people’s candidate or regime’s candidate?

Anatomy of the candidates in the Iranian presidential election 2021

by Alireza Mohebbi

Iran’s thirteenth presidential election will be held on June 18, as the country grapples with several complex and challenging problems at home and abroad.

There is no shortage of challenges for the incoming president to tackle. These include the COVID 19 crisis and vaccination roll out, with official figures reporting infections numbering 2,902,094 cases and 79,939 deaths by May 30th, 2021. The unprecedented nature of COVID 19 is tragedy enough, but when it’s set against a backdrop of rising livelihood dissatisfaction over high rates of unemployment, rising prices, 39 percent inflation, and the devaluation of the national currency, the demands on a new government are overwhelming. While many nations can turn to wealthier countries for support, a series of international incidents has left Iran as an outcast to much of the world. These include the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 by two missiles of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as well as the development of a nuclear program that has resulted in international sanctions and the US withdrawal from the IAEA. Iran’s support for Palestinian resistance groups and Shiite militias in Iraq and Yemen, as well as Iran’s military presence in Syria, have all affected foreign policy engagement with neighbouring countries. With so many life and death issues to manage, the next president’s reign will be critical for the future of Iran.

So how will this election play out and what will the role of the president be? Iran is a theocratic country with a population of about 84 million Muslims (about 98 percent) who, according to Article 113 of the country’s Constitution, holds the president as the highest official after the Supreme Leader. The president is responsible for enforcing the Constitution and chairing the executive branch, except in matters directly related to the Leadership.

The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the “Vali-ye Faqih –  ولی فقیه, or ‘guardianship of the jurist,” has the highest political and religious position in Iran – a position which can annul all decisions made by the president or other institutions of power under his government.

The process for the presidential election is not wholly transparent in Iran. The election ends with the president receiving approval from Iran`s Supreme Leader, after gaining an absolute majority of the votes cast (more than 50 percent of the vote) and approval of the election results by the Guardian Council. The approval of the Iranian President by Ali Khamenei as the Vali-ye Faqih, or ‘guardianship of the jurist’ is one of the powers of the Iran`s Supreme Leader in the Constitution, and the four-year term of the presidency in Iran begins on the date of “ratification of the credentials” by the Supreme Leader.

But let’s take a look at the process leading up to the final appointment.


What is the registration process for the Iranian presidential election?

According to Article 99 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Guardian Council is responsible for overseeing the President’s election. The Guardian Council, one of the important supervisory bodies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, has 12 members; six of them are Faqihs (experts in Islamic Law) who are dismissed and appointed by the Iranian Supreme Leader. The other six members are lawyers selected by the judiciary chief and nominated to the Islamic Consultative Assembly (The Parliament of Iran) for a vote of confidence. In Iran, the judiciary chief is appointed by the Supreme Leader by direct decree for a five-year term.

Controversially, according to the Guardian Council, candidates must meet the following conditions to register for this presidential election.

The candidate must:

  • be between 40 and 75 years old.
  • have a minimum master’s degree or equivalent approved by the Ministries of Science, Research and Technology and Health, Treatment and Medical Education, or the Seminary Management Center.
  • have a four-year history of ministries, governorates, or municipalities in cities with more than two million population.
  • be one of the directors of seminaries or of Islamic Azad University (private university in Iran).
  • be a member of the Expediency Discernment Council or the Supreme National Security Council.
  • be the deputy head of one of the three branches (executive branch, legislature, judiciary).
  • be from the heads of governmental organizations, institutions, and public non-governmental institutions at the national level.
  • And, if they are in the military, they should be high-ranking commanders of the armed forces with general and higher ranks.

During this period of the presidential election, 592 people registered with the Ministry of Interior, and finally, the Guardian Council approved the eligibility of seven of them as final candidates to participate in the Iranian presidential election.



Who are the final candidates?


people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Masoud Shahrestani

Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi

The 50-year-old Doctor, the fundamentalist politician, is the first vice-president in the eleventh term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly. He is the youngest candidate in this period of the Iranian presidential election.

He was also a member of parliament in the eighth, ninth, and tenth terms. He is a member of the Central Council of the Sustainability Front and was its spokesman in 2013 and 2014.

The Stability Front of the Islamic Revolution, known as the Stability Front, is an Iranian fundamentalist political group made up of conservative

fundamentalist extremists. The core of this group is formed by some former ministers of the ninth and tenth governments (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cabinet).

His long serving high ranking career in parliament positions him as a willing parrot of the Supreme Leader. This is evident through the anti-Israel rhetoric which is aimed to demonstrate that he is loyal to the regime.

Following recent tensions and clashes between Israel and Palestine, Ghazizadeh Hashemi said in a statement: “We will soon see the collapse of the Zionist regime.”

This recent statement by Ghazizadeh Hashemi as the Iran’s presidential candidate, refers to Ali Khamenei’s remarks during a challenging speech on September 9, 2015.

The Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran said in his speech to Israel: “You will not exist for another 25 years.”



people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Mahmoud Rahimi (MEHRNEWS Agency)

Abdolnaser Hemmati

The 64-year-old is a moderate politician and former governor of the Central Bank of Iran.

