On October 14th, Shaykh Haisam Farache spoke at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra on “Shariah Law: What is it and How is it implemented?” and “Spiritual Development in Modern Times”

These are notes from “Spiritual Development in Modern Times”

  • Without the body the soul cannot exist in this world. The Arabic for intelligence, ‘akal’ means to restrict, as in to restrict us from haram.
  • In the Quran, Allah swt talks to the intellect when He appeals to ‘people who ponder’ or ‘to those that have knowledge’
  • A human being is comprised of a body, an intellect, an ego or nafs and a soul. The body, nafs and akal all exist because of the placement of the soul in this world. So essentially we are souls, spiritual beings on a path to God
  • Given that we are in essence animals with intellect, how are we nourished? The body with dirt (food plant and animal based has origins in dirt). The % of minerals in dirt mirror the % in our bodies. The PH level of blood is same as ocean water. Things that sustain the body come from earth
  • The mind is nourished with knowledge (it is Sunnah to wear perfurme or itr because good smells increase the minds capacity to learn)
  • The Soul comes from God and we don’t know where it is from or how it was made. In that sense it is a mystery and a secret
  • When He decided to make man, God told the angel Gabriel to get dirt from earth and the earth shook and refused. Several angels were sent and returned empty handed till the angel of Death, Azrael came and got a collection of sand collected from the entire earth of different colours which is represented in our skin pigmentation
  • The dirt became wet as it ascended to the throne of Allah and became clay which Allah moulded with his ‘hands’ (not like our hands. This is important as Allah swt says kun faya kun “Be” and it is. But with Adam AS he fashioned him with his hands (metaphorically)
  • The moulded clay sat for 40 years and Shaytan would pass it and kick it. Shaytan was a jinn who had 80k years of ibadah under his belt (there is not a place on earth where Shaytan’s forehead hasn’t touched in ibadah to Allah swt) when he was told to prostrate to this clay. He became arrogant. This story simplifies our challenges and difficulties in our lives
  • When Allah swt made Adam AS, the angels asked if the creation of clay would wreak havoc on the earth. Given that they asked this, we can assume that there were creations before humans that did wreak havoc on earth which is supported by dreamtime stories and stone art
  • All this is a long winded way of saying, we know the origins of the body and thus we nourish it with the same. We don’t know the origins of the soul but we do know it is from God so we nourish it with God
  • Establish spiritual essence by doing what comes from God. The first of these is the Quran. The Quran purifies n teaches hiqmah and wisdom.
  • The soul has a yearning to be illuminated by the noor of Allah swt (the sun) and to illuminate (reflect this illumination like the moon)
  • The Quran is the symbolism of the light or noor of Allah swt and the Prophet is munir (reflected light) the personification noorun mubeen. This is why the Prophet is more often likened to the moon than the sun. tala al badru Alayna. The Prophet had no shadow because he, as the reflection of Allah’s Noor was brighter than the sun.
  • Our Imaan increases and decreases because of our nafs. We are in a constant jihad or battle between the material and spiritual. The angels came to the Prophet 3 times in his life and cut him open to remove his nafs. This is because Prophets are meant to be masoomin without fault, so that we can emulate their goodness. This means he didn’t have to struggle with this nafs. And without the stuggle with nafs, the imaan constantly increases
  • The Prophet constantly made istigfhar or prayers for repentence because each time he ascended the stations of faith imaan his increased understanding or vision (not seeing with eyes, seeing with faith) caused him to repent
  • So how do we fulfil the yearning of our soul?
  • The life of the Prophet is the lowest common denominator. He lived the simplest lifestyle so that anyone can emulate it.
  • When we try to fill our spiritual void with material things, it affects our intellect. When material means in life are limited that’s when the intellect flourishes.
  • “But for the fear that all mankind would follow the same way, We would have made for those who disbelieve in the Merciful God, houses with roofs of silver and gold” – Sura 43 Az-Zukhruf, Ayah 33-35
  • In our day and age, we cannot escape ‘technology’. But we can appreciate what we have by saying alhamdulillah and living a life of gratitude
  • We have forgotten or don’t know how to be grateful. Millennials are known to be ungrateful and have a sense of entitlement and it translates to entitlement with Allah. Far from being grateful we forget to even recognise what we have by saying Bismillah. My sense of entitlement is destroying my spirituality
  • Be mindful in receiving what Allah has given. By saying Alhamdulillah when you wear your clothes and Bismillah when you sit and eat. Eating and walking used to be seen as sign of instability because the two things did not go together.
  • By being hospitable. Arabian hospitality is famous and being a miser is the biggest insult you can make to an Arab. The root of Arab hospitality is necessity because without the hospitality of others, travellers in the Arabian deserts would perish.
  • Hatim Altai was an Arabian man legendary for his generosity whose story is in the Arabian nights as well as told throughout Arabia and Asia. He most famously slaughtered his famous and beautiful stallion to feed his guests. His generosity and detachment from the material was aligned to the values of Islam. When his granddaughter and grandson were captured in war, the Prophet was told who they were and freed them both as a lesson in the importance and value of detachment and generosity
  • Sheikh Hamza Yusuf said, Aren’t we all addicted to the ‘bad movie’ that is the Dunya?
  • The Path of the Believer is shukr gratitude.
  • What do we want? Why do we need more than we have? What are we upset about?
  • We Australian Muslims are not connected to this land. Where is our care and concern for this land and its people? What do you think of when you say aussie? White? The whites are just as imported as us! So why are we not thinking of ourselves when we say aussie? Why are we not thinking of the indigenous aussies? They are the real aussies. Why are we not helping and caring for them?
  • Allah swt said, ‘I have sent u a prophet from amongst yourselves’. If you are not amongst yourselves then it’s all nothing. Till our dawah is amongst ourselves, it all for nothing
  • We acknowledge that it is a generational thing, that our parents are invested in the culture and society they left behind. But we need to be mindful of, educated in and invested in Australian culture, law, policies etc.
  • We need to care for our fellow Aussies. You can’t specifically make dua for the forgiveness of a non-Muslim but you can make general dua. And how do you know who is and isn’t a Muslim and what is in their hearts? Who are you to judge?
  • Adopt the dua of Isa AS, Jesus, who said, ‘You were the Watcher over them, and You are a Witness to all things. If You punish them, they are Your servants, and if You forgive them, verily You, only You are the Almighty, the All-Wise.’ Sura 5 Al-Maidah, Ayah 117
  • When we are not fulfilling our spiritual potential, Allah sends us tests to cleanse our spiritual state. Our spiritual goal should be to see the Prophet in your dream and ultimately achieved a connection to Allah swt.
  • Taqwah is the essence of spirituality and is mentioned over 250 times in the Quran. Taqwah is to be cautious of Allah swt. Taqwah is not khauf or fear Allah. Fear of Allah is a very high state of spirituality that is not easy to attain.
  • Wilaya is when Allah swt elevates you to a position on Earth. Some people ask for it and some say not to ask for it because it is a big responsibility. It’s upto you if you want to ask for it.

