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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Community leader

Reading Time: 3 minutesFor significant service to the Indian community of Victoria, to aged welfare, and to education

Photo: Dr Prem Phakey AM

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From humble beginnings to being recognised with an AM in the Queens Birthday honours list this year, Dr Prem Phakey AM and his wife Usha have a lot to celebrate. This year was also a milestone for them as it marked 50 years of living in Australia. The recently announced prestigious honours list recognised Dr Phakey for significant service to the Indian community of Victoria, to aged welfare, and to education.

Life has been a gem for Dr Prem Phakey who arrived in Australia in 1964 to take up a three-year contract teaching assignment. He was appointed as lecturer in Physics at the Monash University in 1967 and promoted to senior lecturer in 1971 and later on to reader in Physics till he left the University in 1994.  He was also honorary lecturer for Gemmological Association of Australia, Victorian Division from 1968-1988. His scientific research included minerals, rocks of importance, shells, teeth, gemstones and diamonds. He expresses gratitude to Professor Rachinger, late Professor Street and Monash University for encouragement and support to carry out scientific research.

“I am passionate about Indian diamonds and have recently given a series of 10 talks on this subject,” said Dr Phakey who continues to be engaged in academics well past his retirement. With an expertise in crystallography, microscopy and optics, Dr Phakey has contributed various papers and articles on gemstones and Indian diamonds in community newspapers.

Renowned for his work in moon rocks and lunar dust (both American and Russian samples) Dr Phakey held many academic appointments and fellowships at institutes like University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), University of California Berkeley, University of Washington and William Evans Fellowship at University of Otago, New Zealand. Locally he held a fellowship at Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, senior fellowship at the School of Dental Science, University of Melbourne and after retirement, senior fellowship at Monash University.

Dr Phakey is well regarded in the Indian community for his dedication and involvement in the welfare of the community. He was the founding secretary and then vice president of the Punjabi Club of Victoria in 1987-1991, vice president and public officer for Australian Indian Innovations Inc. (AIII) from 2003-2005 and trustee of the Australia India Charitable Trust.

He is equally passionate about the welfare of senior citizens as the founding chairperson of the Indian Senior Citizen’s Association (ISCA) and current president since 2007.

“The need and composition of our society has changed and it is important to make efforts to avoid isolation and boredom for seniors, especially those who may rely financially and emotionally on their children,” said Dr Phakey as he explained ISCA’s objectives.

“At ISCA we offer an environment where seniors can socialise, display their talents, be entertained and educated,” claimed Dr Phakey. “We hold regular talks on issues relevant to the senior community, we hold classes that assist seniors to adapt to new technology like iPads, mobile phones, and we have dedicated seniors teaching yoga and chair exercises to others. In terms of entertainment we have a day centre that holds weekly sessions of various activities and we also celebrate multicultural festivals and events. Our membership is growing at a rapid rate we have a pool of knowledge, talent and expertise within our organisation”.

Dr Phakey went on to share his vision for the senior community. “We have given the organisation a strong footing and taken it to a sustainable, stable position, however, it’s now time for the next generation to get involved and take it further,” Dr Phakey explained. “My dream is that every senior should benefit from an organisation like ISCA and we should have more day centres, in more areas around Victoria that offer a structured, or open environment to facilitate senior care solutions and independence”.

Letters of congratulations are pouring in for Dr Phakey from all directions including commendation from the Governor of Victoria Alex Chernov, Premier Denis Napthine, local ministers and councillors. His family, comprising of wife Usha who is a retired teacher, son Vivek Phakey who is an ophthalmologist and daughter Nishi who is a dentist, are proud of his achievements. “It’s good to be recognised with this honour, however, as an academic I have had the opportunity to be rewarded in many other ways and all of them are equally significant for me,” answered Dr Phakey when asked about receiving the recognition. “This is the icing on the cake, and as far as I am concerned there’s still miles to go before I sleep”.

Read more Queen’s Birthday Honours List stories here:

RK RAM (OAM)

Dr Minoti Vivek Apte (OAM)

Dr Marlene Kanga (AM)

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Preeti Jabbal
Preeti Jabbal
Preeti is the Melbourne Coordinator of Indian Link.

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