He has a doctorate in economics. From 1980 to 1993, he was active in the Iranian state radio and television and held important positions such as the political deputy of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

During the eight-year Iran-Iraq war (September 1980 – August 1988), he was in charge of the war propaganda staff. From 1994 to 2006, he was the General Director of the Central Insurance of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Chairman of the Supreme Insurance Council.

Before he was appointed Governor of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he headed Sina Bank (seven years) and Melli Bank (three years) for a total of ten years.

Also, during his tenure as Governor of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the US Treasury Department on October 8, 2020, sanctioned eighteen Iranian banks for supporting terrorist activities and Iran’s nuclear program.

Rising inflation and liquidity, the devaluation of the national currency, and the turmoil in the Iranian stock market are main economic problems during Hemmati’s presidency of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, leading to many criticisms of his performance which heavily impacts his chances winning this election.


people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Hossein Zohrevand

Saeed Jalili

The 55-year-old is a fundamentalist politician, a member of the Expediency Discernment Council, and a representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader in the Supreme National Security Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

He lost his right leg during an eight-year Iran-Iraq war in a military operation.

In October 2007, he was elected Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran in the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Former Iranian President). He attended the nuclear negotiations between Iran and P5+1 group (United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France plus Germany).

A trusted figure in the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he was selected as Iran’s nuclear negotiator based on his background in Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, during Saeed Jalili’s tenure in the Iranian nuclear case, Unprecedented sanctions were imposed on Iran by the United Nations Security Council, the United States, and the European Union, which negatively affected foreign exchange earnings, oil sales, and banking sanctions.

Jalili ran in the eleventh presidential election in 2013 but failed to win, eventually coming in third with about 4.6 million votes.

He ran in that presidential election under the slogan “A Pleasant Life – Hayat Tayyeba – حیات طیبه,” which is inspired by Islamic thought, and his campaign staff included members of extremist groups such as Ansar Hezbollah (close to the Basij and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).


people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Majid Khani

Mohsen Mehralizadeh

The 64-year-old reformist politician, vice president, and head of the Physical Education Organization was in the cabinet of Mohammad Khatami (the eighth government of the Islamic Republic of Iran) from November 2001 to September 2005.

He was previously the governor of Khorasan for four years, from 1997 to 2001.

Mohsen Mehralizadeh entered the ninth presidential election campaign in 2005 as a candidate of the reformist faction. He was initially disqualified by the Guardian Council but was re-approved on appeal by the decree of Iran`s Supreme Leader.

Mehralizadeh came in fourth in the 2005 presidential election with 1.29 million votes.

After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Mehralizadeh formed the Islamic Revolution Committees in the city of Maragheh (in the province of East Azerbaijan). The committee was responsible for enforcing Islamic rules and ethical standards of social behavior in Iran.

He also participated in forming the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Maragheh city) and held its command from 1979 to 1981.

He is currently the President of the International Zurkhaneh Sports Federation. His presence on the third day of the registration of candidates for the thirteenth presidential election on May 13, 2021, with his two grandchildren (one of whom wore the uniform of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) caught the attention of news photographers.

According to experts, his presence and confirmation in this period of the presidential election is only as an excuse to increase the turnout among voters who still believe in reform for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Although he will have no place in power and has no hope of winning the election, the regime is using every means to get people to the polls, even in exchange for the approval of a second- or third-class reformist candidate.


people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Mohammad Reza Abbasi

Ebrahim Raisi

The 60-year-old is an Islamic fundamentalist cleric and the current Chief of the judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His presence in the Iranian judiciary dates back to 1980.

Raisi has been a high-ranking Iranian judicial official since the 1980s, and his presence on a “four-member execution board” known as the “Death Commission” is one of the dark spots in his case.

In August and September 1988, thousands of political and ideological prisoners were tried without the presence of a lawyer and often within minutes, by order of Ruhollah Khomeini, the former Iranian Supreme Leader, and were executed en masse and secretly.

Ebrahim Raisi, as a deputy prosecutor of Tehran, was a member of the death commission that, after asking a few questions about the prisoners’ political and religious beliefs, decided whether to execute or keep them alive.

With the death of Ayatollah Khomeini and the beginning of the leadership of Ali Khamenei, Ebrahim Raisi was not only not questioned for the executions in the summer of 1988 but also continued to be promoted in the judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran and held positions such as Prosecutor of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, Head of the National Inspection Organization and the first deputy head of the judiciary.

His performance in the Iranian judiciary led to the US Treasury Department’s taking action on November 4, 2019, against nine individuals close to Ali Khamenei, including Ebrahim Raisi, for human rights abuses and internal repression.

His close relationship with the Iran`s Supreme Leader and his trust in Ebrahim Raisi led to his appointment to the post of Astan Quds Razavi on March 7, 2016, with the ruling of Ali Khamenei.

Astan Quds Razavi is a religious-economic institution responsible for managing the shrine of the Eighth Shiite Imam, collecting vows, and managing the property and economic enterprises affiliated with it. This institution is one of the largest economic enterprises in Iran, which has been exempted from paying taxes by order of Ayatollah Khomeini (the First Supreme Leader of Iran).

Ebrahim Raisi ran for the twelfth presidential election in 2017 but lost the race to incumbent President Hassan Rouhani.

