Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Mariam Veiszadeh: Shedding Light and Hope on Islamophobia in Australia

'Islamophobia in Australia', Mariam Veiszadeh's address to the Castan Centre's Human Rights Law conference on 22 July 2016, had a heightened sense of urgency given the international situation. She is the founder and President of the Islamophobia Register Australia which "seeks to provide a means for incidents of Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim sentiments to be reported, recorded and analysed".

This video contains her presentation and the question session that followed:

Mariam's speech was blunt, personal yet conciliatory:

My relationship with islamophobia over the years has taken many forms – from being an advocate against it, to becoming a victim of it and everything in between.

...My message is for the backyard bigots and the backyard sheikhs and everyone in between.

...The utter irony is that all of the parties involved on each end of the extreme spectrum cling on to the false hope that their words and actions are actually tackling and thereby reducing endemic and institutionalised Islamophobia and global injustices (in the case of the young disillusioned souls, falling prey to radicalisation) or in turn, reducing and countering radicalisation, terrorism and/or the perceived Muslim threats (in the case of the islamophobes - both at an individual and institutional level).

...Put simply, there are far too many disaffected and disillusioned people amongst us on both ends of the spectrum.

We need to work together to bring them into the fold. Both the ones on this end of the extreme spectrum and the ones on the other end of the spectrum.

Nevertheless, Mariam did not shy away from the horrific consequences of what she calls normalisation of islamophobia:

Of particular concern is the fact that our data contains in it an alarming number of incidents in which mothers are harassed in the presence of young children.

Mariam discussed the impact of Pauline Hanson's One Nation party with her anti-Muslim policies, and the rise of Donald Trump's islamophobia.

She also tackled growing of dehumanisation in Australian society:

When you oppress me by sending me threats of death, violence and rape, simply because I speak out about the islamophobia that my community and I are facing, a process of dehumanisaton is taking place.

However, Mariam finished on a positive note:

Let the reasonable voices unite and let us expend our energies into trying to inject love and compassion into a world that is being increasingly filled with destruction and despair for the forces binding us together are stronger than the forces pulling us apart.

And when we lose hope, as I sometimes do, let us look down at the face of our future generations, reflect on their futures, reflect on our hopes and dreams, and pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and light that damn candle again, for darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.

The transcript of her speech can be accessed here. In addition there is an video interview with Mariam:

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Calls to Stop Imminent Round of Executions in Indonesia

Julian McMahon, one of the lawyers for the Bali Nine drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran who were executed in 2015, warned last week that more executions were imminent in Indonesia. His address to the Castan Centre's Human Right Law conference in Melbourne last week about recent developments regarding capital punishment in Indonesia and the Philippines was timely indeed.

Indonesia is apparently to go ahead with a new round of executions in coming days. Many of the prisoners have been convicted of drug offences.

McMahon spoke of the "logic of executions in our region" being "political gain".

He argued that, "the death penalty is part of a growing zeitgeist [mood]... a desire to be seen as tough and merciless."

"The whole debate is purely political..." with "Indonesia working in countries around the world to save its citizens on death row... with no other country as successful, as determined or hardworking in saving its own citizens". He pointed out that the Indonesian government claims that in the last 5 years 285 have been saved, including drug offenders.

He argued that the situation in Indonesia must be seen through the "prism of domestic politics with drugs used to distract from other problems".

He hoped that we can "move on the debate" by "assisting Indonesia as much as possible in fighting these drug problems".

The full audio of his presentation can be heard here.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has voiced its strong opposition:

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo of Indonesia should urgently commute the death sentences of at least 14 people who face imminent execution for drug trafficking...[He] should acknowledge the death penalty’s barbarity and avoid a potential diplomatic firestorm by sparing the lives of the 14 or more people facing imminent execution...

Amnesty International has joined the call to abandon the executions:

Indonesian President Joko Widodo... will be putting his government on the wrong side of history if he proceeds with a fresh round of executions... President Widodo’s era was supposed to represent a new start for human rights in Indonesia. Sadly, he could preside over the highest number of executions in the country’s democratic era at a time when most of the world has turned its back on this cruel practice...

You can add your voice by clicking on the link in their tweet:


Indonesia has executed the first four of 14 drug convicts on death row (BBC News)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

World Spotlight on Australia's Cardinal Pell

From my latest post for globalvoices.org - World Spotlight on Australia's Cardinal Pell at Rome Child Sexual Abuse Hearing:

It may have been a blessing in disguise that he did not ‘come home’ as musician Tim Minchin demanded because the hearing's set-up focused international attention on the issues raised and the cardinal's role.

