House debates

Wednesday, 17 February 2021


Calwell Electorate: Australia Day Awards

7:30 pm

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] Our local Australia Day citizenship ceremonies have always been massive events in my electorate of Calwell. In fact we've had years where up to 200 people have taken up citizenship on Australia Day. Of course the ceremony always concludes with a big morning tea for family and friends. In addition to welcoming our new citizens on Australia Day, which were only 50 in total this year, because of COVID restrictions, we also proudly honour locals who have made an outstanding contribution to our community.

The Hume City Council confers the awards of Hume Citizen of the Year, Hume Young Citizen of the Year, Hume Senior Citizen of the Year and the Hume Community Event of the Year. This is a proud tradition, which publicly recognises outstanding contributions made to the Hume community through the presentation of the Australia Day Awards. As the Hume City Council notes:

These are the incredible people who work behind the scenes who help make our schools, clubs, fundraisers, community activities and events great. They don't do the work they do for the thanks—but as a community it is important we take the time to recognise and acknowledge their dedication to our community.

This year we had joint winners for the Hume Citizen of the Year. I want to congratulate Mr Joseph Youhana and Ms Emel Huseyin for jointly sharing this award.

Joseph Youhana has been a champion in our community, passionate about mentoring and leading our youth by encouraging them to volunteer and assist in the integration of our diverse communities. His work has largely been around assisting former refugee communities, helping with settlement and social connections, including education and employment pathways. Joseph has been an active member of the Hume Multicultural Action Plan and is an important contributor to connecting culturally and linguistically diverse communities with all levels of government. He is a justice of the peace and is also a community ambassador for the AFL and for Melbourne Victory. He also helped found the Australian Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Advocacy Network.

Joseph came to Australia as a refugee from Iraq, and this experience has shaped his commitment. He has said on many occasions: 'I was given a chance and an opportunity for a new life in Australia. I value that opportunity, and I want to share my experience by helping others in similar situations. I'm very proud to advocate on behalf of refugees. I am lucky enough to be in a leadership position to raise a voice for people who don't have a voice.' Joseph is a board member of the Refugee Council of Australia and travels to Geneva every year to attend UNHCR meetings where his experience in Australia makes a valuable and informed contribution to international refugee policy.

I've known Ms Emel Huseyin for many years, and I'm so pleased that she has been recognised this year for her efforts and her contributions. Emel loves her community and has been a resident in Hume for 27 years. She is driven by her passion to create a better life for everyone around her. She is unbelievably generous with her time. She volunteers for more than 10 community groups, which is a phenomenal commitment. Included is the Northern Hospital, the Homestead centre in Roxburgh Park and the Broadmeadows Turkish Senior Citizens Club, where I have often attended iftar dinners with Emel and a fantastic group of women who prepare a great iftar feast throughout the period of Ramadan. She is also active in the Broadmeadows Turkish Islamic and Cultural Centre and many other women's groups.

Emel has managed to balance her enormous volunteer work with her family responsibilities. She has raised wonderful children, and she is now a proud grandmother. True to form, this affable, compassionate and multitasking woman has succeeded in being there for family, friends and community.

The Hume Young Citizen of the Year, Mr Berat Kaya, has dedicated a lot of his young life to developing programs and initiatives, through the Brotherhood of St Laurence, which are aimed at bettering the lives of young people in Hume. When Berat came to Australia, he had a difficult time adjusting. His disconnection from the community around him left him feeling isolated and lacking in confidence, but, through his community involvement, he has discovered a passion for working with young people. He has since been appointed to manage a youth leadership group and is working to complete a diploma in criminology and youth work. He hopes to pursue a career in youth justice.

Finally, the Hume Community Event of the Year recognises events that provide positive social and economic benefits and capture the spirit of community participation. This year that award went to the Sunbury Blue Light Disco, which was established in 1979 and has become a fixture of Sunbury's calendar of events. It provides the locals, especially primary school children, with opportunities to participate in recreational activities while fostering positive relationships with local police. (Time expired)