About a year and a half later, on March 7, 2019, Ali Khamenei appointed Ebrahim Raisi as the Chief of the Iranian judiciary. Four years after losing the previous presidential election, Ebrahim Raisi has re-emerged to try his luck again.

The Conservative-backed candidate, a close ally of the Iranian leader, has high hopes of being elected Iran’s eighth president in an election in which the Guardian Council has disqualified countless candidates.


people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Maryam Kamyab

Mohsen Reza’i

The 66-year-old is a military commander and secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council.

In 1980, with the ruling of Ruhollah Khomeini (First Iranian Supreme Leader), he was appointed as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander and worked in this position for sixteen years until 1997.

The IRGC’s conflicts with the Islamic Republic of Iran Army and its performance in commanding various operations during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) when he was as commander of the Revolutionary Guards were widely criticized.

Mohsen Reza’i entered the world of politics after 1997 and was appointed secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council by the ruling of the Iran`s Supreme Leader. Mohsen Reza’i holds the record for running in the most presidential elections.

He ran in the ninth presidential election in 2005 but resigned before the election. He ran in the tenth and eleventh presidential elections in 2009 and 2013 and lost.

Reza’i was absent from the twelfth election but is running again in the thirteenth presidential election, seeking his presidential dream. However, it seems unlikely that he will have a chance to become president.

Ahmad Reza`i, his eldest son, fled to the United States in 1998 and criticized the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was assassinated on November 13, 2011, at the Gloria Hotel in Dubai.

Mohsen Reza`i was placed on the US Treasury Department’s sanctions list on January 10, 2020, following the US government’s announcement of involvement in the 1994 terrorist attack against the AMIA Jewish community in Argentina, resulting in the deaths of 85 people.

Mohsen Reza`i was listed as wanted by Interpol (International Police) on March 2007 at the request of the Argentine government on charges of involvement in the explosion of the Jewish Aid Center (bombing of AMIA as the then commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).

His remarks in July 2013 on the issue of military aggression and conflict with the United States were highly controversial. Reza’i said: “If the Americans want to have a bad eye on Iran and think of a military strike, they can be sure that we will capture at least 1,000 Americans in the first week, and then they will have to pay billions of dollars to free each of them and we will solve the economic problem of the country.”


people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: M.Hossein Movahedinejad

Alireza Zakani

The 55-year-old fundamentalist politician represents Qom (Iran’s religious capital) in the eleventh term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (The Parliament of Iran) and heads the Islamic Parliament Research Center of The Islamic Republic of Iran.

With the start of the Iran-Iraq War, Zakani went to the battlefields and participated in the Irregular Warfare Headquarters. He was wounded in battle.

Alireza Zakani was in charge of the Student Basij Organisation of the University of Tehran, the mosque administration of the University of Tehran (for four years), the Student Basij Organisation of the universities of Tehran province, and was in charge of the Student Basij Organisation of Iran.

The Student Basij Organisation -سازمان بسیج دانشجویی  was founded based on the decree of the first Iran`s Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini on 23 November 1988. This organization is a subset of the Basij Organization (one of the paramilitary organizations and a subset of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).

Zakani represented the people of Tehran in the seventh, eighth, and ninth terms of the Islamic Consultative Assembly.

Alireza Zakani registered for the eleventh (2013) and twelfth (2017) presidential elections in Iran but was disqualified by the Guardian Council in both.

According to many critical experts, this rejection and approval of credentials in different periods is a tool of pressure done by the Guardian Council (by order of Iran`s Supreme Leader).

Some experts believe that before the election, Alireza Zakani may withdraw from the election in favour of the main representative of the Conservative Party, Ebrahim Raisi, as a close pro-government observer. If Ebrahim Raisi wins the Presidential election, Zakani will likely be elected as one of his cabinet ministers.


What next?

One of the important events of the thirteenth Iranian presidential election so far is the disqualifications of the Guardian Council regarding Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (former President of Iran from August 2005 to August 2013), Ali Larijani (Speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly from 2008 to 2020) and Eshaq Jahangiri (First Vice President since 2013).

The seven qualified candidates will have 20 days from May 28 to June 16, 2021, to carry out their activities and election campaigns throughout Iran. The thirteenth presidential election in Iran will be held on Friday, June 18, 2021.

Experts believe that due to the complexities and problems in Iran’s domestic and foreign policy – including increasing public dissatisfaction with the government, severe economic and livelihood problems, the COVID 19 crisis, and the ambiguous status of Iran’s nuclear program – turnout will be at an all-time low compared to previous elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Some polls in Iran, including the Student Opinion Polling Centre (ISPA), put the current turnout at 36 percent.

During the eleventh term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (The Parliament of Iran) on February 21, 2020, only 42.57 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, with the lowest turnout (after the second round of municipal council elections in February 2003) in the post-revolutionary history of the Islamic Revolution since 1979.

Whether some consider the Iranian election a premeditated and engineered election or others see it as a blind hope for choosing between bad and worse, on June 18, 2021, the Islamic Republic of Iran will recognize its eighth president. The President could be considered the most outward facing showcase figure of the regime which is approved by the Supreme Leader and the Islamic Republic of Iran at this time.



