Biographies of Speakers and Facilitators
Tasneem Chopra is the current Chair of the Islamic Women’s Welfare Council of Victoria. She has been involved with this organisation since its inception over 13 years ago, and has a background in psychology, with over a decade of experience in community development. Tasneem currently works independently as a Cross Cultural Trainer and Consultant specialising in information sessions on ‘Understanding Islam and Muslims in Australia’ with a particular interest in promoting issues of social justice impacting on Muslim women. In addition to this she has been a contributor to the national journal, Australian Islamic Review.
Farah Farouque is the Social Affairs Editor at The Age, where she has a wide-ranging brief to cover social issues ranging from poverty and homelessness to ethnic affairs, demographic change and social trends. She has reported on the Bali bombings of 2002 and the tsunami disaster in Sri Lanka in 2004–05. She has also reported on Victorian and federal politics including three years in the Press Gallery in Canberra. In 2001, she was awarded an Asialink/Melbourne University fellowship which involved a three-month work exchange at Tempo news magazine in Jakarta. Farah is also a previous winner of the Australian-Arabic Council's national media award.
On a personal note, she is a rare species in the mainstream media – a Muslim. Her family migrated to Adelaide – where she went to school and university – in the mid 70s from Sri Lanka.
Laila El-Assaad is an Education Officer for the Muslim Women’s Association of SA. She coordinates and delivers a cross-cultural consultancy service for schools community groups and service providers on Islam and Muslims. She is also a high school teacher and has fifteen years experience of working with South Australia’s Arabic and Muslim communities. She participates on various committees including the Multicultural Education Committee (which advises the South Australian Minister of Education on multicultural education) along with the Multicultural SA’s Women’s Advisory Committee.
Dakhylina Madkhul is a Project Coordinator for the Goodness & Kindness Partnership – an interfaith harmony workshop program for primary schools. She is also a Student Welfare Coordinator and Counsellor at a Muslim school in Springvale and is currently completing her Psychology qualifications. She has been involved with community work for at least ten years and has a passion for working with young people. Dakhylina is a panel member of Channel 31's Salam Cafe TV show and volunteers for a weekly Malay program on community radio and the National Security Files about Muslim current affairs on 3CR community radio. Other interests include soccer, traditional martial arts and organising huge Ladies' Dances.
Hatice ‘Hutch’ Hussein defines herself as a ‘cultural Muslim’, who combines her Turkish-Cypriot heritage with Muslim traditions. She is currently the Business Development Manager at the Northern Migrant Resource Centre in Melbourne’s northern suburbs which, via its settlement, aged care, family relationship, youth and employment services programs, aims to assist generations of migrants and refugees reach their full potential. Hutch has also worked as a Ministerial Adviser in the Education and Women’s Affairs portfolios. In her ‘spare time’, Hutch volunteers her time to a range of organisations which aim to empower women to make a difference in public life.
Voula Messimeri has been involved in the community services field for over 20 years and has a particular interest in multicultural affairs and women's issues. She was appointed the position of Executive Director of the Australian Greek Welfare Society in 1989 and elected Chair of the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia in 2006. She is the first woman to hold the position.
Helen Szoke is the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Conciliator of the Equal Opportunity Commission of Victoria. Previously, Helen was the Chief Executive Officer of the Infertility Treatment Authority in Melbourne, Victoria,.Helen is currently a member of the National Health and Medical Research Licensing Committee and the Board of Adult Migrant Education Services, and is past Chairperson of Women’s Health Victoria. She has served as a committee member and Chairperson of the Ethics Committee of the Royal Women's Hospital, a member of the Victorian Family Therapy Association Ethics Committee, a member of the School Council of Melbourne High School, an executive member of the Victorian Council of Social Services and an inaugural executive member of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia. She also served one term as a city councillor in the Preston City Council.
Joumana El-Matrah is truly of Middle Eastern descent with an ancestry that includes Turkish, Egyptian and Syrian. She was born in Lebanon and migrated with her family to Australia in 1976 because of the civil war in Lebanon. Joumana became a staff member of the Islamic Women’s Welfare Council of Victoria in 2000, and since that period the Council’s work has grown significantly. In 2002, she was invited by Rutgers University Centre for Women’s Leadership in New York to attend an annual international training conference on ‘Women’s Rights; Understanding the Intersections of Racism, Sexism and other Oppressions’. She has also been awarded a Churchill Grant to investigate international models of working with Muslim women.
Joy Murphy is an Aboriginal Elder of the Wurundjeri people. Joy has been involved with Aboriginal issues for 30 years and is Chairperson of the Australian Indigenous Consultative Assembly. She has held executive positions across many sectors of Government. Joy is an honorary Professor of Swinburne University, a Trustee of the National Gallery of Victoria, a member of the Victoria Police Ethical Standards Consultative Committee and a member of the Equal Opportunity Commission. She also operates her own business, Jarlo Visions.