Practical tips to attain spirituality:

  • Feed the akal to know what to feed the soul. In the Quran, Allah swt appeals to our akal when He tells us what is halal and haram. Once you know this, your soul needs you to implement it
  • The real jihad is learning what is halal and haram by acquiring knowledge and then implementing that knowledge to change your spiritual condition.
  • To free the heart from sin, we have to dispel our preoccupation with dunya, power, status and material things. To do this you need to change your external and internal conditions.
  • The external conditions are the 5 pillars (rulings of Allah) that tell you what is halal and haram. What to Do. The internal conditions are the fundamental things you believe in. There are 6 fundamental beliefs; to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His prophets, the Day of Judgment (life after death), and in destiny (qadar), that the good and the evil are from Allah.
  • Spirituality is embodied in the Prophet so we must all try and emulate him. Through excellence of character ihsan. We need to be disciplined in how we spend our time. What we do, see, touch and say. The success of spirituality is based in time management
  • Do wudu and brush your teeth before bed, recite the last two verses of Sura Baqarah, make intention for tahajjud and to see Rasul SAW in your dreams and sleep on your right side.
  • Set yourself minimum goals and as you achieve consistency in them, increase your minimum. To begin you can set yourself the minimum goals of:
    • Read one line of Quran a day
    • Read one bio of a pious person a week
    • Do 100 dhikr a day
    • Do 100 Istigfar a day
    • Pray Tahajjud
    • Make Dua
    • Perform Khidmah of any kind (familial, social)
  • It is recommended that you get yourself a shaiykh or mentor that can give you specific advice to your life and situation. If you don’t have one, recite 10k salawat on the Prophet every day and he will be your guide

