Councillor Bilal El-Hayek was awarded the prestigious Stephan Kerkyasharian AO Harmony Medal at the Premier’s Harmony Day Dinner on Wednesday 21 March 2018, at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse in Sydney.
The Premier’s Harmony Dinner is the flagship of Multicultural March highlighting rich cultural diversity as a strength of the state of New South Wales where individuals are presented with Multicultural Community Medals and inducted to the Multicultural Honour Roll.
The event was hosted by the Minister for Multiculturalism, Mr Ray Williams MP, in the presence of the NSW Premier, Ms Gladys Berejiklian MP and organised by Multicultural NSW.
Three members of the Muslim community received top honours at the event attended by more than 1000 people including community leaders, politicians, government officials and business leaders.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian presented the Stepan Kerkyahsarian AO Harmony Medal to Bilal El-Hayek, the Arts and Culture Medal to Shireen Taweel and the Youth Medal to Bassam Maaliki.
Minister for Multiculturalism, Ray Williams commended Mr El-Hayek, Ms Taweel and Mr Maaliki on their extraordinary efforts in promoting harmony and social cohesion.
“Working in fields as diverse as the arts, youth work and social media, all three medal winners demonstrate no matter what your background or passion you can contribute meaningfully to our State,” Mr Williams said.
Bilal El-Hayek is a youth coordinator at the PCYC Bankstown and Bassam Maaliki is a Homebush Boys High School student who founded the social change campaign #UBelong. Shireen Taweel is an emerging artist based in Western Sydney who explores Muslim heritage, tradition and community through her art.
Bilal El-Hayek was recognised for his efforts in delivering much-needed programs for the community. His ‘Bankstown Connect’ Family Program assists newly arrived families, as well as others who experience economic hardships. He also developed the year-long leadership program, “Blue Crescent”, which sees predominantly Muslim male youth, actively engaged in the community.
“I am humbled and proud to be awarded the Stephan Kerkyasharian AO Harmony Medal at last night’s Premier’s Harmony Dinner.
I would like to thank my family, for their understanding in allowing me to become involved in supporting and working within an extended family, which is the Canterbury-Bankstown community. To PCYC and those that believe in what we do, thank you for your support and belief in what is being achieved, this would not be possible without your support. And to the team I have had the privilege and honour of being a part of more than 10 years, this is our medal!” said Bilal.
Shireen Taweel, the Western Sydney based artist, fuses her Lebanese heritage, tradition, faith, and community cross-cultural experiences, into her artwork. Using a medium between jewellery, sculpture, and architecture, her techniques see traditional copper-smithing take on a contemporary context.
“As an artist, my practice explores the cross-cultural experiences that we have especially in Western Sydney. For me, the mosque in Australia is really important to explore the ideas of cross-cultural exchange and how these sacred spaces in our communities are spaces where many different ideas and values are shared,” Ms Taweel said.
Bassam Maaliki, founder of social change campaign, #UBelong, bagged a laurel too by winning the Youth Medal.
The 14 year old student of Homebush Bay High School is a member of the NSW Junior Parliament, was a key speaker at the SSI Youth Welcome Dinner, and the FECCA Conference of 2017.
Bassam’s campaign set out to encourage a sense of inclusivity and multicultural harmony around the country.
He currently runs several local activities which share the message of belonging, and solidarity in the community.