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Award for Leadership in Languages and Cultures

2019 award

Nominations for the 2019 Minister for Education’s Award for Leadership in Languages and Cultures closed on Wednesday, 31 October 2018. 

The Award will be announced at the Australia Day Awards ceremony held on Monday, 21st January 2019, in the grounds of Government House, Adelaide.


 The Ministerial Award for Leadership in Languages and Cultures Award is provided by the Multicultural Education and Languages Committee on behalf of the Minister for Education, and administered by the Australia Day Council of South Australia.

The nomination process opens in August–October each year. The selection panel comprises representatives from the Multicultural Education and Languages Committee and the Australia Day Council of South Australia. The Award is announced and presented at a ceremony held at Government House in January each year.

Individuals and organisations are encouraged to submit a nomination of a young person who demonstrates:

  • outstanding qualities, including community leadership
  • commitment to advocacy for a multicultural Australia
  • sound capability in more than one language 
  • the ability to operate across languages and cultures.

Nominees must be 24 years or younger and an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

More information can be found at Australia Day Council South Australia website.

2018 award

Award winner: Manal Younus

Manal Younus and MELC Chair Angela Scario.Manal is a young Muslim women of Eritrean origins, who through her storytelling, community work and advocacy has been a great contributor to the national discussion on linguistic and cultural diversity, what it means to be different and how to be an agent of change.

Manal is a spoken word (performance) poet and storyteller who uses her poetry to not only to explore her own sense of identity, but also to provoke discussion relating to issues of linguistic and cultural diversity, racism and prejudice. Through her poetry and performance, Manal empowers others to find and develop their own voices and encourages others to question perspectives in order to engage with and embrace diversity.

Manal works with Welcome to Australia, a non-for-profit organisation that aims to cultivate a culture of welcome to our nation, to support new arrivals and refugees and develop programs which elevate the national conversation around refugees, immigration and multiculturalism. Manal also works with ActNow Theatre to engage communities and schools in discussions about racism and cultural safety and assists high school students and community leaders to develop practical skills for ‘responding to racism’.

Commendation: Apiu Nyang

MELC Chair Angela Scario and Apiu Nyang.Apiu is a young South Sudanese Australian who arrived in Australia in 2006. Apiu is passionate about her own culture and engagement with linguistic and cultural diversity.

Apiu is a strong advocate for newly arrived refugees through her role as Youth Ambassador with the Australian Refugee Association. In her school life at Nazareth Catholic College, Apiu has been a leader in the schools culture club and instrumental in enabling educators to help plan focused activities around cultural integration and experiencing diverse languages and cultures.

Through her advocacy, poetry, speeches and presentations Apui shines a spotlight on volunteerism, advocacy and social justice and supports young people to embrace their cultural identity and share their own experiences, languages and cultures to teach and lead others.

2017 award

Winner: Corey Kirkham

Corey Kirkham, winner of the 2017 award for excellence in language and culture.Corey Kirkham was awarded a scholarship in 2011 to finish High School at the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West. This opportunity gave Corey the chance to interact with people from many different cultures and contribute to the student led cultural day celebrating Middle Eastern, Asian and Australasian nationals. He also learnt Spanish which was useful in the wider community in Las Vegas and Montezuma.

After completing school in 2013, Corey lived in China and taught English to children aged from 3 to 13 while also learning Chinese. Through volunteer work with the Confucius Institute, Corey promotes awareness of Chinese language and culture in South Australia by attending and helping at the Institute’s initiatives and events. Corey’s skills in Chinese won him first place in the Chinese Bridge Competition in 2016 and an invitation from the Chinese Language Teachers Association of South Australia to be a keynote speaker, where he used his speech to encourage others to showcase Chinese language and culture throughout Australia. 

Commendation: Yassir Ajrish

Yassir Ajrish, recipient of the 2016 commendation for excellence in language and culture.

Yassir Ajrish (also known as AJ) arrived in Australia as a refugee from Iraq seven years ago. At 20 years of age, he is very passionate about his work and studies and also loves to share his experiences with the wider community. He represents the Australian Refugee Association as a Youth Ambassador, volunteers with their homework clubs and works as a mentor in their youth mentoring program.

AJ is fluent in Arabic and English and is also studying French. He believes it is important to learn many languages as it teaches people to communicate effectively and enables them to connect with as many people as possible. AJ performs music from his home country with family members at various functions and believes that Adelaide’s multiculturalism has given him the experiences and opportunities to get to where he is now.

2016 award

Qasem Bahmanzadah, winner of the 2016 award for excellence in language and culture.Winner: Qasem Bahmanzadah 

Qasem lost both his parents at age seven and came to Australia as a refugee from Afghanistan with no possessions and no grasp of the English language. Since arriving in Australia, Qasem has been a dedicated student and has also given back by assisting other refugees who have experienced similar hardship.

As an Ambassador for the Australian Refugees Association he is an active participant in many fundraising activities and speaks in a large range of forums to help people understand the challenges refugees face, including the language and cultural barriers that make it hard for new arrivals to settle in. At just 19 years of age, Qasem completed his Bachelor of Aviation.

More of Qasem's story can be found in the March 2016 edition of Salisbury Aware.

Commendation: Murtaza Hussani

Murtaza and his family fled Afghanistan when he was five years old and settled in Australia in 2011. As a student leader, Murtaza coordinated multiple major fundraisers to benefit refugees including a donation of 700 cans of food for an emergency relief program and has committed a great deal of time to mentoring primary school students.

Murtaza is a talented artist and is studying visual arts at University. In 2015, he worked with the Australian Refugee Association to co-curate the 2015 Portrait Exhibition as well as contributing his own work towards it. He is passionate about raising awareness of the refugee experience and the challenges and opportunities posed by differences in culture, education, social interaction and language.


MELC Secretariat

Phone: 8226 1191
Email: education.mecs [at] sa.gov.au