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Popular Ask the Expert series wins Zest Award

By Fiona West | June 18, 2022
Winning team (L-R): EGM Government Services and Employment, Michael Cox, Stakeholder Engagement Manager, Basim Shamaon, and Business Development Manager, Michelle Foote.

A Navitas Skilled Futures initiative that kept thousands of Western Sydney people connected, informed and safe during the COVID-19 lockdowns has been recognised with a Western Sydney Community Forum Zest Award.

The Exceptional Community Partnership Award recognised the “extraordinary impact” of Navitas Skilled Futures’ “Ask the Expert” project, which provided 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, who initiated and coordinated the online sessions over the past two years, said he was “very happy” to gain recognition for the collaborative not-for-profit project, that genuinely helped so many people during such a challenging time.

“It was the right project at the right time,” Basim said.

“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.

“It was very successful and was a lifeline for many people who felt isolated and confused by all the rules, which were constantly changing.”

The Ask the Expert forums, which Navitas Skilled Futures has run over seven series since 2020, were open to anyone within the community and included 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 we partnered with included Dress for Success, Multicultural NSW, CORE CS, Legal Aid, UNSW, Sydney Water, Energy & Water Ombudsman and Fire and Rescue NSW.

Basim Shamaon receives the award on behalf of Navitas Skilled Futures from Sydney journalist and newsreader Chris Bath.

The Zest Awards, now in their twelfth year, showcase and recognise the vital and dedicated work of the community sector and passionate groups and leaders across greater Western Sydney. The Exceptional Community Partnership Award, presented at the Zest Awards Ceremony at Accor Stadium, Olympic Park, on Friday 17 June, focussed on stakeholders working in partnership to achieve an extraordinary outcome and positive impact for the community of greater Western Sydney.

Basim said Navitas Skilled Futures was proud to step up during the COVID-19 lockdowns and take the reins on such a valuable project that was embraced by government, service providers and the wider community.

“Navitas Skilled Futures was often the first port of call for students in so many situations during COVID and, as a vital part of the Western Sydney community ourselves, we collaborated with other groups and services, to offer around-the-clock support and solutions. This was just one of ways we could help to keep people safe and informed,” he said.

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