By Rebecca DiGirolamo
Joseph Masika was a practicing doctor in Tanzania frustrated by his inability to make real change to public health policy. So he left for Adelaide to study and when he returned to Africa he began educating the wider community through grassroots preventative health care programs in a bid to “really make a difference”.
Since then he has become a national advocate for multiculturalism and inclusion across Australia. For the past year,
Dr Masika has been working at Intercountry Services – the Families SA business unit within the South Australian Government that provides comprehensive guardianship, case work and support services to unaccompanied humanitarian minors aged under 18.
The 53-year-old Edwardstown parishioner is also co-chair of the Family Passion Group of Saint Anthony’s Church – a movement established to build Christian community among Australians and refugees.
“As a professional who is also Catholic, I strive to do justice, love, kindness and walk humbly with God,” said Dr Masika, Intercountry Services team leader and also Commissioner of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission.
Later this month, South Australian Governor Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce will present Dr Masika with the Order of Australia Medal in the General Division for his service to the community through multicultural and social welfare organisations.
The award recognises Dr Masika’s 28 years of voluntary service to the community, including 16 actively promoting multiculturalism in South Australia and supporting the community development and effective settlement of new and emerging communities.
Besides numerous awards, Dr Masika has helped shape migrant and refugee policy through board positions, including chairman of the African Communities Council of South Australia since 2007 and member of the Commonwealth Consultative Committee on Africa.
His service extends beyond Australian borders. Three years ago, he established the Australian-Tanzanian Services Foundation to help underprivileged communities in Tanzania. So far the foundation has donated three automatic ventilator machines to an intensive care unit, provided text books and computers to a secondary school, funded a project for women affected by HIV and isolated from their communities and helped fund employment of a child care worker at a hospital while mothers are in day surgery. Together with the Rotary Club, it has also helped collect hospital beds and other furniture for hospitals in Tanzania.
Such accomplishments, said Dr Masika, comes from a simple Catholic family motto: “We are born to help.”
“We are called to live for one another and to do so using our gifts and talents to complement those of others,” said
Dr Masika. “In this way, we learn from one another and encourage one another to aim higher than we could possibly dream.”
Dr Masika settled in Australia in 1996 with his wife Dr Lillian Mwanri and their children Patrick, Peter, Prince and Pauline. He became an Australian citizen in 2003 and said he could not believe he had been bestowed the highest honour of a nation of which he was not a native.
“It is so rewarding and makes people feel accepted and encouraged,” he said. “I am so proud to be a part of a nation which really is one, extended community.”
Caption: PROUD DAY: Edwardstown parishioner Dr Joseph Masika will this month be presented with the Order of Australia Medal in the General Division for his service to the community through multicultural and social welfare organisations.