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Award for Leadership in Languages and Cultures

Nominations open

Do you know an inspiring young leader passionate about multiculturalism and languages? Nominations are open for the 2020 Minister for Education’s Award for Leadership in Languages and Cultures.

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

  • outstanding qualities, including community leadership and effective communication skills
  • commitment to advocacy for a multicultural Australia
  • sound capability in more than 1 language
  • the ability to operate across languages and cultures.

Nominees must be 24 years or younger. 

To nominate, visit the Australia Day Council of SA website or contact the Australia Day Council on 8212 3999 or adcsa [at] adcsa.com.au (subject: Minister%20for%20Education's%20Award%20for%20Leadership%20in%20Languages%20and%20Culture) .

Nominations close Friday 1 November 2019, 5.00pm.


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

The nomination process is open August to November each year. The selection panel comprises representatives from MELC and the ADCSA, although an independent person may also be co-opted to the panel at the discretion of MELC and the ADCSA. The Award is announced and presented at a ceremony held at Government House in January each year.

More information can be found at ADCSA website.

2019 award (joint recipients)

Award winner: Farzana Rezaie

Farzana Rezaie and MELC Chair Angela Scario.

As a Naracoorte High School student, Farzana used her fluency in Hazaragi, Dari, Persian and English to assist teachers to educate fellow Hazara students who arrived with poor or non-existent English skills. While still at school, she also worked as an interpreter with the Adelaide-based Interpreting and Translating Centre to assist non-English speaking clients with drivers licence tests, health information sessions with Naracoorte Community Health, and Centrelink issues. As a volunteer with the newly established Naracoorte Migrant Resource Centre, Farzana worked with youth in various settlement activities such as sport and cultural integration sessions. 

Farzana’s tireless energy across the education sector in Naracoorte and as a mentor has transcended the cultural barriers for women across the whole community. In 2013, Farzana was selected as the People of Australia Ambassador, an award instituted by Prime Minister Julia Gillard for local champions of social inclusion and who have helped strengthen community relations. She continues to link her work of uniting her community with services and supports. She has assisted migrant/refugee children from various ethnic backgrounds including Chinese, Hazara, Japanese, Burmese, Thai, Filipino, Bangladeshi, Lao and Cambodian. 

Award winner: Sophie Szabo

Sophie’s mature grasp of languages and cultures belies her youthfulness. Sophie has studied Chinese and French both at Pedare Anglican and Uniting Church School and at the School of Languages, and has dedicated herself to opportunities that enable her to grow and learn about different cultures. She has visited France twice, undertaking intensive language and cultural instruction, and has been recognised across multiple platforms for her ambassadorial qualities, outstanding scholarship, significant progress, and exceptional application and effort. 

As well as French, Sophie concurrently developed a keen interest in Chinese language and culture. She has represented South Australia twice at the national finals of the Hanyu Qiao (Chinese Bridge Competition), winning the cultural performance award in 2016 and coming second in 2017, and in 2017 represented Australia at the international finals of Hanyu Qiao (with her partner from Western Australia) and finished 4th in the world, winning the Oceania Continental Prize. She has also participated in official visits to Chinese schools, universities, cultural monuments and government departments, developing both linguistic and cultural capabilities, and influencing international perceptions and understanding of Australia and our culture.

Sophie’s exposure to both Chinese and French cultures has been a rich and rewarding experience, and has motivated her to educate others on the advantages of intercultural perspectives. She is a strong advocate for bilingual education in schools and has been dedicated to promoting the benefits through her own experiences. 

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