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Award for Excellence in Languages and Culture


This award is provided by the Minister for Education and Child Development and administered by the Australia Day Council of South Australia.

The award is for people under 24 years who are an Australian citizen and demonstrate:

  • commitment to advocacy for a multicultural Australia
  • a high degree of competence in more than one language and culture
  • outstanding qualities including leadership
  • the ability to operate across cultures.

Nomination process

The nomination process opens in October or November each year.

Nominees must be nominated by another person or a group, such as a community organisation or school.

Award ceremony

The award is announced and presented at an award ceremony held at Government House in January each year.

2017 award winner

Award winner: Corey Kirkham

Corey Kirkham, winner of the 2017 award for excellence in language and culture.Corey Kirkham was awarded a scholarship in 2011 to finish high school at the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West. This experience gave Corey the chance to truly immerse himself and interact with people from many different cultures. It also provided the opportunity to learn Spanish which was useful in the wider community in Las Vegas and Montezuma. 

In 2013, after completing school he became an English as a second language (ESL) teacher in China, teaching English to children aged from 3 to 13. Corey quickly developed his Chinese language skills. 

Currently he is completing a Bachelor of Engineering and a Bachelor of Finance as well as a Diploma in Chinese.

Whilst at university he began volunteering with the Confucius Institute. Corey has continued promoting Chinese language and culture in South Australia attending and helping at many events. 

Corey’s skills in Chinese won him first place in the Chinese bridge competition in 2016. Corey has been invited to be the keynote speaker for the Chinese Language Teachers Association of South Australia to talk to and inspire others to showcase Chinese language and culture throughout Australia. 

Commendation: Yassir Ajrish

Yassir Ajrish, recipient of the 2016 commendation for excellence in language and culture.

Yassir Ajrish, more commonly known as AJ, arrived in Australia as a refugee from Iraq seven years ago. He now proudly calls South Australia home. At only 20 years old, he is very passionate about his work and studies and also loves to share his experiences with the wider community.

Not only does AJ represent the Australian Refugee Association as a Youth Ambassador, he volunteers with the homework clubs and works as a mentor in their youth mentoring program. He also performs music from his home country with family members at various functions.

AJ inspires young people from refugee backgrounds to strive towards greater achievements and overcome any obstacles they may have in settling in Australia.

He is fluent in Arabic and English and is currently studying French. AJ believes it is important for people to learn many languages as it allows for the opportunity to engage with cultural diversity and opens doors to new experiences. AJ also believes that with Adelaide being a multicultural city, it has given him the experiences and opportunities to get to where he is now.

2016 award winner

Qasem Bahmanzadah, winner of the 2016 award for excellence in language and culture.Qasem Bahmanzadah is the winner of the 2016 Award for Excellence in Language and Culture.

Qasem came to Australia as a refugee from Afghanistan with no possessions and no grasp of English. Since then Qasem has shown he’s a dedicated student, and given back to help others who have experienced similar hardship.

At just 19 years of age, Qasem has completed his final year of a Bachelor of Aviation. He continues to be an ambassador for the Australian Refugee Association and has spoken in forums to raise awareness of the challenges faced by refugees.

He told Salisbury Aware magazine “I believe language and culture are the two biggest barriers that often make it hard for people to settle in.”

More of Qasem's story can be found in the March 2016 edition of Salisbury Aware.


MELC Secretariat

Phone: 8226 1191
Email: decdmec [at] sa.gov.au