Rollay Bani and Maree Shay.

The room was filled with smiling faces at the Refugee Week Business and Employee Recognition Awards hosted by the Rural Australians for Refugees Bendigo.

RAR Bendigo convenor Christine Cummins said the inaugural gala dinner and presentations held at Fortuna Villa last night celebrated the achievements of employers and employees alike.

The Small Business Recognition Award was won by Madcow Cleaning. The Large Business Recognition Award was won by Moira Mac’s Poultry and Fine Foods.

The Employee of the Year in the Small Business/Team category was won by Say Ka Trace (Bendigo Health Dental Clinic) and the Employee of the Year in the Large Business category was won by Lwai Thaw Klay Pay Klay of Amicus.

Matthew Parkinson from Madcow Cleaning said of their 27 employees, 23 were from a refugee background.

“They are just wonderful employees,” he said.

“They are Karen people, incredibly reliable and willing to learn. They’ve come from so far behind and it is just so satisfying for us to see their progress.”

Marc Smith of Moira Mac’s Poultry and Fine Foods said their 19 employees were “fantastic”.

Mr Smith said they run innumerable shifts and only one worker has had to turn down a shift, which was because of ill health.

“It is a mutual arrangement for them and us. Also when other employers are looking for workers they come to us.”

Lwai Thaw Klay Pay Klay of Amicus, who won the Amicus Large Business Award employee category, has been working for people with a disability. She was born in a Karen refugee camp and was 23 when she first came to Australia. She loves her work and is highly respected by the people who she supports. Her manager Peter Fountain said Lwai excels at what is often a challenging job.

“She consistently demonstrates our organisation’s humanitarian values and best practice principles.”

Say Ka Trace is at Bendigo Health and completed a dental assistant course with clinical placements at Bendigo Health dental clinic. Her manager Kathy Basilewsky said she has a strong work ethic, is a great team member and is always learning and enthusiastic.

Ms Basilewsky said Say Ka Trace has overcome the challenge of English as a second language to develop her skills and learning of complex dental terminology and assistant techniques.

“Her greatest strength is her chair-side manner and the way she delivers high quality patient care. She is very caring and has a natural aptitude for patient care.”

“Over 40 businesses, which employ hundreds of former refugees, have created $70 million of economic activity in Bendigo,” Ms Cummins said.