Your Story, in Your Words Finale was held in Sydney on Saturday 29 February 2020 at the Berala Community Centre showcasing the art of story telling from the stage through presentations and written stories.

The project is an initiative of the Islamic Sciences & Research Academy (ISRA) headed by Dr Mahsheed Ansari together with Ms Katy Nebhan, an expert in oral history, and involved a set of public speaking workshops and writing sessions in the lead up to the Finale to empower people through the art of story telling.

Dr Mahsheed Ansari.

The Finale event, attended by contributors and a large gathering of family and friends was sponsored by the Cumberland Council aiming to share the stories of Cumberland LGA’s diverse residents by giving them the agency to discuss their life experiences.

The program was started by MC couples Aisha Elmir and Orhan Kaba who forewarned the audience of the treat for the night that will make them laugh as well as cry through the presentation.

MCs Orhan Kaba and Aisha Elmir.

Mahsheed, during her welcome talked about the idea she shared with Katie while they were exploring Muslim history of Australia while working on Dr Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad’s biography.

“A lot of people are talking about Muslims and telling our stories, but we wanted Muslims to tell their stories in their own words, thus making it more authentic,” Mahsheed said.

After showing an introductory  video titled “The story Circle Journey” introducing the Your Story, in Your Words projects with glimpses of workshop sessions, a total of 13 stories were shared at the event, either by the presenters from stage or through video clips, as follows:

  • Shades of the Scarves: The Four Women in My Life – Azzam Siddiqui
  • 126 Years – Anisa Khan
  • The Next Chapter – Guner Agar (video)
  • Auburn’s Road to the Motherland – Sue Samad
  • An Ambassador’s Reflection – Nasim Zreika
  • Cumberland’s Green Thumb – Emine Agar (video)
  • The Evolution of a Hijabi – Nina Ajaj
  • A Letter to My Younger Self – Devina Sharma
  • My Strength in Pain – Cigdem Kalintas (video)
  • Camels in the Classroom: Muhammad  Nebhan
  • Journey to Islam – Matthew Phillips (video)
  • The Moollas of Burmese Royal Court – Naing Win
  • Neither Here, Nor There – Asmaa Elmir

There was a break for Maghreb prayer and for refreshments in between the program.

Towards the end of the program Hanan Merheb launched the website showcasing all the stories included in the Your Story in Your Words project.

Mr David Purcell.

Mr David Purcell, a prominent public speaker associated with the Toastmasters who has been guiding the contributors through advise and overseeing rehearsals made the concluding remarks.

“This event tonight has been a great success, all storytellers insider and touched the hear of everyone present here and events like tonight connect cultures, enrich us and build harmony,” David remarked.

He further added, “My personal thanks to ISRA volunteers for working hard in making this event a great success and thanks to the audience for giving confidence to the speakers on stage.”

David also acknowledged the support of the Cumberland Council in sponsoring the event.

Yes, it indeed was  a fantastic night, well organised, well attended, highly stimulating, spiritually enlightening, emotionally satisfying and a great pleasure to attend. Well done.

Following the request by Dr Mahsheed Ansari, AMUST will be serialising the written stories in this series of Your Story in Your Words in the subsequent print issues of the Australasian Muslim Times.