On October 14th, Shaykh Haisam Farache spoke at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra on “Shariah Law: What is it and How is it implemented?” and “Spiritual Development in Modern Times

Born and raised on Sydney’s North Shore, Shaykh Haisam attended Marist College North Sydney and commenced his undergraduate university studies at the University of Montana, USA. He attained a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Western Sydney, a Diploma in Shariah (Hons) Dar al Mustafa, Yemen and a Master of Applied Family Law from the College of Law, Sydney. Shaykh Haisam holds numerous Ijazas (Licenses) in Islamic Law from scholars in Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Previously he has held posts as an Imam at Imam Ali Mosque (Lakemba Mosque) and Artarmon Mosque. Currently, Haisam is the principal solicitor at Garrison Lawyers predominantly practicing in family law. He also teaches at Charles Sturt University, Arts Faculty in Islamic Studies, a Minister of Religion (Islam) and is an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. Shaykh Haisam has played semi-professional rugby league and college basketball in the USA. He is a keen surfer.

Below are my notes from “Shariah Law: What is it and How is it implemented?” Note: I missed a fair bit of this one.

Differences between Shariah and Common Law

  1. Shariah is Immutable – The Quran is the equivalent to the constitution but it cannot be changed
  2. Shariah is both moral code and law – Shariah is based on Quran and Sunnah which dictates not only the laws but also the morals and code of ethics we abide by
  3. Shariah is for this life and the next – Common law applies to this life and this environment only

Similarities between Shariah and Common Law

  1. Cannot be arbitrary – Both establish that there is one rule of law in black and white
  2. Adversarial system – Both have a defendant and plaintiff
  3. Burdens of proof – Both establish “Beyond reasonable doubt”. In Islam, “Once it’s in doubt we throw it out”
  4. Due process – Court proceedings
  5. Innocent till proven guilty. Canon derived from Arabic ‘qanoon’ which means law. The Church took this from Islamic jurists to their court and then in 13th century jurists adopted it into secular law
  6. Precedent and legal reasoning
  7. Contracts are a direct derivative of shariah
  8. Evidence law, Trusts, Torts, Powers of attorney, Guardianship laws and much more.
  • Islamic law and common law have commonalities due to shared history of Roman law.
  • Criminal law – Besides fornication all punishable crimes are the same. Where we differ is in morals and code of ethics. Social norms have changed and legality focuses on regulation of taboo practices
  • Therefore the main point of difference between shariah and common law is that common law allows the loosening of morality but shariah does not
  • The rule of law then focuses on regulation vs prohibition of actions
  • Islamic law also takes into account ‘darora’ or necessity of law and punishment based on circumstances.
  • Tariq Ramadan calls for a moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty in the Islamic World because society is not ready
  • When laws are not based on morals or ethics, people will do what they desire. Laws may change to regulate the changes in society and there may be a practical benefit to society but it has spiritual and philosophical implications
  • Regulation should abide by moral codes. E.g. prostitution occurs primarily women need money. In Islam it is the responsibility of all men (as primary caregivers) to provide for all women. If this is not possible or not occurring, then it is the responsibility of the Government to provide for them from government coffers, ‘baitul mal’ and if this is not occurring then it is permissible to marry another wife on the condition that the man has consent from his previous wife and is equipped to fulfil the roles and responsibilities (physical, mental, financial, social etc.) to both/all wives
  • The point of corporal punishment is to NOT punish. In Sharia, even if a person admits to a crime they are given four chances to renege on their admission. If they do, the matter is closed and no punishment is meted out
  • Detailed retribution is a denouncement of misconduct which exists in both law systems in order to scare people to following the rule of law and thereby applying a code of ethics and morals to their daily lives and action
  • Adoption is not permissible in Islam due to inheritance laws but we can and should foster. The only issue is mahram which there are guidelines for.
  • Australian law and Sharia law do not contradict each other. What we can do in Sharia law we can do under Australian law. The problem is not Australian law. The problem is we as Muslims do not know what we are entitled to as Australians. How blessed we are to live in this society and enjoy its freedoms. Our parents and their parents live here but are emotionally invested in the politics and social issues ‘back home’. We send money ‘back home’ but this is our home now and we need to look after people here. Charity begins at home and Australia is home.
  • Our laws are not just from today, they are a product of centuries of reform. English is the global language today, before that it was French and before that it was Arabic. Much of today’s law, medicine, science etc. comes from the Arab enlightenment which was appropriated by the West and has religion or religious basis (Islamic or otherwise) at its core. Religion is driving factor in life and acceptance in any shape or form essentially comes from religion
  • Laws exist to protect human beings. The most important thing about human beings is the soul. So in essence, laws exist to protect the soul

