Repping the Uni of Queensland!


A little while ago I was fortunate / blessed / someone was crazy enough to let me in front of their camera - to be a part of a University of Queensland Campaign.  Enjoy the video that came out of it! Special mentions to the Spark Engineering Camp crew and the University of Queensland Racing team, who are like my family, truly.

SBS Online: If quotas are not the answer, what was the question?

The piece was originally posted on SBS News Online!

SBS Online

Since the announcement of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's one-woman cabinet, the discussion around quotas and representation of women in levels of influence has been rekindled with passion.  Both sides of the debate have defended their position with vehement enthusiasm.

"Oh, I am all for equal and fair representation of women - but quotas? No, I want women based on merit", is the most common argument.

Women themselves - even those who would be in a position to benefit - seem particularly sensitised to this argument. They'll shy away from being given an 'unfair advantage' or reject it outright, presumably in the belief that to do otherwise would be to affect their perceived legitimacy.

Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop is a strong opponent of quotas. ''I never want to see affirmative action - that is, you got the job because you were a woman - because that makes you a permanent second-class citizen,'' she says. Her fellow Member of Parliament, Julie Bishop, shares this sentiment.

The discussion around targets, quotas or affirmative action is extremely polarising, yet the underlying question seems to be unclear. What exactly is it that we are trying to achieve - and why? If quotas are not the answer, what is?

If "more women in leadership positions" is the overall aim, then the data from around the world proves that the concept of affirmative action appears to be working.

Norway is touted as the classic global example, having introduced a mandatory quota for women on boards in 2002 and passed by the Norwegian parliament in 2003. In this Scandinavian nation, the percentage of women on boards did in fact increase from 9% in 2003 to 39% in 2009. The first study on the effects of the quota was undertaken by the Norwegian Institute for Social Research and the results reinforced the benefit of affirmative action on the 'bigger picture'.  It was reported that the majority of directors surveyed indicated that more women on the board led to new perspectives and more issues being added to the board agenda.  A seeming win-win situation, right?

But if the aim is about promoting those with this intangible and extremely subjective criteria of 'merit' - well, perhaps our society's entire process of promotion needs an overhaul!

In pure numbers, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that women have the edge on their male counterparts in Bachelor degrees and higher qualifications.  27 per cent of women compared to 24 per cent of men hold these type of tertiary degrees.  If we are looking at entry requirements for merit, wouldn't these numbers reflect an even - or even female oriented - outcome?  Understandably, leadership positions aren't just based on degrees. Industry and management experience and networks play a significant role, as well as the fact that often women take time off work to raise families.  But if we are talking about 'merit', qualifications are surely an indicator.

If society functions by promoting, hiring and being led by the best, why do all our 'best' look so similar at the top - but things work so differently at the bottom? The difference between entry points is striking.

The Australian Financial Review's 100 Women of Influence, for example, is a list of some of the most inspiring ladies around the country. Yet the significant contribution and capacity of women doesn't seem to leave the  impression that it should. Whether this is because we, as females are predisposed to more nurturing roles, or whether this is because people hire and promote those who are like them is up for debate - but it remains a thorn in our sides.


Jane Caro asks some of these questions in a timely piece, where she also highlights that the idea of quotas and targets are not new and they continue to be utilised for a variety of representations.  It would be inconceivable for a regional representative or a youth representative for example, to refuse a position solely because they were selected on the basis of location or age.

Why is gender different? What makes us all so uncomfortable with forced structural change around gender?  I struggle to understand the deep seated resentment against the idea.  Is there a sense of illegitimacy if a woman feels like she is only there to 'fill in a quota' and if so, where does that sense of illegitimacy come from?

I am not a social engineer and don't have the answer.  I am simply a 22-year-old who wonders: is inducing change to have women around the cabinet table and in the boardroom the best way to achieve our collective desired outcome?  Quite possibly yes - if the aim is for our leadership and the pipelines to these positions to be fair, equitable and representative.

By equity and fairness, I mean that the characteristic of gender is not an obstacle to being considered, and that a woman's capacity is readily identifable. Of course, removing unconscious bias is easier said than done.  By representative, I mean that our leadership reflects the makeup of those being led.  Given a majority of our population is women, a largely male dominated leadership is not really representative at all.

One thing is for sure : affirmative action makes the talents of women more visible.  It is a mechanism to force people to look outside the usual traps for talent, and that is what gives the concept potential.

Philosophically, we might not feel comfortable with it - but if the aim is to have our leadership as diverse as our population, perhaps the end justifies the means.