Doug Weller has been a consulting media trainer since 1996 and is Director of Corporate Media Services Pty Ltd which he established in 2004. Doug has 30 years experience in journalism, including 13 years with the ABC in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Washington D.C. Doug has also lectured in Journalism at RMIT University, worked as a political adviser, developed media strategies and executed issues and crisis management programs for a range of companies and organisations.
Ms Maria Vamvakinou MP is the Federal Member for Calwell (Vic.). She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2001 and 2004. Maria was born in Lefkada, Greece in 1959. Before entering politics she was a high school teacher from 1982–87. During her parliamentary career she has been a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment and Workplace Relations and the Joint Statutory Committee on Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings. She is currently a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Native Title and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Fund and the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. Maria has been a member of various parliamentary delegations including the Parliamentary Delegation to Canada and Chile from March–April 2003. She holds various policy and branch positions within the ALP.
Moona Hammoud was born in Australia. Moona started working at the Islamic Women’s Welfare Council of Victoria in March 2003 while working towards her Bachelor of Social Science (Youth Work) Degree. At the Council, Moona works as part of the Diversity, Choices & Communications Program project, which aims to empower young Muslim women with the information, support and communication skills they need for their successful settlement in Australia. She has also worked as part of the Recreation Project at the Council and has successfully organised two Soccer Skills workshops for young Muslim women in metropolitan Melbourne and rural Victoria.
Sultan Cinar migrated from Turkey to Australia 26 years ago. She has studied Social Science at RMIT and Health Science at La Trobe University. Sultan has been working in the public welfare sector for the last 20 years. She has worked with Community Health Centres, Neighbourhood Houses, Skill Share, Anti-Cancer Council, local councils and hospitals. Her main work components are community development, community education programs, case work and consultation.
Sultan joined the Islamic Women’s Welfare Council of Victoria in 2003 as a Team Leader and Citizenship/Anti Violence worker.
Nurcihan Ozturk immigrated from Turkey in 1969 with her family and was one of the original founding members of the Victorian Immigrant & Refugee Women’s Coalition in 1997. She was the Assistant Secretary of the Victorian Branch of the Textile, Clothing & Footwear Union of Australia and Junior Vice President of that union nationally. She was also the first Chairwoman of the Textile Workers Asian & Pacific Regional Organisation Women’s Committee. Nurcihan was selected for the First Women’s Honour Roll by the Victorian Government in celebration of Australia’s Centenary of Federation in 2001. She is a member of the Thomastown Turkish Women’s Recreational Group and is the current Executive Officer of the VIRWC. Nurcihan works tirelessly and with passion on issues affecting the CALD communities and in particular issues affecting women.
Margaret Donaldson is the Director of the Race Discrimination Unit of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Prior to that she was the Director of the Native Title Unit, where she was responsible for the annual publication of the Commission’s Native Title Report. Prior to joining the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Margaret practiced as a solicitor, specialising in government law, administrative law and commercial litigation.
Dalal Samaan is of Assyrian-Lebanese background. She immigrated to Australia in 2000 from Lebanon. She has qualifications in Computer Mathematics, and Quality Management and Assurance. She has extensive experience in corporate and service organisations including World Vision International. She has also had extensive community involvement. Currently Ms Samaan is the Deputy Chair of the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women's Coalition, the Deputy Chairperson of the Beth-Nahrin Assyrian Cultural Club as well as the Convener of the Assyrian-Chaldean Women's Network. She is a committee member of Northern Enterprising Women, an organisation which supports women from CALD backgrounds to establish their own small businesses. Currently Ms Samaan works with the Whittlesea Community Legal Service as a Coordinator of Service Administration and Volunteers. Ms Samaan is very passionate about the issues affecting the newly emerging communities and issues affecting immigrant women in particular.
Nadia Mohamed is a qualified and experienced Youth worker, and has interests in community development, especially from a youth perspective. Currently she works for the Centre for Multicultural Youth Issues, Australian Multicultural Foundation and PRACE.
Action Sheet 1
Join in activities that promote human rights and community relations
Hold a fundraiser to give money to people who need basic necessities
Host a community forum – educate people about others and celebrate differences
Bring young people from various backgrounds together to talk
Make sure you publicise your event to attract lots of interested people
If you experience discrimination tell someone about it. Don’t keep quiet
Use the media:
- to educate
- to build up harmony
- to support the initiatives of others
- to educate
- for political empowerment
Share legal education about citizenship rights and responsibilities
Find out about available services, such as Migrant Resource Centres and Legal Aid
Increase knowledge abut Islam and other communities
Find out about how diverse your local community is; meet your neighbour and hear their stories
Create good communication between key political figures and grass-roots level organisations
Generate more opportunities for young (women) Muslims in events
Invite religious/spiritual leaders to participate in community events
For more ideas check out: www.humanrights.gov.au/info_for_students/getinvolved/index.html
Action Sheet 2
How can parents and their children help empower each other, help each other cope with discrimination and help bridge the generation gap?