11th October 2017 is the international day of the girl. 6 years ago, On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly voted to pass a resolution adopting October 11, 2012 as the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child.

The resolution states that the Day of the Girl recognizes: “empowerment of and investment in girls, which are critical for economic growth, the achievement of all Millennium Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and extreme poverty, as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights, and recognizing also that empowering girls requires their active participation in decision-making processes and the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community.”

The International Day of the Girl Child initiative grew out of Plan International’s Because I Am a Girl campaign, which raises awareness of the importance of nurturing girls globally and in developing countries in particular.

Each year’s Day of the Girl has a theme; the first was “ending child marriage”, then “innovating for girl’s education”, 2014 was “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.” 2015 was “The Power of Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030” 2016 was “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls.”. This year’s theme is “EmPOWER Girls: Emergency response and resilience planning.”

Whilst the theme is about empowerment, we still have a lot of work to do to bring girls around the world onto the same level so that empowerment is standardised across the world.

According to UN statistics, there are 100 million girls missing around the world. Where have they gone? Many of them are left on the sides of roads, drowned, maimed and thrown in trash bins. But even more of them have been aborted. The reason? They were girls, not boys.

Sex-selective abortion, also colloquially known as “gendercide,” is a huge problem. For every 200 girls born, one is refused the chance to see the light of day just because she is a female. Over the last 14 years, there were an average of 4,575 abortions every day. That comes to about one abortion motivated by gender every 18 seconds. Which means that if you make it into the world as a girl you’ve already achieved something.

But that doesn’t mean you are safe. Global child mortality is at around 4% and studies show that infant homicide is still predominantly female. So being born and then staying alive after birth is also an achievement.

As a girl, you have less chance of being educated than if you were a boy. Twice as many girls as boys will never start school in countries all around the world. Girls are almost two and a half more likely to be out of school if they live in conflict-affected countries, and young women are nearly 90% more likely to be out of secondary school than their counterparts in countries not affected by conflict. So being born, staying alive and getting to go to school is an achievement.

Then there is the struggle to stay in school as you get older and battle cultural and societal pressures.

  • Millions of girls are at risk of FGM
  • One in four girls globally are married before they reach 18.
  • Discrimination because of disability is real. The literacy rate for adults with disabilities is 3%. For women with disabilities the literacy rate is even lower, at 1%.
  • Each month, when you get your period you could be shunned from society. In some countries you’re seen as untouchable and forced to sleep outside.
  • As a girl, you’re at greater risk of HIV. Girls aged 10 to 14 are more likely than boys to die of Aids-related illnesses.
  • Worldwide, the biggest killer of girls aged 15 to 19 is suicide.
  • Teenagers are at more risk of having unsafe abortions than older women.
  • Maternal death is the second biggest cause of mortality for girls aged 15 to 19.

Making it through school is an achievement.
Growing up without being shunned for naturally occurring bodily functions is an achievement.
But guess what? If you make it through school, dodge early marriage and get into paid employment, the odds are you’ll earn less for doing the same job as your male colleagues. And then there’s life outside work. UN women estimated that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives.

