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11 November 2019 Christos Halkidis   | News | Community  
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Congratulations to Bassam Maaliki of Year 11 for being nominated and reaching the final 4 in the category of NSW Young Australian of the Year Awards for 2020 for his work as a refugee advocate and fundraiser. Bassam is a second generation Lebanese Australian Muslim who at the age of 14 set up the #UBelong project to help all refugees, regardless of background or ethnicity, to feel at home in Australia.

By creating and selling key-shaped badges – a symbol of belonging – Bassam has raised more than $60,000 for refugee support groups and charities. People who buy Bassam's badges can wear them in solidarity with refugees, migrants and all people seeking asylum, helping raise awareness about the challenges of refugees and the importance of multicultural inclusion.

Bassam's powerful design and message of kindness and welcome is helping create a culture of intercultural dialogue and a celebration of Australia's diversity. He has been a keynote speaker at the SSI Youth Welcome Dinner, FECCA Conference (Darwin), Together for Humanity Annual dinner, 'Welcome to Australia' Rally, YMCA National Conference, UN Youth Conference, 'Bring Them Here' Sydney Rally, International Metropolis Conference, and many local school assemblies.

As an active member of the school and the wider community, both locally and nationally, he has identified that there are people who do not get the same opportunities as others and he has worked to change this. He forged ahead in crafting the #UBelong here campaign as a vehicle of inclusivity and belonging for all members of the community. The message of #UBelong is materialised in the form of a key that symbolises the "key to belong". The key is worn to represent our shared commitment to diversity, inclusion and respect. It is a key to unlock society's barriers and restrictions, and to feel, in a real way, that sense of belonging.

Bassam has brought a unique quality to the school and community and has encouraged his peers to look at issues, not just as a problem, but a problem to be solved. He is humble in his achievements, he encourages others to see the awards not as a measure of himself, but as vindication that others believe in his message. Bassam has worked hard and independently to seek solutions to the problems he has seen and has not shield away from the responsibility that comes with this. The example of his work by selling the #UBelong keys to raise funds to organisations that embrace diversity and promote harmony. He has led many other programs and initiative, with Save the Children, Settlement Services International, The Edmund Rice Centre and many other private and Not for Profit Organisations. He has spoken at many local and school events advocating for change, for inclusivity, for refugees and most recently was asked to represent the young men in Sydney West at the Zonta event for “young men standing strong against violence”.

Bassam is an example of the hope we have for our young people. He not only sets an example for those who want to participate in important issues, but he fights for those who do not have a voice. The message posed by Bassam and #UBelong is simple: "Where I am, you belong" and as a school community we commend him for his initiative, determination and commitment to this message.

Congratulations Bassam on representing yourself and our school community as a 2020 finalist in the NSW Young Australian of the Year Award.