Many stories. One community.

Together we Flourish

Saturday was a day for celebration but also a day of reflection and great shame.

I was in the small central Queensland town of Biloela, at the annual Flourish Festival, organised by Integreat Queensland.  This is the second year of the festival, that began in Gladstone and has ended its journey throughout central Queensland in Biloela; where the local community welcomed back the Nadesalingam family over 4 years after the family were given 10 minutes to pack their bags and forcibly moved by Australian Border Force Agents to an immigration detention centre in Melbourne.  The Tamil family have become perhaps the most famous example of Australia’s harsh treatment of asylum seekers.

It is very important to feel uncomfortable feelings and listening to the story of this family’s treatment is very uncomfortable.  But sitting in that discomfort is an important part of understanding the difficulties that people in our community face.

The local community was shocked and soon angered at the treatment of the family. But the story does not end there. It was out of that anger that the energy for positive action and change was propelled.

We often do not want to ‘understand’ things that make us feel uncomfortable. But that choice is also a decision. 

The positive outcome of Saturday’s return of this beautiful family back to their hometown of Biloela in central Queensland is that change is possible and when we collectively advocate for positive change and have the patience and persistence to deal with a system that struggles to deal with the ‘new’ we can make a difference.

This story put Australia back on the radar of the United Nations, and our history is not pretty…But it is in facing our history, and the ‘terrible ‘ treatment of our indigenous, migrants and NON-toxic female & males in our community by the toxic leaders who somehow have the privilege of speaking for us all.

Let’s build a community we are proud of and let’s ensure the leaders reflect the views of the community.  Let’s not be ashamed, let’s be proud, proactive, stand for something, live lives of conviction and together our small efforts can make the world a better place.

The Flourish festival was a huge success, and showed what a small community could do, and in doing so it not only changed the lives of one family it garnered the spirit of the Nation and the world and the local community was there to see it all unfold on the world stage.

Flourish it seems is here to stay.

Halinka Panzera

Board Member – Integreat Queensland

‘AKONI’ Refugee Week Premiere Event at Gladstone Cinemas

Integreat Queensland and Home to Bilo are excited to invite you to our ‘AKONI’ Refugee Week Premiere Event at Gladstone Cinemas on Wednesday 15 June from 6pm (Film will commence at 6.30pm).

AKONI is the story of a homeless refugee (Kit Esuruoso) struggling to integrate into Australian society after escaping conflict in his homeland. While living on the streets and on the receiving end of racist taunts, a young woman (Genna Chanelle Hayes) comes to his aid. Struggling with her own feelings of grief and loneliness, she soon finds solace in her unlikely new companion as he opens her up to a world beyond modelling, parties, and social media.

Following the screening of this powerful independent drama join writer/director/producer/star Genna Chanelle Hayes, star Kit Esuruoso, and Human Rights lawyer Alisson Battisson for a Meet The Filmmaker Q&A with host Angela Fredericks from the Home to Bilo Campaign.

  • $30 Per Ticket.
  • Includes Beer, Wine, Soft drink, or Water.

Purchase your gala tickets TODAY via the following box office link below:

Official Trailer:  AKONI | Official Trailer | 2022 [HD] – YouTube

Featurette:   Akoni – Making Of (Featurette) ~ A One Love Original – YouTube

Princess finds her confidence through the Get Work Ready program

Some of the reasons for the barriers faced by migrant women to find work and their chosen careers in Australia include confidence in the ability to apply and interview for a job due to English being their second language and understanding the Australian work context in terms of HR, work practices, and forms of communication.

Integreat Queensland’s Get Work Ready program initiative helps local people not only understand the Australian workplace and their rights and responsibilities, but also helps develop skills, gain qualifications, and provide direct assistance to enter and stay in the workforce.

Princess Aira Razon completed her bachelor’s degree in IT in the Philippines and worked as an Admin Assistant at a hotel for one year before moving to Australia with her family.

“When I arrived in Australia, I wanted to find a job and utilise my skills to be able to give back to my parents,” Princess told Integreat Queensland.

After arriving in Australia, Princess worked as a retail assistant and a mobile phone technician however, she really wanted to find another job but believed she didn’t have the qualifications needed to start a new career.

“My brother told me Integreat Queensland had a program for migrant women that could help me change my career by matching my interests and skills and assist me by boosting my confidence in communicating with others.”

Funded by the Australian Government Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Women’s Leadership and Development Program with the objective to improve outcomes for Australian women, Princess said the Get Work Ready program was the first step in finding a new career and going back to what she really loved doing.

“During the program I learned a lot from writing a resume to interviewing skills and tips, my rights as an employee, and other employment-related topics, including the modern awards system. Most importantly however, I got to experience a proper job interview in a group and just by myself.”

Once the initial training program ended, Princess entered into a 12-week work placement matching her skills and desired career with Natalie Petersen from Evolve HR Solutions, a human resource coaching and services business that empowers growth and development while fostering the health and wellbeing of staff for a committed, productive workforce.

“When I started my first day with Natalie, she really welcomed me and it felt like we had known each other for a long time,” Princess said.

