Maryam Ali's winning entry for the Whitlam Institute essay competition 2017

Some people say I don’t belong here.

Some moments have me feeling that I don’t too.

But then I think to myself – if I don’t belong here, where do I belong?

My name is Maryam Ali. I write about what matters to me with the intention of taking advantage of the opportunity to speak out on behalf of all the people who have experienced a very important matter called discrimination.

You see, discrimination is indeed a major problem all over the globe. Anywhere you go, any city, country, continent – discrimination has already settled itself cosy before you. You simple cannot escape from it. It ranges from gender/sex identification to race.

From culture to religion. I am now 15 years of age, and willing to state that virtually every time I leave my doorstep into the up and alive world, I will experience some shape or form of discrimination. And I know for sure that I do not stand alone in this battle.

Does this matter? No doubt it does. I am a young Muslim girl of Afghan/Malaysian descent who was born, grown and matured in a land of opportunity. A beautiful sunburnt country. Where Kookaburras laugh with joy and the gumtrees stand lean and tall.

This is the land in which my feet first touched the ground. The land in which I was schooled and educated. The land that shaped me into who I am today. Yet still, I have been harassed and assaulted by those of who I looked at as fellow members of a strong and capable nation.

It is a fact to state that discrimination is one of my earliest memories. You’ve been told your skin colour is disgusting. Your eyebrows are too thick, and eyes are too dark. Your religious dressing code is unnecessary. You can’t play AFL and basketball, where your passion and talent lies in, because of your sex.

You’re told that anyone would hate to be you, due to your culture being so severely strict. You’re sitting at your desk studying. Your pencil case is thrown out the window by a fellow student who tells the class that there is a bomb in it. You receive a Lindt chocolate box viciously thrown at you. Apparently you killed someone’s grandmother in the Lindt terror attack. You’re studying when a student tries to rip your hijab off.

You’re walking into Coles and there is a group of people who tell you that you’re a terrorist, yell out “Allahu Akbar”, and say how they’re going to behead you like you do everyone else. How do you maintain self-esteem? How do you be confident? How do you feel?

A trillion rhetorical questions could be asked here. And this is only but a few lines of my story – only a few of my experiences. There are many more that are simply too foul to mention. So please, take my words into deep consideration.

There are millions of people – real life people – who have, or will have, to go through discrimination. Through the scarring torture of discrimination. Through a battle that is rough and traumatising. Where is the sympathy? Where is the care? 

How could anyone be called human and be able to sit back and allow others to be afflicted with such cruelty? Don’t each of these people matter? Each life? Each beating heart?

Well let me tell you. We matter. No doubt we do.

  • Maryam Ali is a Queechy High School student. She was recently named the grade 9-10 Tasmanian winner of the Whitlam Institute’s What Matters? Essay Competition.