The piece was originally posted on SBS News Online!

Women in the LNP Cabinet: What's Next?


In April this year, we had a female Prime Minister, a record number of women in our cabinet and a rich and interesting public debate around the role of women in our society, evidenced through books like the Griffith Review's Women and Power, and the capitvating campaign, Destroy the Joint.

Fast forward a few months and where are we?  In a nation where the discourse around women in leadership seems stifled and the cabinet has fewer women than that of Afghanistan.  That comparison is apt.  It illustrates that even in a country struggling with a war torn history and one that is generally portrayed in Western media as an oppressive environment for women has the systems in place to enable more females to play a leading role in the governance of the state.  Part of me thinks this is more about the fact that there is a lack of understanding about the role the women play in Eastern countries, but that is another discussion in itself.

Should this lack of women in our cabinet be something we discuss, analyse or just accept?  Should we be worried? It is definitely had the fingertips on keyboards, and for good reason.  

On Meritocracy

For what it is worth, I will throw my hat in the ring here by saying that I am sick of people saying that 'women shouldn't be promoted for the sake of a quota or a target'.  It is a common sentiment when quotas or targets are mentioned, and quite often by other women.  There seems to be a sense that a quota will take away from the sense of legitimacy of a woman's position, and there will be a perception that gender was the only reason that position was awarded.

"It's got to be a meritocracy." said Brownyn Bishop to Radio National.  On that basis, has the current 'meritocracy' has deemed that women aren't able to govern our countries or run our boards? I highly doubt it.  Also, does this mean that every man is promoted on the basis of merit?  James Diaz rings a bell for someone who might not fit that depiction.  

Yes, a meritocracy is important.  What seems to be forgotten however, is that a meritocracy is only as good as the access and equity of the pathways available.  If there are 'women knocking on the doors' of the cabinet as Abbott has stated, what is stopping them from jumping that threshold? Is that door locked?

Yes, he is focusing on 'stability and consistency', and it is understandable he doesn't want to cause too much change.  He said he is disappointed, but clearly not disappointed enough to make any changes.   Is there a systemic issue, or is it one of circumstance?  

The alarming lack of diversity among those who lead our nation is something we should care about.  As Nareen Young so eloquently put it, leadership should reflect the community that it serves.   No one can better represent a group that someone from that actual group - a woman for women, an indigenous for the First People, a culturally and linguistically diverse for the many migrants, and so on and so forth.  The current lineup insinuates that the group - all from a similar socio-economic demographic an gender - are able to speak for and represent all of Australia.  It does seem a little...disingenuous.  

Our Future

The best way to encourage the young and bright to any discipline is by having role models who are walking the walk.

Right now, who do we have? Our last role model in the area, Julia Gillard, was treated by the media and public perception with insults and vitriol that were lower than low.  The fact that the this was said by people who are on our airwaves boggles the mind!  Political correctness gone wrong they say - gah! There was no correctness at all.

So with the events of the last few months, what on earth would encourage a young woman to enter politics? Society inculcates enough self esteem issues related to appearance growing up as a teenager, you would hope people had moved on by the time they 'grew up'. Not so, it seemed.

Now, with even fewer women gracing our tv screens in a governing role, who will we look up to?

On one hand, it is amazing and awesome that we had a female PM, a female Speaker and now a female Foreign Affairs Minister.  It would seem though that these are more exceptions that prove the rule.  The way they were treated and their circumstances indicate that really, there is still a way to go.

What Next?

The thing is, the country has chosen. Decisively, it chose the Coalition of the Liberal and National Party to represent us for the next three years. So no matter how we feel about their policies, we must accept the decision of the people and work with what we have.  

What we shouldn't accept though, is a return to being represented by those who don't reflect the make up of the nation.  We should keep talking about the role of women in society - in governing roles such as on the Cabinet and in the Boardroom.  We should talk about the equality of opportunity and fairness.  We should talk about allowing women the freedom to stay at home if they so choose, and respect that role equally - but understand that isn't the only role that they can play in our societies.

We should also, remember to bring men into this conversation.  At the end of the day, they are our fathers, our husbands, brothers, uncles, friends.  They are also dealing with finding their role in society, and getting them on board, to understand why this needs to happen and why it is important is imperative.  Hey, no one said it would be easy, after all, no group likes sharing power.

At the end of the day though, if we really want to see any change, we have to shake the system up enough, get enough of a critical mass behind us, and demand change ourselves.

Isn't that democracy?


Bonus: The Principle of Gender Equality...cannot be articulated better than by this video.

