Ashak Nathwani has received the honour of becoming a member in the General Division of the Order Of Australia (AM), for significant service to the Ismaili community in Australia, to tertiary education in the area of sustainable design, and to engineering.
“When I came back to Kampala in 1972, everyone of Indian origin was forced to leave Uganda under the orders of Idi Amin. I had a Ugandan passport so I thought I could stay but they cancelled my passport and I became state-less! It wasn’t for my engineering degree but because I was a lecturer at the Uganda Technical College that I was allowed to enter Australia.”
With only 20 cents in his pocket, Nathwani landed in Australia as a refugee and worked with a couple of firms before he finally got a job at the leading engineering consultancy firm, Norman Disney & Young (NDY).
An Ismaili by heritage, Nathwani founded the Ismaili community settlement in Australia, giving it a formal structure. He led the establishment of community centres in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, and presided over the arrangements for two visits by His Highness the Aga Khan to Sydney, in 1979 and 1987.
Extensively involved in engineering, sustainable architecture and design at NDY, Nathwani helped design iconic structures like the Sydney Olympic Stadium and the Aquatic Centre. He also collaborated in 2011 on the construction of 1 Bligh Street, Sydney, a skyscraper which has 6 green stars and many awards for its sustainable design.
Because of his continued passion for sustainable design, he lead the NDY environment discipline and retired from NDY in 2011 after 33 years, to pursue an academic career at the University of Sydney. Here, he took on the role of director and senior lecturer, and pursued a PhD in Comfort and HVAC systems.