Alireza Mohebbi

HDR Candidate

Schools of Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities

Swinburne University of Technology

Twitter: @alirezambb


Feature image source: Borna Ghasemi

in the fight against sexual assault, validating women’s voices is vital


by Jessica Norris

Content note:
This article contains mentions of sexual harassment, assault and gender-based violence.


On a particularly sunny, blue-skied day in February 2010, I was riding the number 16 tram to St Kilda beach with a group of my high-school friends. I wore a red floral tank top and some cute denim shorts, with a Cotton On tote bag loosely flung over one shoulder. The smell of sunscreen and freshly painted pink nail polish hung in the air just as starkly as the sound of scratching tram tracks.

While holding on to the safety handles above with sweaty hands, I noticed one of the boys in our group looking at me. My stomach flickered a little and I stared at my feet, embarrassed. Was he definitely looking at me? Do my thighs look too big in these shorts? Will he still look at me when I’m wearing my bikini? Maybe I imagined it. The tram doors flung open and I turned to get out of the carriage, relieved to have a break in the awkward-teenager tension building in my head.

The relief didn’t last long. Somewhere between the gap from the tram and the platform outside, I felt two hot, firm hands grab my butt cheeks from behind. Trying to regain my balance in a crowd of people getting on and off, I stared up at this boy with my mouth a little open and cheeks rapidly reddening. He looked back at me and was chuckling along with the other guys, and even a few of my friends. There I stood, a fourteen-year-old girl, inescapably on display for all to see. I hardly spoke for the rest of that day.

The other night, I found myself at a party standing with a group of girls, some of whom I had never met. We started discussing the sexual assault allegations that had surfaced in the media and shared various experiences of our own.

“You don’t get hurt or feel frightened at a safe venue,” said one girl, “it’s the travelling there and home that scares me.” She told us about a time she had left Yah Yah’s on a Thursday night to find a crowd of drunk men waiting outside. “They yelled, ‘Kiss!’ at my girlfriend and I when they saw we were holding hands. Like, we’re not a fetish.”

“I can’t count the number of times I’ve been groped in a club,” said another. “One time, I rejected a guy and he got so mad that he told the bouncer I was drunk.”

At this party more than ten years later, that day on the tram flashed into my mind from a vault of random memories that make me cringe as hard as the day they happened. As I stood in this circle of young women swapping their stories, I was reminded that mine needed no complex explanation or justification for telling it. These women understood exactly what happened that day on the tram, and I knew they would, because all of our experiences a part of one narrative: the story of a society where women are sexualised, and sexual assault is normalised.

There has been a spotlight in the media on allegations of sexual assault and rape, spilling down from our Federal Government to high schools across the nation and beyond. I cannot help but wonder, Do the headlines circling around Australia at the moment surprise me? Or does it feel like the rest of the country is just starting to catch up on the conversations girls are having at parties? The tired, old, misconceived narrative that women are raped in dark alleyways by Really Bad Men is finally being challenged on a larger scale. Our society is sitting with the reality that sexual assault is so prevalent, that it’s happening every day to our little sisters on social media, to our female colleagues in our workplaces, to our grandmothers in their nursing homes and to our friends on their first dates, most often by men they know personally.

The pressing problem of sexual and other gender-based violence being experienced by women at overwhelming rates in Australia and globally is undeniable. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that one in five Australian women have experienced sexual violence, with one in six women experiencing this abuse before the age of fifteen. According to a recent survey for the UN Women UK, 86 per cent of British women aged 18 to 24 stated they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces, with only 3 per cent saying they had not.

Unfortunately, these statistics only worsen for women belonging to minority communities across multiple areas of gender-based violence. First Nations women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence when compared to non-Indigenous women. Approximately one in three women with a disability have experienced emotional abuse from an intimate partner compared to one in five non-disabled women. Transgender women are more likely to experience sexual assault at the hands of strangers than cisgender women, and their experiences are often excluded from sexual violence data. These statistics are disheartening, but they only begin to illustrate the violence that the vast majority of women in Australia face throughout their lifetimes, as many testimonies remain unreported.

The recent testimony of Brittany Higgins has been a hollowing reminder to women across Australia that if a rape can happen to a politician inside Parliament House, it can truly happen anywhere. Chanel Contos’ petition for “sexual consent education”, in schools has stressed the saddening reality that teenage girls face sexual assault at an overwhelming rate in their developing years. The Morrison government’s “Milkshake” ad in response (attempting to educate teenagers on consent) has only illustrated just how out of touch our leadership is, with both the seriousness and basic principles of sexual consent. Marie Barbaric’s story of institutional sexual abuse following her removal from her family under government policy ­­– now known as the Stolen Generations – has reminded us of the double-edged sword of sexism and racism Indigenous women have been battling for two hundred years.

Women across Australia are deeply hurt and angered by this injustice, and the March protests across major cities have highlighted that they are ready and willing to use their voices to make that clear.

How we react to the testimonies of women, and their voices in society, will be the key to our battle against the patriarchal cultures in which these stories of sexual assault are born. Women like Brittany Higgins, Marie Barbaric and the many that have gone before them, are demonstrating that speaking up about sexual assault is an incredibly powerful weapon in revealing truth, engaging public discussion and paving the way for others to go next. Women who come forward to share their stories are breaking the stigma of shame and silence that has followed these experiences for decades.