Learn about each other
Lead by example
Bridge the gaps, such as the use of technology
Share activities and common experiences
Develop skills together
Effectively communicate with each other
Meet in groups
Give and receive love
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria
Other complaints bodies such as healthcare complaints bodies and patient representatives
Community legal centres
Member of Parliament
Action Sheet 4
Good reasons to report an incident of discrimination, vilification or abuse and/or lodge a complaint.
To get personal satisfaction
To get a meaningful outcome such as an apology
To get monetary compensation for loss, for example if you lost your job as a result
To change policies and practices in the workplace/business/service, so that the discrimination does not happen again
To change things for the better for other people, who may also be the victims of discrimination and abuse if no action is taken
To get the perpetrator to front up to the problem
To get justice
To inform organisations such as the Commission, EOCV, police and others to understand a pattern of behaviour and inform programs and services to eliminate discrimination and abuse
Action Sheet 5
How can you empower yourself and others to combat stereotypes and discrimination – from a youth perspective?
Stand up for the victim
Tell someone about it – police, teacher or parent
Ask perpetrator how they would feel
Explain that bullying shows weaknesses, not strengths and that it is not cool
Use a joke
Tell the perpetrator that it’s wrong
Tell the perpetrator that they don’t really understand you or your culture
Stand up for your religion
Learn what your rights are
Complain to the police/authorities
Challenge unacceptable behaviour in public
For more ideas check out:
Action Sheet 6
Encourage Muslims to be active and visible in supporting people/causes/issues not related to Islam:
- working bee at school
- lollypop lady
- discuss recipes on talkback radio
Media has to change how they portray Muslims
Bring in people of different cultural backgrounds (e.g. woman in hijab) to say the news/weather on mainstream television or be a Playschool presenter
Need to make an impact at a policy level including:
- education for both Muslims and non-Muslims
- education for both men and women
- education for the broader community
Governmental responsibility and accountability
Workshop ideas to be discussed in schools and broader communities
Teaching about different religions:
- in schools
- to childcare workers
- to pre-school workers.
Non-Muslim community leaders defending basic social justice issues and championing inclusiveness and diversity
Linking discrimination against Muslims to wider discrimination against all people
Interfaith dialogue between religious leaders
Government to use a more inclusive model for ‘Australian values’
Create connections with women who have been successful in the workplace or community
For more ideas check out the Ismaﻉ Project: www.humanrights.gov.au/racial_discrimination/isma
Establish the points you want to raise BEFORE the interview (at least three main points)
Have a plan or ‘follow a map’ when dealing with media/journalists
Don’t let journalists ‘lead’ the interview
Be confident in the topic you are to interviewed about
Present yourself calmly and try not to get emotional or upset
Don’t get sidetracked
Admit if you don’t know or are unsure of the answer. Don’t feel compelled to ‘create’ a response
De-mystify stereotypes and the ‘fear’ behind those stereotypes
Ensure media is made accountable and take legal action if appropriate
Action Sheet 8
What are some of the measures you can take in the workplace to avoid or combat discrimination?
Provide strong leadership
Training for senior management
- awareness of employees in relation to each other
- ongoing evaluation of impact and changes as a result of training
- training management to be empathetic not sympathetic
Talk about difference
Make diversity an ongoing agenda item in meetings:
- diversity in employment
- set up committees drawing on people interested in specific issues e.g. well-being
- create committees of joint staff and management
- generate consultation about workplace practices
Flexibility around employment arrangements;
- special needs of women
- obligatory needs
Awareness of legal rights and responsibilities
Even-handedness – ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally
Provide allowances for religious observances:
- prayer – to be respected by other employees
- workplace to be aware of different calendars/ celebrations
- acknowledge and celebrate different cultural/religious celebrations
Peer support and supervision:
- opportunity to reflect/raise issues
- anti-bullying; anti-racial and -religious vilifications
- accessible complaints process
- establish a grievance handling mechanism that is culturally sensitive
Regular review of policy procedures
Understand the rights of Muslim women:
- include in work policies
- legal and industrial rights
- available to all
- act on policy
For more ideas check out information about the Commission’s Good Practice, Good Business Resources at: https://humanrights.gov.au/education/employers
Action Sheet 9
What are the skills needed for support services to help Muslim women cope in crisis situations including racial and/or religious discrimination and abuse?
Bi-lingual workers or readily available translators
Convey information in relevant languages
Culturally sensitive and religious knowledge and understanding
Buddy/mentor system to support person facing crisis and make connections with other women who have experienced discrimination
Employ more Muslim women representatives on committees, especially in mainstream organisations
Willingness to support women through complaints process and explain the systems in a time that suits the women
Forming partnerships between culturally aware organisations and mainstream organisations
Support for women and their children
Point of entry of complainant will vary – agencies needs to be responsive
Use technology to support/break down geographic boundaries, such as using international networks
Simplify process – not too much paperwork
Support services to be:
- politically savvy
- confident in speaking out
- well resourced
Understand and respect of Islam and its practical applications
A willingness to be myth breakers
Appreciate differences as positives
Encourage women to speak up
Ensure that perpetrators receive restorative justice such as community work in a Muslim community