Mr Jihad Dib MP, member for Lakemba and currently the Shadow Minister for Education for NSW says that the drive to increase academic standards should never be at the expense of shaping strong, well rounded and responsible students with strong values and morals.

He was speaking on the topic “Building community through schools” at the Morning Conversation, a breakfast session on Wednesday 19 October organised by Affinity Intercultural Foundation at their Sydney City offices.

Part of a regular Affinity Talk Series, the event was held in the form of a Q&A session facilitated by Anton Enus, co-host of the SBS World News, who also introduced Jihad Dib.

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Photo by Samet Erkut.

With an early morning 7.30 am start and a lavish breakfast spread, the event was attended by a full house of registered guests including educationists, school principals and teachers, academics, interfaith and community leaders and students.

Anton Enus gave a background of Jihad Dib from a migrant background, having born in Lebanon and arriving in Australia at the age of 2 and his long experience as a teacher starting from Ulladulla High School and finally Principal of the Punchbowl Boys High School. He said that Jihad was the first Muslim to be elected to the Lower House of the NSW Parliament.

During the conversation, speaking from his heart, Jihad in a humble and friendly manner expressed his enthusiasm for giving back to the community, firstly by transforming the Punchbowl Boys High School and now serving the people of Lakemba by representing them.

Photo by Samet Erkut.

Photo by Samet Erkut.

He related a number of moving stories from his time as the Principal (2007-2014) of the Punchbowl Boys High School, which at one time was known as a broken school, and how it was transformed into a success story.

The Punchbowl Boys High School back in 2007 largely had students of Lebanese background and was infamous with inadequate facilities, indiscipline and low teacher morale.

Jihad embarked on taking up the challenge to radically transform the school into a multicultural school and a community facility, not just to survive, but thrive. This was done through a large number of initiatives that included clean up campaigns, building life skills amongst students, healthy eating, building sense of responsibility, camping, excursions to theatres and inter-gender dialogues, cultural understanding with interfaith and intercultural visits, parents’ classes and graduation ceremonies attended by students, parents and community leaders.

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Photo by Samet Erkut.

On being questioned by Anton about being a Muslim Politician in the present climate, Jihad said “I am very much conscious that I am not just the Muslim MP, or member for Muslims”.

He further added, “I am proud of my religion, proud of my heritage and the fact that I took my oath on the Quran and during my inaugural speech I talked about my name Jihad and its real meaning”.

“Recently I made some comments in the parliament regarding what Senator Hanson had said and many came to me afterwards to pat me on the back. But I said that well I don’t want to be known as the Muslim guy who said this but I want you guys to say this as well. It would be better if the comments to censure Senator Hanson came from people other than me”, Jihad explained.

Photo by Samet Erkut.

Jihad Dib receiving gift from Professor Khalid Yusoff. Photo by Samet Erkut.

Jihad said that he was a proud Muslim, and considered himself to be a role model for young Muslims, that they can be high achievers in this great country if they applied themselves in the field of their choice.

“Recently after the arrest of two youth in Bankstown, I had a spike on my twitter accounts, people accusing me that it was all my fault, but I said ok, that’s fine, I want to counter negativity with positive outcomes”, he said.

Jihad concluded that he was not really a hard core politicians and was new in the business and was sometimes getting into trouble in the parliament. But he was very much satisfied in his role as the Shadow Minister of Education, where he could use his skills and experience to serve the state and community.

At the end of the session, Jihad Dib was presented with a transitional Turkish gift on behalf of Affinity by an overseas guest Professor Dato Dr Khalid Yusoff, Vice Chancellor and President of UCSI University of Malaysia, a cardiologist and a graduate in medicine from Melbourne University who served the Australian Muslim community during the seventies and early 80s.