However, with every story that makes its way into the public sphere, there seems to remain an inevitability of dismissal, criticism, or even blatant disbelief lurking behind women like a shadow. Recently, a journalist for The Courier Mail wrote, “since when does being Australian of the Year give you licence to personally attack our Prime Minister?” in response to Grace Tame’s public critique of the Prime Minister’s handling of the rape allegations against Attorney-General Christian Porter. While Defence Minister Linda Reynolds needed to be forced to apologise to Brittany Higgins, after calling her a “lying cow” following her report of rape in Parliament.

Our response to women speaking their truth in the public sphere mirrors how we value women in society. Every dismissal of one woman’s story diminishes the right of all women to speak and exercise their value as people that are allowed to do so. If society has truly moved beyond the days where women are silent accessories in a man’s world, then female voices need to hold as much space and power as their male counterparts. For those that are quick to shelve, dismiss, zone out on, talk over, critique or cheapen the voice of the women in your life, we must dare to check in with ourselves and ask, Are we valuing the testimonies of women in our society to the same extent as we do those of men?

What is perhaps an even more important power behind the stories of women is their ability to connect us to each other and help us to understand our own experiences. While each experience is unique, every voice comes together to form the next chapter in the narrative of a women’s movement. Yet, a voice only resonates if someone is there to hear it. And if you are not hearing them, then you are not paying attention. Women are speaking up more frequently than ever before, which makes now the time to hold fast in uplifting and validating their voices until the fight against sexual assault and gender-based violence is won.


Photo courtesy of Swinburne Journalism: 

Lilly Williamson, Milllicent Spencer, Kiara Ariza Stellato Pledger.

racist australia: the nation’s biggest secret


By Ella Paine

Picture this: you and your family made the move to sunny Australia 10 years ago with hopes of a better life. You came expecting nice weather, laid-back people and a multicultural society. Yet now, the media has stereotyped and persecuted your race over all news outlets and social media platforms. And since the eruption of the corona virus pandemic, things are only getting worse. Your family is viewed as unhygienic, contagious and the cause of the disease. Now, in the country that you have come to call home, some people think that you and your family deserve to die. Having already experienced three attacks this week, is the graffitied sentence ‘COVID-19 CHINA DIE’ on the door of your garage not the last straw to make you think, maybe Australia isn’t the home I was told it was?

As terrible as this scenario is, it is not a hypothetical situation. A Chinese-Australian family was sought out and attacked in April last year in Melbourne, in the exact way I have just described.

But racism doesn’t exist in Australia, right?

Hiu Yen Yong would disagree. Hiu Yen, a Chinese-Malaysian woman who has lived in Australia since she was four years old, believes not that racism has recently appeared out of nowhere, but rather that people in Australia are now ‘more comfortable showing it.’

While Hiu Yen says acquaintances have reached out to show their support following these attacks, such messages often feel like hollow platitudes…or double-edged swords.

‘People are going out of their way to show me how much they support me,’ she said.

‘It’s like they think they are being so virtuous by saying they don’t think the virus is my fault.’

In the past, Hiu Yen’s experience of racism was much more direct. She was forced to contend with consistent ‘classic school-ground taunts’ where other children would pull back their eyes, call her food ‘weird crap’, and tell her to ‘go back to [her] own country’, as well as ‘a surprising amount of ching chong bling blong.’

Nisa Raihan, an 18-year-old Malay from Singapore, echoes Hiu Yen’s sentiments, saying she has often felt uncomfortable in Australia as a hijab-wearing Muslim.

After the 2019 Christchurch bombings and the Sydney Café shootings, Nisa and her family ‘tried as much as possible (to) stay inside’ and avoided taking public transport due to the worry that ‘people would blame [them]’ or ‘confront [them]’.

‘I don’t understand how there are some people involved in politics, such as Pauline Hanson, who fuel their policies based on racial prejudice and hatred,’ Nisa said.

‘By projecting these views onto other people, a toxic and hateful environment is created. These people should not have power in society.’

Whilst Nisa says that she hasn’t experienced any racial attacks since moving to Australia some 13 years ago, she states that she thinks this is because ‘when [herself and her family] first migrated, [they] stayed in high Malay and Muslim communities like Broadmeadows and Dandenong.’

When it comes to her safety as a hijabi woman in broader Melbourne, Nisa explains that her parents are more concerned than she is.

‘When I was applying for jobs, my mum was worried I wouldn’t get past the first interview because of my hijab,’ Nisa said.

‘Racism most definitely still exists within Australia. Not only towards Asians but it also extends towards the Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Black communities, as well as other minorities.’

‘We can do so much to reduce the racism rates, but the bottom line is there will always be a small percentage that will be racist whether they’re aware of it or not.’

As Hiu Yen and Nisa have demonstrated, ingrained stereotypes and biases of this nature are damaging to people of colour. Various studies cited in a Guardian article, in fact, have indicated that unconscious racial bias can negatively lead to poor health outcomes, and create barriers that lower the quality of students’ tertiary education.

2020 has been a year of onslaught and terror for most regions of the world following the coronavirus pandemic, but nothing has caused a bigger revolutionary uprising than the Black Lives Matter movement. The Black Lives Matter campaign, often shortened to BLM or #BLM, was founded in 2013 by cofounders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. According to the official Black Lives Matter website, the three women created the political cause with hopes to spread the word about ‘violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.’ The need for justice, freedom and liberation influenced many others in the United States to stand by these women and their cause.

