Shaoquett Chaher Moselmane thrives in the common good as an Australian politician, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council since 2009. His stretch as a politician has been defined by deeds and not words alone. He has intertwined his political calling with humanitarian deeds, one after another. I have known Shaoquett since 2012 when we came together with my volunteer work with Wheelchairs for Kids – a one of a kind charity, manufacturing rough terrain children’s wheelchairs and donating them to those in need; thus far more than 37,000 children’s wheelchairs donated to 73 countries.
In December 2013, Shaoquett raised $30,000 for the shipment of containers, each with 340 children’s wheelchairs, for his war-torn birthplace of Lebanon but also for Iraq and Pakistan. He arrived in Australia in the ’70s, a young boy. Shaoquett completed a politics degree at Sydney University and a Master in Politics alongside a Law degree. He would practice the law but was driven to the calling of politics, so as to make a difference for those that far too many parliamentarians forget; the marginalised and vulnerable.
In 2009, this first-generation Australian became the first Muslim elected to the Government of NSW. Our parliaments continue to fail to reflect the demography of this nation, with more than 80 per cent of Australia’s parliaments made up of White Privilege borne of two centuries long of Anglo-centric dominance. Nearly 30 per cent of Australians have been born overseas but this is not reflected in the demography of our parliaments. The polycultural essence of Australia fails to be reflected in our parliaments. Shaoquett’s spouse, Mika, is Japanese born.
Shaoquett has refused to descend to the diminution of ‘assimilate or perish’ and has inherently fought against this threat all his life, including in his political life. In September 2012, Shaoquett established the Multicultural and Indigenous Media Awards, and in June 2014, he launched the National Indigenous Human Rights Awards. This year’s National Indigenous Human Rights Awards will be intertwined with a commemoration of Eddie Mabo’s relentless battle for land rights. The keynote speakers at this year’s NIHRA will be Bonita and Gail Mabo and Senator Pat Dodson. The event will be held in the Mural Hall in Federal Parliament, Canberra.
In 2012, Shaoquett established the Arabic Friends of Labor and soon after launched the Forum for Middle East Affairs. “We need to bring truth to the table, and engagements and education can achieve this. The aim is to carry us all across the line to humanity and with compassion at the fore then this possible.”
Shaoquett has been fearless in calling out injustice even if it puts him at odds with the complicit silent. It was only a couple of years ago that outrage was sparked when during a parliamentary debate Shaoquett called out Israel’s anathematic oppression of Palestinians. Shaoquett described Gaza as “the world’s largest open-air prison camp.” Despite an assuage by various mainstream media, Shaoquett did not backpedal as others who have likewise stood up have been forced to. Academic, Dr Vacy Vlazna stated, “I applaud (Shaoquett Moselmane) for his principled stand and honesty for justice of Palestine and her people.” How can compassion for others, how can justice sought, how can the pursuit of equality ever be conflated or ludicrously derided as anti-semitic?
When Shaoquett launched the Human Rights Awards, HANSARD records, “I hope to grow this initiative to a national level to draw attention to citizens who are most deserving of recognition for their contribution to justice and human rights. The Awards will aim to pay tribute to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander persons and to Australian multicultural person who have made significant and meaningful contributions to the advancement of human rights and social justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and for multicultural Australia by bringing people together.”
“There has been no greater rights struggle in this nation than that of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights struggle. Till this rights struggle is complete we cannot be properly defined as a nation.”
After 506 rough terrain children’s wheelchairs were shipped to Pakistan thanks to Shaoquett, he was quoted by a Sydney-based Pakistani news service, “One should never see a child amputee dragging his body across a road in 21st century world.”
“We live in an affluent nation and we have therefore a responsibility to help those less fortunate and these are in effect all our children the world over.”
Recently, Shaoquett Moselmane coordinated the donation of more than 600 rough terrain children’s wheelchairs to China’s poorest regions – with 170 of these wheelchairs sent to one of China’s largest orphanages. In a brief visit to China last year, Shaoquett and I visited an orphanage of 2,000 disabled children abandoned by impoverished parents from nearby provinces. There were 160 children without wheelchairs. We looked at each other and the commitment that our eyes made to each other was recently fulfilled.
The orphanage director, Lily, emailed, “Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for not forgetting us.”
If only more parliamentarians understood their calling to politics similarly as has Shaoquett Moselmane.