2016 Fairfax Daily Life Woman of the Year | Recovering Lawyer | Diversity & Inclusion Practitioner |Fairfax Daily Life Columnist | Keynote Speaker
2016 Fairfax Daily Life Woman of the Year, Mariam Veiszadeh is a Lawyer, Diversity & Inclusion Practitioner, Advocate and a Social Commentator.
Proud of her refugee background, Mariam is passionate about championing the rights of minority groups in an endeavour to normalise ‘difference’ or rather, normality.
Mariam is an Ambassador for Welcome to Australia, which aims to provide a positive voice in the public conversation around asylum seekers, refugees and multiculturalism.
In 2015, Mariam was selected by Elle Magazine Malaysia as one of 12 women who were helping “change the world”, alongside the likes of Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie. Mariam was also a finalist in the Daily Life Women of the Year Awards as well as being awarded Westpac’s ‘Woman of Influence’ Award for 2015.
She has been described as a woman who uses her “considerable wit and smarts to punch holes in the stupidity of racism, sexism and xenophobia in general” and someone who has “courage, tenacity and perseverance without the protection and resources afforded by public office.”
As a fearless advocate, Mariam is accustomed to being both an advocate against and a victim of xenophobia. In 2015, she made global headlines as she endured months of cyber-bullying for simply speaking out against bigotry. Australians responded by rallying behind Mariam using the hashtag #IstandwithMariam. Her experiences of cyber-bullying have been cited as a case study in several publications and books including in Tara Moss’ ‘Speaking Out’.
Her influence is felt in the many initiatives she promotes across her social media platforms in which she collectively has close to 50,000 followers.
My story of my journey to Australia on Welcome to Australia:
I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan during the Soviet War in 1984.
I, like every other human being living on this earth, didn’t exercise any choice in where, or the circumstances in which I would be born.
Due to the Soviet war my family had to flee Afghanistan in 1988.
Our journey took us from Kabul to India, to the Czech Republic, followed by Germany and then finally we were granted asylum in Australia in 1991 under the Refugee and Special Humanitarian program.
I was enrolled in school both in India and Germany, each time making new friends and learning a completely new language.
Upon arrival in Australia I was immediately enrolled into English as Second Language (ESL) classes.
Now when I reflect on my humble beginnings, it is still unbelievable to think that I arrived in Australia as a shy 7 year old who couldn’t speak a word of English.
I will be forever grateful to Australia for the educational opportunities I have been given and for allowing my family and I, to call Australia our ‘home’.
I am often saddened though by the conduct of some of our politicians and media personalities who seem to be peddling peoples’ prejudices rather than challenging them.
Multiculturalism is here to stay and not just in the form of Chinese dumplings and Turkish kebabs so let’s all work towards ensuring that the Australia that we all call home, doesn’t just seek to tolerate diversity, but rather, celebrates it.
Mariam Veiszadeh, Lawyer and Muslim Community Advocate
Originally published on Welcome to Australia website
Thank you Jenna Price for writing this wonderful piece about me.
Freedom of Religion is a really great thing Jenna Price 18 Sept 2012