AFRICAN THINK TANK CHAIRPERSON HONOURED AS 2009 VICTORIAN OF THE YEAR

Dr. Berhan Ahmed, Chairperson of the African Think Tank, has been given the special honour of being granted the award of Victorian Australian of the Year 2009.

Dr. Ahmed learnt of the award when he was overseas on family business. "I am overwhelmed and humbled by such an honour" he said. But those of us that know just how dedicated he is to human beings, and just how hard he works for the welfare of all without regard to race, creed, or religion, know that the award was richly deserved indeed.

Media release is here

African Think Tank Chairperson Dr. Berhan Ahmed with the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Deputy Chairperson of the ATT, Mr. Haileleul Gebre-Selassie, in Canberra.

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd with Gayli Y

The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with Gayili Yunupingu Marika and Dr Berhan, with a bark painting by Gayili representing harmony between indigenous people and African migrants.

 

Dr. Ahmed was born in Eritrea. When his town was strafed and bombed during the Civil War, he fled with friends to a refugee camp in Sudan. He was lucky enough to get a place in a school funded by UNHCR. After that, he was able to do his first degree in Egypt. At the age of 22 he came to Australia. At first he worked as a tram conductor in order to improve his English, and then was able to commence his Masters degree at Melbourne University. In order to support himself he drove taxis, being one of the first African taxi drivers in Victoria. After completing his degree, he was offered work at the CSIRO, where he worked for ten years. However, he still drove a taxi to make extra money, because there were so many people in refugee camps in Sudan who were dependent io him. After completing his PHD, he gained his present position as Senior Research Fellow, Department Forest Ecosystem Science, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at The University of Melbourne.

In 2004, Dr. Ahmed was the first African-Australian in history to stand for Parliament.

 

As 2009 Victorian Australian of the Year, Dr. Ahmed travelled to Canberra for the Australia Day celebrations on 25th of January 2009. There he met the recipients of State Australian of the Year Awards from other States, as well as the eventual winner of Australian of the Year 2009, Professor Mick Dodson.

As well as taking with him representatives from the African Think Tank and the Eritrean Community in Australia, Dr. Berhan invited one very special guest, Ms. Gayili Yunupingu Marika, a senior Yolngu custodian of the Gumatj clan of North East Arnhemland. Dr. Ahmed originally met her some years ago while doing research on sustainable agriculture in the Northern Territory. A deep friendship and respect grew up between them and they shared a great deal of knowledge. Gayli's contacts among the local people much assisted Dr. Berhan and he has continued to go to the Northern Territory and to see Gayli once or twice a year ever since. In Dr. Berhan's honour, Gayli presented him with a painting symbolising harmony between the indigenous people and African migrants. One half of the banner represents an African lion, and the other half, a kangaroo.

In a private email, Dr. Ahmed spoke of how humbled he was to be among such people. "I have not even done ten percent of what they have achieved for humanity," he said. Those of us who know him well and see just how hard he works for the benefit of all know that he is underrating his considerable achievements.

 

Two members of the African Think Tank Board, Clyde Salmu (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Dr Hussein Nur Haraco (Somalia), with the Prime Minister, the Hon. Kevin Rudd.

 

Two members of the African Think Tank Board, Clyde Salmu (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Dr Hussein Nur Haraco (Somalia), with the Prime Minister, the Hon. Kevin Rudd.