Today Maureen Houssein-Mustafa (pictured) heads the largest state-of-the-art College in Australia that offers Nails, Beauty, Makeup and Hairdressing qualifications all under the one roof. The Australasian College Broadway in Sydney is a Registered Training Organisation with the capacity to accommodate 500 students taking courses across different skill areas, and the college has plans to expand the premises to accommodate a further 250 domestic and international students a year.
An outstanding achievement for a girl who grew up in a working-class neighbourhood in the inner-city suburb of Redfern. But what impressed me most about this extraordinary woman, is her overwhelming generosity and her willingness to give back to the community at every opportunity.
As the oldest of four children born to two hard-working migrants, Maureen Houssein-Mustafa spent her youth cooking, cleaning and looking after her younger siblings. Although these were hard years, Maureen credits her parents for impressing upon her a strong work ethic that would ultimately see her become the successful woman she is today.
“My parents were migrants and when they came out in 1952 they had nothing. My mother worked at the box factory and had to come home to breast feed me. Dad had two jobs and they did it really, really hard,” Maureen said in a recent telephone interview with Australian Women Online.
Out of financial necessity Maureen left high school at 16 to take up full-time employment. It was whilst working at Joyce Mayne that Maureen got her first opportunity to shine when she was asked to head up the Furniture Division of the company, which later become the retail giant Domayne.
Later Maureen opened her first beauty salon in the Inner Western suburbs of Sydney and within a short period of time and with no formal business training, she grew her business to five locations across the area. After selling the business, Maureen became the General Manager of Fuss Salons in the Eastern Suburbs. Although she tripled turnover in just a few years, Maureen saw firsthand that staff training and high standards were severely lacking in the Australian Beauty Industry at the time and this got her thinking. What if each employee was trained by a credible college, would graduate with strong qualifications, and from day one present professionally? This would not only raise the standard of the Industry but would also attract students both domestically and internationally.
With an outlay of just $1600, Maureen opened The Australasian College Broadway in 1994. In 2000 the college became the first private Registered Training Organisation (RTO) to win the prestigious New South Wales Training Provider of the Year Award in 2000. The college was also the first private RTO to be accredited to deliver Hairdressing qualifications in Sydney, and in 2008 the College won the inaugural “Battle of the Colleges” judged by the International Hairstylists Society.
“When I won Training Provider of the Year it was a very big thing for me,” said Maureen. “I left school at 16 and to be recognised by my peers at that level was massive. I don’t have letters after my name and I did do it hard and I’ve had to educate myself. So to stand there with the Minister of Education and have my model of education be awarded Training Provider of the Year over the TAFEs was a massive achievement.”
Maureen is just as enthusiastic when speaking about her work in the community.
Although she doesn’t have any children of her own, Maureen is passionate about helping kids and teenagers in the community and has instilled this philosophy at the college. Staff and students get involved in raising funds, donating free hair and beauty services, hosting career days, and providing VIP passes to beneficiaries from organisations such as Canteen, Cornucopia, and the Life Changing Experiences Foundation which assists ‘at risk’ teens. “It’s not just about giving money,” Maureen said. “It’s about giving of your time.”
When the Commander and Youth Liaison Officer from the Leichhardt LAC (Local Area Command) of the NSW Police approached the College last November to gauge their interest in helping young indigenous women put their lives back on track, Maureen didn’t hesitate to embrace the concept. The Australasian College Broadway designed and fully funded a beauty and job skills course to assist unemployed and troubled indigenous youth identified by the Leichhardt LAC as needing positive mentoring.
Maureen gives much of the credit for the program’s success to the Commander and the Youth Liaison Officer at Leichhardt LAC. “I was very impressed by the Police at Leichhardt. You hear all the bad things about Police Officers but you don’t get to hear the good stuff,” she said.
Maureen’s commitment to helping kids has extended to providing her staff with a family friendly working environment. Staff at the college are given the opportunity to work remotely, flexible work hours, being able to bring children to work during school holidays, and offered equal opportunities for career development regardless of educational background or age.
Maureen says investing in your staff is vital to the success of any business. “The stronger they are the stronger you are.”