It may seem old fashioned and ridiculous, but one wonders at times, how many of these views are actually still held today but simply suppressed due to the current climate of political correctness...

#BWF13 Comedy: Australia needs Politicians, Not Leaders


 Literary festivals are wonderful feasts for the mind; the Brisbane Writers' Festival was no exception.

Held over the 5th - 8th of September at the beautiful State Library of Queensland, it brought together some amazing - truly amazing - writers and authors and I was humbled to be speaking alongside some of them for a few events.

The photo above is with the authors Tim Cope (on my left) and Chris Sarra on my right.  Both of their stories are amazing and worth checking out; Tim rode along the steps of Genghis Khan, and Chris is the former Principal of Cherbourg School, who was able to change the culture of low expectations and attendance at this Indigenous education facility.

The second event I had the honour of being a part of was The Great Debate.  Held on election night, it meant that I didn't have to watch the telly or really think about politics... except our topic was 'Australia needs leaders, not politicians', and we were on the negative.

My fellow debaters were William McInnes and Julia Zemiro from Eurovision (and Rockwiz). We were pitted against Tim FischerAnita Heiss and the delightful Ben McKenzie.

Unlike the debates I have previously been involved in, I soon found that this was to be a 'hilarious' debate (as the crowd below can attest to). Here is a little excerpt of what I had to say...(or what was on the script anyway!).




I'm just want to start by saying that I'm an engineer by trade, so I am very serious, my points are bullet pointed, and there will be numbers.
I have been chosen to rule over you, though I am not the best among you.  Help me if I am right; correct me if I am wrong.
These are the words of Abu Bakr Al-Siddique.  Abu Bakr was the first ruler – and politician – in Islam.  He was referred to as the ‘Khalifa’, and Khalifa in Arabic means ‘custodian’ – of the people, the principles of the religion and of the land.
He was chosen.  Politicians are representatives, leaders are not.

I will argue two points tonight, both which will prove to you undeniably that Australia needs politicians, not leaders, regardless of what the election says.

Firstly, I will argue that we as don’t want to be lead, we want to be represented.  Politician are those who represent us.

It is no secret that Australians aren’t a fan of tall poppies, people who think they know what’s good for us, or authority figures in general.  Debate2

We don't we want people who will tell us where they think we should go,we want to tell them where we want to go and have them take us there. Or that's how Its supposed to work - ours don't quite have that down yet.

Secondly one of the main differences between leaders and politicians is that leaders are assume power, while politicians are entrusted with power to make decisions by the us, the people – the citizens they represent.

After all, who will a leader be answerable and accountable to?

Putting this aside, one of the most important contribution politicians make to our society is that they entertain us. They keep our journalists employed and without them, who would Annabelle Crabb talk to in Kitchen Cabinet? Phillip, what would you write about if there were no pollies? The pages of the Australian would be laid bare...

While googling the answer to this topic, I came across the following quote by Gourcho Marx.

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

SO in essence, politics is the art of trouble.

This is definitely what Australia needs.

Leaders inspire us, yes this is true.

However, our National Anthem says 'Australian all let us rejoice, for we are young and free...'

We clearly don't want to be inspired. We want to be entertained.  Politicians do just that.





What do you think? Did you go to the Brisbane Writers' Festival? Any favourite sessions?




LOLs on a Monday morning: Cosmo?!


So, I am not a huge fan of asking people to 'vote for me' - it was one of the reasons I was never really interested in University politics (that and it always seemed to be like a lot of drama...)

...but for some cray reason I've been nominated as a finalist for Cosmo's 'Fun Fearless Female' Awards?! In the role model category.  You guessed it, it needs votes!

So what do you say? Head over to their website and maybe read about all the other nominees too. Give me a vote if you reckon I deserve it, but there are some amazing other women in the bunch too so spend some time to learn about them and be inspired... It's an honour to be counted among these ladies at any rate. Damn Australia has some fine talent!

Thank you if you do :)

comso 2

It is about the Vote People, not the Boat People (Part 2).

This is the second half of this piece: Check out Part 1 here.


As an asylum seeker who has arrived by boat to Australia, under either the Labour or Coalition, you will be treated as a second class asylum seeker, be discriminated against due to your mode of arrival, possibly be settled in a third world nation without the infrastructure to support you OR be allowed into Australia but only on a temporary basis, until you can be sent back.

WHY does this policy standpoint seem to work?  The arguments used by voters include:

1. We don't hate refugees, we just don't like those who are jumping the queue.

Mate, there is no queue.  If that doesn't answer the question, let's look at reasons people decide to jump on a boat.

