SSI News Blog

Bassam Maaliki, a 14-year-old student at Homebush Bay High School and founder of the social change campaign #uBelong, was announced winner of the Youth Medal at the NSW Premier’s Harmony Dinner on March 21.

Bassam Maaliki, Youth Community Award Winner with The Hon. Ray Williams MP and Jada Mathyssen-Whyman goalkeeper for Western Sydney Wanderers.
Bassam Maaliki, Youth Community Medal winner with The Hon. Ray Williams MP and Jada Mathyssen-Whyman, goalkeeper for Western Sydney Wanderers.
The #uBelong project aims to foster a culture of inclusiveness and multicultural harmony in the local community and around Australia.
Mr Maaliki, nominated for a Premier’s Multicultural Community Medal by SSI, said, “With my campaign #uBelong, I want to reassure refugees that just because they have changed houses it doesn’t mean they are without a home."
“I want the voices of my fellow youth to be heard because it makes them feel truly valued. Most importantly they need to feel secure and a sense of belonging to assist them to reach their full potential.”
At a mere 13 years old, Mr Maaliki was accepted into the NSW Junior Parliament in 2016 and has since skilfully championed his own campaign in the community through handcrafting a badge that can be worn in solidarity with all people seeking asylum, refugees and migrants.
“Trying to grow up and become independent as a youth is difficult enough even in the most balanced environment but I can’t even imagine how it can be a possibility for the refugee and new migrant youth who are faced with so many challenges and disruptions.”
Mr Maaliki is on a quest to make a difference and works tirelessly to fundraise money through the #uBelong branded keys and badges. He donates all proceeds to organisations working with refugees and people seeking asylum, including community organisations and social businesses like SSI.
SSI Youth Projects Coordinator Dor Achiek supported Mr Maaliki’s award nomination through his recognition of him as a rising youth community leader.
“I am thrilled for Bassam and particularly the message he presents. I interact with newly arrived young people who are always eager to interact and integrate into their local communities but face considerable challenges and social isolation,” Mr Achiek said.
“The key to belonging is that young people like Bassam play an important role in shaping the agenda for social inclusion and integration as part of building social cohesion and welcoming communities for newly arrived members of our society.”
SSI Youth Projects Coordinator Dor Achiek with Bassam Maaliki.
SSI Youth Projects Coordinator Dor Achiek with Bassam Maaliki.
The #uBelong project was initially just a school Harmony Day initiative, but very soon Mr Maaliki evolved the project into a far reaching community campaign. He runs local activities to share the message of belonging and often makes appearances as a keynote speaker at events such as the SSI Youth Welcome Dinner and the FECCA Conference 2017.
Mr Maaliki has demonstrated his leadership through the hosting of events such as the flash mob choir, where he invited members of the general public to support his cause as part of a community choir event. He successfully managed to attract 800 people to a hall and raise awareness of his cause, all this through his own promotional activities on various #uBelong social media channels.
“Mr Maaliki also harnesses the power of social media to spread his message, devoting his after school hours to cultivating a Facebook community of over 700 followers,” Mr Achiek said.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis recognises the value and power of collaboration in community cultivation, and was impressed with Mr Maaliki’s social entrepreneurialism.
“Mr Maaliki is forging his own collaborations with other community groups, proving he not only has admirable leadership skills, but also a keen sense of entrepreneurship,” she said.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis & SSI Chair Elisabeth Shaw with Bassam Maaliki.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis and SSI Chair Elisabeth Shaw with Bassam Maaliki.
With a history of advocacy and fundraising, Mr Maaliki was a finalist for the Young People’s Human Rights Medal in November of 2017. This medal is awarded to individuals who are under the age of 25 years and who have made an outstanding contribution to advancing human rights in Australia.
Mr Maaliki has made appearances at formidable events such as the Together for Humanity Foundation’s annual fundraising dinner, where several of Sydney’s religious leaders and community spokespeople joined forces.
It is at such events that Mr Maaliki has had the opportunity to publically share his philanthropic visions for the betterment of society, pleasantly surprising with his young age and big ambitions for the #uBelong cause.
“My intention is to continue to accelerate awareness of the #uBelong campaign, and share the cause with the broader Australian community.”

Success stories

Refugee turned citizen feels privileged to have a say

Paz Roman smiling to camera.At 17, Paz Roman was nominated as Young Australian of the Year, mostly for her volunteer work. Ironically, she wasn’t an Australian. She came here from Chile as a refugee with her family when she was just a baby, and despite living in Australia since then, she struggled with the idea of becoming a citizen.  

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