AMUST held a highly successful Writers’ Workshop: The Power of Diverse Voices in the media on Sunday 14 November 2021 with an incredible array of speakers and many existing and emerging writers with over 130 registrations for the event.
The three hour event included speeches and presentations, Q&A session, Introduction to AMUST Style Guide and a Kahoot quiz competition where top three winners were awarded with cash prizes. The first 50 registered persons who attended the workshop received Prezzee gift cards.
With an esteemed panel of speakers who have a wealth of experience in writing, the AMUST Writer’s Workshop educated and inspired existing and emerging AMUST Writers in the multicultural community. The speakers gave insight into how writers can grow and contribute to mainstream and multicultural media platforms to have their voices and opinions heard.
Speakers included Dr Catriona Bonfiglioli: Media studies academic, UTS, Mostafa Rachwani: Writer and journalist, The Guardian; Mariam Veiszadeh: CEO of Media Diversity Australia; Zia Ahmad: Award-winning journalist and Editor-in-Chief, AMUST and Mobinah Ahmad: Managing Editor, AMUST.
As the founder of AMUST, Zia Ahmad provided an insightful look into the purpose behind AMUST and how it has grown exponentially due to popular demand. He talked about his vision and maintaining AMUST’s reputation by welcoming everyone and ensuring all views are balanced.
“While mainstream media largely highlights only negative news of wars, conflicts, crimes, assaults, AMUST turned the idea of news on its’ head by providing the good news, positive aspects of community life and highlighting all the good works that people are doing. And believe me, there is much good work being done, which does not see the light of day in mainstream newspapers. AMUST is embarking on doing so. AMUST brings various sections of the community together by highlighting their achievements to bring about appreciation and cooperation between our multifaith and multicultural community,” Zia Ahmad said.
He continued, “Sometimes only the conflicts are highlighted in the mainstream newspapers, but there’s a lot of cooperation and coordination and appreciation of our multicultural community, a lot of positive which goes on, which AMUST tries to highlight. Young people in our community are provided with the opportunity to express their ideas and opinions on current affairs, share their grievances and contribute towards building a peaceful and harmonious society.”
“AMUST promotes multiculturalism, a global outlook, the concept of unity of mankind against racial, linguistic, national and religious prejudices. AMUST promotes dialogue, communication and meeting of people from different faiths, indigenous groups and ethnic communities. AMUST will seek out the truth and boldly raise awareness of injustice, corruption, persecution and abuse of power and wealth and promotes corrective action to build an equitable, fair and just society,” Zia Ahmad concluded.
With an excellent foundation for understanding the deep values that AMUST is built upon, the next speaker Mobinah Ahmad, the Managing Editor of AMUST, talked about the importance of representation in AMUST across various cultures, belief systems, age groups, genders and topics. The news platform thrives as representing the diverse views across the Australian multicultural community.
“So there’s two strategies AMUST has in terms of increasing representation. One is to make sure we AMUST is represented in the media landscape and also to make sure that AMUST represents the diverse community that we have,” Mobinah Ahmad said.
Mobinah spoke about her role within the AMUST team that focuses on diversity and representation to share stories and inspire others to do good work and speak up.
For people to even conceive that something is possible, it helps to have it in front of them. We want to be a platform of inspiration to be able to inspire people to do good work, inspire people to contribute their ideas and thoughts,” she said.
Mobinah spoke about how it has been difficult in encouraging people to submit as they were shy or humble – and saw promotion as arrogance. But she explains how AMUST navigated this issue and encouraged more submissions.
“Unfortunately, we struggle as a community with really opening up about our thoughts and feelings and even the good work that we do, being a bit shy about it,” she said.
“If you intend to inspire others’ right to do the good work that you’re doing, then it’s not a sign of arrogance, right. We as Muslims need to be very confident about the dawah (invitation to Islam) work that we’re doing to inspire others to show that we are making an impact in this world, especially in Australia. We need to counter a lot of the negative rhetoric about Muslims that exists,” Mobinah Ahmad concluded.
Mobinah’s speech recognised the need for representation and inspired writers to share their thoughts.
Dr Catriona Bonfiglioli, media studies academic, UTS, discussed how to develop writing skills to report community news by sharing insights from her 15 years of experience as a professional journalist.
“Strengthen your capacity, define and check reliable information about learning and following a code of ethics, even if you do not belong to a professional association. Always keep learning, seek training and share your knowledge, keep writing and taking those photos audio and video because everything is very multimedia these days,” said Dr Catriona Bonfiglioli.
She imparted advice and tips to emerging writers to encourage them to write more. One of those tips was having writing goals and joining a professional association for writers and journalists.
“It is a good idea to join at least one professional association because the networking and the context and finding people to interview and getting opportunities to report, all of those things can come from belonging to various associations,” said Dr Catriona Bonfiglioli.
Mostafa Rachwani, a journalist at The Guardian, shared his journey of getting into mainstream media and how to navigate the Australian media landscape. He advised how to use mainstream media to publish news stories and opinions relevant to our community.
“It comes down to, honestly, defining what journalism is: Journalism ultimately is storytelling. It can be an extremely intimidating and competitive industry. It’s that way because of how influential it is, how important it is to everything really but also to politics of the land that we’re in an international politics and so on. Media and journalism is the platform on which politics essentially happens. It’s the way we communicate, what’s happening and why it’s happening. The media is used by almost every institution in Australia, and I’d say around the world as part of narrative building and agenda-pushing. Everybody has an agenda. So ultimately, it’s less so much a platform these days, and much more battlefield, where everybody’s scraping for time and attention. That kind of thing does miss what I believe is the most important and most powerful part of journalism: it is about storytelling. It is about sharing people’s stories and people’s experiences.” Mostafa Rachwani said.
Mostafa talked about there being several opportunities for stories.
“There are stories, all around you, and I think it’s extremely one of the most important and interesting parts of my journey has been to realise that I’m just completely used to that story. You know your local mannish shop has been open for, you know, 30/40 years – that’s a story,” Mostafa said.
Mostafa’s speech gave an insight to writers about how to find stories and encouraged them to be storytellers. Building from that, Mariam Veiszadeh, CEO of Media Diversity Australia, discussed the importance of diversity in the media. She highlighted the necessity to promote diverse views. Mariam inspired writers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to contribute to the media landscape.
“We want to ensure that when we are being discussed in the media, or any diverse minority is being discussed in the media that the representation is there, so we don’t have incidences where the vice president-elect is the first black woman, and there is no one that can speak to that point. We know that racism in the media is an issue, and we are hoping to overturn that,” said Mariam Veiszadeh, CEO of Media Diversity of Australia.
The event also consisted of educating the writers on the AMUST Style Guide, presented by the Sub-Editor of AMUST, Nilufer Kurtuldu. She explained the AMUST Style Guide and the editing process and advised upon writing structure, writing tips and the AMUST writing conventions.
Eesa Bokhari managed the AMUST Kahoot Quiz, which tested the writer’s knowledge of the AMUST Style Guide. The cash prizes were won by Manar Ahmad (First), Soukina Kassir (Second) and Dr Asrar Talukder (Third).
President of Seena Inc, Mehar Ahmad, gave a lovely closing speech, reflecting on everyone’s presentations and gave the vote of thanks to the organisers, speakers and attendees.
The workshop was inclusive to everyone and had Auslan Interpreters organised by Raian Hoblos from Deaf Muslim Australia, and live captioning.