Tom Zreika Order of Australia

Tom Zreika

Well known community identity Tom Zreika was last week awarded the coveted Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his many years of dedicated service to the community, to local government and to the law.

Tom’s work ethic should be an inspiration to all of us, somehow managing to juggle many important roles in his daily life.

Married to Lamia and the proud dad of three great kids aged 15, 12 and 8, Tom has been the managing partner of Sterling Legal in Auburn since 2002 and a Solicitor to the High Court since 2008.

Since 2017, he has been very proactive in his role on Cumberland Council, after serving an earlier term between 2004-2008.

Few members of the Muslim community would not have heard of AusRelief, the international charity which has had such a profound effect around the world since its formation a mere five years ago.

The AusRelief concept was spawned by Tom and his great mate Wally Ayad during a barbecue chat where the pair discovered a mutual dissatisfaction in the way their Zakat funds were being distributed by prominent charities.

To say that the pair didn’t let the grass grow under their feet is an understatement as three days after the barbecue chat, the pair were on their way to Indonesia!

“AusRelief was incorporated as a public company in three days and I’m very proud of the fact that we attained Deductible Gift Recipient status within four months when the process can takes some organisations between two and four years.

Tom reeled off some amazing statistics about AusRelief.

“We have 43 permanent volunteers and over 200 part-time volunteers,” he revealed.

“We have offices in 11 overseas countries : Djibouti, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Bangladesh, Papua-New Guinea, Tanzania, Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia.

“We have four full time employees in Cambodia and we are growing so quickly that we will be putting on more staff in the near future.

“I’m extremely proud of what we have achieved in such a short time and the recent five year audit revealed that we have fed well over a million people.

“I’m extremely proud of what we have achieved in such a short time and the recent five year audit revealed that we have fed well over a million people.

“AusRelief also funded an exceptional exercise in Lombok, Indonesia in 2019 where the vision of 789 people was restored.”

AusRelief is also about giving people opportunities to succeed, Tom explained.

“We micro finance people in many countries, a good example being Touktouk taxi businesses.

“We’ve also helped people financially to become professionals including doctors and midwives and have helped others to set up up their own businesses by purchasing sewing machines, computers and other business equipment.

Tom is a very hands-on chairman as far as AusRelief is concerned, being responsible for strategic direction, as well as all aspects of marketing and what’s posted online.

“My wife (Lamia) works with me as a solicitor at Sterling Legal and her support allows me to devote sufficient time to my roles with (Cumberland) Council and AusRelief.”

Tom is also very proud of his time as a past President of the Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA) while he co-founded of the Australian National Imams Council.

The Cronulla Riots in December 2003 led to huge tension in the relationship between the Lebanese community and residents of Cronulla and Tom (who became LMA president in 2006) did a mighty job in helping to heal that rift.

“This was incredibly important work,” he recalled.

“I am all about ‘building bridges’, whether it’s between the rich and the poor, or people of different faiths and cultures.

“I am all about ‘building bridges’, whether it’s between the rich and the poor, or people of different faiths and cultures.

Another example of this was his setting up of a Centre of Arbitration and Resolution  Dispute where members of the community are encouraged to try and iron out their differences in mediation, rather than being faced with often crippling legal costs.

Tom honed his skilled as a mediator at America’s famous Harvard University where he topped the class in a special course focusing on negotiating.

The Tom Zreika story – and indeed the success of the entire Zreika family from humble beginnings – is inspirational to say the least.

“We’re originally from Lebanon but we were forced to flee from there in 1977 when I was two years old because of the civil war.

“We travelled by boat to Cyprus where we spent nine months before my parents Mohamed and Aida selected Australia over Canada and the USA as our preferred country to settle in, mainly because mum’s brother was already living here.

“We arrived with nothing and dad worked three jobs to ensure we had a roof over our heads and a good education.

“My five siblings and I all did well at school and we all have professional careers  – myself and two other solicitors, an architect, a prominent fashion designer and a publisher.”

Tom’s efforts are about giving back to the country that has given him so much.

He is all about standing up for the disadvantaged and his favourite saying is: “We have been given so that we might give.”

Asked to elaborate, he explained: “I find that the more I give, the more I get back.

“We have been given so that we might give and God has given to me so I am giving back.

“It’s about giving back to the community through different projects.

“After all, we are all Australian and of one the reasons I’m so chuffed about receiving the OAM is because it’s an award where Australians are recognised by their fellow Australians.”

On a personal note, I was delighted to see Tom Zreika recognised nationally for his dedication to the community, local government and the law.

He is a tireless worker, a man of many contacts and a  man of great influence.

He is a great Muslim, a great Australian and a worthy recipient of such a sought after and prestigious community award.