When social justice becomes a matter of duty

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Darshak Mehta, co-founder of the LBW Trust is awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the community

When Darshak Mehta co-founded the LBW Trust in 2005, the “totally unknown” charity was poised to compete with giants in the niche sector of cricket-related charities. Seeking to carve out a space for itself in the shadow of the Steve Waugh Foundation, the McGrath Foundation and the Primary Club, in its formative years the Trust ran abstemiously, with no administration expenses, no overheads and, as Mehta himself describes it, in serious need of some “street cred”.
Darshak Mehta.Indian Link
More than a decade later, the landscape is vastly different; LBW Trust now provides over 1,500 disadvantaged students with access to tertiary education, and the Trust’s patrons are a veritable arsenal of household names. This week, LBW Trust added another feather to its cap, with Darshak Mehta awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the community.
Mehta, who moved to Australia in 1988, modestly credits himself only with “choosing [his] parents well”. However, his unwavering sense of community was instilled in him at a young age, largely through his own pursuits, having been the youngest member of the Managing Committee of the Indian Merchants Chamber, and the youngest president of the Bombay Industries Association.
“If at a young age you’ve got exposure to meeting people in senior walks of life, it doesn’t faze you and you can have a mature conversation with them way beyond your years. I was lucky there was that grounding so that when we started off with the Trust, getting individuals like Peter Cosgrove, Ian McFarlane and John Faulkner was easier because I wasn’t intimidated by them,” recalls Mehta.
And in that regard, Mehta believes his actions have been largely obligatory, mandated by his relatively fortunate circumstances.

“The French have a word for it – noblesse oblige, which is literally that people who are more fortunate, like you and me, who can afford to, should, as a matter of duty, help those less fortunate.”.

Mehta particularly credits Link Market Services, former director Lyn O’Brien, former treasurer and honorary secretary Brian Hughes, and of course, his supporting wife Alpana, with sharing that vision. Despite the significant time and resources that he has devoted to the LBW Trust, it is worth noting that Darshak Mehta also acts as patron for children’s education charity Pratham Australia, and sits on the advisory committee for the Sydney Thunder.
For Mehta, being honoured with an OAM is a binding contract; an opportunity to justify the respect of his peers and the community. Having been nominated by three former Australian cricket captains in Ian and Greg Chappell, along with Adam Gilchrist, as well as the late John Bannon (the longest serving Premier of South Australia) and Rodney Cavalier, the former SCG Chairman and NSW Education Minister, Mehta’s source of motivation is clear.
“[The OAM] is probably only the start. If you know that you have some kind of community recognition by your peers, more and more is expected of you. I’m 58 now, you do tend to feel that surely there is a reason for your existence. You’re not just “here” – even animals simply “live”. But did you make a difference? Did you leave the world in a better place than you found it? Did you act as a trustee? Those are things that haunt me,” says Mehta.
Darshak Mehta’s overriding message to all of us is to help those less fortunate: “Most of us need to take that leap of faith. You’d be amazed what you can achieve by being fearless and a bit cheeky. That’s what not a lot of people do. They don’t tend to put their hands up, thinking that somebody else might have a lower opinion of them for being ambitious or full of themselves – but unless you offer yourself, nobody can take you on board.”

Ritam Mitra
Ritam Mitra
Ritam is an award-winning journalist and lawyer based in Sydney. Ritam writes on domestic and global politics, human rights and social justice, and sport.

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