What got you interested in politics?
I was raised by my maternal grandparents and parents – all of whom have an active interest in politics. My dad particularly so, since he was a Political Science lecturer at the University of Babylon, Iraq. My maternal grandmother, who left school at 14, listened to BBC World News on her radio every night before going to sleep and was never shy to engage with my dad on current and world affairs. As a result there was always a dose of healthy political debate and discussion at home. All of this, not to mention living under the brutal dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein, made me curious about politics and conscious of the impact it has on people.
My political interest intensified when my parents fled war torn Iraq and reached Australia as refugees. While in Villawood, as an 8 year old I witnessed firsthand the cruel and crushing impact of inhumane policies. With a strong sense of social justice, at Villawood I learned English from scratch and so quickly that within three months I was acting as an interpreter to the Arabic-speaking detainees, working alongside a legal aid barrister. This experience inspired an early and lifelong passion for advocacy.
Tell us about your working life?
Whilst I am 34, I’ve done many and various paid and volunteer jobs over the years starting with being the local paper boy. As a youngster I also briefly worked at KFC, founded and ran a winter cricket association across Sydney and did other roles including with Lions and Toastmasters. In my early 20’s I worked for a NSW Labor MP briefly and then commenced a career in cricket administration that led to me joining the Cricket Australia management team at 24 and moving to Melbourne. I was the Head of Community Engagement and Diversity Council Secretary at Cricket Australia, driving its efforts to be a sport for all, in particular girls and women, first nations’ peoples, people with a disability and migrants. After a rewarding four year stint at Cricket Australia, I moved into the startup world in 2018.
I am the Co-Founder and Chairperson (previously CEO) of leading online conveyancer, Settle Easy, and most recently, acted as Head of Commercial at ASX listed company Acusensus, a world leader in road safety technology. Today, I am the Founder and Facilitator of the Regional Angel Investor Network and Director of Almaliki & Co, which provides cross-industry solutions to businesses and governments. I am passionate about the role of startups in changing lives, driving prosperity, and delivering societal benefit.
I’ve also previously held leadership positions at the ABC Advisory Council, been a member of the SBS Advisory Committee and a Victorian and New South Wales Multicultural Commissioner. Of course, I am proud to be Treasurer of the John Curtin Research Centre and to serve as the Chairperson of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Trust.
What is the one big policy problem facing Australia and the solution?
As someone who lived for four years in public housing, keeping the Australian dream alive has always been close to my heart. Addressing the ongoing challenge of housing affordability and supply crisis (nothing current about it, it’s been there for well over a decade, it has just intensified due to an abject public policy failure) is the biggest challenge confronting working Australians. Left unaddressed, it will undermine our social fabric as a nation. Home ownership, besides being a fundamental right, is a significant enabler of social mobility and cohesion.
Sam Almalki outside the public housing home he lived in Narwee, NSW for four years.
The supply of affordable, social and community housing stock is sorely missing. I We need to refocus on outer suburban and regional development projects to make living outside Melbourne and Sydney attractive to young people, especially frontline workers. We need long-term investment to make our second cities and towns the cultural and employment hotspots that they could be. The reimagining of Parramatta is a good starting point for what we can do elsewhere in places like Sunshine in Melbourne. The Albanese government’s proposed key legislation, the Housing Australia Future Fund, which when it passes the Senate, will see 30,000 new social and affordable homes built, is a solid start to addressing a problem that requires lots more to solve. How political leaders respond to the housing crisis that grips Australia will determine not just their fortunes in years to come but our nation’s too.
What do you like to get up to outside of work?
I enjoy being active, including going for long walks and having a splash on a hot day (sometimes not that hot!) as well as reading, cooking, and spending fun and fulfilling time with loved ones. I also appreciate chance encounters with people and places. They often excite and enthuse me about life.
Tell our supporters an unusual fact about yourself?
I am fascinated by bees and last year completed a short course on beekeeping. In many ways bees are an embodiment of life as we know it. I look forward to having a beehive or two … but first to realising the elusive Australian dream of owning a home!
Any advice for young activists?
I am always careful to offer advice, however for the benefit of our young readers the best I can do is to share my approach to life: stay focused on your goals, exercise equanimity and be true to your values. It’s incredibly powerful to have the courage of one’s convictions and the moral clarity to traverse life’s trials and tribulations.