Problem 1 - Difficult access to UNHCR processing locations.  In some cases, like those from North and East Sri Lanka, the only place where you can apply for refugee status via the UNHCR is in Colombo, down in the South and in the heartland of the 'enemy'.  The number of checkpoints between where the refugees are coming from and where the UNCHR processing location is means that more likely than not, you won't make it through. What is your other option? Jump on a boat somewhere and try your luck.

Problem 2 - No camp nearby.  The UNCHR has a number of refugee camps and processing locations around the world.  However, if you are in a situation where a camp is inaccessible, or worse, you find one and it is full, where do you go?

Problem 3 - The length of wait to be resettled.  This is one of the wedge issues.  If the average wait in a refugee camp is 17 years, does it not make sense that individuals will try other options to start their life?  Yes, there are those that go through the system, wait in a camp and get duly processed.  It is pure folly to believe though that everyone has equal access to the UNHCR's processing pathway.  If there is an option - no matter how dangerous - that means you may be accepted into a nation in a shorter period of time, that option will be taken.  

This is an aspect of the issues that requires a concerted international or regional effort to tackle.   It is a major factor which means that if resolved, or even partly so, asylum seekers will not have the same incentive to risk their life by jumping on a boat.  They will have belief in the system and will wait - if they believe the system works.  This can be done by substantially increasing the capacity of the UNHCR to allow them to process individuals at a much faster rate, something Australia can work on.


2. Why don't they stay in Indonesia and Malaysia?

Both of these countries are not signatories to the UN Convention and as such, offer no rights and protection to asylum seekers and refugees.  This means that they live on the edge of civilisation, unable to work or educate themselves and their families and in the constant fear of detection and persecution.  This lifestyle is simply unsustainable.  Many are often recognised refugees and are simply waiting to be resettled, however, it can take them up to 20 or 30 years to be resettled into a third country.


3. We have to protect our borders.

Burnside says it best here.

"Border protection" is a grossly misleading term, used by both major parties. It implies that boat people are a threat to us. They are not. We do not need to be protected from asylum seekers: they need to be protected from their persecutors. 

We need to stop this defensive, exclusionary discourse that implies this is an issue of national security.  If it were, it would be under the Department of Defence.  It isn't. It is under the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.  Which means it is an issue of immigration!

Some say that if the refugees were white, this wouldn't be a problem, alluding to this issue targeting the xenophobic vote.  This is true, to a certain extent.  Interestingly,


There is no doubt there are people who will try to rort the system, individuals who take advantage of kindness.

However, this should NOT dictate our behaviour as a nation.

If we want to be world leaders, if we want to play a part in the region as part of the 'Asian Century', we have to show that we are willing to take our share of an international situation that isn't going anywhere.  


At the end of the day, the attitude towards refugees and asylum seekers in this country may be deemed as legal, technically. It may be deemed as politically savvy, for winning votes in this election.

However, at the end of the day, there is no way it can be deemed as fair, just or morally correct.

For a nation with the resources that we have, with the pride in ‘fairness’ we tout, with the capacity to take on refugees and provide them with the opportunity to start a new life, it is sad that we are not willing to take part of the international responsibility to protect properly.  Particularly as in some cases, our armed forces contributed to the situations that are forcing people out of their homes (Afghanistan, Iraq).  

…and they wonder why people are disengaging from politics.

boat people

Behind the Scenes at #QandA

IMAG0166 When I answered my ringing phone in early May, I had no idea that I was about to be offered the opportunity that every young politically-engaged Australian dreams of.

‘Hello Yassmin, I am so-and-so, one of the producers from QandA on the ABC…”

Almost had a heart attack!


The opportunity came up to be a part of the panel in mid-May, but a late confirmation from a well known politician (Queensland's own, Bob Katter) meant that I was briefly bumped from the line up. My rig job meant that the next two or three opportunities were also impossible. I didn't know if I should begin to despair: after all, one can only say 'no' so many times...

Eventually, we found a date that worked. August the 5th.

It was only confirmed a little over a week before the announcement: given the responsive nature of the show, panel members are drafted in quite close to the air date. The producers do an amazing job in this sense; sourcing and organising a new panel of people at such short notice week in, week out, must be exhausting.

So it was, on July 29th, the announcement of the 'next week's panel' that my name was announced...Ah! Let the games begin.

The ads were up and the news was out, but I still had no idea what to expect. I frantically began to read and research all manner of topics. I met with migration agents and department officials to learn about the true facts behind our asylum seeker and refugee policy, conducted little surveys via twitter and Facebook. Reading, reading, reading...

