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Bachar Houli Receives OAM for Contributions to AFL and Community

Bachar Houli wins OAM

From a decorated AFL career to transformative community leadership, Houli's legacy extends far beyond the field

Altona North’s Bachar Houli, a distinguished figure in AFL history, has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) on the recent King’s Birthday. Houli received this honour in recognition of his contributions to Australian rules football, multiculturalism, and the Islamic community.


Houli, who is of Lebanese descent, was born and raised in Melbourne’s western suburbs, including Altona North and Tarneit. He attended Al-Taqwa College in Truganina and began his junior football career with Spotswood before advancing to play for the Western Jets.

Houli’s AFL career is notably impressive, with 232 games, three premierships, and an All-Australian selection to his name. However, his journey began with challenges. After spending four seasons at Essendon and playing only 26 matches, Houli sought a fresh start.

“Essendon is a great football club, and Kevin Sheedy was a fantastic leader, but after he left, the environment wasn’t conducive for me. It was an opportunity for change,” Houli explained. “The Richmond coaches and leaders fostered a culture of connection and storytelling that allowed me to grow both on and off the field.”

Reflecting on his career, Houli cherishes his off-field experiences the most. “There are many great memories, but the relationships and lifelong friendships are invaluable,” he said. “Winning the first premiership in 2017 was also very special, as it meant so much to me and the whole community.”

Community is a central theme in Houli’s life. He received the Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award in 2020 and the AFL’s Yiooken Award in 2019. Additionally, he has been honoured with a Victorian Multicultural Commission Award and an Award for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding by the Australia Day Council.

Houli’s legacy extends beyond his achievements with the Tigers, particularly through his work with the Bachar Houli Foundation (BHF). The foundation, established in 2012, has supported over 35,000 people, promoting leadership and opportunities within the Muslim community.

“I hope to be remembered as someone authentic who modelled Islamic values on and off the field and contributed to giving minority communities a sense of belonging,” Houli said. He founded the BHF in response to the underrepresentation of Muslims in the AFL and the lack of sporting role models for young Muslims.

“My faith has always driven me to give back and help others, which is a significant aspect of our purpose as Muslims,” he said. “I have always enjoyed helping people and seeing young individuals grow. Our primary goal is to help young people become the best versions of themselves by being physically and mentally healthy, great leaders, and proud of their identity.”

Houli currently manages the Islamic College of Sport in Coburg and is planning to expand to Melbourne’s west, with the new campus expected to open next year. An information session for students entering year 11 next year will be held this Thursday, June 13, at the Australian Islamic Centre in Newport, from 6 pm to 8 pm.

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