Radio for the Community! Spoken Histories From 3ZZZ

Jacob Haweil is a man with a mission. He convenes the Assyrian program at 3ZZZ radio, a cornerstone of Melbourne’s Assyrian community for over 30 years. With pride, Mr. Haweil reflects on his journey which spans continents, languages, and professions, to preserve the Assyrian culture in Australia.

Radio for the Community! Spoken Histories From 3ZZZ highlights the impact that 3ZZZ broadcasters have made to their communities, increasing diversity in community media, benefits of multiculturalism, sacrifices made by new migrants in Australia, and benefits of volunteering in community radio.


Maram Ismail: Welcome to radio for the community spoken histories from 3ZZZ. I’m your host, Maram Ismail. In this podcast, we explore the stories of individuals who have made a lasting impact on their communities. The Assyrian program is a tribute to more than three decades of devoted service to the diverse airwaves of Melbourne. Jacob Haweil, a steadfast figure at 3ZZZ community Radio, has led this program for over two decades. He recalls his journey, which spans continents, languages, and professions, to preserve the Assyrian culture in Australia.

Jacob Haweil: Not just Assyrian, any language. It’s important. I personally speak five languages. It does help when you teach your child your own language.

Maram Ismail: Jacob Haweil is a man with a mission. He convenes the Assyrian program at 3ZZZ radio, a cornerstone of Melbourne’s Assyrian community for over 30 years. With pride, Mr. Haweil reflects on his journey.

Jacob Haweil: The Assyrian program is one of the most popular program that three people run it at the moment. Me and Fiodor Nadjarian, which is originally from Iran, and John Esmalou both of them from Iran. And I’m from Iraq, but we speak Assyrian, all of us, but different dialects.

Maram Ismail: For those that might not know, Assyrian is one of the most ancient languages of the Middle East, going back to the time of ancient Mesopotamia nearly 5000 years ago. Assyrian contains threads of both Akkadian, one of the first written languages in the world, and Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke. It has also influenced both Hebrew, Arabic, Mongolian, and Uighur languages. The Assyrian program’s roots can be traced back to the beginning of 3ZZZ radio station. It was an open invitation, a call for volunteers to contribute to the community. Mr. Haweil fondly recalls the beginnings.

Jacob Haweil: I was a member and I was a listener always. And, uh, I had a friend of mine still with me Fiodor Nadjarian, he was a panel operator at the time until now he actually does a lot of panel operating with me. He encouraged me. He said, why don’t you come down and help us? And, uh, and I’ve got not many people with me, so, uh, if you can actually inspire me. So, I said, all right, you know, I will come and I promise you, you know, that I will be here. I’ll be coming every week with you, so I did. I came as a listener for a start I was preparing the program at home. I used to give him the, uh, cassette and he used to play it. Then eventually I started broadcasting live. People start liking the program that I was producing at the time. And, you know, when you prepare one hour program, you need about three, four hours to, uh, to organize that with, uh, including songs including news and current affairs and if there is any talkback show. So, uh, I was encouraged actually by community and organizations, Assyrian organizations, to support and keep going with what I started, uh, with the radio at the time. And that’s why actually, I kept going and I had to maintain that, you know, uh, so I don’t remember that I missed, you know, any program apart, if I am, for example, sick or maybe if I’m overseas for a couple of weeks. But always I’ve been thinking of that particular day that I broadcast where I will be there, and I have to prepare everything.

Maram Ismail: He has been deeply involved in the community and his professional journey reflects his dedication. Mr. Haweil works as a freelance interpreter and has previously served as the director of an import export business. Mr. Haweil has been committed to bridging language gaps since he started interpreting in 2004, and his contributions to the community have been incredibly significant. Since arriving in Australia in 1981, Mr. Haweil has seamlessly blended work, study and community service. It’s a life characterised by dedication and adaptability.

Jacob Haweil: I studied as a real estate. Then I worked for different organizations, I work for an insurance company finally, I ended up with interpreting. So, I’m taking it easy now. Basically, very close to retired. But I haven’t gave up you know, my voluntary work. Also, I work with the Assyrian community. I’m a chairman of the Australian Assyrian Arts and Literature Foundation. So I’ve been involved with them for more than 20 years, as well as some other organisations that I have actually established and moved on until I got to the AAALF, Australian Assyrian Arts and Literature Foundation. So, I’ve been in radio for years and I did so many commercials for SBS as well. I do a lot of government announcement as well, and sometimes I do translation and then the voiceover. I’ve been doing that for years. Uh, even current now I do sometimes with SBS.

Maram Ismail: Mr. Haweil mentions SBS, a significant media presence here in Australia, a TV, radio and online broadcaster. But some listeners might not know that SBS has shared roots with three 3ZZZs in that they both started as ethnic broadcasters on the AM dial back in the mid-70s. Both were built by new migrants to Australia, who gave up their precious time and money to create these strong institutions that we take for granted today. And so, it is no surprise that Mr. Haweil has been involved with them. But it means to him that relaxation is a rare luxury.

