In the (highly) unlikely event Mariam Veiszadeh is not on your radar, well then Missing Perspectives wants to change that ASAP. She's been a friend and mentor to the Missing Perspectives team since the beginning and we're so glad she's finally getting the recognition she deserves.
ICYMI: this week, Mariam was announced as the overall winner of the Asian-Australian Leadership Awards. Currently the CEO of Media Diversity Australia, Mariam is a trailblazing leader at the forefront of advocating for systemic change across Australian media to stamp out racism.
Speaking to Missing Perspectives, Mariam said that the achievement she's most proud of is "being able to influence policy decisions around racism in particular - having founded the Islamophobia Register - so that we can now track and tackle an issue that not only wasn't understood but as a result, was being allowed to fester." She reflects on the fact that a lot of what she's done throughout her career has been leaning on her lived experience - and how this is embedded across all areas of her work.
The Islamophobia Register Australia was founded in September 2014 in response to growing anecdotal evidence suggesting a rise in incidents of Islamophobia here in Australia. The Register was the first of its kind in Australia to provide a platform for incidents of Islamophobia to be reported, recorded, and analysed in a published report. The Register's findings have informed media and the general public both in Australia and abroad about Islamophobia. The Register has also expanded into providing victim support services, legal advocacy, and education and training. Talk about social impact, we can't think of a better example of using your lived experience to make the world better!
Unfortunately, against the backdrop of current world events and the ever-changing rapidly unfolding conflict in Gaza, the Islamophobia Register is more important than ever. “Since our last press release went out, have increased tenfold. I think we are roughly at 170 incidents since. I'm also acknowledging that anti-Semitism has also sharply risen."
Mariam tells Missing Perspectives that one of the more challenging aspects of her advocacy are the security threats and risks she has personally faced. After her 2017 TEDxSydney talk, she recalls facing serious security threats. "I just remember Mike Cannon Brookes was there too, and of course, he didn't need security." She's also had death threats in the virtual world - which meant she's had to fear for her safety in real life.
Press freedom and safety are currently at the top of Mariam's mind - particularly in the context of the Gaza conflict and its resulting humanitarian disaster. "We're speaking to journalists of all backgrounds who are impacted by what's going on - including speaking to journalists who don't have skin in the game. We're really concerned by what some of these journalists are telling us." She notes that a lot of journalists are reporting not feeling psychologically safe. "On the one hand, we are calling for greater representation in newsrooms - but if psychological safety isn't there, then retention becomes a problem."
This week, Media Diversity Australia released a statement in solidarity with journalists "scattered across several different Australian newsrooms, who have expressed that they feel censored, intimidated and psychologically unsafe." The statement notes that "this has contributed to a perceived environment where newsrooms are dismissive of the lived experience of these journalists, feeding into a toxic cycle of self-censorship." Like Missing Perspectives, Media Diversity believes in freedom of the press and calls upon media organisations to conduct fair and accurate reporting, free of bias, editorially independent and exempt from external influence.
People deserve to be heard. To be seen. To have their stories told. To trust that their workplaces are going to protect and nurture them, to welcome the diversity of their perspective and the richness of their lived experience. Anything else is a horrific disservice and the perpetuation of a world so many of us are trying valiantly to change. Media Diversity Australia is a beast, embodied in the fierceness of Mariam Veiszadeh as its leader. Mariam was one of the first to recognise the strength of our work and to welcome us in with open arms. We are honoured to be working on the frontlines alongside her and thrilled to see where she will take this new recognition and the doors it opens.