Among those on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for 2017 are a Muslim-Lebanese professor who has helped strengthen rural and remote medical education, an Indian scientist who is developing drugs for cancer treatment and an Italian migrant who has built a culturally targeted aged-care program.
Professor Mohamed Khadra, who has Lebanese heritage, was born in Ghana in West Africa and grew up in Sydney, has been named an Officer of the Order of Australia Medal for helping improve the numbers of doctors in rural Australia.
Professor Khadra’s medical background is in the field of urology as a surgeon, clinician and mentor, in rural and remote medical education.
He says from a very young age he wanted to be a surgeon but his entry into the industry wasn’t in his chosen field. He began in dentistry before moving to medicine.
He went on to work with former Federal Health Minister Michael Wooldridge in Australia’s first rural clinical school – an initiative to grow the number of doctors in rural areas.
“What we found was that 70 per cent of doctors who trained in the bush actually ended up staying in the bush,” he said.
He says he’s humbled to make the Queen’s Birthday Honours list and hopes it will inspire other Muslim Australians.
“To be honoured and recognised by one’s country is a great thing indeed. I hope that this award will inspire migrants, especially those of Muslim origin, to realise that this is a country of opportunity; it’s a country that rewards hard work and rewards loyalty.”
Professor Rajiv Khanna received the Officer of the Order of Australia Medal for his work in medicine – specifically his contribution to the development of cellular immunotherapies.
He says he and his team are honoured to be recognised by those outside the scientific community.
Professor Khanna has been working on a new cancer treatment alternative – a treatment he says is safer.
He believes his hard work shows how the Indian community values education.
“We tend to value education very highly in India. You go to any Indian parent, they all want their kids to become a doctor or an engineer or something,” he said.
“But in a terms of what it brings to the Australian community is that the highly educated Indian community… whether they’re in a medical area or an engineering area, they contribute hugely. And I’m part of that and I’m very proud of that heritage, to be from the Indian community.”
Italian migrant Giuseppe Pino Migliorino has been named a Member of the Order of Australia for his work in the Italian community.
Mr Migliorino, who moved to Australia with his family when he was five, has helped build a bilingual school and a culturally targeted aged-care program.
Growing up, Mr Migliorino says he was ashamed of his Italian heritage and found it hard to balance the two cultures he was a part of.
“I find that a really interesting aspect in terms of my own upbringing, that my family sees me as someone who didn’t really necessarily comply with being Italian, yet I’ve become a great defender of Italian rights to cultural maintenance,” he said.
The bilingual school is something he says he’s proud to leave behind as his legacy, and he’s delighted that a majority of the students who attend the school don’t come from an Italian background.
He says the aged-care program is framed around ageing with dignity for his community, who struggle with growing old in a country that is not their homeland.
Mr Migliorino says the award isn’t just about his hard work but the hard work of those around him.
The Governor-General and Chancellor of the Order of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove, approved the awards and has expressed his congratulations to the winners.
Mr Cosgrove also says the community is very fortunate to have such outstanding people who dedicate themselves to improving the country.
Other notable mentions include Aboriginal actor Deborah Mailman, Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett, Muslim advocate Dr Jamal Rifi and SBS CEO and Managing Director Michael Ebeid.