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Org names new award after refugee turned iconic football broadcaster

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Football broadcaster honoured with new award

Australia for UNHCR and SBS have joined forces to honour refugee contributions in the arts, sports or media through a new award named after iconic football broadcaster and refugee supporter Les Murray AM.

The Australia for UNHCR – SBS Les Murray Award for Refugee Recognition was launched at the Australia for UNHCR World Refugee Day Lunch in Sydney.

The Award recipient will receive $10,000 in recognition of their work to promote the contribution of refugees. Nominations will be sought from authors, artists, actors, community leaders, sports people, film-makers and journalists who have settled in Australia as refugees.

SBS will support the Award for the first three years. Nominations are expected to open in September with the inaugural recipient announced in March 2022.

Les Murray AM, who passed away in 2017, was a former refugee who fled Hungary in 1956 and settled in Australia a year later. He became a household name as a football broadcaster with SBS.

Murray came to Australia in 1957 under the Hungarian Refugee Assisted Scheme. He and his family lived at Wollongong, New South Wales after some time at Bonegilla Migrant Camp near Wodonga. He was studied at Berkeley High School.

As the voice and face of football on SBS, Les hosted On The BallToyota World Sports and The World Game, covered eight World Cup events and established himself as Australia’s “Mr Football” and was a prominent advocate for refugees.

As Les explained: “Refugees, perhaps more than other immigrants, are more likely to make a positive contribution to their new country, driven by a need to give something in return for being given a chance to start again after a terrible experience.”

In 2006, Les was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to football and was also awarded the Australian Sports Commission Media Award Lifetime Achievement Award.

Australia for UNHCR National Director Naomi Steer said Les Murray was a great advocate for refugees and displaced people.

“Les Murray not only saw the potential for football to break down barriers and bring people together. He was driven by his personal experience and by the many people he met in his life and was a great source of encouragement and inspiration to many of them,” Steer said.

SBS Managing Director James Taylor said: “SBS’s purpose is about inspiring among all Australians a shared understanding, respect and celebration of our differences.”

“As a refugee, Les embodied all that SBS aspires to be. Passionate about our purpose and SBS’s role in helping people understand each other better, he was a true advocate,” Taylor said.

“I know I speak for the entire SBS team when I say that we are extremely proud to be supporting the award and Les would be honoured to know it holds his name and his legacy,” she said.

Les Murray’s daughter Natalie Murray said her father would have been proud and humbled for the award to be named after him.

“Our father was a passionate and compassionate person. There were two causes that he lived for – football and refugees. We are honoured to have our father’s name live on through this award,” she said.

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