Jacob Haweil: To be honest with you, I don’t have much time to relax, but my time when I go home say just sit and watch TV. I try to follow up news, maybe sometimes watch some dramas from Middle East as well. And I love to. That’s the only thing I’ve got maybe 3 to 4 times I go and visit my mum and my sisters and uh, that’s my actually priority, which, uh, as Middle Eastern, we love our family and our gathering as well. So I have to go and see her actually, without, seeing her one day, if feels like I lost something.

Maram Ismail: He admires family bonds and cultural connections. Many people call Mr. Haweil the father of newly arrived Assyrians in Australia, which is a testament to his significant role in the community. He’s not just a broadcaster, he’s a mentor, a guide, a father figure to the Assyrian newcomers.

Jacob Haweil: I have been working closely with the community. First of all, start with the churches and with the member of clergy there, a church. I was very close with them and I was assisting them since my arrival to Australia. Then I actually used to help the new arrivals by taking them to local Centrelink and taking them to banks and uh, and even some of them, they still have families overseas and I used to fill up their forms, application form, which is not easy to spend hours and hours and hours with them. And all that was part of my voluntary work for the community and thanks God and that was acknowledged by the government. And I was rewarded for that. You know, I had several, uh, awards, you know, from the Foreign Media Award, and I have Triple R Award as well for the refugees. And I believe that, you know, I still love to do that until they probably until the day that maybe even if I retire, I will continue that.

Maram Ismail: His guidance has been instrumental in helping newcomers navigate the complexities of Australian society. For him, the Assyrian program isn’t just a broadcast, it’s a lifeline for many listeners.

Jacob Haweil: The most important thing that I was actually trying to educate the people was the law in Australia, and that was one of the most important to me, one of the most important thing that we used to show them or teach them how to behave. Don’t bring whatever you’ve got from your country, bring it here. You have to behave completely different than the way that you behave at home, outside, completely different. Teach your children you don’t hit them. You don’t smack them in the street. You don’t yell at them. You don’t. So these sort of things, you know, that’s what we, uh, we taught the new arrival what to do or how to maintain that sort of thing, which is very important in our country we believe, our believe it’s completely different than Australia and, uh, you can’t touch the child, although some people they don’t like it, but it is. You have to emphasize that. You have to tell them. You have to tell them, look, you have to implement these ones in the system. This is a law you know, you are a supervisor, okay. You have to supervise them you don’t own them, now you are a supervisor. They are children they should learn the system here so they will grow up naturally. Open mind you cannot force them and cut their wings straight away. They are children they should learn. So then you can see them in the future. Leaders in the community, these sort of things was very important to me and I had to actually repeat that, repeat myself on regular basis. These are one of the stories that, you know, I had actually with the community at Middle Eastern radio, even at 3ZZZ FM.

Maram Ismail: To Mr. Haweil language is not just a means of communication, but a vessel that carries the essence of culture, its history, and its identity. Preserving that Assyrian language is a mission that Mr. Haweil and his team are fully committed to always.

Jacob Haweil: Actually, we maintain that we’re up to date with the community and our community are, you know, they live in all the diaspora. So there is a Assyrian from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and everyone has got his own language and, well, dialect actually, it’s one language but has got some different dialects. So we’ve been actually, uh, uh, maintained that with the community and we’ve been actually up to date with all the current news, uh, with the whatever. We have announcements. We do a lot of talkback show, you know, and we kept in touch as well as from Sydney. We normally actually deal with the Sydney as well, uh, community. And also we got some information or news from overseas as well. So we try to, you know, maintain that not just a Assyrian any language It’s so important, I personally speak five languages. It does help when you teach your child your own language, basically English he will learn that in the schools, he will learn that in the community when he interacts with others, he will learn that language with us basically, when we talk our language, we try to teach them some terminologies, you know, over the program, and we try to explain to them, what does that word mean? And some new arrivals, actually, uh, they don’t actually they don’t know much English. So they rely on us to explain to them, to teach them, to show them. We have actually schools in Melbourne, churches provide some teachers and, uh, Sunday schools, they teach them the language and uh, through the radio. Actually, we do sometimes, you know, we talk to them and we explain to them and we try to, uh, find some terminologies for them and give them the explanation for it.

Maram Ismail: To Jacob Haweil’s mission continues and his dedication remains steadfast.

Jacob Haweil: My aim is to teach a new generation, teach youth to take over. I’ve been doing that, you know, for years, working as a volunteer. My aim is to teach a new generation and put them on the right track and get them to interact with the community and show what they can do for the community. You need someone to start you off, otherwise it’s very hard.

Maram Ismail: Thank you for joining us on radio for the community spoken histories from 3ZZZ.

Radio for the Community! Spoken Histories From 3ZZZ is proudly supported by the Community Broadcasting Foundation.