Guest speakers Christine Cummins, Zahir Azimi and Helen Musk. Photo: ANDREW PERRYMAN

It is a reflection of Bendigo’s support for refugees that a dedicated awards night will be held next week on World Refugee Day, June 20.

The Refugee Week Business and Employee Recognition Awards night will be hosted by Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) Bendigo.

“Bendigo punches well above its weight in regard to refugee employment,” Christine Cummins, Convenor of RAR Bendigo said.

Ms Cummins said over 40 businesses, which employ hundreds of former refugees, have created around $70 million of economic activity in Bendigo, according to a recent Deloitte report.

She is the author of Dignity in A Teacup: true stories of courage and sacrifice from Christmas Island and will be one of the speakers at the awards night.

There will also be a panel discussion designed to inform employers of opportunities, as well as refugee recruitment success stories.

“Hundreds of Australian businesses are actively seeking refugees to add value to their recruitment strategies,” Ms Cummins said.

“Refugees not only earn money, they spend money and add multicultural richness to our city and region. Many employers report that refugees are among their most trusted and loyal staff.”

Some of Bendigo’s major employers have been nominated for the inaugural awards.

Nominees have completed a survey on their employment practices such as recruitment, induction and training practices.

Workplaces have also nominated an employee in each category for the RAR Bendigo Employee of the Year awards.

As part of the night’s proceedings, guest panellists will include Dean Russell, co-founder of Moira Mac’s Poultry, refugee advocate Helen Musk and Zahir Azimi of Bendigo Community Health.

Apart from RAR, the dinner is supported by the Grandmothers Against the Detention of Refugee Children, Friends and Mentors (refugee support group), Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services, Bendigo Community Health Service and the City of Greater Bendigo.

Financial support for the dinner has been received from both the Commonwealth Bank and ANZ, and corporate funding from local businesses.

Ms Cummins said the gala dinner was initiated to highlight and celebrate the work of local employers.

Award winners will be announced on World Refugee Day, Thursday, June 20, at the gala dinner and ceremony at Fortuna Villa, Bendigo.

For further information, contact Christine Cummins via email at


– Dianne Dempsey