...During his presentation, Pell was quite prepared to criticise the Catholic Church's handling of abuse allegations. He blamed the former bishop of Ballarat, Ronald Mulkearns, for repeatedly moving Ridsdale from parish to parish. He also accused former Archbishop of Melbourne Frank Little of covering up serious allegations. However, those looking for personal contrition or a smoking gun implicating him in cover-ups were sorely disappointed and many questioned his evidence.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Comic versus Cardinal: Come Home to the Child Sex Abuse Hearing

From my latest post for @globalvoices: Oz Comedian's Song Challenges Cardinal to ‘Come Home’ for Child Sex Abuse Hearing

The lyrics are deliberately offensive, as is typical of Minchin's in-your-face comedic style.
He calls Pell a “coward”, “scum” and a “pompous buffoon”. In a very provocative red rag finish, he goads the Cardinal to “come home and frickin’ sue me”.
Cardinal Pell has since offered to “meet with and listen to victims and express his ongoing support”.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

‘Paddle Outs’ Pay Tribute to Australian Surfers #AdamandDean Murdered in Mexico

'Surfers from around the world have honoured Australians Adam Coleman and Dean Lucas, who were killed in Mexico in what authorities say was a robbery gone wrong, with ‘paddle outs‘ — a tribute in which participants paddle out into the water on their surfboards and join hands in a circle. Thousands took part in several countries including Australia, Mexico and the United States on 13 December 2015.

"Too young, too soon".'

From my latest Global Voices post: Worldwide ‘Paddle Outs’ Pay Tribute to Australian Surfers Murdered in Mexico

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Family violence still a national emergency that needs more than words

My Global Voices story for last week: Australians Unite to Tackle Family Violence on White Ribbon Day 2015

#WhiteRibbonDay, which observes the International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women, took on a strong sense of urgency in Australia on 25 November 2015.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Is Australia's ICT Workforce Facing Life Support?

Demand for ICT workers in Australia is predicted to grow by 100,000 by 2020 according to a report commissioned by the Australian Computer Society. That's an average annual growth of 2.5%. Australia's Digital Pulse produced by Deloitte Access Economics (DAE) outlines some of the challenges related to skills, jobs and education.

Digital Pulse Appendix

Those gathered at the Victorian launch on 8 July welcomed the report. According to ACS President Brenda Aynsley: “Victoria has a strong history of development in ICT and this is shown in the continuing growth in employment demand. An additional 3.2% to the ICT workforce is going to be required each year, right up until 2020. This equates to nearly 40,000 extra local workers needed over the next six years. With a sustained focus on digital education and training, Victoria will be better positioned to meet this high demand locally."

However, she believes that it is "an urgent matter".

Most of the audience were wearing their daytime uniforms, with grey suits predominating. However, there was nothing bland about the Q&A session after the presentation. Many in the audience expressed concern about the extent of the problems facing Oz ICT:

  • The 100,000 increase does not represent the actual number of new workers needed. The high industry turnover will mean many more workers will have to be replaced.
  • The critical role and importance of TAFE training needs more attention.
  • The need for concrete plans to realise future directions such as the report recommendation that higher education institutions develop "more disciplinary opportunities between ICT and other subject areas".
  • The education and training needs of so-called 'non-ICT' workers.
  • The short-sighted approach to the brain-drain, using temporary 457 visas. DAE reports that "in recent years many Australian businesses have relied on workers from overseas and importing ICT skills to fill the gap. More than 10,000 temporary skilled migration (457) visas have been granted annually to ICT workers over recent years, and net arrivals of ICT workers were around 19,000 in 2013–14. with 10,000 granted annually in recent years".
  • The increasingly artificial distinction between the technological world of engineers, programmers and web developers and their "users".

DAE has recommended "an increased national focus on growing Australia's ICT capabilities and skills in the workforce". When the report was first released in June, SBS's The Feed concentrated on the workforce's poor image in its segment Are TV nerd stereotypes holding back the industry?

Terence Huynh, aka the Tech Geek, is no nerd hiding in the backroom. His post Victoria needs 40,000 extra IT workers, according to new ACS data looks at the State data distributed at the Victorian launch:

Victoria will need 40,000 extra IT employees over the next six years in order to meet demand in 2020, according to new data from the Australian Computer Society and Deloitte Access Economics released today.

...According to the new local data, Victoria’s IT sector will grow by an additional 3.2 percent each year over the next six years – higher than the national average found in the Australia’s Digital Pulse report.

This will largely be due to the predicted growth in IT management jobs as a number of organisations are expected to base their organisations in Victoria. This was recently helped by Square announcing that they open an Australian office in Melbourne, and said they chose the city because of its “growing reputation as Australia’s technology hub”.

“Victoria has a large number of highly skilled workers, and as a result the state is an attractive place for leading edge companies to do business. What this report shows is that state based programs can deliver real results and because of this we are seeing the digital economy in Victoria reaching new heights,” ACS Victoria Chair, Craig Horne, said.

It was disappointing that there was not enough time for more discussion. The audience raised several hot issues including a perceived failure of government and business to take a lead.

More than one participant expressed the view that the 2.5% growth in the ICT workforce reflects a "pathetic trend" when compared with our international competitors.

If the sector is to balance some of 5 million Australian jobs tipped to go by CEDA (Committee for Economic Development of Australia), then it needs to get cracking. Ironically, the disappearing jobs will be the result of "technological advancements".