Empire Theatre’s Youth Arts Director Ari Palani has been named as a finalist for the Outstanding Individual Achiever Award in the Queensland Multicultural Awards for his work with newly arrived young people, migrants and refugees in the Toowoomba community for the past five years.

One of four finalists, Ari was nominated for his Empire Theatre Youth Arts community engagement work at Harristown State High School in English as an Additional Language or Dialect Department. Ari’s program runs each week during the school term with classes of students from varied backgrounds, including migrants developing English communication skills, and young people who have left difficult situations and environments.

A culturally diverse migrant himself, Ari uses the arts as his medium of choice, helping the community to build and express their cultural and artistic voices, and contributing to the resilience of his students and their families.“It’s about using my skills and position as a multicultural artist to enhance the opportunities within our region and communities,” Ari said. “Particularly for young people, those opportunities include finding your voice, whether that be through language or a personal sense of agency and being an active part of building a community.”

Empire Theatres General Manager Kerry Saul said he was pleased to see Mr Palani’s work receiving such a high level of recognition. “This type of work, which is quite unique to Ari and to the Empire Youth Arts program, has a huge benefit, particularly for new members of our community,” said Kerry. “We are proud to deliver a program that engages and offers enjoyment of the arts to the wider community in the way that Ari has delivered.”

The Queensland Multicultural Awards recognise the valuable contributions of Queenslanders who support and promote a united, harmonious and inclusive Queensland community. Winners will be announced on Sunday 19 August.

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