Staff & Leadership Team
Mohammad Al-Khafaji was born in Iraq and he came to Australia via Syria in 2003. Mohammad came as a refugee, with his family through UNHCR, when he was 13. He is passionate about changing the national conversation around asylum seekers to a positive one through education and grass roots movements.
He is the new Chief Executive Officer of Welcome to Australia, an organisation dedicated to welcoming Australia’s new arrivals, no matter where they came from or how they got here. Mohammad is the Youth Chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities` Councils of Australia (FECCA). He is dedicated to creating a welcoming Australia and is committed to giving new arrivals the same welcome he received when he arrived in 2003.
As a social entrepreneur, mentor and facilitator, Aleem loves little more than working with passionate people to implement great ideas that advance the common good. Awarded and recognised for his contribution to the community, Aleem has spent the past 20 years seeding and mentoring the development of various programs, initiatives and enterprises.
He is an Advisor on various community and cultural panels and, volunteer Branch Director (Brisbane) for Welcome to Australia. Currently, Aleem is the Manager of the national initiative, Welcoming Cities.
Jude Thomas is Welcome to Australia’s wonderful Finance Administrator. She currently works part time and hopes to increase her involvement as we take on more exciting programs around Australia.
She is married to Mark for 20 years and they have two children, Aaron (16) & Zoe (14). As a family they love to travel and have visited 14 countries together as well as travelling within Australia. They also lived in the United States of America for a number of years. When Jude first left school she studied to be a Registered Nurse at Uni, then trained to be a midwife at the Broken Hill Hospital. Soon after Zoe was born, she developed Rheumatoid Arthritis and had to change careers. She has now worked as a book-keeper for over 10 years and she loves it!
Jude loves to use her skills to help people seeking asylum and refugees who live in our community. Her commitment to Welcome to Australia and the vision of cultivating a culture of welcome is commendable.
Born and raised in Dunedin, New Zealand, Elizabeth became fascinated with the concept of religion and its associated cultural behaviours from a young age. This lead her to study comparative religion at university, ultimately graduating with a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies. Liz went on to work in refugee resettlement in New Zealand, and then moved to the Thailand-Burma border where she worked with internally displaced people, refugees and migrants fleeing persecution.
In 2012 Liz moved to Melbourne where she began working with people seeking asylum living in community detention. More recently Liz has been managing various settlement, youth, community development, family and complex case programs supporting newly arrived refugees, migrants and people seeking asylum across Melbourne.
Liz spends a lot of time pondering the concept of ‘home’. Is home where you were born, where you live now, where you keep your toothbrush, or something else entirely? Wherever home may be, Liz believes that it must feel safe and welcome, and this is why the work of Welcome to Australia is so important to her.
In her spare time, Liz and her dog Petey volunteer as a therapy dog team, visiting residential facilities and hospitals across Melbourne, to bring pet therapy to those not able to live in conventional homes. Being raised in a safe and stable environment, Liz is acutely aware of her privilege, and is sure to be both grateful for and aware of this when working with people who, through no fault of their own, have been forced to migrate to Australia. For Liz, it doesn’t matter how you came to be in Australia, nor what race, religion or gender you are. We are all equal and all deserving of respect.
Carole has a passion for social justice and has worked in the Community Services Sector for more than 25 years. Her work life started as an Adolescent Support Worker in Adelaide while studying and caring for two children. She moved on to project work as a Youth Project Officer in both Adelaide and Sydney and was also co-coordinator of ‘Channel Free’, the Youth Media Access Unit at Metro Screen.
After working as a Project Officer for three years Carole became the Director at Marrickville Youth Resource Centre for a further nine years. In 2002, she was awarded an Australian Centenary Medal – “for many years service to young people from Non- English Speaking Background and low socio-economic families to enhance futures”. In 2006 she was nominated for Marrickville Citizen of the Year and in 2008 nominated for an Australian of the Year Awards under the Local Hero Category.
In 2006 Carole took on a new challenge as General Manager of the Rozelle Neighbourhood Centre in the Balmain electorate of NSW before moving back to Adelaide in 2009 to take up the role of SA Unions Project Manager, Retraining Injured Workers for Employment Project.
Following the end of this project in 2012, Carole moved to social housing sector where was employed by Unity Housing as Regional Manager (South) working with a small team to manage Unity’s social housing in the south of Adelaide.
Carole is very excited about her new role as the Welcome Centre Manager and is looking forward to learning and growing.
For the last seven years Nathan has been working in the refugee settlement & asylum seeker support sector both in Queensland and overseas in various roles including project management, case management and volunteer coordinating.
Nathan has also been involved in the disability sector, most recently as a committee member for a small NGO based in northern Brisbane providing support services to people living with disabilities to better access their local community. Until recently, 2017 has been a year of constant movement for Nathan, as he has lived in both South Africa and Malawi, and travelled extensively in Europe.
Nathan is now looking forward to settling in Melbourne and establishing the Welcome to the Game Victoria program that supports young people from refugee, asylum seeker and migrant backgrounds living with disabilities, to engage in sport and recreational activities.
Nathan not only brings his knowledge and experience working in the community sectors to his new role, but also brings with him to Melbourne his hopeless love for the Gold Coast Suns and passion for watching sport, namely the cricket and the tennis.
Bel Schenk is a writer, editor and community development practitioner in Melbourne. She is working on the Welcoming Cities initiative, which works to create more welcoming and inclusive communities by supporting local governments and communities to be more effectively resourced, networked and supported.
Bel is also the author of three poetry collections and has worked as the Artistic Director of Express Media, the Arts and Cultural Development Officer at the City of Darebin and at Kids’ Own Publishing, harnessing the power of books and the publishing process to connect children, families and their communities.