.landscapes.org/youth) and realize their potential through mentoring opportunities (see www.ypard.net/mentoring).
Meagan is an experienced facilitator and host who is passionate about creating cultures of welcome and developing the potential of everyone in our community. She is currently the Business Projects Manager for Global Leadership Foundation, who develop emotionally healthy leaders and organisations. Her studies include International Studies, TESOL & facilitation and she has taught English in Melbourne and abroad. Through her travels and work around the world, Meagan has experienced incredible hospitality, which has inspired her and affirmed her belief in our common humanity.
National Operations Manager
Meg was raised in a home filled that passionately discussed sustainable development, social justice and ate plenty of Mexican food. As a result she is driven by her passion to have a positive impact on the world. After travelling around the world for 2 years she returned to Queensland to study a Bachelor of Social Science with a major in Development. Upon graduation Meg relocated to Sydney to take on the very broad role of Operations Manager for joiningthedots and enjoys the diversity of the role. She loves working with an organisation that is making such profound changes in the lives of so many newly arrived and established Australians.
Sydney Inner-West Area Coordinator (NSW)Manu has recently obtained a Diploma of community services after 10 years working in the corporate world. She is inspired by the social innovation movement and a strong believer in the importance of building bridges, connecting people together and the power of empathy. That is why she joined the WDP as a facilitator and a coordinator for Sydney Inner West.
Sydney Northern Beaches Coordinator (NSW)
In 2012 my husband and I took a year to cycle a good part around the world. During that time we were invited in countless strangers homes for a meal. Being able to share a meal allowed us a richer experience and understanding of the culture, people, and place. Returning home to the Northern Beaches I wanted to return the kindness and am delighted to be part of the Welcome Dinner Project. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved in this locality!
Northern Melbourne Regional Coordinator (VIC)Judit currently works in the migrant and refugee sector with AMES in Melbourne, is an experienced facilitator and is passionate about engaging with communities and building strong relationships with a shared sense of purpose. She was drawn to the Welcome Dinner Project because she wants to be a part of creating a welcoming Australia in a meaningful way. The message of ‘joining the dots’ resonated profoundly – especially when connecting people through the medium of food! Judit loves to cook and feed others and recognises the power of sharing a meal to bridge cultural differences and bring neighbours and communities together.
State Coordinator - ACTLiz Phillips lives in Canberra and works as an editor and writer. She is a passionate traveller, enthusiastic photographer, and a keen volunteer on environmental projects and other not-for-profit activities. Liz is one of the ACT Coordinators for the Welcome Dinner Project because she believes strongly in the power of community to bring about change for good.
Grants Coordinator and Welcome Dinner Facilitator
State Coordinator - ACTSue is retired and a grandmother of two and two coming… not counting the cows, sheep, etc. Sue loves the bush and is interested in Tai Chi and meditation. She joined the Welcome Dinner Project because she wanted to contribute positively and at a grass roots practical level to make a difference to international new comers and send a message of welcome. Sue is looking forward to meeting more of you in the months to come.
Wyndham Area Coordinator (VIC)
Erum Ali is a commerce graduate and diploma holder in computer science, with professional experience in teaching, management, social welfare, human resources and banking. She came to Australia in 2013 with her 5-year-old daughter, completing her Certificate 3 in children’s services before obtaining her current position at ANZ bank. At ANZ, Erum has also had the chance to do modelling and a video shoot for a documentary. She also works as a volunteer in a church providing community lunches, in the uniform shop at a primary school, and cooking Pakistani food at an open table community lunch in Fawkner. Her dream is to establish an NGO for helping people in health and education, and to upgrade and develop herself for a better position in a reputable organisation in Australia. She is passionate about cooking and feeding people.
This project is what helped me settle in Australia.
– Hadi (newly arrived, Refugee background)