Jamal Rifi receives honorary doctorate from Western Sydney University
Highly respected doctor, and one of the leading voices for tolerance, cohesion and understanding in our community, Dr Jamal Rifi, received an honorary doctorate from Western Sydney University for his role in promoting religious harmony and cultural harmony.
Dr Rifi received a Doctorate of Letters honoris causa, from the University on Wednesday 16 December as part the December graduation ceremonies. He also delivered the occasional address.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Barney Glover says the University is pleased to recognise Dr Rifi as a true community leader – one who has done a great deal to promote harmony and strengthen relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.
"Now, more than ever, we need voices like Dr Jamal Rifi in the community," says Professor Glover.
"His dedication to his medical practice and his patients is well known, but in more recent times it has also been his role as a spokesperson for the Muslim community and his work to build bridges which has brought attention from further afield and which has garnered him great respect from many Australians, including on both sides of politics.
"As a University situated in one of the most multicultural regions of Australia, Western Sydney University is proud to honour Dr Jamal Rifi with an honorary doctorate, in recognition of his distinguished service to the community in fostering religious and cultural harmony."
Dr Jamal Rifi was born in Lebanon and is a proud Lebanese Australian Muslim. Dr Rifi made the decision to become a doctor as a child when he lost his younger brother to a sudden illness. His determination for a career in medicine saw him pursue his studies in two different countries and in languages with which he was unfamiliar. He studied medicine first in Romania as a 19 year old but moved to Australia in 1984 to be with his wife, Lana. He completed his medical studies at the University of Sydney.
Dr Rifi is respected in his community in South Western Sydney, where he has practiced as a dedicated local GP for many years and is someone to whom people can turn with any question or problem. He is also well known more widely as a spokesperson for moderate Islam, working in the local and broader community, speaking to the media and utilising his friendships on both sides of Australian politics to build bridges between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians.
Dr Rifi has become a social commentator to promote racial cohesion in Australia. In the wake of the 2005 Cronulla riots, he was instrumental in establishing the successful 'On the Same Wave' program to recruit and train young Muslim men and women to become lifesavers at Cronulla. In 2009, he led a trek of the Kokoda track with young men and women from the Muslim community, lifesavers from Cronulla and members from both sides of politics to promote racial harmony. More recently, Dr Rifi has been vocal in denouncing radical Islam and supporting friends and the community affected by the threats of radicalisation.
Dr Rifi's activities, both in his medical profession and community work, are vast. He has been a member of a large number of community groups, and was a former member of the NSW Community Relations Commission and was the Commission's nominee on the NSW Medical Board. Along with other representatives of Multicultural NSW, Dr Rifi met with the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr Angela Merkel, in Sydney late in 2014 to discuss migrant settlement and social cohesion.
Dr Rifi has received a number of awards in recognition of his work and achievements. He was the recipient of the 2007 Human Rights Community Award and was Australia's Local Hero for NSW in the 2009 Australian of the Year Awards. In 2015, The Australian newspaper named Dr Rifi Australian of the Year and more recently he was named the Australian Father of the Year.
16 December 2015
Amanda Whibley - Manager, Media and Public Relations
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