So how exactly can we empower girls with regards to emergency planning and resilience response when we are yet to bring girls around the world on equal footing? When it’s an achievement just to stay alive, healthy and educated? When will we be able to say that girls are just as equipped as boys to achieve their potential? That the path to success and empowerment for girls is as obstacle free as for boys?

It’s a long slow road to success but it hasn’t been in vain. Studies by the UN show that when girls are given an opportunity to learn, they learn at a faster rate than boys. Governments and organisations are working together to eradicate infanticide and child marriage. To raise awareness and educate men, boys, families and socieities. To ensure the safety and well-being of girls within and outside the home. When more women work, economies grow. Studies show that an increase in female labour force participation results in faster economic growth. Evidence from a range of countries shows that increasing the share of household income controlled by women, changes spending in ways that benefit children.

World leaders have set targets and made promises regarding female health and education. Globally companies and organisations are working hard to bridge the pay gap and create gender friendly environments.

But until a father provides his daughter with the same opportunities as his son, until a mother supports her daughter’s dreams of education and professional experience, until a brother fights cultural prejudice and oppressive practices to ensure his sister is safe – there is no end to the suffering of the girl child. Change begins with me. With you. With the support you give to the girls and women around you.

Girls of the world are watching. We will speak out, we will support our fellow girls and women till all of us are able to achieve more than that which is a basic human right. Give us opportunity and watch us soar.


Tjanara Goreng Goreng is a Wakka Wakka Wulli Wuilli Traditional Custodian from Central Queensland Australia, a PhD candidate and the Founder and National Convener of the Foundation for Indigenous Recovery and Development, Australia. An Adjunct Assistant Professor for UC, Tjanara has had extensive teaching and government experience.

Tjanara spoke about gender, politics and public policy to address gender and intersectional concerns in policy for the Australian Federal Parliament and provide recommendations for the participants to include in their report. Some insights from her included:

Women in the world

  • Gender is never about sex. It varies by dimensions of life. Basic condition of life, safety health education and work, access to markets and space and people’s own free expression identified by alignment to a gender or group.
  • Individual Bodies can be typed in many ways but social practices of gender appear unproblematic in some social contexts and therefore impossible to solve. In some contexts gender dictates power, professional structures, social norms, familial hierarchies and personal relationships among many others.
  • We live in a diverse world where power resides with the male western patriarchy for the most part. There are some countries and cultures where women hold social positions of power.
  • But fear of the capacity of women and what they can do has diminished women’s role in society. Women can bear and give birth and with the advent of technology may not even need men soon to procreate and continue society
  • Roman society instituted the stereotyped norms practiced today to disadvantage women. For example women used to live with catholic priests and more often than not inherited his property when he passed. To keep this wealth, the Roman Catholic Church forbade priests to marry. Property dictates much of the power struggles of the western world
  • Prior to Napoleon, many powerful women held salons where politics was shaped in discussions of philosophy, politics and public policy in the exciting context of the revolution. This happened to a lesser extent in Britain and the US.
  • There has been a significant increase in women entering public office in recent decades which has consequences for public office and the general public. Women differ not only in those two categories but within themselves. Who they are, their backgrounds, their ethnic ambitions and objectives
  • Women like Margaret Thatcher control their power much like men so what’s the point of them breaking the glass ceiling?
  • Women in local councils are more active in gender discussions and take policy positions in a wider range of issues than men. They are more likely to take leadership issues to translate feminist policy attitudes into change and make programs or initiatives around them
  • Men exhibit a more instrumental and women a more contextual attitude to policy orientation. Women’s approaches are broader and interconnected to facilitate interactions rather than control and direct debates.
  • Women public officials do have an impact on gendered public policy or bring gender into policy discussions. Women are making a difference and as they achieve more positions of seniority and influence they influence private sector as well as the public space
  • New institutions may not fulfil the objectives of their creation because they are trapped by gendered norms which they try to dispel
  • Women need to address:
    • How are formal and non-formal rules gendered?
    • How can we institutionalise change to stop gendered inequality?

