Guest Blog: A Matter of Being Heard

This is a guest piece by Iman Salim Ali Farrar, the young Muslim lady who is the 2015 YMCA NSW Youth Parliament Premier.  I'm honoured to have her poignant contribution to the blog. 

I was fortunate enough to be elected by the youth delegates as Youth Premier of Queensland in 2008 and it fantastic to see Iman in a similar position this year in NSW.  Chyeah! 



There comes a point in the hub-bub of everyday politics when the discussion on real issues which face our vast communities seems to give way to disjointed partisanship and strong-arm showmanship. Thus, this shows a neglect of the voices which often need to be heard most. Certainly, the lack of balanced and nuanced debate surrounding such issues by our nation’s leaders has heightened deep visions, sensationalized trivialities and disenfranchised many, particularly the young, from mechanisms of political institutions.

Now, it is with great humility and respect that I was provided with the opportunity to lead this year’s NSW YMCA Youth Parliament as the NSW Youth Premier for 2015. The Youth MPs I had the pleasure of working with are some of the most intelligent, outspoken, talented and politically active people I know; I could not be more honoured, and I thank them sincerely for entrusting me to lead them.

Throughout my life, I have lived across four continents and five different countries; I have traveled and I have been immersed in several different cultures, however, due to this, I was never able to fully settle and develop any deep attachment to call anywhere home. I will not deny that this gave me a realisation beyond what I was exposed to in my home and local area – it showed me the different governing systems, the different values and the inherently different lifestyles that came with that. It developed the value that I now have for the many cultures of the world, but I have never felt more at home then I do here in Sydney, Australia. I may have a British accent, I may not have been born here, but my Australian identity is as strong as anyone else’s. I am a migrant, in fact, besides the indigenous, we are all migrants to Australia, and we have all adopted this place as our home. When you see me, you wouldn’t guess that I am half English, and half Malaysian, that I speak 3 languages and can read and write in another two which I do not understand, and that I am a very, very passionate young woman who will not stand to be discriminated against, especially based on my identity as a Muslim or a woman. I may not look or fit any stereotype of anything that you may have in your mind – but against all the odds; of both a society often fearful of Islam and of a society that does not value the opinions of the youth nearly as much as they should, I am still proud to call Australia my home.

Iman with QLD's Former premier, Anna Bligh.  Reppin' QLD! 

Iman with QLD's Former premier, Anna Bligh.  Reppin' QLD! 

I preach for diversity. For it to be fully accepted in society, in managerial positions, in educational standards, and in State and Federal Parliament, and for it to not be a point of discrimination. I believe that it is about time that our Parliament reflects the diverse and multicultural nature of our population. I preach for diversity to be realised, for our true multicultural society to reflect on this notion of diversity, and for our youth and broader society to have their say on matters that affect them, on issues that they have the ability to put forward resolutions for.  As a woman, it fills me with great joy to see that 60% of the participants in this year’s NSW Youth Parliament are women. It is even more impressive that out of the Government Executive in the Legislative Assembly, 4 out of 5 of the executive positions are filled by some of the most inspirational young women I have met in my life who have such drive and passion for positive change in our society. Not only are we challenging the statusquo represented in current state and federal parliament through closing the gap of women in powerful positions, but we also encompass the multicultural nature of New South Wales that we have all come to embrace.

Through grassroots’ apolitical forums such as YMCA NSW Youth Parliament, the voices of this State’s young leaders are allowed to cut through much of the clutter and put into creating legislation and open debate regarding the issues facing their own communities as well as broader society. I believe that it is pivotal to acknowledge that this is not a matter of small significance. Rather, the Youth Parliament program kindles that political awareness and superb quality integral to the next generation of our states’ leaders – ensuring the future burns even brighter than the past.

And who said we, the youth, don’t have a voice?

It is simply a matter of being heard.


