A reward for a lifetime in education: Kumarasamy Sivakumar, OAM

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For service to education

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He is an unassuming man whose simple life and attitude hide years of experience in several professional fields.

Kumarasamy Sivakumar was honoured with the OAM (Order of Australia in the General Division) on Australia Day this year, for services in the field of education.

Mr Sivakumar is a significant achiever in the provision of mainstream technical education, and also in striving to better the educational and thereby social conditions of less fortunate communities and individuals.

But he is also a humble person, seeing his own award as recognition not just of himself, but of all those who make such outcomes possible and who strive unrecognised to better the conditions of others.

Mr Sivakumar retired as the Deputy Director of the Northern Sydney Institute of TAFE where he had worked from 1995 to 2000. His earlier position was that of Director of several of the Colleges of that Institute.

Amongst the other notable positions held by Mr Sivakumar in TAFE of NSW, are as the Principal of the Seaforth and Cessnock TAFE colleges (1980-1990) and the Deputy Principal at Granville TAFE college (1980-1986).

Mr Sivakumar has an impressive wealth of experience which led to these higher positions. He was the General Studies Teacher at the St George TAFE College (1968-1973); later the Head of General Studies at Wollongong TAFE (1978-1980); and Head Teacher, English/Humanities, and Senior Head Teacher, Sydney TAFE, 1975-1977.

Mr Sivakumar has always shown a desire to interact with people from diverse backgrounds and in different countries. Of Tamil descent and born on a rubber plantation in Malaysia, he speaks several languages and this facilitated interaction with people of different communities.

Mr Sivakumar’s activities have not been confined to Australia alone. He has been Independent Director, Sustainable Development Board, Papua New Guinea (2008-2009) and an Advisor of the India Benevolent Charitable Trust since 1985. In this capacity, he has fostered educational opportunities for members of isolated communities in India, with the aim of improving their future opportunities in life.

Mr Sivakumar is, above all, a practical person. He organised the introduction of a training centre in NSW TAFE to produce well-groomed and experienced graduates in cooking and catering to the internationally accredited standards of Le Cordon Bleu. This commercial training school is located at the Ryde TAFE College, and operates in harmony with the Tourism, Hospitality and Catering Institute of Australia, of which he was the Director. Mr Sivakumar has been an Honorary Judge, Restaurant Caterers Association (1994-2002), and an Honorary Director of the Hospitality Training Network since 2012.

Mr Sivakumar has not forgotten his roots. He was the President, Malaysian/Singapore Students Association, University of Sydney, for two years.

Also included in Mr Sivakumar’s biography is his Knighthood of the Order of the Knights of Rizal.

“This is a fraternal organisation created to honour and uphold the ideals of national hero Jose Rizal from the Philippines,” Mr Sivakumar says. “It is a fraternal organisation which is non-sectarian, non-partisan and non-racial, operating with over 10,000 members. I see its role as a charitable body which helps poor students or poor schools with the provision of textbooks, computers, among other requirements”.

In particular, he has observed that educational items such as textbooks that might be considered as out-of-date in one country, can be perfectly useful in another.

Mr Sivakumar sees his own work as exemplifying his philosophy that an individual can make a difference.
“We should stop looking at the past, but rather use lessons of the past in dealing with the present, so that we can make a difference for the future,” he says sagely.

For more Australia Day honours