Sara is a mechanical engineer, originally from Egypt, who moved to Australia over a decade ago. She has lived across various parts of Australia, and has encountered soul-crushing racism in cosmopolitan as well as regional parts of the country. Being a hijab-clad Muslim woman has made her an easy and visible target for hateful and violent behaviour.
When she had just migrated to Australia and was looking for a job, she faced several rejections despite being suitably qualified. The penny dropped when one interviewer in Melbourne confessed that he wouldn’t, or couldn’t employ her, because she wore a hijab. He added that while he was being honest, several potential employers might just brush her off with excuses, but that her headscarf was central to the rejections she received. Being unaware of anti-discrimination laws at the time, Sara let the episode pass, and shrugged it off.
She continues to face everyday racism in the form of derisive looks and comments, but a particular incident left her unable to just “move on”, as victims of racial abuse are often urged to do.
With her one-year-old daughter in her pram, Sara was walking along a street near the Westfield mall in Hornsby, Sydney. In anticipation of a council clean-up, the footpath was strewn with discarded household goods. As Sara made her way up the street, she felt her head violently yanked as a woman pulled at her hijab from behind. Caught completely off guard, Sara’s first instinct was to protect her child, and she blocked the woman’s access to her pram, screaming, “What are you doing? Are you crazy?” The woman continued to berate Sara, and picked up the handle of a discarded vacuum cleaner lying on the footpath and threatened to hurt her, saying, “I’m going to kill you.”
Hearing the commotion, a resident in a nearby block of units called the police, and came down to help Sara. As more people trickled out of their homes, the woman ran away, leaving Sara very shaken.
When the police arrived, Sara and others who had witnessed the incident made their official statements. However, despite a clear description of the woman and good leads on where she had headed, no headway was made. Not only did Sara not hear back from the police, but she also struggled with intense panic attacks and was unable to step outside her home for over a year. She has spent a lot of time looking over her shoulder, and cannot shake off the deep-seated fear that the attack instilled in her.
She insists that her hijab is very much an act of agency and choice, and she asserts that she has just as much right as anybody else to be in Australia. “I am well-accomplished, multi-lingual and a good, tax-paying citizen. Why must I leave or change? It’s time for Australians to grow up!” she says, tired of having to defend herself over her choice – to simply be herself.
Every second month, All Together Now awards one of its volunteers with the “Star Volunteer” award. This time around, our Star Volunteer is Deliana Lacoban.
Deliana’s role at All Together Now is to monitor the mainstream media and make note of how specific news outlets report on race. To our knowledge, the work Deliana is doing has never been done in Australia before, and this presents particular challenges as Deliana needs to adjust her approach as she works.
Deliana decided to volunteer at All Together Now because the organisation reflects her values and the issues she is passionate about. Deliana has studied discrimination and race at university for the past few years, and recently decided that she wants to do something about these issues.
On volunteering at All Together Now, Deliana says “I like the feeling that we’re doing something that matters. But I’m also surprised in a negative way to know that what we’re doing here hasn’t been done before.
“I also like the flexibility and the fact that I can bring my experience and expertise to what I’m doing. And working in a team – it’s great that we all listen to each other.”
If you’d like to join Deliana and volunteer at All Together Now, please email your CV to [email protected] and let us know what type of roles you are interested in.
From this time forward, under God,*
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect, and
whose laws I will uphold and obey.
* A person may choose whether or not to use the words ‘under God’.
This is the pledge that you have to take as the final step in your journey of becoming an Australian citizen, of course, unless you are born in Australia. To be eligible to take the pledge, you must prove your thorough understanding of what it means. You have to pass a test based on a document provided by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, titled Our Common Bond. As Australians, it is fun to skim through the document and see if we are actually true to the pledge we took either explicitly, by uttering the words, or implicitly, by being born on this land.
“We are also a young nation; a nation of migrants. European settlement in Australia began in 1788 and we continue to welcome new migrants today. People from more than 200 countries have made Australia their home.”
“Today, Australia has a population of about 22 million people. Over one quarter of these people were born overseas.”
“In Australia’s diverse society, over 200 languages are spoken.”
“People come to settle in Australia from countries all around the world. Many people have a different cultural heritage with different beliefs and traditions. In our democratic society, we are all free to follow and share these beliefs and traditions as long as they do not break Australian laws.”
“There are a number of laws in Australia that make sure a person is not treated differently to others because of their gender, race, disability or age.”
“We value this freedom and expect all Australians to treat each other with dignity and respect, regardless of their race, country of origin, gender, sexual preference, marital status, age, disability, heritage, culture, politics, wealth or religion.”
Can we all claim that we share Australian democratic beliefs; respect Australia’s rights and liberties; and uphold and obey its laws?
In order to encourage people to share their own experience, their own thoughts about racism, All Together Now proposes book clubs across Australia. If you are interested in fighting racism, and all kind of discrimination, and also in reading, this Club is made for you.
Every month, we will propose you a new Australian book with new questions to deal with the problem of racism in depth.
Our first book club will be held in Sydney on March 1st at 6pm. For those who are not in Sydney, do not worry, book clubs are planned in Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne. Join the Racial Equality Book Club on MeetUp for updates on meeting dates, times, locations and of course books!
Our first book for the year is the award-winning Populate and Perish, written by George Haddad. The author is Sydney-based and so has volunteered to come to the Sydney book club. The book is under 100 pages, so you still have time to read it and join us!
“Nick is treading water. No boyfriend. No career. Living in a granny flat in Fitzroy North. On a whim he decides to travel with his twin sister, Amira, to Lebanon in search of their estranged father. Their mother, who passed away a couple of years earlier, only ever referred to him as the kalb – the dog. In Beirut Nick and Amira find family, a sense of belonging and surprising answers to questions they hadn’t known to ask.“
One family. Two wars. Three countries. What does it take to forge a new life far from home?
On the 23 November, All Together Now is holding an exclusive screening of Constance On The Edge at the Dendy Opera Quays.
Filmed over ten years, Constance On The Edge is a documentary about a Sudanese refugee family that settled in New South Wales. Constance on the Edge gets to the heart of a contemporary untold story about the courage and resilience it takes to build new lives. The film also highlights the important role communities play in encouraging a sense of welcoming, healing and belonging.
Discover the official trailer here:
Following the screening, a panel with discuss the issues related to racism, belonging and integration that are highlighted in the film, with Belinda Mason, director of the movie, Oishee Alam, antiracism academic, and Vijhai Utheyan, son of Sri Lankan refugees.
“Constance on the Edge is a powerful and beautiful story of a refugee family who will do everything to protect each other while navigating the challenging settlement journey in Australia. It’s a heartwarming film and a reminder that welcoming is the most powerful tool we have.”
CEO, Welcome to Australia
Book your tickets now!
All profits will be used by All Together Now to promote the prevention of racism.
Cosmopolitan magazine published an article about casual racism in the October issue of their magazine (which is no longer on sale).
If you missed it, you can download a copy of the article (PDF) thanks to Cosmo!
The article features our Everyday Racism app as a solution to teaching people how to speak up against racism.