Dr Nouria Salehi: a leading scientist, avid humanitarian and inspirational woman

Dr Nouria Salehi

Dr Nouria Salehi: a leading scientist, avid humanitarian and inspirational woman

Featured image obtained from Afghan Australian Development Organisation Facebook page

For Dr Nouria Salehi, her life’s work goes beyond the need for recognition.

Although she is heavily decorated, it is her compassion that drives her dream of transforming the education system in her home country, Afghanistan.

Being awarded Senior Australian of the Year (Victoria) in 2012 and the recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2019, Dr Salehi has left her mark through both her career as a physicist and her work as a humanitarian.

Moving to Australia in 1981, Dr Salehi rejected the recommendation of factory work which was the standard for immigrants at the time.

Dr Nouria SalehiPhoto obtained from Dr Nouria Salehi AM Facebook Page

She instead chose to work voluntarily at the Royal Melbourne Hospital for over two years, surviving on her savings and $54 a week from the Government.

“In France we have a saying, ‘Impossible n’est pas français’, which translates to ‘impossible is not French’, it doesn’t exist, we should not think of impossibility and we should keep ourselves far from negativity,” she explained.

Her cross-cultural experiences make up a large part of her life, from undertaking her PhD in France to working as a physicist and opening up an Afghani restaurant, Afghan Gallery, in Melbourne.

However, her Afghan heritage never leaves her mind.

“Culture is very important, I always combine my cultural heritage with my modern life, we changed and we are changing again,” she said.

Dr Nouria SalehiPhoto obtained from Afghan Australian Development Organisation Facebook page

Empowering up the Afghani community has always been Dr Salehi’s main goal, and after helping bring her family to Australia as well, she worked to settle about 300 Afghan refugees.

Appalled at the fact that Australia had no policy for Afghan refugees at the time of her arrival, Dr Salehi would work tirelessly after her days at the hospital to advocate for the settlement of refugees in Australia, as well as helping many of them find employment through her restaurant.

In 2002, she established the Afghan Australian Development Organisation (AADO) in order to educate and train teachers not just in cities like Kabul, but rural villages where many, particularly women, were lacking basic literacy skills. Dr Salehi said:

If we want peace in Afghanistan, if we want women to become really equal to men, they need education.

Dr Salehi stresses the importance and need for small organisations such as AADO to help developing countries and their expatriates, such as those having travelled from Afghanistan.

“Not only are we better and cheaper, but we understand people, if I go I speak the language, I know them,” she said.

Dr Nouria SalehiPhoto obtained from Afghan Australian Development Organisation Facebook page

Her legacy is powerful and ongoing, but with Afghanistan’s education system still not reaching the levels she experienced as a young woman, Dr Salehi continues her work with AADO in the hope of training more teachers and bringing a higher standard of literacy and numeracy to all of Afghanistan.

Today our problem is a global problem, and I hope that people realise that countries like Afghanistan have less, so let’s come together and help them.

“They are looking at you and waiting for your help,” she implored.

AADO is a non-for-profit organisation and is reliant on donations in order to formally train teachers and run the schools. To learn more about the organisation & Dr Nouria Salehi, and to donate, click HERE.


Alesia Bilotta

Alesia is studying a Bachelor of Communications with a major in Creative Writing at the University of Technology Sydney. She is passionate about experiencing other cultures through food, travel and the interwoven stories in each. Got a story to tell? Get in touch: [email protected]