The indigenous story

  • Women are equal to men because of their responsibilities of the sacred business (Chukapah), the rearing of children and the physiological wellbeing of the whole clan. This is still practiced by the Kata Tujia people of Uluru
  • Believe that all beings are sacred and born with the same innate qualities. You are spirit before you are human and you become human to interact with others.
  • First and foremost you need to accept your spiritual self and purpose of being which imbues a sense of respect for self and respect for others and their spiritual being
  • Purpose of life is to interact with people on the basis of their spiritual being rather than physical being (features) and respect and honour Nunjanatia (the land)
  • The aboriginal law of Kanini is the harmony and unconditional love of all things
  • Aboriginal culture has an express way of managing the biological differences of men and women including laws regulating violence, crimes and misconduct.
  • Women rear all children to teach them how to be friends and co-exist. As they grow older, the men teach the boys how to have sexual relationships with girls and women teach girls how to evolve into their roles and responsibilities
  • When you go to indigenous communities now, don’t go to the men. Go to the female elders who run the community and can tell you about the spiritual chukapah and structure of leadership (sacred leaders) in order to manage conflict, think of the whole and bring about relations between people.
  • Women keep certain information (childbirth) in the realm of mystery enabling men to respect women.
  • Systems of power, race, gender and class cannot be understood independent of each other. They mutual construct each other and reinforce our attitudes to them.
  • Considerable power in class structures is residual from British colonialism and will not change if we do not address them
  • It is the responsibility of future generations to use the wealth of knowledge available and advancements in technology to create change by addressing gender and racial inequality

Day 2 began with Barbara Bickie using HDBI to “Discover your leadership style”.  She is an educator, at Charles Sturt University, a published author, PhD candidate, specialist in juvenile justice, child protection and the President of the National Council of Women Australia.

The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) is a system to measure and describe thinking preferences in people, developed by William Herrmann while leading management education at General Electric’s Crotonville facility. It is a type of cognitive style measurement and model which looks something like this.


The activity was to pick up cards that you most identify with, these were mine.


Read more about HDBI here.

Next we had Tjanara Goreng Goreng speak to us about gender, politics and public policy. A fascinating session that requires it’s own post which you can read here.

Our team activity output:

CaptureThe next speaker after lunch was Virginia Haussenger.  Virginia is the BroadAgenda 50/50 Chief Editor and the Director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation. She is also an award-winning television journalist, writer and commentator, with a career spanning 25 years. Virginia facilitated a workshop on political communication, preparing us for media interviews and engaging with politicians. Insights from the session include:

  • Watch a documentary on Zelda D’Aprano who chained herself to the Commonwealth Building in Spring Street, Melbourne, to protest pay inequality, until she was cut free by the Commonwealth Police. The event drew enormous attention to the Equal Pay campaign. She tipped off the media that she would do this protest because she knew they would be interested in the drama of the situation.


  • Australia’s first female Liberal Premier for NSW, Gladys Berejiklian was asked less than an hour into her role, if she was fit for her role as an unmarried woman with no babies – by a female reporter. In the ensuing cacaphony, she went off to the side and sat with her head in her hands till it died down.
  • The optics matter, COAG in 2011 had 4 women out of 11 and now we are back to 1/11.
  • The leadership model in Australia remains very male since they were designed by and for men. Over time we have tried to fit women into the model rather than redesign the structures and how we view leadership
  • Women in power quietly but fiercely own their own optics. Quentin Bryce wears colourful outfits, Hillary has her pantsuits and Christine Lagarde has made her dangly earrings and coloured scarf her trademark.
  • The debasement of the office of Parliament was alarmingly evident during Gillard’s tenure. Suddenly the rules changed for media across Australia
  • Progress is not inevitable and the hardest won gains remain the most vulnerable to being swept away.
  • Damned if you smile and damned if you don’t. – Me.
  • Women discussing their gender are not ‘playing the gender card’, they are discussing who they are. Facts.
  • When you have a strong sense of your purpose and values, they will allow you to deliver a consistent message. You can’t control the media, but you can control your message.
  • Leadership is more than dark suits. When women in leadership wear colour, they show diversity of leadership and in doing so affect change
  • When delivering a politcal message, focus on syntax and cadence to avoid muddying your message with extranneous words. Design your message for your audience. A great example of this is Emma Watson’s speech at the HeForShe Campaign 2014 to the UN.

