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Award for Leadership in Languages and Cultures


 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.

Nominees must be an Australian Citizen, 24 years or younger, and demonstrate:

  • a commitment to advocacy for a multicultural Australia
  • a high degree of competence in more than one language and culture
  • outstanding qualities, including community leadership
  • the ability ot operate across cultures. 

The nomination process opens in October–November 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.

More information on the Australia Day Council of South Australia can be found at Australia Day Council SA

2018 award

Award winner: Manal Younus

Manal is a young Muslim woman of Eritrean origins. Through her storytelling, community work and advocacy she 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. Through poetry and performance, she has encouraged and empowered others to find and develop their own voices.

Manal is a spoken word (performance) poet and storyteller who has used her poetry 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. She has worked with other refugees to develop and perform poems that share their stories of persecution, displacement and freedom.

With the ActNow Theatre, Manal has staged award-winning interactive theatre performances that identify and confront racism. Through these workshops, Manal has engaged communities and schools in discussions about racism and cultural safety and has assisted high school students and community leaders to develop practical skills for responding to racism. 

Through her work with Welcome to Australia, a non-for-profit organisation that aims to cultivate a national culture of welcome, Manal has supported new arrivals and refugees and developed programs to elevate the national conversation around refugees, immigration and multiculturalism.

Manal has encouraged others to question perspectives in order to bring about change and for all Australians to engage with and embrace diversity.

Commendation: Apiu Nyang

Apiu is a young South Sudanese Australian who arrived in Australia in 2006. Apiu is passionate about her own culture and about engaging with linguistic and cultural diversity. She has supported young people to embrace their own cultural identity and to share their own experiences, languages and cultures to teach and lead others.

Apiu is a strong advocate for newly arrived refugees through her role as Youth Ambassador with the Australian Refugee Association. Whilst attending Nazareth Catholic College, Apiu was a leader in the schools’ culture club and was instrumental in enabling educators to help plan activities focused around cultural integration and celebrating diverse languages and cultures. Through her advocacy, poetry, speeches and presentations, Apiu shines a spotlight on volunteerism, advocacy and social justice.

2017 award

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 experience gave Corey the chance to truly immerse himself and interact with people from many different cultures. It also provided the opportunity to learn Spanish which was useful in the wider community in Las Vegas and Montezuma. 

In 2013, after completing school he became an English as a second language (ESL) teacher in China, teaching English to children aged from 3 to 13. Corey quickly developed his Chinese language skills. 

Currently he is completing a Bachelor of Engineering and a Bachelor of Finance as well as a Diploma in Chinese.

Whilst at university he began volunteering with the Confucius Institute. Corey has continued promoting Chinese language and culture in South Australia attending and helping at many events. 

Corey’s skills in Chinese won him first place in the Chinese bridge competition in 2016. Corey has been invited to be the keynote speaker for the Chinese Language Teachers Association of South Australia to talk to and inspire 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, more commonly known as AJ, arrived in Australia as a refugee from Iraq seven years ago. He now proudly calls South Australia home. At only 20 years old, he is very passionate about his work and studies and also loves to share his experiences with the wider community.

Not only does AJ represent the Australian Refugee Association as a Youth Ambassador, he volunteers with the homework clubs and works as a mentor in their youth mentoring program. He also performs music from his home country with family members at various functions.

AJ inspires young people from refugee backgrounds to strive towards greater achievements and overcome any obstacles they may have in settling in Australia.

He is fluent in Arabic and English and is currently studying French. AJ believes it is important for people to learn many languages as it allows for the opportunity to engage with cultural diversity and opens doors to new experiences. AJ also believes that with Adelaide being a multicultural city, it 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.Award winner: Qasem Bahmanzadah 

Qasem came to Australia as a refugee from Afghanistan with no possessions and no grasp of English. Since then Qasem has shown he’s a dedicated student, and given back to help others who have experienced similar hardship.

At just 19 years of age, Qasem has completed his final year of a Bachelor of Aviation. He continues to be an ambassador for the Australian Refugee Association and has spoken in forums to raise awareness of the challenges faced by refugees.

He told Salisbury Aware magazine “I believe language and culture are the two biggest barriers that often make it hard for people to settle in.”

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


MELC Secretariat

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