Following the recent breakout of protests, strikes and calls for racial equality after George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police, many Australians have taken to media platforms to voice their gratitude for not living in a racist society like America. However, multitudes of research and personal stories from people of colour living in Australia show that we also have our own issues with racism that we need to address.

In an Essential Poll conducted by The Guardian, almost 80 per cent of Australians surveyed believed that the United States’ authorities have been ‘unwilling to deal with institutional racism in the past’ which has ultimately led to incidents such as the death of George Floyd. Yet, when asked if the same institutional racism existed in the Australian police forces, only 30 per cent agreed that this type of authority-based racial hierarchy existed in their own country.

Australia’s racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is evident through the historical abuse and mistreatment of people and lands, demonstrated through a lack of treaty as well as the stolen generations. However, what many people are not informed about is the 432 Indigenous deaths in custody since 1991: deaths for which nobody has been convicted. The lack of awareness and accountability for this horrifying statistic affirms how relevant BLM is in Australia too.

Australia is an incredibly multicultural country. Since 1945, almost seven million people have migrated to Australia. The 2016 Census found that Australia is home to more than 1.2 million people of Chinese ancestry. Chinese Australians have done so much of building Australia into the country it is today – from the 1850s Chinese migration for the Ballarat gold rush, to Melbourne’s Chinatown existing as one of the oldest Chinatowns in the world.

So why does Australia still hold these stereotypical, prejudiced and racist views?

In a perfect world, Nisa says that ‘racism will never exist,’ but she does not believe this is realistic in Australia’s near future.

‘But hopefully, we will get to a point where everybody, regardless of their race, ethnicity or nationality, can feel safe in Australia.’


Photo by Gisele Diaz on Unsplash

diversity moves in: queer players stake a claim in gamer territory

Author: Emily Spindler-Carruthers 

Originally published in the Swinburne Standard.

When hero Ellie battles through the cycle of revenge in post-apocalyptic PS4 game The Last Of Us Part II, she is supported by her girlfriend, Dina.

The two call each other pet names in passing as they cut paths through infected creatures, dance to records found in abandoned cities, and experience all the mundane highs and lows of a queer relationship against the backdrop of the ruins of human civilization.

When Naughty Dog launched the second instalment of The Last of Us series in June this year, it became one of very few positive and realistic depictions of queer characters in games.

Including a queer protagonist in a genre usually featuring straight males is certainly unprecedented, but Ellie is not the only character to demonstrate increased diversity within video game narratives.

Narratives allowing players a choice in love interests, regardless of gender, are also new to the genre – one such example is the Fire Emblem series. The newest game in the franchise, Three Houses, also asks players to “pick a form” rather than a gender, using neutral pronouns throughout.

Nik Pantis (they/them), a non-binary game developer from Melbourne, says this change is partly due to an increase in “consultation with queer people and LGBTQIA developers working on games”.

Nik adds that this wasn’t always the case, with games from the ’80s to early 2000s often heavily stereotyping LGBTQIA+ characters – if there were any at all – or casting them as the butt of jokes. Case in point: the stereotypical portrayal of gay men as overly flamboyant, promiscuous, side characters seen in the Grand Theft Auto Series.

Now, queer representation in gaming is steadily improving, due to reduced stigma surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community.

This increase in representation serves to temper, even slightly, the “toxic” nature of gamer culture, where homophobic, sexist and transphobic slurs have been commonplace.

Queer gamer Bert Conner (they/them) who grew up in a rural town with “old fashioned beliefs and views”, says inclusive media is “crucial in reminding queer people that they matter, are valid and aren’t the only ones out there.”

“More [queer] gamers now have the opportunity to play something … that they can connect with.”

Despite these positive steps forward, Nik and Bert agree there is still a long way to go when it comes to depictions of LGBTQIA+ people in gaming.

“Inclusion does not equal representation. We need the exploration of queer narratives and telling of queer stories,” Nik says.

Video game Tell Me Why, they add, does well at exploring a queer story within its medium, and serves as a prime example of the direction positive representation in games could continue to go in the future.

Tell Me Why features a heavy but well-done story of a trans man after he had transitioned … a story like this may help to educate some folks on the lived trans experience.”

It is clear that players are pushing for more authentic, inclusive storytelling in video games – and game developers are finally starting to listen.

Featured image courtesy of Jorge Franganillo, courtesy of Unsplash.

how to manage your student income during a pandemic

Author: Alex Harvey, Money Coach

Money can either make you miserable or help support the realisation of your deepest dreams. – Bari Tessler

If managing a student income wasn’t hard enough, meet Rona. Rona’s here to shake up what you thought you knew and give you a good dose of uncertainty about the future.

But it’s not all doom and gloom!

While it’s perfectly normal to endure tough periods and economic downturns, post-Rona, we have the opportunity to pick up the slack in areas of our lives where we weren’t taking the greatest care or focusing our attention.

You might think you’re currently worse off financially because of this pandemic. But what if it could actually empower you to change the way you looked at and managed your money, so that you ended up *better off* in the long run for having learned these skills?

