Hazem El Masri, former professional Rugby League player with the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
Hazem El Masri grew up in war torn Lebanon and came to Australia in 1988 at the age of 12, coincidentally a year when the Bulldogs won the grand final. From 1996 he played rugby league with the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs retiring in 2009 as the league’s all time highest point scorer: just one his many achievements in a distinguished football career.
However, both during this illustrious career and since his retirement, Hazem El Masri has dedicated much of his time to community service and it is for that work and for the respect and esteem with which he is held in the community that the University is recognising him today.
Hazem El Masri’s extensive commitment to community service has included travelling to schools throughout Australia as an NRL One Community Ambassador to help deliver programs such as: Eat Well, Play Well, Stay Well; Dream, Believe and Achieve; and Rugby League Reads. He has also been an Ambassador for CanTeen, the Premier’s Reading Challenge, the White Ribbon Foundation for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and for the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board. In 2002 he was awarded the NRL’s Ken Stephen Medal for community service and in 2009 he was the inaugural Women in League Favourite Son, an award that acknowledges a player who acts as a true role model to younger players, and whose off-field characteristics embody the true values of the Rugby League community.
In 2009 he also received the Muslim Community award from the Australian Affinity Intercultural Foundation whose awards recognise individuals for their significant contribution in bringing together Australians and improving understanding between Australians of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. He has also been involved with programs such as the Community Awareness of Policing Program and the Raising Children Network that promote understanding and tolerance of diversity.
His particular distinction rests in his willingness to devote his time, personal energy and values to activities and individuals with the aim of building community harmony and mutual respect. He commits time to the mentoring of youth in our school yards and, being a devout Muslim, is a valued role model for Muslim and non-Muslim youth alike in Western Sydney and beyond.
Through his actions on and off the field Hazem El Masri has exhibited a modest dignity that has earned him the respect of all Australians. On his retirement in 2009, the then Chairman of the Bulldogs, Dr George Peponis stated: “his work ethic, his professionalism and his desire to make a positive difference to people’s lives have been an example to all who have played alongside him”. UWS also strives to make a difference in people’s lives and today we recognise that achievement in Hazem El Masri.
The Board of Trustees of the University of Western Sydney has resolved to confer the award of Honorary Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, on Hazem El Masri in recognition of distinguished service to the communities of Western Sydney, and as a role model and leader in the Arabic community.
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Photos: Sally Tsoutas