Melissa has successfully demonstrated her agility and depth of knowledge on issues as layered and complex as immigration. She has developed a deep and thorough understanding of what policy was needed and developed innovative services that wrapped around the recipients in a way that acknowledged them deeply. Her work obviously has been intensely collaborative evidenced by the broad coalition of organisations she is a part of and has connections with.
Karen Mahlab AM
Founder and CEO
Pro Bono Australia
It is with great joy that I recognize the wonderful opportunity I have had of knowing Melissa for over thirty years beginning as a student in the College of Social Work, Mumbai, to her present position as CEO in the Community Migrant Resource Centre in Sydney, Australia.
I recall with thanksgiving and pride Melissa’s entry into the field of professional social work at the BSW level; her motivation to continue at the post-graduate level in our institution, thus completing five years of study, field practice and an all-round enthusiastic participation in co-curricular activities. Her qualities of diligence, palpable interest in the lives and destinies of people; her creative social and communication skills began unfolding with grace and dedication all through her academic performance.
Her passion for social justice led her to opt for work in a newly-started project of the College; with an interest in Environmental Protection and a promotion of Environmental consciousness. She joined in campaigns and social movements to express her solidarity with the struggles of people who became victims of development plans with their destructive impact on the lives and families of poor tribal populations. She literally risked her life in the process. The God, in whom she trusted, sustained her.
We would have loved to have Melissa continue to work with us in the College but she was meant to serve on other shores. We are so proud to know that her social work engagement in Sydney has grown from strength to strength, always continuing her passion to work with those who are disadvantaged and in need of a support to go ahead in life.
Dr. Hazel D’Lima
College of Social Work
I have known Melissa from the time she was a student at the College of Social Work, Nirmala Niketan. I was her mentor at the undergraduate level in her first year, and later at the postgraduate level. At first, I saw this pretty, precocious young girl who looked out of place in that milieu.
This was a mistake by me as soon she proved that she not only fitted in, but she far exceeded my expectations in fieldwork, and later on, as a professional. She was ready to take on anything and took it as a challenge. She was as comfortable talking to a civic official as she was with a slum dweller. She had a grasp of the situation and was able to pinpoint the crux of the problem accurately.
I had the fortune to work with her as a colleague in a project called Vasundhara. She was the epitome of efficiency and cordiality. Her leadership qualities took the project from strength to strength. She showed her mettle in participating in the movement against the Narmada dam. Her courage helped her to go to the site, talk to people, participate in protests, walk through forests and endure imprisonment. This is the leadership that inspired others to strive to do better. This is what still helps her to reach out to others, as she is doing in her present position.
I am thrilled to know about her book and can’t wait to read it. I am sure it will be as inspiring as her real life. She would have poured her heart into her writing that will make the difference and create a masterpiece.
As a person, Melissa is warm and welcoming. She puts you at ease with her words and a dazzling smile. She is outspoken and prefers to call a spade a spade. Thus, there are no embellishments in what she says. That I feel is the essence of the person.
Finally, as her former teacher and mentor I cannot but be thrilled to know of her exploits. It is said that the true success of a teacher is for him to see his student surpassing him. That is what Melissa has so ably done. Kudos to her!
Mr. Elvis Thomas
College of Social Work, Nirmala Niketan,
Melissa is an active and dedicated community leader in Western Sydney. I have known Melissa for the last twenty years since I interviewed her for the position which she still holds at the Community Migrant Resource Centre
Melissa has contributed in numerous ways to help resettle the migrant and refugee communities in Western Sydney in that time. She has gone way above her role as CEO to help vulnerable clients and women in Western Sydney.
Migration is a huge event in anyone’s life. Melissa herself had just migrated to Australia at the time she applied to manage the MRC. She has been able to apply her experience in assisting others in their migration journey. At the CMRC, Pre and Post migratory experiences have been the focus of migrant needs and issues in the past decade.
Hundreds of refugees and migrants have been assisted with the Guide to Employment developed by Melissa. She has helped hundreds of clients with employment through creative programs like LEAP (Learning Employment Advancement and Placement program).
At that time, I was the Granville TAFE Outreach Coordinator providing education opportunities in the Community. I have partnered with and worked closely with Melissa and have seen first-hand the support provided to workers, students and practitioners to enhance their competencies in dealing with clients from a multicultural and multilingual background. She has recently initiated the Beyond Diversity Program that is now providing training to corporates and large NGO’s like Mission Australia and DCJ.
She has helped to support migrants including refugees and humanitarian entrants. She has innovatively and creatively designed programs to assist multicultural communities in Western Sydney. She has mentored and supported the Khmer/Cambodian community in the last ten years which is a community I am heavily involved with. She has helped to identify and assess their needs, understand their losses, been aware of cultural differences, and also been informed of their preferred support systems and barriers to seeking help.