This is a guest piece by Iman Salim Ali Farrarthe young Muslim lady who is the current 2015 YMCA NSW Youth Parliament Premier.  I'm honoured to have her contribution to the blog and stoked to see more and more young Muslim women doing awesome things and leading with compassion, integrity and vision.

Iman Salim Ali Farrar

Iman Salim Ali Farrar

Defence Australia wants to know what we think. Help me tell them.

Ladies and Gents, occasionally we have to use the tools the system has given us to agitate some change. That time may be now...

Defence Australia is calling for submissions from the community to inform the Defence White Paper, which will guide Australia's Defence spending for the next 20 years. 

They want the community to send in thoughts - and if you have ever wished you could change the way Defence spends their money or thinks about things, this is the opportunity you have been looking for.

It is so important for marginalised and minority voices to be heard in this sort of forum.  I'd like to make sure, in whatever way I can, that these voices are heard.

Therefore, if you want to write a submission (or a short paragraph showing your feelings!), check out the links below:

WHITE PAPER (What on earth a 'white paper' is...)

COMMUNITY CONSULTATION (Some info about the consultation process)

PUBLIC SUBMISSIONS (Where you make a submission)

2014 PAPER (What the 2014 paper said).

If you don't want to write your own submission but want your voice heard, email me: and tell me what you think, or we can have a chat in some other way.

Make sure your voice gets heard. 








'No Advantage': Australia takes a humanitarian step backwards

This article was originally written for the International Political Forum, read the article here.

The Federal Government of Australia has announced changes to its policies that will see Australia take a huge leap backwards in the humanity of its processing of refugees and asylum seekers.

Allow me a moment here for honest disbelief and disappointment in the handling of this unnecessarily controversial issue.

The Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced that asylum seekers that arrive by boat will no longer be detained in Nauru or Manus (PNG) as the the offshore processing facilities have reached their capacity.  Instead, they will be allocated "temporary bridging visas", meaning they will be allowed to live outside detention centers without the right to work or bring their families to Australia.  The bridging visas will allow for welfare and assistance of up to 89% of unemployment benefits ($270) a week, a sum below the Australian poverty line.  [More after the jump]

The policy is eerily similar to the Howard era's draconian Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) but manages to make matters worse.

Individuals under TPVs were allowed to work and contribute to the community, thus culturally preparing them for the eventual transition to full Australian citizens once their processing was complete.

The policy, quite frankly, is a recipe for disaster.  Introducing potentially thousands of asylum seekers into a community, living in poverty and with no legal way to earn money or improve their standard of living is not only inhumane, it is short sighted and irresponsible.  Charities will be overwhelmed by the demand on their resources, communities can turn into ghettos and by disenfranchising and isolating truly vulnerable individuals, the policy has the potential to become the birthplace of a new underclass.

Asylum seekers and refugees are often eager to work, diligent and dedicated to beginning a new life.  Stripped of their opportunity to do so, where will they turn? How will they properly adapt to their new culture?  Looking internally, why would the community accept them if they don't see them contributing to the community?

There is no doubt that this is a difficult and complex issue with no easy solution.  However, the solution cannot lay in essentially reinvigorating a decade old policy, in flaunting international law and creating inevitable problems for the future of Australia's social fabric.

Michelle Grattan made the following comment, challenging people to come up with better options.

It is easy to find holes in what the government has done this week. But it's another matter to say what policy adjustment would best meet the three criteria of humanity, effectiveness and community acceptability.

I tend to disagree.  Australians (perhaps reluctantly) elected this government to lead the nation, not pander to every whim, ensuring every solution is "acceptable to the community" before it is implemented.  It is their job as leaders and governors of the nation to provide solutions that are in the best interests of the country and its citizens, not simply in the interests of providing short term solutions that may work up until the election date.

Unfortunately however, this isn't how the system seems to work.

