Stories of Welcome

Grassroots, Regional

2022 – 2023

Stories of Welcome is a new storytelling workshop program for new migrant and refugee artists in Coffs Harbour, in partnership with Settlement Services International (SSI).

Stories of Welcome is a new community grassroots program aimed at engaging, inspiring and empowering refugee communities located on the mid-north coast (Coffs Harbour region) through the power of storytelling, through the discovery and development of creative voice, through transferable creative skills, curiosity and professional development training.

Facilitated by long-time collaborator of CuriousWorks, Mark Taylor, this program is working closely with Settlement Services International in Coffs Harbour, as well as collaborating with participants from the Sydney based Refugee Artist Development Program . In 2022, the program has facilitated a 3 day introductory workshop with 15 participants from refugee backgrounds. They also held a number of cultural workshops with local First Nations Elders and artists and one-on-one and group mentorships have begun, as participants begin to develop concepts for their creative projects.


In June 2023, artists from Stories of Welcome as well as the Refugee Artist Development Program travelled across the east coast for the Homelands Regional Arts Tour, in partnership with Settlement Services Australia (SSI). The showcase included new works from the program that ranged from film, paintings, photography, digital art to creative writing. You can see photos and read more about the tour here.

You can check out the bios of all the Stories of Welcome artists below.

John Akway Cham

My name is John Akway Cham. I was born in western Ethiopia, Gambella. I left my country after the December 13, 2003 Ethiopian Genocide when hundreds of Ethiopian Anuak were killed. Ethiopian soldiers carried out the massacre in conjunction with members from other local tribes. The majority of the Ethiopian Anuak lived in the Gambella forest region where they have hunted and cultivated agriculture for centuries. I came to Coffs Harbour in 2019 after over 10 years of living in Kenya as a refugee. I was working for News of the Area in Coffs Harbour, covering the region’s multicultural stories before relocating to Sydney for study. Over the last three years in Australia, I have completed a Diploma in Community Service and three Certificates in Writing from the Australian Writers’ Centre. I am currently pursuing a bachelor of Humanitarian and Development Studies from Western Sydney University, and I am hoping to make an impact on the community. I am working as a casual employee with Settlement Services International (SSI) as a multicultural service officer. I love writing, and it is my dream to publish some of my stories one day.

Khairya Al-Khameri

Khairya is originally from Yemen and now lives in Coffs Harbour. Her passion is for fashion design, sewing, Arabic literature, and Henna body
art. More recently she has developed a keen interest in poetry, and is currently exploring and learning photography as a way to reconnect with nature.
Khairya has previously worked as a primary school teacher where she mentored young women in drawing and taught how to use henna,
to sew and prepare them to launch their careers. She also worked as an agricultural engineer at the Ministry of Agriculture in Yemen,  where she developed agricultural guidelines and was responsible for administration processing and the woman’s rural development program.
Khairya’s passion for capturing the beauty of nature was sparked by her new surroundings. Khairya’s photographs focus on the intricate details of nature’s patterns, colors, and designs. She believes that nature is a divine source of inspiration and draws from it to create stunning works of art.
She wants to show what is beautiful inside us and reflects what we see around us.

Eve Aye Win

Eve Aye Win came to Australia in 2007 and works as a full-time interpreter supporting her community through her language skills. She is of Chin Khumi ethnic origin and left Myanmar when she worked for several years as a professional photographer for the Mizzima News, a Burmese multimedia news organisation. Eve Aye Win now lives in Coffs Harbour. Eve Aye Win continues to create work as a hobbyist photographer to be able to share stories. Her primary artform is photo journalism.

Nin Ngling Maung (Angelo)

I was born in Myanmar and became a refugee due to the military government’s unjust and brutal treatment of its civilians. My sister’s residence in this country brought me to Coffs Harbour as a refugee immigrant.

My life in Coffs Harbour started in 2013, empty handed and zero dollars in my bank account. Many people in Australia have supported me from day one, sharing with me all the education and knowledge that I have needed to better my life. With hardwork and persistence even after failures, I worked my way up to become a nurse and also becoming a qualified interpreter for the Myanmar community.

This is the best blessing to have this living experience in such a beautiful city Coffs Harbour in Australia. There were times that I was disappointed  in myself due to not being able to communicate in English fluently but I insisted on pushing myself to become fluent. We all know that there are plenty of opportunities to better ourselves and work our way up in this country, but nothing comes easy. Believe in yourself and just keep working your way up by doing what you need. We live in such a beautiful and peaceful country and let’s be grateful for that.

Basam Shamsan

I came to Australia in 2021 and I am studying year 11 in Coffs Harbour. I like to make videos with my friends and share them on Youtube. We created a Youtube channel called Lifestyle Friends, where have put many videos that we made about our lives here in Coffs Harbour. I like film because it’s a way of telling stories.

Sonya Ido

I came to Australia in 2019 and I now live in Coffs Harbour. I really like it here and since my family and I moved to Australia it has been a very different life for us. I am studying in year eleven now and I enjoy my school experience. I really love doing sports and playing soccer, it makes me happy when I play so I love it. I am also learning about music, arts and working with people who are from different cultures to my own.

I created these artworks as part of creative storytelling workshops and I have shared stories about myself and my family. I want people to understand what my stories are about. I like reading other people’s real-life stories so that is why I want them to read the story which is about my life. That’s what my message is for other people.

Zozik Abdo

Hi, my name is Zozik Abdo. I grew up in Kurdistan, and I am currently residing in Australia. I have had a great passion for art since I was a child but had limited access to explore my passion back in my home country. I have always been fond of nature, and this is clearly shown in my photos. My work mostly focuses on capturing the beauty of the world around me. I have been lucky enough to travel around and explore the outstanding nature in Australia. Throughout my photos, I aim to bring out the beauty of the world that we often take for granted in the course of our busy days. I love to pay attention to details and bring them to the audience. I love how the world can be both small and big at the same time. I have been enjoying hiking and taking photos from the best views. I have traveled to NSW and QLD and would love to see other beautiful states of Australia.

Khishkok Abdo

Since my early years, I’ve been deeply passionate about drawing, painting, and digital art. I found joy in collecting and preserving small art pieces, with a particular fondness for depicting nature and portraits. Growing up in northern Iraq, Kurdistan, I faced limited support and opportunities to nurture my artistic vision. Unfortunately, my country was plagued by persecution, resulting in the loss of lives, forced displacement, and shattered communities. Within these communities, deaf individuals are often dismissed and denied access to education and support. It is my aspiration to challenge this perception and contribute to changing the narrative, not only for my own community but for others as well. Luckily, my family was granted a humanitarian visa to move to Australia, driven by the dangerous circumstances we faced, particularly as deaf women. This decision was made alongside my three deaf sisters, seeking safety and new opportunities. Back in my home country, I never had the chance to learn sign language, and instead, I was expected to rely on lipreading. This posed a significant challenge, as I had no deaf peers in my community. My older sister, who has been profoundly deaf since childhood, was unjustly denied access to education due to her deafness.

Now, residing in Australia, I have been able to explore a range of hobbies and delve into new areas of interest. Drawing and sketching have always held a special place in my heart, and currently, I am actively involved in an art program designed for refugees, where I create artworks for exhibitions. Additionally, I have recently embarked on a journey of exploring photography, which has provided me with a fresh avenue for self-expression.

Program Producer: Mark Taylor

Project Facilitators: Bernard Kelly-Edwards, Adeeb Razzouk and Ali Rezvani

Stories of Welcome has been supported by CreateNSW Project Grants.