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Ask the Expert face to face at Fairfield

By Fiona West | August 12, 2022

An award-winning online project that kept thousands of Western Sydney people connected, informed and safe during the COVID-19 lockdowns is now being delivered face to face at Navitas Skilled Futures (NSF) Fairfield.

NSF started the “Ask the Expert” project in the first lockdown of 2020, to provide targeted practical information to people of low-level English to help them to understand and cope with the COVID rules and restrictions.

Navitas Skilled Futures Stakeholder Engagement Manager, Basim Shamaon (pictured below), who initiated and coordinated the online sessions over the past two years, said he was thrilled to be able to continue the popular project from NSF’s Fairfield College.

Man talking with woman wearing headscarf

The six one-hour sessions, which will be delivered in Arabic by STARTTS, will run for three weeks every Friday from 18 August to 2 September, and focus on mental health, relationships and wellness. More than 100 people have already registered to attend.

“During the lockdowns, government departments and service providers were looking for ways to reach out to different communities in Western Sydney, and our Ask the Expert sessions gave them the perfect forum and audience for important messaging – especially on topics about COVID, such as vaccinations, testing, laws, curfews and financial support,” he said.

“The community really benefited from them and we want to make sure we keep them going to help people in areas of their lives where the information and support is needed. It was always our intention to move to face-to-face delivery when that was possible.

“We are so happy to be able to work with STARTTS on these initial sessions with Navitas Skilled Futures’ middle eastern clients, and we are definitely planning to keep them going in the future for the wider community.”

The three topics being delivered over six sessions are: COVID-19 & Mental Health; Healthy Relationships; and Menopause & the Pandemic (women only). Basim said STARTTS was providing food for all participants, and holding a giveaway draw of three $50 ALDI food vouchers at each of the sessions.

Ask the Expert recently received a Western Sydney Community Forum Zest Award.

The collaborative not-for-profit project has so far run sessions on topics such as: Protecting your Family from Covid-19 (NSW Refugee Health Service), Strategies to Improve Social-Mental Wellbeing (STARTTS), Updates for Jobseekers (Centrelink), Dealing with the Police (South West Sydney Legal Centre) and Tips for Employment (Navitas Skilled Futures). Other organisations that contributed to the project included Dress for Success, Multicultural NSW, CORE CS, Legal Aid, UNSW, Sydney Water, Energy & Water Ombudsman and Fire and Rescue NSW.

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