The public discussion on this issue has been clouded with political agendas, biased language, emotional manipulation and pure exploitation of fear of the unknown from both sides of the house.  Unfortunately, it seems our very humanity as a responsible nation has been caught in the crossfire.  There is very little public understanding of what will 'stop the boats' - advertisements such as the below are incredibly ineffective.  Where is a potential asylum seeker going to access a computer and the Internet in order to even view the video?  In two months it has had a total of 8.927 views...I think that speaks for itself.

Caption provided: "We're working regionally to stop people smugglers. There's no advantage taking a boat when it's safer, cheaper and just as quick to use orderly migration options." They have got to be kidding. (via)

It is no wonder that Australia is developing a reputation as 'extremely harsh'.

In a time where the nation is attempting to build its reputation in the region and globally through initiatives such as the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper and the seat on the Security Council, this is an embarrassment.  Neighbours such as Indonesia and Malaysia, who deal with much larger numbers, are hardly likely to be impressed - or understanding.

The unfortunate result is that this issue has become unnecessarily politicised and used as a manipulator of the public sentiment by both parties.  Simplistic statements such as "stop the boats" dehumanise individuals and create a political football that completely distorts the true nature of the discussion. 'The conversation has been poisoned' suggests Professor Burnside, and that poison is what feeds the inexorable decent in this debate.

Almost everything that has happened in refugee policy over the past 11 years has been informed and supported by dishonest rhetoric. Specifically, calling boat people “illegals” and “queue-jumpers” is not only false, it is calculated to prejudice the public against a tiny group of weak, vulnerable people who deserve our help, not our hatred. (via)

In the grand scheme of things, these traumatised men, women and children are less than 10% of our annual migration intake and are just looking for a new, peaceful place to call home.

I doubt that they expected that when they eventually arrived in Australia they would be treated worse than our criminals.

Budget implications should be enough to convince your average Australian that there is a better solution.  Detention onshore costs around $150, 000 per person, per year and offshore costs about $500, 000 per person, per year.  Surely, there are better options.

For a fantastic article that looks at a possible alternative, check out Professor Julian Burnside's thoughts.  There are many other humane solutions out there

Lastly, for those who claim that these initiatives stop the boat, Professor James Hathaway (an expert on international refugee law) states:

The whole people-smuggling problem is a false issue. We created the market for human smuggling. If asylum seekers could lawfully come to Australia and make a refugee claim without the need of sneaking in by boat, they would do it.  But we make it illegal and create the market that smugglers thrive on.

We are extremely lucky to live in Australia and call this land home.  Is it too much to show some humanity and share?

Assange: A thought-bite


I haven’t had time to think this through, but I wanted to add to highlight the conversation, especially in light of reading a number of things on trust lately.

The issue of Julian Assange has heated up with his first public appearance in two months.

What are your thoughts on Assange and the trial that is happening at the moment? This Guardian editorial is interesting…

But that is precisely the point: the valuable service performed by Mr Assange at WikiLeaks is a different issue from the serious accusations facing him in Sweden. Conflating the two may provide a rhetorical rush, as it did in Knightsbridge on Sunday; but over the longer term it badly damages the reputation of WikiLeaks and does Mr Assange's case no practical good.

I think if Assange truly did what he did to those women that is awful, and any man regardless of stature should be punished for such acts. However, I don’t have trouble believing that he has made very powerful enemies because of his work, which then leads me to wondering about the motivations behind allegations. It is not my place to judge, but I do wonder…

It is an easy way to discredit a man and to cause enough fuss that his work becomes tarnished with the same brush. Yes, the editorial says they are two different issues, but at the same time, WikiLeaks’s brand is so tied into the ‘brand’ of Julian Assange that I don’t think it could escape the spill.

Which would be convenient for a number of people, to say the least.

Interesting times…

Whatever you think about Assange, I think what he did was cause a little chaos, and a little chaos is always refreshing. For me, it was about making governments aware that they should be accountable to the people who elected them. That is the aim, the why. The execution, well, that is another matter entirely, and totally up to interpretation.

We all know where leaving things to interpretation gets us…