We were never given the questions that would be asked, but on the Friday before the show the producers send out an email with a variety of topic suggestions to the audience participants (related to the areas of interest for the panellists). This is to prompt questions from the audience. The topics were extremely varied - from the 'youth vote' (mine) to Fairfax to the umpiring decisions in cricket. My favourite topic of the moment, the PNG policy - not in sight!

At this point, I was simply holding my breath...

By some twist of luck, the election was announced on the Sunday afternoon. Just my luck :)

Monday rolled around and I hopped on the plane to Sydney (with 5 different outfit options to boot!). I dallied around a little, had a chat to the producers on the phone and began to get dressed. Admittedly, it took a few goes to settle on the option I did, but my op-shop-red-jacket is a favourite. The white dove brooch? Totes the statement piece!

So. Dressed. Break my fast (it was still Ramadan). Pray, ask for forgiveness and a little bit of on-screen luck.

Next stop, ABC Studios.

8pm - I head into the make up room. I say hello to fellow panel member Greg Hunt on the way in. 'He seems like a nice enough chap', I think. 'I wonder what he'll be like on the panel!'


The make up lady - Maureen - was fabulous. She was actually married to a race car driver who raced against the likes of Martin Brundle and so on in the UK.   Naturally, we talked cars and got on like a house on fire! It was ironic that two ladies in a makeup room were waxing lyrical about Chevvy Stingrays and Fastbacks. She highlighted my cheekbones, left my lipstick as it was and sent me on my way...

8.30pm - Green Room, meeting the fellow panellists.

I was clearly the new kid on the block - each politician had their handler ('media advisor'), and Pamela and Grahame had history with everyone else. I introduced myself to everyone ('shaking hands, hello hello), and they were all lovely.  I suspect Morris spent the time wondering when my parents (or babysitter) were going to arrive...


They all had a good yarn. I interjected every so often with not-so-wise pearls of wisdom ('Oh yeh! I know right?!') and wondered what lay ahead. Doug Cameron and Grahame Morris seemed to get on pretty well for ideologically diametrically opposed individuals. The scene reminded me of the idea 'enemies in the house, drinking mates once the business is done'. Ah, Australia! They laughed together and agreed on their roles. 'I need someone to fight with' Morris had said. Cameron was more than happy to acquiesce to be his on-screen-enemy.

(I am not sure everyone is that good natured about it all. Wong vs Pyne - I would like to see their Green Room interaction indeed!).

We were told we had 90 seconds to go. I left my bag, phone (!!) and got in line to head to the studio...


We got into our seating order and were individually introduced to the crowd as we took our seats. I was right next to Tony. This was it!

(Right next to Tony is a button. It's red, and has the label, 'The God Button'. Oh, I wish I got a photo. I wonder if he's ever had to use it? Probably at the shoe throwing incident...)

There were only a few minutes between us being seated and going on air. Maureen and the makeup army came back on stage and 'powdered our noses'... then 5, 4, 3...

Tony Jones' introduction began!

Oh wow. Can I be perfectly honest and say that my heart has never beat as fast as it did during that first question? I don't even remember what it was about or who asked it.

All I could think of was 'right now Yassmina, you're on TV!! Don't do anything stupid! Don't fidget! Stay coooooool!'. I am pretty sure Tony could hear the Da-dunk, da-dunk... In fact, I'm actually surprised it doesn't come up as background noise in the filming.

Off it went. I wasn't asked any direct questions off the bat (thank goodness!) but by the time Hunt had finished his answer to the first question, my pulse had settled down slightly and I had forgotten about the cameras. 'This is just like any other random panel', I told myself 'Except I am surrounded by people that are talking and not making ANY sense! Let me have a word to them about this...'

It was a fair bit of electioneering, as one would expect. Being pretty disillusioned at the moment at the disgusting amount of partisan politics that is going, I had no agenda other than to say - 'no, stop! We (the people!) want wholesome, meaningful answers! Stop treating us without respect!'

A good friend/mentor/amazing woman in general, Anne Summers, who has been on the panel before, had given me the advice not to stay quiet. 'Just jump in if you have something to say, otherwise you won't get any airtime at all'. Another friend had said 'just smile', and my mother cautioned 'don't try be anyone you're not - just be yourself and be genuine, otherwise people will see right through it.'

