Victorians come from more than 200 countries, speak over 260 languages and follow more than 130 faiths.
Our state is widely recognised as one of the most diverse places in the world, and a multicultural success story.
The Multicultural Champions Program acknowledges Victorians who have significantly contributed to our success. These everyday Victorians are recognised by the Champions program for their service – often voluntary – to making our communities welcoming and inclusive for everyone who calls them home.
Victoria’s Multicultural Champions have played instrumental roles in promoting harmony, respectful relationships, and the benefits of diversity. They are community leaders and role models, who work on the ground to foster goodwill and generosity, within and between Victorian communities. They encourage Victorians to express their cultural heritages and traditions, to learn from one another, and promote full participation in all aspects of Victorian life.
The wide-ranging community work of the Multicultural Champions demonstrates how inclusivity encourages happy, healthy and prosperous societies, and a Victoria we are all proud of.
Launched in 2018, the program is delivered by the Victorian Multicultural Commission on behalf of the Victorian Government as an initiative under its Multicultural Policy Statement launched in 2017.
Victoria's inaugural Multicultural Champions are:
Deepak Vinayak JP is an award-winning community leader from Victoria, working with newly arrived migrants for more than 17 years with a focus on promoting Australian values. In 2012, Mr Vinayak was selected as a "People of Australia Ambassador" by the Australian Multicultural Council in recognition of his contribution to multiculturalism and served for two terms and he is also an Australia Day, R U OK and White Ribbon Ambassador. Mr Vinayak is the founder of South Asian Community Link Group Australasia – a non-for-profit organisation that represents the interests of 8 countries from the South Asia region with the aim of promoting and raising a voice for diverse communities on issues including immigration, interfaith harmony, domestic violence, youth mental health and others. In 2018, Deepak was awarded an Order of Australia medal, as well as a Pride of Australia medal.
Ajit Singh Chauhan
Ajit Singh Chauhan has worked in the welfare sector for over a decade, primarily working with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds with settlement needs. He is the Chairperson and founder of the Oorja Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that helps culturally diverse communities in the northern suburbs of Melbourne to maintain resilience, empower women and youth, remove gender inequality and support survivors of family violence. Mr Singh Chauhan is a Community Ambassador for the AFL, a board member of Northern Community Legal Centre and is a member of the executive committee of the Hume Interfaith Network.
Anand Shome is the Vice President of Indian Care and a founding member of the Centre of Melbourne Multi-faith and Others Network. Mr Shome founded social groups for Indian seniors in Dandenong, Clayton, Chadstone and Camberwell, which have continued to meet for over a decade. He has also run multicultural programs for Wesley Mission working with groups of seniors from India, Cambodia, Philippines, Fiji and Japan. Mr Shome has been a volunteer and community leader for many years working to improve the health and welfare outcomes of the Indian community and engaging with the broader multicultural community to promote social cohesion.
Ann Foley works proactively in Ballarat and western Victoria to promote cultural diversity and intercultural harmony. Her work engages education, business, community, and faith groups, VicPol and all levels of government. As the current Executive Officer of the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council, she has driven collective-impact strategies to enhance social inclusion. Among these, the emerging Ballarat Welcome Centre, arts projects and sporting partnerships highlight creative relationships and diverse participation.
Barbara Brown has been involved with migrant, refugee and mainstream communities in the Goulburn Valley for more than 10 years. She has consistently encouraged relationships between mainstream and immigrant women and has advocated and sought funding to support diverse communities. Most recently, Ms Brown worked with the Iraqi community in Cobram to advocate for additional services and programs to lessen the group’s isolation. Most recently she facilitated a leadership program for Sudanese and Iraqi women and conducted a research project with Ethnic Council staff to improve access to Goulburn Valley Health for diverse communities.
Batul Gulani is a community worker, psychotherapist and director who believes in communities working together to bring change in our society. She has played a key role in supporting Shia Muslim communities integrate into the broader community through the establishment of the Islamic Shia Council of Victoria, with a focus on honouring religious and cultural heritage while simultaneously enriching the broader Australian community. Mrs Gulani is the co-founder and chairperson of AMAFHH Federation and under her supervision the organisation provides social services to those in need regardless of their religious, social, or economic backgrounds within Victoria. Through her work and services, Mrs Gulani focuses on empowering women and youth to lead in society with resilience and confidence.
Caterina Revrenna is a founding member of the North East Multicultural Association and is a cultural advocate for Myrtleford, supporting individuals and CALD communities in north east Victoria. She has been instrumental in promoting and preserving Italian culture throughout the region, through organising salami making workshops for youths, supporting older Italian community members maintain their connections to Italy and organising events to celebrate migration. Since 2010, Mrs Revrenna has been involved in the organisation of La Fiera, a festival celebrating Myrtleford's Italian heritage. She co-founded a feature event, 'Nonni in cucina' which showcases traditional Italian cooking by the older residents.