Yes, this could be your big opportunity to get *woke* with your finances and lay the  foundation for the future you want, simply through building smart money habits.

In fact, why don’t you *make* this your opportunity to do just that?

Ok, so the problem is, you’re unclear on the amount of money have coming in, whether it covers everything you want and need, and how you can possibly save, when your income is all over the place.

Let’s break this all down a little bit…

Managing your money

The first, most overlooked step of managing your money and feeling great about it is creating your compass, aka *knowing where you want it to go*.

This is oh so important!

If you simply create a budget right now with no real thought about whether it reflects your goals and values – you’ll feel accomplished after doing it, but probably *never look at the damn thing again*.


Because more important things will come up in your life and fight for your attention, passion and motivation. And then what happens? Money continues to cause stress in your life and holds you back from what you want, rather than helping you get closer to your dreams and goals! Now that is a tragedy.

So, how do we avoid this? How do we make money management something we care about for more than 10 minutes, enough to consistently use an actual budget or system we’ve put in place?

We develop our budget based on what we care most about it!

Step numero uno is to create your compass (aka determine your goals and values).

These are your goals and values, money completely aside:

What do you value most? What’s most important to you in life?

What goals do you have within the next year?

What midterm or longer-term goals do you have in life?

And then you can ask yourself, do any of these require money? And if so, which ones can I build into my budget right now?

Maybe one of your top values is ‘community’, and you realise it would bring you epic joy to cook a meal for your friends once a fortnight, or have everyone over for tea and biscuits (once Rona has settled down a bit and it’s legal, of course)… and so you can build that into your budget.

Your budget may be pretty tight right now. And that’s ok. You can still usually find ways, even if small, to make money-related decisions that are aligned to what’s currently most important to you.

And even if don’t feel you can save towards your goals right now, the act of defining them and defining the money you’ll need to meet them will empower you to tweak your budget accordingly when your circumstances change.

Now your budget is something that’s getting you excited! It’s fun. It’s linked to what matters most to you.

The second step is to use your compass to put together a money plan and find *your number*.

Ok, so now that you’ve defined your goals and values (aka compass), you need to start putting numbers together!

You can start out with a rough budget, but you know what’s even easier?

Tracking all of your money for 30 days.

Everything you earn or receive, and everything you spend. Write down every single transaction; what it was (ie groceries, Uber Eats, phone) and how much you spent.

Once you’ve recorded 30 days’ worth of transactions, you can see exactly where your money went in a single month. You can then choose if you want your spending habits to remain the same or take a different path – aka one that is more aligned with your values and goals.

But you don’t stop there – you then keep doing this every month! And that’s the next step.

The third step is to work the plan, and track track track.

Now you have a money plan, you have to actually use it, otherwise having one is honestly useless!

What you want to do is keep tracking your money and then compare your spending against your budget. Where did you stray? Is your budget realistic? Do you need to make adjustments? Do you actually need to earn a little more?

And that’s powerful!

Do you need to earn more or spend less?

The power of this process is that it gives you really tangible answers.

Rather than saying ‘OMG, the world is collapsing, I’m not earning enough and I need more! I can’t cope I’m just going to watch Netflix for a bit and then work it out’.

You can say ‘Oh, my shortfall right now is $100/ week. How can I earn an extra $100/ week?’.

Boom. All of a sudden, making some extra money becomes tangible. Now you can set your mind towards working out how to earn $100/ week.

Just trust me, knowing the exact number makes a really big difference!

And my friend, that’s how you get started.

One step at a time.

(Psst. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed or you’d like a hand, click here to check out my pre-made money planner & tracker – literally changes lives and it can change yours too).

So when are you going to sit down and first work out your compass (goals & values)?

Put it in your calendar! Or even better yet, why not do it right now?

As Bari Tessler says “Money can either make you miserable or help support the realisation of your deepest dreams.”, so why not support the realisation of your deepest dreams?

About Alex Harvey

Alex Harvey is a money & empowerment coach for ambitious millennials that want to live life on their own terms and have a meaningful relationship to money – in both how they earn it and use it. She believes that the more people that earn a living doing that they love and spend and save in alignment with their highest values and generosity, the more we can heal the planet and our dysfunctional money systems.
Alex has helped hundreds of people to significantly change their money story, save thousands of dollars, get off credit cards, pay down all their debt and build an income doing what they love. She does this through online courses and workshops, group programs, retreats and private coaching. To stay connected with Alex or learn more, sign up for her free VIP mailing list here.

COVID-19 Series: #3

Author: Jessica Murdoch 

When the stay at home orders were announced, mixed amongst my general concern was a sense of excitement that isolation would provide an excellent opportunity to catch up on reading, and allow me to (finally!) get to all those TV shows people keep recommending.

However, two months in (or however long it’s been. What even is time anymore?) that hasn’t really eventuated. One of the things I noticed early on in this crisis was my disinterest in watching new shows, or picking up anything unread on my TBR pile. Whenever I tried to settle into something, I felt restless. Choosing something new felt stressful, so I found myself falling back into old favourites I’ve seen or read a hundred times.

The thing is, this it isn’t the first time I’ve noticed this phenomenon. Around exam time or during a busy work period, when I’m feeling anxious, I often find myself falling back into these familiar patterns.