Those are the three bits of advice I remembered and channeled - and boy, I was so happy to be there I had no problem keeping a smile on the dile Alhamdulilah! (I would actually call it a grin. A smile is much more demure...I was just flashing the pearls with pure abandon!). I jumped in whenever I thought they were talking rubbish (often) and tried to talk to the panel members in the same way that I would argue with the boys on the rig (perhaps with less invective though).

I haven't rewatched the episode or even remember what I said, but I remember feeling more comfortable as the night went on.  It only felt like 20 minutes had passed when Tony wrapped it up. 'That's all for tonight...'

It was all over!!

We shook hands and meandered back to the Green Room for liquid and solid refreshment...


The feedback from the panel members was lovely, and Tony Jones welcomed me to the 'QandA family'. It's a family I am darn well excited and honoured to be a part of!

So thank you Allah! Also to Tony Jones and the producers who were so kind - Amanda and Christine. To the fellow panelists, the make up ladies, my parents, mates (Richard from Richard's F1 who came along and supported!) and every single one of my mates - even those on the rigs! - who watched and wished me luck and supported :) I couldn't have done it without you all! Let's see where this crazzzy journey takes us next aye?!


If you missed the episode, you can read the transcript or download it here! :D

The Drama Around #SocialMedia and Politics.

During #QandA on Monday, a lady asked the question about social media that got tongues and fingers wagging.

[box] Leisa O’Connor asked: I have a 17 year old daughter who won’t vote this year but will next time – active debater, articulate, well’s clear she is influenced heavily because Kevin communicates so effectively in the world where she lives – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc...Even if she doesn’t agree with the policies – she is swayed because she feels Kevin Rudd is more in touch.[/box]

I completely understood where the mother and daughter were coming from, and was surprised (although perhaps I shouldn't have been) with the response from a fellow panel member.

[box]Yeah, look, I hear what you’re saying and I suspect it’s not this election that will be decided by social media but maybe the next one or the one after that but not this one... I can tell you most undecided people do not [tunes in to what Kevin Rudd is tweeting today]. They don't. They don't about care about politics. They are not interested. They are doing other things...You know, I'd like to educate your daughter.[/box]

What was more interesting was the response online.  On the #QandA discussion forum and on twitter, people expressed their disdain at young people basing their decisions on social media.

Examples of comments:

[box]Sadly if your daughter bases her votes on who she can see on twitter she won't be a very informed voter.  If people's preference is sitting back relying on social media to educate them on issues then they will not be well informed regardless of how well educated they are. It is also highly possible that it is not Rudd posting his tweets but one of his many media staff. Kevin Rudd is currently acting more like a show pony trying to win people over by popularity instead of proving he is a politician with any substance.  I hope for the sake of Australia that our youth are not that gullible and make the effort to research the track record of all parties before voting.[/box]

twitter 2

Clearly a little opposition to the idea that us young people have no idea...


'Social media' has been discussed, derided, lauded and dissected endlessly since it started taking off a few years ago and began to play a part in  'real' movements.

Perspectives are varied: some see it as the saviour and liberator of the East, some see it as proof of young people losing social skills and capacity to be able to communicate face to face.

At the end of the day, we must remember that social media is a tool, and should be treated as such. A tool itself does not hold any power beyond the power we bestow it through our use.  It has natural advantages and disadvantages but focusing on either at the expense of the other in a public role such as politics is not only foolish, it is ignorant.

I feel strange writing about 'social media' as a discernible 'thing': the fact of the matter is, the forum that other generations seem find so hard (by and large) to get their heads around is just part of the natural fabric of our lives.  It's not as if I grew up as a child-early-adopter either; my parents only allowed me an old school mobile phone at the end of grade 11 (and only because mum accidentally got sent two!).  However, as much as we sometimes hate it, my generation lives and breathes online just as legitimately as we do offline.

Relationships are announced on Facebook, elections on twitter.  Is it different to how it used to be? Yes. Does that make it terrible? I don't think so.

When the television was introduced, people cried the death of the radio.  When the internet was introduced, people feared the death of television.  Now, the latter is yet to be decided but the radio is still around.  Sometimes technology is replaced completely, but often new technology simply extends the reach and scope of information through avenues that were previously inaccessible.  That is the power of social media.

To the question of social media and politics.

Young people are not stupid. We are not completely ignorant, and although many like to believe it, we are not all as self obsessed as the selfie epidemic would have you think.  It is insulting to think that simply because KRudd has an account we will vote for him.  It isn't that he has an account, it is what he does and says with it that matters.

