It’s nothing short of an understatement to say most of Canberra’s Muslim and multicultural communities are excited that one of its own, Mr Abdul Rahman Hashim or uncle Hashim as he is fondly called, was recognised with the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) on Australia Day Tuesday 26 January 2021.

The once in a lifetime opportunity has been covered by both mainstream media like the ABC Radio Canberra, Canberra Times Newspaper, Australian Muslim Times AMUST and on social media rightly covering his life and achievements in Australia.

The award is also widely covered by the media in his native country of Malaysia thanks to a tweet from the Australian High Commission in Malaysia.

This article tries to shed some light on uncle Hashim’s life in his native Malaysia prior to relocating to Australia in 1969.

Uncle Hashim, now 79, came from a modest background. He was born in Alor Setar in the state of Kedah in Malaysia to an Indian father from Kerala in India and a local Malay mother. The eldest of 6 living children; 2 brothers and 3 sisters, his father ran a small kiosk selling sweets and cigarettes before moving on to groceries adjoining to a café shop.

Hashim attended the Alor Merah primary school and Sultan Abdul Hamid College secondary public education institutions.

After completing his year 10, Hashim was awarded a scholarship to undertake teacher-training at the Birmingham Institute of Education in the UK. He was at the Institute at the same time with the sister of another popular Canberran of Malaysian decent, Mrs Zuraida Shelmerdine, Mrs Zawiah and her husband.

Uncle Hashim, wife and members of the Malaysian community celebrating Eid festival at the home of the then Malaysian High Commissioner’s Defense Adviser Colonel Nazri Aziz (now Brigadier General). Uncle Hashim’s late wife, Aunty Zaiton Jamil (with white hijab) is seen standing beside close family friend aunty Zuraida (also late).


Uncle Hashim’s wedding photo taken in front of his parents’ home together with his then teaching colleagues. Uncle Hashim and wife are seated.


A group staff photo at the school where uncle Hashim was teaching (Sultan Abdul Halim Secondary School in Jitra, Kedah, Malaysia – SMSAH) taken at the beginning of 1969 shortly before his departure for Australia. In the photo, uncle Hashim is standing behind those seated, 3rd from the left. His late wife (Zaiton Jamil) who also taught at the same school is in the same row, 2nd lady teacher from the right. There is also one Australian lady teacher of English (Australian Volunteers Abroad (AVA) Program), Margaret Bowering, seated at the far right. She received her OAM in June 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honour List for services to Higher Education.


Mrs Zuraida Shelmerdine and architect Mr Shamsul Huda current president of the Canberra Islamic Centre executive committee inspecting the mosque construction site of what is now the Sabah Al Ahmad Masjid and Islamic Education Centre.


He returned home in 1962 after completing his studies in the UK to teach at an Upper Secondary school (Sekolah Menengah Sultan Abdul Halim) until 1969 before deciding to undertake further studies in Computer Science in Canberra, Australia.

Handing out presents to children winning in various contests during the Association of Malaysian Muslim Families (AMMF) family picnic at the Lenox Garden in 2015 in his capacity as president of AMMF.




Uncle Hashim at the Malaysian High Commissioner’s residence.


Between 1962 and 1969 Hashim taught both students and teacher-trainees. He also participated in a pilot Biology TV Education program for Year 10 students, aired in schools across Malaysia.

Upon graduation in Computer Science at the Canberra College of Advanced Education (CCAE) in 1972, he was ahead of his time in Malaysia as computers were still non-existent there then. He accepted a job offer with the Australian Public Service Board in Canberra and decided to remain with his family in Canberra.

Uncle Hashim was married with a daughter and a son. His wife passed away 10 years ago from cancer. His daughter works with Vision Australia in Melbourne and has a daughter and son while his son works at Sheraton Waikiki in Honolulu and has a daughter.

At a Reunion Lunch of former Malaysian teachers, trained in UK, now residing in Canberra and Sydney, held every 6 months.


With daughter and 2 grand children at an Eid celebration at the Malaysian High Commission in 2018.