• Annelise Hellberg from Twin Rivers and Dr Zakaria Amin work together for their communities

Finding strength in diversity

There has never been a more important time to embrace each other, different views and diverse cultures.
Two Logan faith-based organisations are showing how it’s done by celebrating what they have in common and learning from the ways in which they differ. They are finding ‘unity in diversity’.
Dr Zakaria Amin of Australian Centre for Unity Slacks Creek Mosque, and Annelise Hellberg of Eagleby’s Twin Rivers Centre, which houses the Twin Rivers Church and Twin Rivers Community Care, both work tirelessly for their communities.
They have joined together to better support the people who come to them for help.
It began with the Department of Employment, Small Business and Training connecting the Twin RIvers Centre with The Australian Centre For Unity for the Skilling Queenslanders for Work (SQW) programs.
Dr Zakaria sought guidance from Annelise when applying for SQW funding and other grants – and that connection has turned into an ongoing collaborative and productive working relationship. The grant submissions were successful, and the relationship has flourished.
Annelise says while there are many differences between the Centre for Unity and Twin Rivers, there are many commonalities – and the organisations are learning from each other.
‘In this age it can feel like if people don’t agree with someone about absolutely everything they avoid them, but in doing that you lose so much,’ she says.
‘I think what we have between us is wonderful and you can learn so much from people from a different background, culture and faith.
‘People with different perspectives can work beautifully together and getting to know more about people can make for great collaboration –and it is so needed.
‘In many ways, myself and Dr Zakaria are the most unlikely people to be working together, but we learn so much from each other and we will continue to do so.’

“‘People with different perspectives can work beautifully together and getting to know more about people can make for great collaboration”

— Annelise Hellberg

Dr Zakaria says that while their communities differ and face challenges for different reasons –what they have in common is being outside the perception of the ‘average Aussie’.
‘The communities we deal with are outside of the broad principles of ‘average Aussie folks’,’ he says.
‘What might work for middle of the road Australians is trickier for people in our communities.
‘We also both have a faith foundation, so it makes so much sense for us to work together – we get stronger that way.’
While the things they have in common – compassion, faith, charity, and a deep commitment to helping people to live up to their potential – are profound, many of the areas where they differ are small.
An example: while Dr Zakaria takes a softer approach to difficult subjects, Annelise says her approach is more direct.
‘I am Dutch so I am pretty much the opposite – I get right in there and say exactly what I think, so I’m learning about different approaches from Dr Zakaria and the way he works too,’ she says.
Meanwhile, Dr Zakaria says Annelise’s interest in the Muslim faith keeps him on his toes.
‘She has been doing a lot of reading and she’s always one step ahead of me!’ he says.
The organisations will continue to work together in a range of ways, from securing funding for programs, to attending each other’s events and sharing ideas and resources.
The Australian Centre for Unity was established in 2015. It is a joint collaboration of Iqra Academy Australia and Islamic Practice and Dawah Circle.

Annelise Hellberg from Twin Rivers and Dr Zakaria Amin work together for their communities

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