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Mariam Issa Speaker Melbourne

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Mariam Issa

Speaker, Author, Storyteller, Community Builder.

At age 30, Mariam moved to a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, from her Somali homeland with her husband, four children and a fifth on the way. Far away from the tight communities and families in Somalia, Mariam found herself in a foreign country that had a foreign language and a foreign culture. Similar to a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, she spent 10 years going through depression, the victim phase, an anger phase, and finally, arriving at the activist phase. Through her powerful stories that tell her trials and tribulations, she has inspired countless women who have had similar experiences to stop seeing themselves as victims, but to see the butterfly within in order to achieve their fullest potential.

Mariam is the distinguished author of the book, A Resilient Life, a story of resilience in the face of hardship and the spirit of determination, optimism, and understanding of all that makes us human. She is the co-founder of RAW (Resilient Aspiring Women), a not-for-profit organisation that supports women’s resilience through intercultural dialogue and exchange facilitated by storytelling, cooking and gardening.

Mariam continues to share her experience and commitment to improving refugee’s lives by sitting on the board of Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, serving as an ambassador for Refugee Council of Australia and a Director at Family Peace. She is an International Women’s Forum member and co-founder of Space2b, an art and design-based social enterprise established to support asylum seekers, refugees and newly arrived migrants. She was awarded the Ambassador of Peace award from the Universal Peace Federation in recognition of her on-going work promoting social cohesion amongst Melbourne’s culturally diverse population. She is regularly invited to speak to large organisations and conferences and featured in national Australian TV, radio and press.


I wanted to express how moving and powerful Mariam’s speech was last Wednesday! Out of all the speakers you have had over the years, none have been so emotionally charged, for me personally.

The content was perfect for the times we are living in, with disease & wars (Palestine/Israel, Ukraine/Russia, Syrian/Iraq Militants, West Africa outbreak of Ebola etc etc etc) her words of peace and one world just made me cry.

I could not stop the tears running down my face.

—Kirsty Balla, Administrative Services Coordinator, Facilities & Services Division, Monash University

Mariam has a beautiful and inspiring outlook on life, and a rare ability to share her values and ideals with an audience. Her life story is extraordinary; characterised by an unwavering determination to gain an education, make a contribution, support her family and build a sense of community. Born in Somalia, raised in Kenya and relocated to Australia as a refugee, Mariam has a rich cultural heritage and an array of inspiring stories, which readily connect and resonate with people. I have no hesitation in recommending her to any organisiation looking for an engaging speaker.

—Nathan Jessup, Director of Leadership, Melbourne Grammar School

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