For Father Fadi Nemme, parish priest of the St Michael Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Kirrawee in the NSW Sutherland shire, community is about living in harmony and sharing.
And it's for this ethos and his decades of dedication working in his community, especially among Arabic-speaking migrants, that led to him being awarded top honours at the 2021 NSW Premier's Harmony Dinner.
Fr Fadi, 54, was awarded the Barker Henley Stepan Kerkyasharian AO Community Harmony Medal for his work promoting social cohesion and supporting people of all faiths.
Having grown up in Tartous in Syria, one of nine children, and studying mechanical engineering at Aleppo University, Fr Fadi migrated to Australia in 1996 and like all migrants needed to establish himself in his new country and culture.
It's this lived experience of migration and integration, which helps him in his work with other newly arrived people in the community.
"The major issues faced by Arabic-speaking newly arrived people are language, employment and recognition of overseas qualifications," said Fr Fadi.
"They feel homesick and unable to adjust to the new life in Australia. The first five years of resettlement is the most difficult for any new migrant - establishing themselves in a new country and culture. I always encourage them to be more involved in the Australian life, by building relationships with their neighbours, engaged with activities and social life, to be part of the community they are living in."
For older migrants the major issue is language and isolation, Dr Fadi told The Senior.
"It is harder for older people to learn a new language and for some the Australian accent and words is another element to learning English. It causes a lot of fears and being misunderstood. It causes them to be isolated and not being able to express their feeling and impression in English."
Alongside government programs and activities to encourage engagement and interaction, Fr Fadi has developed programs such as English classes, computer courses, citizenship courses and social events.
"We are looking forward to increasing this kind of engagement and do more community building partnerships with other organisations, said Fr Fadi. "I will develop more programs to bring people out of their homes and to engage with each other."
"I have a small parish of different cultures and backgrounds. My role as religious leader is to be good example to others. It is about teaching and spreading the word of God. It is about caring and being available to my community and assist them in all kinds of spiritually and everyday personal issues.
"Our community is growing up and the new generation will further develop the community and their church.
"I encourage the young people of our community to be active in their church/faith and their community - we need to all work together to build faith that is part of the community."
Since arriving in Australia, Fr Fadi has worked in many different sectors - community, not-for-profit and government. Currently he works as a domestic violence coordinator at the Ethnic Communities' Council of NSW, settlement officer at the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese and as a NSW Police Chaplain.
"I love being around people, socialising, laughing and telling jokes - I am a very social person so that carries through work and in other parts of my life," he said.
"I enjoy gardening and I am particularly interested in listening to music - music is a comfort to me - music tells a story and shares experiences. Currently I am really missing traveling and exploring our world."