Listen: NSW Senior Australian of the Year Nominee Abla Tohamy Kadous talks to Laura about her women's welfare organisation
NSW State Recipient Senior Australian of the Year 2022
Leaving Egypt to move to Australia in the 1960s, Abla Tohamy Kadous knows what it’s like to set up life in a foreign land, and navigate the social, cultural and religious challenges it can bring.
In the year 2000, while raising five children, Abla helped create the Islamic Women’s Welfare Association (IWWA), a centre that provides services to assist immigrating women settle in. It helps them find schooling for their children, places to live and connects them to a community that can support them as they make Australia home.
Presiding over what is the country’s first welfare service for Muslim women, Abla is nominated as this year’s NSW representative for Senior Australian of the Year, and told Hope 103.2, “to receive such [recognition] is great”.
“I’m grateful to God for helping me and blessing me with this,” she said.
“I’m thankful to Australia for allowing people who are from diverse backgrounds and different countries [to get] a chance to stand up there and receive an award like everyone else”.
As part of her role at the IWWA, Abla oversees 50 volunteers and staff, using her 70-plus years of life experience to help manage anti-discrimination forums, youth camps, cooking classes and inter-faith events where leaders from a variety of faith backgrounds share from, and learn about, one another’s religious perspectives.
Abla uses her 70-plus years of life experience to help manage… inter-faith events where leaders from a variety of faith backgrounds share from, and learn about, one another’s religious perspectives.
The inter-faith forums are of particular significance to Abla, who said, “unfortunately in Australia the knowledge of Islam is lacking”.
“People have misconceptions, and sometimes they are fed with incorrect knowledge about what Islam is,” she said.
“Some activities of Muslims who are not good [show] one person who does something wrong, and it’s blown out of proportion in the media.
“I wanted to talk to people about Islam, and understand other people’s faith, and explain what we practise as Muslims.
“We’re really lucky in Australia to be able to practise what we believe,” she said.
“We’re really lucky in Australia to be able to practise what we believe,” – Abla Tohamy Kadous, NSW representative for Senior Australian of the Year 2022
For Muslim women coming into the country, Abla said there is so much hardship she hopes both the centre and an understanding of faith can help the women overcome.
“Just getting established is [really hard],” Alba said.
“Usually the wife, or the mother, is like the punching bag. She gets it from her husband, she gets it from her children, and it’s a lot of pressure to deal with.
“As soon as you arrive in the country you have problems with language, communication, you have to find accommodation [and] you have to earn a living.
“The best way to help the women is to help them connect spiritually,” she said.
“It helps them deal with their problems with patience and perseverance.”
Listen to Abla’s full interview with Laura Bennett in the player above.