Not all young people are the same and are interested and engaged. This is true. However, the youth demographic is a powerful one indeed and ignoring them and their needs is done at your own peril.  Half a million young people are enrolling to vote this week.  The age bracket of 15-24 year olds is over 13% of the population (ABS, 2013).  There are a few marginal seats in that, I would imagine…

Gone are the days of obsession with and loyalty to a particular type of ideology.  We care about issues, issues that we feel are important.  Whether politicians like it or not, only a very small, engaged percentage of young people will spend the time researching policy and gauging whether or not a particular party aligns with their beliefs.  As such, politicians need to be able to effectively community their standing directly.

What better way to do so than through the forum we are all already on?

If you want to hold a party and everyone is already at one location, what is more effective: going to that location and starting the party there, or convincing everyone that they have to come to where YOU are because that's where you have always had your parties?

The same concept applies.  Young people are active and engaged on social media – Facebook largely, instagram and twitter for the more politically active.  For politicians to be able to communicate effectively, they need to be active on these platforms, and engaged with their audience.  We are the shareholders, the constituents.  We are electing you to represent us. Show us why you deserve our votes.  Earn it. 

We aren’t interested in endless press releases about obscure funding agreements and official statements on a Facebook page that is clearly run by a staffer.  I want to see the personality behind the politician, engage in discussion and debate that makes me convinced that this person is genuine, going to be a good representative, and eventually, deserves my vote.

In a way, it can be seen as ‘show ponying’ as a tweet described.  However, that is campaigning, is it not?

Policies are important, there is no doubt about that.  What wins though, is a combination of good policy, good service delivery and implementation, then good communication.

Using social media is simply good communication if you want to communicate with young people.

It may not win you the election, but at least we were hearing what you had to say.


Oh, and for all the baby boomers’ disparaging comments about the state of the youth if they are deciding who to vote for from social media let me ask: does your average voter not decide after conversations with their friends and family around dinner tables on these issues? How is this any different?


What do you think?


young people


Exciting Business! The Y20 Project.

A couple of hours before appearing on the #QandA show on Monday, I noticed a number of missed calls from a private number, but without any messages left. Curious... When I eventually answered, it wasn't a stalker or an invite to join a bank heist crew as I had suspected.  Instead, it was a lovely lad from the Prime Minister's Office!

Thus, the news.


Wait: some background first!

The Australian Government has announced that is will be hosting the Y20 alongside the G20 that is being held in Brisbane in 2014.

The Group of Twenty (G20) is the premier forum for its members economic and financial cooperation. It brings together the world's major advanced and emerging economies, representing around 85 per cent of global GDP.

The idea of the Y20 is to give youth and young people a voice in these international discussions.  As per the media release:

The Y20 will gather young leaders from the world’s twenty largest economies for an exciting exchange of ideas. It will help build skills and networks, and identify the most pressing economic challenges and opportunities facing young people today.

In order to prep for this, the Government has put together a team of young people to plan and manage the Australian Y20.

Guess who made the cut Alhamdulilah?!

It is an absolute honour and exciting responsibility and I am completely stoked to be part of literally a dream team of people from around the nation.

Chaired by the amazing Benson Saulo, the Director of the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy, the other members are:

• Ms Samah Hadid (NSW) • Mr Scott Limbrick (VIC) • Mr Ehon Chan (QLD) • Ms Amanda McKenzie (ACT) • Ms Holly Ransom (WA).

Ehon is an old friend and so I am even more stoked - his work always inspires :) Holly and Samah are also inspiring acquaintances and I am looking forward to meeting and working with Scott and Amanda.

We were selected for our backgrounds in various sectors and I will be focusing on the area of energy inshallah.

This is an awesome opportunity and I want to make it as open and genuine as possible. If you have ideas or are interested in contributing in some way, please get in touch and let me know your thoughts! The idea is to be as engaging and representative as possible and get the energy/innovation of young people up to the international stage - here is a chance!

I can't wait to work with this group and you all on this and will keep you posted!

Check out the official media release here.


It's #QandA Time! (and the Burka Avenger)


We sit in front of the television every most Monday evenings, cursing and celebrating in equal measure, the opinions stated by the panellists sitting on either side of Tony Jones.

"Oh what!" we yell, out aloud and on twitter.

We all think we would have the perfect answer to the questions being asked too ;)

Well on Monday, I have the scary honour of being one of those very panellists on the firing line and by gosh, with the election just called, it's going to be a fun evening indeed!

I'll also be heading into the studio early to be talking to the Australia Network on the new animation, the Burka Avenger...

I think the idea of the Burka Avenger is fantastic, but it is a little too early to call.