And finally I want to leave you with something my mentor Sarah Elphick once said to me, ‘A woman trying to act like a man is a waste of a good woman.’

In preparation for the #GirlsTakeover Parliament Program as part of Plan International’s global #GirlsTakeover initiative, we all participated in a 2 day training weekend to prepare for the takeover.

Day 1 was full of introductions and hesitant smiles which quickly turned into insightful discussions sparked by a speech by the Deputy Commissioner Operations in the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Leanne Close, who shared her experience of her 26 year career as well as the leadership qualities she’s learnt and looks for when recruiting.

Leanne’s tips for leadership qualities are:

  • Be inclusive in your thinking so that you are generating a wide spectrum of ideas
  • Seek feedback from those around you – higher or lower in the hierarchy
  • Develop people – learn who they are and be invested in their success
  • Understand not only your strengths and style but that of others
  • Build confidence within yourself and others
  • Become a global citizen by reading and building awareness
  • Anticipate and build for the future by thinking about the impacts of now

To do this:

  • Know your job well
  • Try new roles and opportunities
  • Seek opportunities for personal development
  • Understand your team

Following Leanne’s speech was Speaker Training from TedxCanberra’s Ingrid Tomanovits. Ingrid is the ACT’s consummate learning and development specialist and is now the Licensee of TEDxCanberra. Her session was such a privilege to be part of because through her two exercises she drew out from a group of 20 odd women such personal anecdotes, life stories and insights that made me proud to realise I was in the company of such inspirational women. Some tips I took from Ingrid’s session spoken by either Ingrid herself or women in the group are:

  • Public speaking is answering the questions:
    • What do you want people to know
    • What do you want people to feel
    • What do you want people to do
  • Say your name and why you are here to establish for yourself and the audience that you are relevant to the conversation
  • It’s normal to become anxious, have dry mouth and a rapid heartbeat before you speak. It shows you care and that you are invested in what you are doing. Own it.
  • Any strength overplayed becomes a weakness
  • Drink water 48-72 hours before your speech to avoid dry mouth
  • Include everyone in the room and change the dynamic (if you feel people are not participating or active listening)
  • You don’t have to be the expert, guide the conversation by telling your story
  • The congruence of the words you use, what you say and the way you say it is the sweet spot for good public speaking.
  • If you become overwhelmed when speaking, pick a point to focus on and think about the negative emotion then look to your peripheral vision and the emotion will dissipate.
  • Be memorable for the right reasons, saying your name is one of the ways to help people connect to the points you are making
  • Watch Social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TedX talk, Your body language may shape who you are

After a lunch break of delicious pide from Yarralumla Turkish Pide House we were back. This time Saul took us through the findings of the “She Can Lead” report that Plan Australia commissioned Essential Research to do on the potential of girls to lead. We will be using the findings of this report to talk to members of Parliament.

Saul Zavarce is a Venezuelan Australian media professional currently studying a Masters of International Relations. He is the Media Officer at Plan International Australia and Head of Advocacy for Venezuelan Australian Democratic Council. Some takeaways from this session was:

  • Don’t mansplain and say you are trying to learn, if you genuinely want to learn – Google’s free.
  • 13 years of mandatory secular education (primary and high school) do not equip you to identify women’s sexual organs, issues, health concerns and discern between facts and fiction
  • Re: female sexual education – “Get a mirror, get acquainted” – Adriana
  • Animalistic male desire won’t stop you from becoming president but a period will – Saul
  • Women find it harder to negotiate remuneration and will more often than not settle for minimum wage or less than they deserve
  • Not only is there a disparity between the entry rates of men and women into professional fields, but the attrition rates are disparate as well with a huge number of women leaving the professional fields as the rank becomes more senior
  • Quotas are the demise of mediocre men
  • Women who infiltrate the boys club is either sexualised or ‘one of the boys i.e non-threatening’ or not part of the club and ostracised which has impacts on career development
  • We need education about what consent looks like to address the issue of victim blaming which is bigger than just the issue of consent. We need to address the social, cultural, religious and classist prejudice that implicitly and explicitly allows victim-blaming
  • Call out gendered language and behaviour to boys and girls. I.e. telling boys to ‘man-up’ if they cry or telling girls they need to look pretty rather than be smart.
  • As a youth, you can say radical things. Lobbiysts make deals. Your job as an advocate is to voice radical ideas
  • Venezuelan constitution states stay-at-home motherhood as an occupation in its constitution, which entitles housewives to wages and social security from the Government.

