2016 Daily Life Woman of the Year, Mariam Veiszadeh is a lawyer, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant, contributing author and a social commentator.
Mariam has been a fearless advocate for the past decade, championing the rights of minority groups in an endeavour to normalise ‘difference’ or rather, normality. As a ‘Twitter personality’ her views are frequently sought by the media around race, religion and cultural diversity related issues and her opinion pieces are widely published across various publications.
Mariam has many accolades to her name which include the following:
- Elle Magazine Malaysia Change Maker 2015 – selected as one of 12 women helping “change the world” alongside the likes of Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie
- Role Model of the Year & Woman of the Year Australian Muslim Achievement Awards 2015
- Westpac’s Woman of Influence Award 2015
- Fairfax Daily Life’s Woman of the Year 2016
- Community Champion Finalist, Western Sydney University Alumni Awards 2017
Through her various ambassador roles, including as an ambassador for Welcome to Australia which provides a positive voice in the public conversation around asylum seekers and refugees, and her social media platforms, Mariam advocates for equal opportunity and inclusion for all people within our society.
Mariam sits on the Board of Our Watch, a national organisation established to drive nationwide change in the culture, behaviours and power imbalances that lead to violence against women and their children.
In 2017, Mariam addressed an audience of approximately 4000+ in her TEDx Sydney talk to shed light on the issue of societal privilege and how it creates an unequal playing field for diverse minority groups. She successfully mounted the case for why cultural diversity targets are required to help create more of a meritocracy and stamp out racism and discrimination in the corporate sector.
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.
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