“I’ve attended a couple business expos and she has taught me about different online platforms, administration duties, and how small businesses connect with each other and help the community. Working with Natalie has not only taught me new skills but more importantly, allowed me to gain my confidence again.

If you would like to join the next Get Work Ready program in Gladstone or Rockhampton, call Integreat Queensland on 4903 1931 or email

Picture: Princess with Natalie Petersen from Evolve HR Solutions at the Gladstone Business Expo.

Welcome to Country: Flourish Festival Gladstone

Integreat Queensland’s Flourish Festival last Saturday was officially opened with a Welcome to Country performance from the Gooreng Gooreng people of Central Queensland.

Integreat Queensland recognise the unique position of Aboriginal people in Australian culture and history and show respect for Aboriginal people. Integreat Queensland would like to acknowledge the Bailai, Gurang, Gooreng Gooreng and Taribelang Bunda people who are the traditional custodians of this land.

Thank you to Adriana and the Gooreng Gooreng dancers for being part of the Flourish Festival. The Flourish Festival is a multi-cultural festival that allows the community to show how they flourish in our community through their own creativity.

The Biloela Flourish Festival is on June 11 and you are all invited!

The Gooreng Gooreng people performing Welcoming to Country at the Flourish Festival in Gladstone.

Ignite Community Art Project Launch

Integreat Queensland launched the Ignite Community Art – A multicultural mobile art installation – project at the Flourish Festival on Saturday night. We are so proud of this project with art contributions from more than 150 community artists from Gladstone, Rockhampton, Biloela, Agnes Water, Yeppoon, and Emerald.

The community created separate artworks which as you can see have now become a multi-cultural mobile art installation that will travel throughout Central Queensland and be made available for other festivals, events, and local exhibitions. Next event – Flourish Festival in Biloela on June 11.

Elmira Esfahani was the designer and architect of this project so lets hear from her as to what inspired this creative and fantastic artwork.

“The inspiration for this sculpture was nature,” Elmira said.

“I compare a community to nature. In my view, both community and nature are collectives defined by the elements that make them up and their relationship. The community’s character primarily comes with the layering of stories, values, diversity, and the relationships between people. Based on that, the idea was to show unity in diversity.”

Elmira said she designed the project in the form of a unique Architectural installation made up of small pieces/parts.

“This art has three levels,” she said.

“The first level is the statue or the overall sculpture, inspired by nature, shoreline, and sea on one side and the desert on the other. The central shape is a symbol the mountains. As you zoom in, the second level is five primary art formats: resin, paint, sculpture (recycling material), glass, and ink paints on teabag. The third level is each individual artwork done by community members—the stories behind them.”

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Office for the Arts Festivals Australia Program.

Integreat Queensland launched their ‘Ignite Community Art – A multicultural mobile art installation’ – project at the Flourish Festival on Saturday May 28, 2022.

Rania “finds herself again” with Get Work Ready program.

After seven years in Gladstone, Egyptian migrant Rania Elgendy finally feels she is finding herself and her confidence again after participating in Integreat Queensland’s Get Work Ready program.

“Before I came to Australia with my family in 2015, I was degree qualified and been working for 10 years as a Document and Quality Contral Specialist for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) projects in Egypt,” Rania said.

“However, despite having those qualifications, it was very difficult to find work in Gladstone even though there were opportunities within the work I was experienced in.

“It can be challenging for an employer to hire someone especially a migrant woman that not only looks different, but where English is not her first language, and doesn’t have any experience working in Australia.”

Rania said she understood the difficulties, so she started to create friends, introduce herself to her neighbours, establish networks, and connect with organisations throughout the region.

“To be honest I was disappointed at first but behind that disappointment I realised I wanted to keep pushing forward and get involved by volunteering and creating good relationships because I believed if I was to do so, everything will come at the right time,” she said.

Through the friends she had made, Rania was eventually introduced to Integreat Queensland who support people from different countries and backgrounds to confidently settle in and build relationships with local people.

“I did many courses online until I found Integreat Queensland who really helped me with not only understanding Australia and its people, but by offering some amazing programs which was not only a great opportunity, but also allowed me to get back to myself again.”

Since then, Rania has taken part in Integreat Queensland’s 12-week Get Work Ready program which allows people from different cultures like herself to improve their workplace English, resume and cover letter writing, interviewing skills, networking, and other tools and skills to assist them with getting their dream job including a 12-week work placement, in conjunction with the Gladstone Engineering Alliance (GEA), related to their desired career at businesses based in Gladstone.

“I’ve been placed with Prizm Engineering, an engineering consultancy company based in Gladstone,” Rania said.

“It’s been fantastic and I’m really enjoying working with their (Prizm Engineering) team as it feels like one big family. My goal from this opportunity is to learn how the Australian workplace operates and to ultimately find work but most importantly, to gain my confidence back and find myself again.”

This round of Integreat Queensland’s Get Work Ready program started last week but there are still spots available. For more information or to register, please email or call (07) 4903 1931.

See how you can be involved: