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Speaker, Author, Storyteller, Community Builder


Mariam Issa arrived in Melbourne from her Somali homeland in 1998 with her husband, four children and a fifth on the way, and little knowledge of Australian life.

Today she has established herself in Melbourne as an inspirational public speaker, author, storyteller, intercultural facilitator, dedicated community builder, social cohesion champion and social entrepreneur.

Mariam Issa comes from an oral culture that uses the wisdom of it's elders for centuries. She uses numerous platforms as a story teller, communicator and nurturer to reach out to all members of community.

She regularly speaks to primary, secondary, university, teacher, corporate and general public groups, as well as parent and private function groups. Her message motivates and inspires her audience to draw on their compassion, find inner strength and resilience.

Current work

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 recently 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 different community groups and featured in national Australian TV, radio and press.

Previous experience

Author: In 2012 Mariam launched her autobiography - A Resilient Life- which shares her refugee experience and story of determination to persevere despite immense hardships she faced growing up in a culture and nation dominated by clans and tribalism, patriarchy and superstition, to then overcome the vast cultural differences and challenges of inclusion in Australian life.

Not-for-profit: In that same year she co-founded and incorporated the not-for-profit organisation and community garden RAW (Resilient Aspiring Women) in the backyard of her own home in Brighton, where the Australian government settled her and her family. Forged from Issa’s inspirational trust and determination to serve and build community around her RAW aims to support women’s resilience through intercultural dialogue and exchange faciliated by activities of storytelling, cooking and gardening.

Talking Points

How to face the unknown

How to deal with adversity

How to face pressures of being a leader

How to support communities

How to create an adaptable/resilient community

Inspiring & Unlocking potential

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. Melbourne Grammar School

Mariam Issa has now guest lectured for two years in our postgraduate subject Participation and Negotiation. Both times, she has enthralled 40+ postgraduates in professional planning, architecture, and environmental studies. Mariam is an inspiring public speaker and storyteller. Her work in bringing women and communities together has greatly affected the students and we have heard from them how her story is going to have an impact on their future work. I would not hesitate to recommend Mariam as a speaker, or an advisor on community development and inclusion. It is a privilege to know her.

Melbourne University
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