Recommendations that would make it easier for women to be leaders:

  • Gender studies in schools
  • Education regarding cultural concepts of love, relationships
  • Ban sexist advertising prohibiting public advertising that undermines the equal status of women
  • Job skills and negotiation training
  • Removing pictures and CVs from recruitment processes
  • Mentoring and support to provide more leadership opportunities
  • Remove gendered school uniforms
  • Address the gender pay gap by raising the minimum wage in public sector and providing incentives for private sector

Then we had a quick session on Media Training and how to have a successful interview.

  • Acknowledge a questions no matter how difficult
  • Bridge the gap to a topic you are comfortable with
  • Deliver your key messages succinctly.

Quick fire mentoring from:

  • Corporate: Rosanne Brand
  • Artist: Ruth O’Brien

The end of day 1 was celebrated by watching Bend it like Beckham and eating pizza.

Bring on day 2!

Last month, I was browsing Facebook in bed at 11:30pm before I went to sleep and came across a post about a competition being held by Plan international called #girlstakeover. The brief was to write 200 words on what you would do if you were Prime Minister for a day. I had never heard about either the organisation or the initiative but it seemed to fit in with my passion of women’s empowerment so I applied a minute before the deadline with the response below:

If I were to be Prime Minister of this great nation for a day, I would focus my energies on the past, present and future. I would acknowledge the reality of Australia’s history and the rights of the original occupants of our wide brown land by ensuring indigenous people are recongised in social, economical and politcal forums and their opinions are heard with regards to domestic and international policies. I would ensure the present generation of women and children are protected from abuse, violence and vulnerability via displacement by providing shelter and education to those at home and those that come across the seas to our boundless plains. For our future, I would seek to address the refugee crisis and climate change. Two giant issues that have no easy solution by making educated and informed decisions based on expert opinion. To do all this I would spend my day as an inclusive and open leader, hearing all voices regardless of gender religion or race.

A week later I found out I had made it into the #girlstakeover Program so I thought I should find out what I had gotten into! It turns out I had gotten into something pretty awesome!

Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. They strive for a just world, working together with children, young people, our supporters and partners. Each year they hold a global event where young women are chosen, given training and support and then take over parliament in their city for a day.

This year I am part of a group of young women in Canberra participating in the #GirlsTakeover Parliament Program, part of Plan International’s global #GirlsTakeover initiative. As part of the commemoration of International Day of the Girl on 11 October 2017, 600 takeovers in 60 countries will take place across the world. Canberra will be one of the locations where this action is occurring.

This initiative is great because it creates a platform in a space young girls often have difficulty accessing. In Canberra, this activism will be occurring in both the Legislative Assembly and Federal Parliament. The program is being led by two awesome local young women – Caitlin Figueiredo and Ashleigh Streeter – who signed up local members of Legislative Assembly and members of Federal Parliament to be involved and commit to a multipartisan message that our Local and Federal Parliaments are “committed to defending the rights and potential of young women and girls.”

On 11 October, we will take over the offices of local representatives from across party lines. On 18 October, we will enter Federal Parliament and occupy the offices of 19 Parliamentarians from every political party. During this time, we will shadow the politicians for the day and present these representatives with Plan International Australia’s national report on how to increase the participation of young women in political decision-making.

I am so please to have stumbled across this program and will post about our training weekend and the actual takeover soon. Till then, you can read about the initiative here and follow it using #girlstakeover as well as follow Plan international on social media or their website.