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.
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.
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.
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.