A tribute to her work
In 2011, the International Year of Chemistry, one woman was celebrated above all others – Marie Curie. While she truly deserved to be honoured in this way in that year, another extraordinary woman nuclear physicist also deserves to be honoured – for all she has done, not only in her specialty field of science but also for her humanitarian work. Indeed, in my view, she deserves the Nobel Peace Prize!
She is Dr Nouria Salehi, OAM, newly retired senior physicist in the Department of Nuclear Medicine at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
Nouria studied the International Baccalaureate in Afghanistan and completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Kabul, before moving to France to complete her PhD in nuclear medicine and other studies. She then spent some years lecturing at a French university and working in a university hospital, before returning home to Kabul to practise.
Not long after she returned home, she decided to move to Australia. This was indeed fortuitous timing. Soon after, the Russians came marching in and destroying everything she held dear.
What the Russians did not destroy, the Taliban did. The most significant impact the Taliban had, of course, was restricting the lives of women. As women were the main teachers, schools closed and a whole generation of children, millions of children, were denied an education. Instead many were given guns. So no-one was receiving skills training, no teachers were being trained, and women took their lives in their hands if they tried to learn how to read and write.
Enter Nouria. Once the Taliban were driven out, in addition to all the research she undertook in nuclear medicine, she has travelled to Afghanistan time and again, at the risk of her own life, to establish science teacher training programs, apprenticeships, literacy programs, and a large range of other constructive initiatives to drive change and empower young people and women and their communities.
Her passion for education of young people has not been limited to Afghanistan, however. In September 1999 Nouria was an inspiring presenter at ‘In New Shoes’, a statewide conference on refugees for senior secondary students at Victoria University Footscray Campus. In 2002, she participated in a ‘Hypothetical’ at a forum for teachers on combating racism at the Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre. Since then she has spoken to classes of secondary students and to many other groups. And her work in nuclear physics has been featured in ‘Science Edge 4’, which is part of the award-winning secondary science text series ‘Science Edge’.
When I think of all she does, I am humbled. I would like to think that Marie Curie would be proud to know that someone who, like her, came to study in France, and whose professional work centred on using radioactive isotopes to heal people. She also would be proud to know a dedicated fellow scientist who, at the risk of her own life, heals the souls of her own people and lifts them up again.
Jenny Sharwood, OAM
BSc (Melb), Dip Ed (Melb), MACE, FAIE, FRACI-CChem
Bachelor Degree, Physics (Kabul University, Afghanistan)
High Certificate, Human Pathology (University of Claude Bernard, France)
Diploma of Higher Studies, Application of Nuclear Physics in Biology and Medicine (University of Claude Bernard, France)
Certificate of Higher Studies in Radiochemistry (University of Claude Bernard, France)
Masters Degree, Nuclear and Atomic Physics (University of Claude Bernard, France)
Doctor of Philosophy (University of Claude Bernard, France)
Utilisation and handling of radioactive elements, Paris, France
Past Member, The Australian & New Zealand Society of Nuclear Medicine
Past Member, The European Society of Nuclear Medicine
1997 Life Member, The Order of Australia Association
1996-2000 Victorian Committee Member, Amnesty International
1989-1999, Committee Member, Ecumenical Migration Centre (Treasurer 1994 –1999)
1993-2003 Coordinator of Afghan Support Group at EMC, Melbourne
1992-present Committee Member, International Society of Human Rights, Australia
1995-2006 Executive Committee Member, Refugee Council of Australia
1991-2003 Committee Member for Austcare Refugee Week
1995-2000 Committee Member, Victorian Anti-Landmine Campaign
2000-present Charter Member, Brotherhood of St Laurence
2002-06 Founder and President of Afghan Australian Volunteers Association
2006-present Founder & Executive Director of the Afghan-Australian Development Organisation (AADO)
2002-13 Patron of ‘A Just Australia’
2006-9 Victorian Member, Universal Peace Federation
2012-present Australia Day Ambassador
HONOURS AND AWARDS
1997 Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)
2003 Centenary Medal, Australian Federal Government Award
2005 Leadership Award, Australian Davos Connection (ADC)
2006 Ambassador for Peace, Universal Peace Federation
2006 Bringing Communities together, Australian Federal Government Award
2009 Award of Excellence, Afghan Ministry of Education, Afghanistan
2010 Merit Medal, Victorian Multicultural Commission, Australia
2011 Award of Excellence, Afghan Ministry of Education, Afghanistan
2011 Victorian Senior Citizen of the Year 2012 Award
2012 Finalist, Australian of the Year Award 2012, 2013
2013 The Rotary International Award