Chap Chow is a dedicated supporter of the interfaith movement, having participated in several interfaith forums and conferences to foster understanding among the Christian, Catholic, Muslim and Buddhist faiths. He is also involved with several Chinese organisations which aim to promote a cultural exchange between the Chinese community and the wider Victorian community. Mr Chow was a People of Australia Ambassador from 2012 to 2014, sharing ideas with the federal government and the Australian Multicultural Council to promote inclusion and increase diversity in Australian communities.
Gary Li has promoted intercultural understanding between Victoria and China for many years through the VCE China Program. Through working closely with education authorities and schools from Victoria and China Mr Li has successfully developed a quality trans-national education program, which now is operated in more than 30 schools in China with the number increasing every year. The program is a unique cultural exchange between Victoria and China that builds on Victoria’s reputation as culturally diverse and globally engaged.
John McKinnin is a member of the Filipino Australian Friendship Association of Geelong and was secretary for 13 years. Mr McKinnin established a bike refurbishing program through the Lions Club for those in need in the community, especially recently settled migrants. Notably, in the last three years he has rebuilt and donated over 1200 bikes to community groups, including the Hazara Community Geelong Inc. Mr McKinnin was the recipient of a Meritorious Service Award in 2015.
Dr Judy Tang is a Neuropsychologist and President of the Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council (AGMC) and she also sits on a number of advisory boards. AGMC aims to represent the interests of Australian GLBTIQ people from culturally diverse backgrounds. It provides intersectional resources such as a multicultural directory for GLBTIQ people to link with a range of culturally specific community groups. Dr Tang’s extensive volunteer work includes developing public forums and training to promote inclusiveness in multicultural communities, as well as educating and promoting cultural awareness in mental health services.
Mariam Issa is a public speaker, author, storyteller, intercultural facilitator and social entrepreneur. Ms Issa arrived in Melbourne from her Somali homeland in 1998 and through sharing her refugee and settlement experiences through storytelling she has inspired countless people. In 2012 she published her autobiography A Resilient Life and launched her not-for-profit organisation and community garden RAW (Resilient Aspiring Women) in the backyard of her own home in Brighton to support women, through intercultural exchange facilitated by storytelling, cooking and gardening.
Neeraj Nanda is a professional journalist and editor of the South Asia Times newspaper, website and social media channels, which represent the interests and voices of Victoria’s Indian and South Asian communities. Mr. Nanda has worked in journalism for 36 years and previously worked for the SBS Radio, Indian Post, Indian Link and several other media outlets as a freelancer. Through journalism he has promoted intercultural understanding and the benefits of multiculturalism by connecting the Indian and South Asian communities to their cultural heritage and their adopted home.
Parsu Sharma-Luital JP arrived in Australia in 2002 as a refugee from Bhutan and since then has worked tirelessly to assist newly arrived refugees with their settlement needs. Mr Sharma-Luital is the co-chair of the Refugee Advocacy Network, founder and patron of Help-Himalayan Youth Foundation, chair of the New and Emerging Communities Advisory Committee at FECCA and a board director of the ECCV. He was the inaugural recipient of the prestigious New Australian of the Year 2014 for his volunteer work with refugees and received awards from the Victorian Government including Victorian Multicultural Awards for Excellence in 2010 and 2012 and a Victorian Refugee Recognition Award in 2009. Mr Sharma-Luital has represented the Australian Refugee Communities in the UNHCR Annual NGO Consultation in Geneva since 2010.
As a Muslim community leader and educator, Saara Sabbagh is critically engaging her community on what it means to be an Australian Muslim in today’s world. Saara is the Founder and CEO of Benevolence Australia, a non-for-profit organisation formed in 2008 to meet the growing needs of Australian Muslims within the Melbourne community. In 2013, Ms Sabbagh was awarded the Australian Muslim Achievement Award’s Role Model of the Year.
Sambo Meng was a school teacher in Cambodia prior to the Khmer Rouge and she arrived in Australia as a refugee in 1979. Mrs Meng has supported the Cambodian community by raising funds and overseeing the provision of home care assistance services, reducing the isolation of more than 1,000 elderly Cambodians. For decades she has provided assistance for new arrivals to ensure access to greatly needed services, helping to increase social participation and create a more connected community.
Sam Feng is the Managing Director of the Australia Pacific Media Group and was the first person from mainland China to establish a newspaper providing Mandarin news in Australia. Mr Feng also organises events that boost cultural exchange and community harmony through the Pacific Chinese Arts and Culture Centre, which regularly hosts exhibitions for overseas artists.
Sopea Sao is a founding member of online platform Khmer News, which now boasts more than a million hits a month. His charity work in education and health spans a decade, and for the last two years he has been an active committee member and a passionate advocate for migrant and refugee rights from within the Cambodian Association of Victoria and the Cambodian Australian Federation.
Youhorn Chea has worked tirelessly for more than 30 years promoting Cambodian language and culture, and supporting the diverse communities of Dandenong. He has volunteered as a social worker for the Cambodian Association of Victoria for many years and he is currently its President. Mr Chea is also a committee member of the South Eastern Region Migrant Resource Centre and the Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau where his focus is on providing support services to newly arrived migrants.