Salam El-Merebi

I am an emotionally connected, honest, confident womxn, who says it like it is.

Salam has lived most of her life in Brisbane and is very well connected to the Muslim Brisbane community. She has been volunteering and working for 18 years, in the NGO sector which includes severe mental health, homelessness, refugees, family violence, youth at risk, child safety, and sexual violence.


Salam holds a masters in social work, bachelor in social science, graduate diploma in art psychotherapy, diploma in youth work and juvenile justice and was awarded the 2014 Moreton Australia Day Award for her tireless work in the community. Salam was also awarded as a finalist of the 2005 National Young Achievers' Award QLD for community service.

Salam is the Human Rights Sub-Committee chair for AMARAH – Australian Muslim Advocates for the Rights of All Humanity and was an active member of the Muslim Charitable Foundation for six years. In 2014 Salam was the co-founder of the Sakina Refuge Incorporated. Sakina was the first CALD Domestic Violence shelter in QLD. She has also curated and held arts fundraiser exhibitions, raising over $30,000 for victims of torture and trauma.

What's easy for womxn?

Even though womxn before us had it harder than we do nowadays, and we should be grateful for their struggles, we still have a long way to go. Yes, we can vote; yes, we play a bigger role in society; yes, we can work and hold professional positions. However we still face a lot of difficulties, challenges, pressures and stigmas.


What's difficult for womxn?

Societal pressures and expectations create difficulties for womxn in general, and more specifically for womxn who come from different ethnic backgrounds. These difficulties tend to multiply and increase when the womxn is “different”. Womxn of color, womxn with different abilities, womxn who are homeless, womxn who come from refugee or migrant background, womxn who choose to wear the hijab, womxn who choose not to wear the hijab. The list is endless. As much as we want to think that we have autonomy and self-governance, the reality is different. Different societies with their values and beliefs create barriers, limiting womxn’s choices and decisions, and so, stripping womxn of their basic human rights.


How do you maintain mental fitness/mental health?

New to the game of motherhood, I am very strict with my boundaries and I prioritise my family. However, I am still trying to get the hang of “me-time” when it comes to motherhood. Before becoming a mother, I made art and went for hikes on weekends. Greenery brought me peace of mind.


What brings you joy?

Being with my toddler and husband brings joy to my soul. I love my little family even though it's exhausting at times. Also being around my parents and five male siblings brings me joy, especially when we discuss controversial issues and current affairs.


How do you nurture your relationship with nature?

I have passed on the love of hiking to my son, which means that we go on a lot of different mountain hikes on the weekends. During the week, we go to parks that have beautiful bushland. We are also very lucky to live close to a forest reserve which we visit often.


Where do you feel a sense of belonging/community?

I feel very connected to different faith communities which are based in West End even though I do not practice their faith. I also feel connected to some parts of my Muslim community in Brisbane but not necessarily all the Muslim community. I do however feel a sense of belonging when I am around like-minded artists, individuals with a sense of social justice, and human rights activists.


Where do you live/work?

I worked in the field of humanities for more than 18 years. I served (worked and volunteered) in the public and non- public sector as a social worker working with refugees, asylum seekers, child safety, domestic and family violence, sexual violence/ human trafficking, homelessness, severe and persisting mental health, gender issues, youth at risk, and family therapy. I have in the last three years opened a private practice where I supervise social workers, social worker students, present to and train organisations on different issues/ topics. Such topics include, mental health and cultural awareness, working with CALD (cultural and linguistically diverse communities) communities and family violence, parenting and Islam, Islamic perspective and child safety, parenting and cyber bullying. As an art psychotherapist, I also run different youth art psychotherapy groups. I live and work on Turball Jagera country.


What motivates you in your daily life?

Currently my toddler’s sunshine smile motivates me on daily basis.


What’s important to you?

At this stage in my life, it is very important for me to raise my son to be an emotionally intelligent individual who can understand and see other people’s perspective. It is important that he learns to speak out against injustices while being compassionate, honest and kind.


What’s the best piece of advice from a woman you have received?

My mother’s constant advice and words have always been what have empowered me to become the strong womxn I am today. I am so grateful to have a mother like her.

 

Connection

Reading about Salam's humanitarian work fills me with hope and quite frankly awe! I'm reminded of Valarie Kaur's Revolutionary Love Project, "In an era of great transition, we believe that we can birth a world where we see no stranger. Each of us has a role. When we lead with love, we labor with joy."


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