SSI Youth Collective steering committee member Sarah Yahya added another award to her collection of accolades when presented with the Premier’s Multicultural Youth Award last week.
Sarah, her mother and sister, came to Australia as refugees from Iraq in 2007. The family had spent seven years in Jordan after fleeing Iraq suddenly in the middle of the night when Sarah’s father was arrested.
Sarah’s family are members of the Mandaean ethnic/religious group that has endured persecution in Iraq and surrounding regions. Learning about her heritage as she was a catalyst for Sarah, who now volunteers in the Sydney Mandaean community as well as several other community and local government organisations.
Sarah said she hoped to use the Premier’s award to further promote awareness of the causes she is involved in.
“I felt really honoured to be given this award as recognition of what I’m doing in my community,” she said. “After being presented with this, I can now use the opportunity to say ‘this is my community, this is who we are’ and educate people about Mandaeans.
“When I received the award, I thought this is not just for me. There are a lot of us and this is for all of us young people who are involved in promoting our community.”
The award recognised Sarah’s community volunteer work and ongoing involvement in a host of organisations, including the Mandaean Youth Steering Committee, the Youth Collective Steering Committee, Liverpool Youth Council, YMCA’s Youth Parliament, On Our Radar Youth Radio Program and Liverpool Headspace.
For the Mandaean community, Sarah said she assisted with language support and translations for older people. She also volunteers at and organises community events, such as Mandaean Got Talent which seeks to celebrate the talents of Mandaean young people.
As a youth member of the Youth Collective Steering Committee, Sarah is involved in planning and advising on the direction of new youth initiatives for young people from multicultural backgrounds. Youth Collective is a new independent, state-based organisation that delivers programs to meet the unique needs of multicultural young people in NSW.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said Sarah thoroughly deserved her award and she was a valuable contributor to SSI’s Youth Collective.
“Sarah is very enthusiastic about contributing and making society a better place for all people,” Ms Roumeliotis said. “It was important to SSI that we have committed young people like Sarah on the committee to drive Youth Collective as an initiative that young people feel they have some ownership of.”
Sarah’s commitment to advocating and mentoring disadvantaged young people has been recognised through many awards and distinctions, including the Liverpool City Council 2014 Young Citizen of the Year, 2013 Defence Force of Australia Leadership Award and the Rotary International Young Winner of the Year Award for Western Sydney.
Sarah was also a panellist at SSI’s Speakers’ Series The strength of youth: young people and their refugee experiences in November 2014. A recording of the panel discussion about issues faced by young refugees and asylum seekers can be viewed on YouTube here.
A profile story about Sarah can be read here.