What’s something that you are passionate about?
Human rights, and helping the needy. Helping the disadvantaged. I’m very passionate about welfare work.
When are you at your happiest?
When I’m with my grandchildren. They bring a whole lot of joy into my life because they come up with new ideas, and are very open and honest, and full of enthusiasm, and they’re academic, musical and well-travelled.
What’s a significant achievement of yours?
I’ve had a few of them but the most significant one that I find. My husband and his sisters were separated from their mother for 52 years and couldn’t find her. And through help I was able to instigate meeting his mother just before he died. A reunion with his mother after 52 years. The greatest pleasure I ever got was to ring my sister in law up and say are you looking for your mother, she’s well, she’s alive and well, and she’s in America. So that was my greatest achievement I feel.
What do you hope to achieve in 2016?
I’d like to improve myself more, and I’m involved in the Queensland Muslim Historical Society. I would love to get a museum up and running. We’re trying to put a museum in the old salvation army hall, and we want to record the history of Muslims in Queensland and open that on the heritage trail. So that’s what I’d love to have started in 2016.
Who is your role model?
I would say between Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, because they believe in human rights and equality. I don’t know which one I would say is higher than the other. Ghandi was for peace, do everything by peaceful means, that’s what I really liked about him. Out of history the age of great men has passed, but we did have many great men in the early 50s.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
That I feel a bit insecure in my abilities. I have to think before I do things, sometimes things come out of my mouth before I really think them through. But I do feel insecure in some ways. People think I’m pretty confident and I’m a strong person but I’m not really.
What’s something that has changed your life?
Being left alone after coming from a family of 11. I had 5 children, I had the empty nest syndrome, then I had my mother pass, then I had a divorce, when my husband had cancer I brought him home to look after him. Going through losses, losses of close people in your life.
Even though my children are all around they are tied up in their own families and own careers and everything. I overcame that by going out and doing welfare work, and then I made a whole lot of new friends. And it was rewarding work, and it doesn’t worry me now. So that’s what’s changed my life. Having one group of people to another group of people, meeting new people, mixing with the Muslim community, and that was really the most rewarding work. Keeps you active, keeps you busy, you know you’re doing something to change someone’s life. So that was really good.
Do you have any advice for mothers whose children are leaving home?
My advice to mothers whose children are leaving home is to let them know the door is always open for them if they ever want to return. They do want independence and the need to experience the real world with all its trials and tribulations. However. If the need arises they should feel welcome to stop over in the family home.
What’s your best advice to give to other people?
Treat everybody as you’d like to be treated. That’s what I feel. Don’t judge people by their looks or ethnicity. Just treat everyone as you find them, as you want to be treated yourself.
What role do your beliefs play in your life?
Plays a very big role in my life because I know that I’m not alone, I know that many times in my life I have been protected, I feel like I have a guardian angel, religion has helped me so much.
I was a child of a migrant, torn between two cultures and two religions, and I didn’t fit into any of them. And then I did the pilgrimage to Mecca, and I realised that it was an Abrahamic faith, and they all interrelated anyway and it played a very big role in my life. I’m on the multi faith forum at Griffith, and I interrelate with other religions. Religion really is a very powerful force. You know there is an ends and a means and you know you’re not really alone. That’s what I find.
And my religion is a really clean religion, it’s a good religion, it believes in equality, even though people say women aren’t treated fairly or anything like that. It gives you rules that you can follow, clear rules, and you’re always in touch with your creator because you pray 5 times a day. And you know there is a whole brotherhood of man, we call them the ummah, that you can rely on each other in a lot of other ways.
And the best thing about it is when you pray everybody is equal. When I went on the pilgrimage to Mecca, in the Haram (Masjid al-Haram, the largest mosque in the world), men and women were praying side by side. And it was beautiful that the men were all dressed in simple clothing and the women just had to be modest, but you can all pray together. And whether you’re the king or the queen or the lowest beggar, you were equal. That was really beautiful. I really learned a lot when I went to the pilgrimage to Mecca, it changed my life in a lot of ways.
I could have said that was the changing point but it really wasn’t. It was just that it made me feel more secure, and it made me realise we’re all here for a purpose to fulfill the role that was made for us before we were born. So religion is very important to me. You wouldn’t say that I am devoutly, you wouldn’t say that I am pious or anything like that, but I believe in my religion, I believe in it in a big way. And yet most of my children are Christian. I believe that religion is a personal thing between you and god and nobody else has the right to tell you what to believe in, you have to find it yourself.
It was a big struggle because I was born in Australia when we hardly had any of the people to teach us our religion in the early days. Most of my education was at Christian schools, catholic schools, Methodist and Presbyterian. And I was lucky because it taught me all the biblical stories and everything like that. Because we believe in the books from all the prophets, so I learned all about the prophets beforehand from the Christian teaching. I did have a conflict believing in the trinity but that was a personal thing.
I just believe that we are all god’s children, all of us are, he made us equal, and he sent us prophets to show us the guiding way. To follow his rules. I may be a bit different to other people.
Can you tell us a moment you feel you had a guardian angel?
There have been several times throughout my life that I have felt protected. E.g In 1949 I was in a car accident when My father’s car brakes failed when on the Tamborine Mountain and the car went over the mountain with myself and parents in it and I was the only one left without a scratch. When our house burnt down in 1953 and my baby sister died in the fire, I was the only member of the family away from home. I was at the Gold Coast at our family’s guest house recovering from an illness. I was spared the trauma of escaping a burning house. There are so many Instances in my life that show me I am not alone.
Was there a memory that stood out during your pilgrimage to Mecca?
It is difficult to say what the defining moment was of my pilgrimage to Mecca was perhaps it was the realisation that at last I knew in my heart that Islam was the right religion for me. Growing up in a Christian country in a Muslim family, with little English translations of our prayers in my early years, I was torn between two religions. It took six months for me to prepare for the Hajj (pilgrimage). During the Hajj I soon learnt that Islam in its true form is a religion that treats everyone equally, especially when in prayer. It is an Abrahamic faith that respects the religions that came before and Muslims are constantly in touch with our Creator through regular prayer. The Hajj had a great impact on my life As I finally found peace in religion. It also awakened me to the needs of others when I saw the plight of beggars. It changed my life and led me to devote my time to community and welfare work.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
I’m passionate about human rights, I’d like to see more world peace. I wish they would stop making guns and killing people. I wish the world would wake up to themselves and know that we are destroying the environment, destroying the lives of other people, and that we should really be living in harmony. That’s all I’d really like to say.