I have witnessed the immense contributions she has made in the community by way of leadership, supporting women and organisations during a rise of Domestic Violence in the community.
She is passionate about women and has run successfully the Inspiring Change Women’s Conference in Western Sydney for the last seven years. Thousands of lives have been changed. I recommend the Girl from Mumbai Book to you.
Nola Randall OAM JP
Cambodian Welfare Association
I have known Melissa from 1991 when we were together at the College of Social Work in Mumbai. She came across, not only as a very charming and affable person, but also as someone who was deeply committed to and concerned about social issues. There is courage, strength and bravery behind that gentle and welcoming façade. An example of this was her involvement in the Narmada Bachao Andolan in Western India and its consequences for her. That flame of social concern, far from diminishing, has grown stronger and brighter over the years. I met her some years ago in Sydney and was happy to learn that she was passionately involved with the Community Migrant Resource Centre (CMRC). At the time, it was a relatively small organization with 7 staff and a minimal budget to go by. I congratulate Melissa for coming out with this very meaningful and personal story of her life. In it, she shares the early influences that shaped her, the formative years at the College of Social Work and finally her life at the CMRC. I am sure her book will make not only interesting but also inspirational reading.
Fr Vernon D’Cunha SJ
It is with great delight that I write this testimonial for Melissa Monteiro, whom I have known and have watched with admiration for more than ten years. I met Melissa for the first time at one of the events organised by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2009. My first impression of her was that of a humble and unassuming powerful woman doing amazing things that are impacting lives. Melissa continues to be a force to be reckoned with. She bought into my vision to establish African Women’s Health and Support Organisation (AWHASO), and she continues to mentor me on this journey. Melissa has actively supported and partnered with my work over the years. As the founding member of African Women’s Health and support organisation, I received much help directly from Melissa in its establishment. Over the years Melissa has participated in a number of researches with the WSU being part of the team making a difference to thousands of lives.
Melissa has consistently demonstrated a determination to improve the lives of others in Greater Western Sydney. Notable among her direct collaboration with WSU that I have worked closely with her were the facilitation of work experience for CMRC clients and the Cultural Immersion Program for WSU students. I congratulate Melissa on this very important completion of her book “The Girl from Mumbai: A Migrant Story” and I recommend the book to you.
Dr Olayide Ogunsiji
School of Nursing and Midwifery
Western Sydney University
I met Melissa Monteiro for the very first time when I joined the Master of Social Work program at the College of Social Work, Nirmala Niketan in 1992. Melissa was in the BSW program at the time and had come to speak to my cohort about the College and her experiences. I was struck then, by her calm confidence, serenity and leadership and joy and love for the program. I got to know Melissa well during my MSW and thereafter when we worked side by side in the shared office space on two different field action projects related to the College- she at Vasundhara, working for environmental consciousness and I at Vatsalya, with street children. While we drifted physically to two different ends of the world, we continued to stay in touch. I am happy to see that Melissa has continued to grow in her commitment to social justice and in her leadership abilities over the years. It is not surprising to see Melissa where she is today, continuing to lead and make a significant change in lives of newcomers in Australia. I am proud to know her and to call her a friend and colleague.
Dr Farzana Chaze
Faculty of Applied Health & Community Studies
It gives me great pleasure to write this testimonial for Melissa and her book depicting the exciting life, studies, work, achievements and dedication over the years. Eric, my older brother was always proud of her achievements.
Her grandfather father, John Goes was a very prominent, and progressive Customs Officer, who received the Queen’s honor of ‘Rao Saheb’ for outstanding detective work in the Mumbai Docks then.
Melissa took the bold step to migrate to Australia, with husband Prakash and one-year old son Rohan to the delight of all relatives here in Sydney in early 2000.
Over the years we have seen her passion and dedication and untiring work grow.
Congratulations Melissa, we wish you the very best in all your future years.
BBus, Acct, MBA.
Melissa to me, has been an absolute ‘rock’ as I was traversing the ups and downs of setting up a not for profit organisation. Over time, I have watched Melissa steadily grow the Community Migrant Resource Centre (CMRC) to what it is today, employing a host of very talented and diverse staff to expertly deliver a range of services.
Melissa is highly respected by her peers, politicians and other influencers, who constantly seek her advice. Melissa is a woman of wisdom, integrity, intelligence and grace. I am so proud to have her as a friend.
The girl from Mumbai has certainly made a huge imprint in Australia and will continue to do so!
Love you Melissa. You are amazing!
Lisa Harnum Foundation