Burka Avenger is a Pakistani animated television series airing on Geo Tez. Created and directed by pop star Haroon and produced at Unicorn Black production studios, the show features Jiya, a mild-mannered teacher with secret martial arts skills who uses a flowing black burka to hide her identity as she fights local thugs. The Urdu language series first aired on July 28, 2013. [wiki]

The program seems to tick the initial acceptability boxes; written by a member of the community, it is clearly coming from within and is relatable.  Programs that cultivate and encourage creativity and artistry are in dire need as well, so that is a plus.

Furthermore, the aim of the program seems to be to encourage education as the superhero uses only books and pens as her weapons.  Encouraging education, particularly in the areas this Urdu-language program is targeted to laudable and required.

What will be important is whether or not this actually works in the community.  Will it be watched by young people and change their perceptions? More importantly, will their parents allow them to watch and be educated by it?  It will most definitely create controversy: given the attire of the 'villains' (very 'traditional', even 'Taliban' looking...) and the use of the Burka as a disguise rather than as a traditional religious garment used for modesty (and in some cases, for oppression, but that's another kettle of fish).  I think the fact that this program will create conversation though is a boon in of itself...

So let's wait and see on this one. I think it is a positive, but the jury is still out on the effectiveness on the outcome - and we judge by the outcome in this world, do we not?


So what about you? Ever wanted to be on the panel? What would you like to talk about?  What are your thoughts on le Burka Avenger?

Speech: Brizmun, 2011



Opening of BrizMUN, 2011


10 decades ago, Britain still reigned supreme and the concept of the “Great War” was meaningless.

10 years ago, the phrase ‘War on Terror’ probably referred to a computer game.

10 months ago, you would probably have been confused if I said there was a ‘Youth Quake’ in the middle east/north Africa.

10 weeks ago, you would have probably scoffed if I had said events in Japan will change the way we look at and treat nuclear power forever.

10 days ago...well, everyone was still talking about that wedding between a certain Will and Kate...

The truth ladies and gentlemen, is that our world is changing more rapidly and in ways that we cannot even comprehend.  Who knows what the world will be like when our generating in not “MUN-ing” but UN-ing for real?  We truly do live in exciting times.

Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening.

Cesar Chavez once said:

You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore...

My father thinks this is not correct.  He explained...

"when Hosni Mubarak the deposed Egyptian President, Gaddafi the current Libyan President who is killing his people because he is too intoxicated with power ... when they came in, they were heroes! People cheered, went out on the streets, carried them on their shoulders.  To us they were saviours."

But look at them now!  How can men who once, cared so much about their people be the very cause of the oppression they once freed them from? Power and corruption probably, greed, most definitely. They became the exploiters.

I come from the Middle East. I was born in Sudan in North East Africa and so what happens in that part of the world affects me directly and indirectly. Right now I feel proud to belong to a generation that is not only content to read about history but actually MAKES history ... rising up and demanding, positive change, not only for themselves but for their people.

How did this happen?  In the face of these dictatorial regimes?

Well, people had access to information and knowledge about alternative ways of doing things. They became aware of a different reality and when they came together they felt that that reality is within their grasp. They also knew from the lessons of history that change requires hard work and they were willing to put in the hard work.

Their slogans were “the people want change, they want to change the regime”

They felt empowered because they were working together, collaborating, doing things and striving for results that are larger than themselves, that has impact, that has legacy. 

I can imagine that some of you are thinking yea, right. Who is she kidding? How many people have ‘changed the world’? What hope do we have against the system?

Let me challenge that thought by leaving you with this:

Firstly, have hope.  That doesn’t mean be naive, completely 100% idealist or oblivious to the reality of the world. But have hope.  Hope in humanity, hope that people can change and hope that by through empowerment, things can change for the better.

See the thing is, at least if we have hope and strive towards it, things have the possibility of changing.  If we all become armchair cynics and scepticals, what chance is there of anything happening? It’s gone from small, to nil.

Secondly, and lastly, I want you to understand this: Never underestimate the impact that you can have on a single person’s life.  You might think that you are just one person, but if one person, a single person’s life is better, if a single person if empowered for having known you, then you know that your life has made a difference.

And although this doesn’t fully fit into the theme of my speech, I thought I would close with it anyway, because its powerful:

Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. it’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.


Upcoming Event: Women in Leadership Forum

In late October, I have the awesome opportunity to be a part of a cool forum in Sydney (albeit virtually!).

Check out the brochure here! There's a cool line up...

Also I may have a discount if you email me... :D