The Cambodian-Australian Welfare Council of NSW (CAWC) was originally known as Khmer Interagency (KI). It was established as an information sharing forum and a means of support for those who work with Khmer clients or who are interested in Khmer issues. The group meets each month to liaise, share information, discuss problems and lobby for better services for Khmer settlers. The first meeting was called by the Co-ordinator of the Migrant Education Centre in the then- Cabramatta Hostel, Kevin McAndrew, and workers from various agencies, including Departments of Community Services, Health, Education, Immigration and Social Security, Burnside Welfare Program, TAFE, STARTTS and Khmer Associations attended.

Por Heang Ya, a District Officer with the Department of Youth and Community Service, was nominated as the Convener, and other members included Youvath Sik, Ramy Var, Ravy Heng, Chong-Hean Ang, Ly Chantha Sok and Meng Eang Thai were nominated as contact people to assist with any enquiries. KI was also a training forum for Cambodian workers, to improve their skills in lobbying, leadership, chairing meetings and community management. They were able to join together and assess their needs then request training intended to redress weak areas in their work practices or in their overall performance. There was a range of training, including public speaking, computer skills, strategy planning, report writing, and legal issues relating to constitutions and community management.


KI made strong representation to the Australian Government on issues relating to Cambodian refugees in Thailand, the first Boat People who arrived in Broome in Christmas 1989 and a few more boats that followed. Subsequent to KI;s representation the Australian Government increased their intake under a Special Humanitarian Program to accept more Australian Cambodians; relatives who had been stranded in refugee camps in Thailand. A special visa category, Special Assistance Category (SAC), was created by the Keating Government in 1995 to accept Cambodian Boat People and their relatives straight from Cambodia, after their repatriation.


During Refugee Week, on 26 June, KI presented a one-day seminar on Khmer cultural awareness, Khmer Culture and Customs Seminar. This was designed to inform non-Khmer workers about culture, customs, religion and education relating to people from Cambodia. It was praised, and seen as being very successful. KI was very grateful to the people who contributed to presenting papers and organising the seminar, including Chong Hean Ang, Seminar Convener and Presenter; Por Heang Ya, KI Convener and Presenter; Ramy Var, Facilitator and Presenter; Youvat Sik, Presenter; Saing Heang Seng, President KCNSW and Presenter; Nola Randall, Presenter; Dr Chris Sohan, Presenter and workshop facilitators including Ravy Heng, Tek Heang Ya, Theau Yorth, Vannak Ing, Min Hauv Yorth, Sovannarand Kay and Phiny Ung.

In November 1992, the notes and outlines of this seminar were archived by the National Library of Australia under Khmer Interagency, Resources, Khmer Cultural Seminar.

In 26 July Por Heang Ya called a special mediation meeting between the Management Committees of KCNSW and CBS, led by Presidents Bunna Thei and Sokhan Yim respectively. The Venerable Sakhon Long was also present at this meeting. This meeting was to help both managements define their objectives and areas of responsibility in the management of the Community Centre. It was a very successful meeting, with both organisations agreeing in principle to co-operate with each other and join together in organising all major events at the Centre. CBS would pay the council rates and water rates for the whole complex. Each organisation would pay its own electricity, telephone and insurance bills.

In another meeting, on 23 August, both organisations agreed to work together on the extension of the kitchen of the Temple.

KI became registered as a charitable organisation and adapted a more formal structure, through election of a Committee. Members elected the following Committee: Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, Treasurer, Secretary and three Committee Members.

KI also provided advice on Khmer issues and made referrals to appropriate contacts. For example, KI was asked for advice on Cambodian culture and customs by the Australian Army contingent before their departure to Cambodia to join in the UN-supervised General Elections of 1992. Read More