Sixteen year old high school student Bassam Maaliki last week received the Order of Australia, John Lincoln Award from New South Wales Governor Margaret Beazley.
Bassam received the award at a special presentation ceremony at Government House in Sydney.
The Homebush High School student, who resides in nearby Strathfield with his parents Mike and Fay and three younger sisters, is well known throughout the Muslim community in Sydney for his humanitarian work.
Already this year, he has made two trips to South East Asia with Unity Grammar and AusRelief, donating the $15,000 he had raised by selling water bottles to local schools, businesses and families to build water wells and toilet amenities in impoverished communities in Cambodia, and to help the Rohingyan refugees in Malaysia.
A second generation Australian Muslim with a Lebanese background, Bassam commenced his humanitarian work at the tender age of thirteen….amazing!
Facing the difficulties of racism and bigotry within the school playground, Bassam was determined that he wouldn’t let the bullies win and that he needed to make a change.
“I started up a website which I called UBelong here, which is my own awareness campaign for refugees and others who need help,” Bassam said.
“UBelong here’s symbol is a multi-coloured badge, handcrafted from a key, that can be worn in solidarity with refugees, migrants and all people seeking asylum…those who feel alone and unheard and those who feel helpless.
“The key represents the unlocking of any restrictions or difficulties that will inhibit these people’s abilities to flourish.
“It’s a simple message of embracing diversity and celebrating that we are all different and that different people have different needs.
Sales of the badge/key have raised a further $15,000 which has been donated to organisations which are committed to helping settle youth refugees into Australia.
While never one to look for the limelight, making such an amazing contribution to the community over the past three years (particularly at such a young age) has seen Bassam receive a list of awards ‘as long as your arm’, as well as being appointed to some influential positions, which he has used for the betterment of his many causes.
BASSAM’S HONOURS AND APPOINTMENTS
* 2016, 2017, 2018 NSW Youth Parliament Leader – Member for Strathfield;
* 2018 YMCA YP Advocate of the Year;
* 2018 Australian Youth Ambassador for ‘Save the Children’;
* NSW Multicultural Youth Ambassador for MYAN;
* The Youth Member for Youth Collective;
* An active Youth Member for ASRC;
* An Australian Human Rights Youth Medal finalist;
* The 2018 Winner of Premiers Youth Medal (which he received from Gladys Berajyklian);
and the previously mentioned
* The Order of Australia John Lincoln award, which is effectively the Youth equivalent of the Order of Australia Medal: the highest award a member of the community can receive, other than a Knighthood!
Other awards and appointments that Bassam is justly proud of include the ACWA Award, ACYP Voice Award and the Strathfield Youth Citizen Rotary President’s Award. He was also the 2017 Ambassador for ‘Walk Against Racism’.
Bassam also runs activities for youth to share the message of belonging and has been a keynote speaker at the SSI Youth Welcome Dinner, FECCA Conference (Darwin), the Together for Humanity annual dinner, the ‘Welcome to Australia’ Rally, the YMCA National Conference, the UN Youth Conference, the ‘Bring Them Here’ Sydney Rally, the International Metropolis Conference and many school assemblies in his local area.
He has organised many events such as #uBelong Flashmob Choir (800 people) and he collaborated with Strathfield Council to organise White Ribbon Day (raising awareness against family violence) and a Youth Week Strathfield event, as well as working with the Youth Co-Lab to organise a Youth Week Cooking event.
“I use these speeches and events to promote intercultural dialogue and co-operation between newly arrived and more established Australian communities and also to advocate for youth foster care,” Bassam continued.
“I am passionate about social justice for all, especially the young.
“I believe that all kids should have the right to a full education, good health, a safe home and a place to belong and to thrive.
“I believe that all kids should have the right to a full education, good health, a safe home and a place to belong and to thrive.Bassam Maaliki
“And until this happens, I have a lot of hard work to do.”
Bear in mind that Bassam has managed to achieve all of the above in three short years, and under the watchful guidance of his parents, he has been careful to ensure that his humanitarian work hasn’t affected his own education.
He will enter Year 12 next year at Homebush Boys, where he is much admired by both students and teachers and he is currently the Head Prefect in Year 11.
While Bassam is justly proud of the many awards he has received, Order of Australia John Lincoln award will no doubt hold a special place in his heart for many years to come.
Bassam was jointly nominated for this award by State Opposition Leader Jodi McKay and Homebush High School teacher Ian Albertson, a respected member of the Strathfield community and well known for his own humanitarian work over many years.
Jodi McKay in particular and Premier Gladys Berejiklian, despite being fierce political opponents, are both admirers of Bassam and why not…as the kind of goodwill that people like Bassam evoke should surely always transcend politics.
Well known community leader Osman Karolia, Head of Senior School at Unity Grammar College (and my co-MC at the International Eid Festival at Liverpool in recent years) is a family friend and worked closely with Bassam on their charity missions to South East Asia with AusRelief earlier in the year.
“Bassam is a great young man who leads by example and change lives,” Osman told me.
“Bassam is a great young man who leads by example and change lives,”Osman Karolia
“His work to stand up for the forgotten and give a voice to the voiceless not only inspires others, it changes lives.
“For Bassam be awarded the Order of Australia award for Youth Community Service is a triumph for the entire Muslim community and for youth everywhere.
“I am so proud to have done two humanitarian trips to Cambodia with Bassam where I saw first hand his care, compassion and humanity.
“I am so proud to have done two humanitarian trips to Cambodia with Bassam where I saw first hand his care, compassion and humanity.Osman Karolia
“With the future in the hands of youth like Bassam, we have much to look forward to.”
There’s an old saying that behind every great man there is a great woman and in Bassam’s case, his mum Fay can surely take a bow, ferrying her son to countless meetings, functions and fundraisers over recent years…..not to mention being a massive emotional support – as things don’t always go to plan, after all!
But it’s a labour of love for Fay, who is understandably proud of her oldest child’s achievements.
“Bassam has many great qualities; he is thoughtful, kind and loyal and he is blessed with incredible determination,” Fay said.
“Bassam has many great qualities; he is thoughtful, kind and loyal and he is blessed with incredible determination.Fay Maaliki
“His initial project, the Ubelong here website, came to fruition because rather than just feel sorry for himself when the kids at school gave him a hard time because of his background, he decided things had to change….and not just for himself.
“To see that Bassam has been able to channel those negative emotions like fear, sadness and frustration into something so positive should be a lesson to all of us.”