I’ve noticed others acting similarly, too. Is there a reason we reach for something comfortable and familiar when we’re feeling anxious or stressed?  If people aren’t seeking out their old favourite books or shows, they’re sharing their holiday throwbacks on social media, or even simple pictures of past ‘regular’ hangouts with friends, reminiscing about the good times with desperate pleas to ‘take me back’. This type of nostalgia seems to be a behaviour many of us are employing as a counter to the current situation we are all enduring.

In his book Nostalgia: A Psychological Resource, Clay Routledge discusses the way our understandings about nostalgia have changed over the years. Routledge explains that nostalgia was first studied in relation to soldiers fighting away from home, and was believed to be a medical illness. The Swiss medical student who coined the phrase actually defined it as “the pain caused by the desire to return to one’s native land”.

Since that time, researchers have developed a greater awareness that there is a lot more going on for soldiers than homesickness. With continued developments in the field of psychology, scholars started to look at the concept differently, and nostalgia began to be seen more as a general longing for aspects of the past. Not just places, but also people or objects. Rather than being an illness causing these symptoms, nostalgia began to be thought of as more of a behavioural response to distress or stressful situations. Over time, researchers began to consider that nostalgia might be a coping mechanism used to counter a negative state.

By the 90s, psychologists started to embrace a more positive and functional view of nostalgia. While current research still explores whether it is ‘good’ for you, it does recognise nostalgia as an experience that can generate positive affect – that is a greater propensity to happiness and positive emotions.

As far as the question of causation, Routledge points out that nostalgia is far more likely to be experienced when people are distressed than when they are happy or content, and that loneliness may be a particularly potent nostalgia instigator. With that in mind, I think it’s safe to assume that in a global pandemic, even if our immediate safety needs are being met, there may be plenty of reasons to be reaching for nostalgia to help us cope.

For me, it seems like the reading, cooking and listening I’ve been doing could easily fit into this idea of a coping mechanism. So, I’ve decided to outline some of the nostalgic ‘comfort-doing’ I’ve been participating in recently, and explore the kind of thoughts this practice has raised for me, in the hope that it might help you gain some clarity on your own nostalgic behaviours.

Now, I’m probably older than many of you reading – I’m an actual millennial, as opposed to the constantly lazy short-hand way that it’s misused as a synonym for ‘young person I have a preconceived prejudice against’. So, some of my nostalgic throwbacks are probably going to seem ancient to some. Or maybe you’re cool and you like my throwbacks too!  Either way, feel free to sub in whatever books/movies/music you were enjoying through your teens or childhood, and consider whether you’ve been using them in the same way.

Comfort Reading

Sweet Valley High and Anne of Green Gables are both series I read as a teenager. They’ve been providing me with the same level of comfort, only in different ways. Not only are they taking me back to a time when I had far less responsibilities, but they’re allowing me to press pause and escape from my ‘real life’ – just as they did back then.

The Sweet Valley High books have been pure escapism – and pure trash (in the best possible way). Now, anything that young teen girls love is often dismissed as being valueless. And if I’m honest, the feminist in me could rip them apart – particularly the early ones. The first one has unrealistic body expectations and body shaming… and that is literally just on the first page. I mean, they were published in the 80s.

But having the opportunity to figure out some of these things for ourselves is important – I mean, how can you learn what ‘good’ literature is, unless you read all types? That’s not to say these books do no harm to teen readers, but leaving that discussion aside for now, they served a useful purpose. That is: being dramatic, ridiculous, yes problematic, but ultimately soap-opera fantasy fun. Reading doesn’t always have to be serious.

On the other hand, the Anne books have a completely different, much more wholesome feel. There’s always the risk that when you go back to a childhood fave, you’ll discover just how problematic they were, which your naïve kid-self failed to notice (not like SVH above, I think they were blatant enough even for teenage me to see)…now, Anne is not perfect, but I have to say overall that they do surprisingly well for writing published in the early 1900s.

There isn’t glaring overt racism (aside from the overwhelming whiteness – yikes the bar is low). There’s plenty of heteronormative expectations being celebrated and some icky ideas about beauty norms but overall, Anne as a character is so interesting and complex and sweet, and there’s plenty we can still find relatable in her stories today. The vocabulary in this book is not oversimplified for children – and for a kid who loved learning (and mispronouncing, because she’d only ever seen them in print) new ‘big’ words, as Anne herself did, relishing this was a joy in itself.

As an adult, I found myself feeling much more emotional about her horrible start in life, but it also makes her growth, and the growth and growing love of those around her, that much more effecting. The thing about this series, is that it really does feel like it was written to be read as a serial – each chapter often feels very complete – which is perfect for a child to read with a parent. And I’ve been spacing them out to read just a chapter a day – reminiscent of the way I had to read when I wasn’t in charge of my own bedtime.

Comfort listening

I have a pre-adulting playlist already set up on Spotify, which I usually listen to when I have to do the shittier kind of adulting like cleaning the bathroom or vacuuming – but until now, I have never listened so regularly to so many of my high school faves. Spotify has started curating 90s and early 00s focused playlists for me, and it’s been fun rediscovering some oldies that I haven’t heard in a while. Vanessa Amorosi’s Have a Look came on at one point and I was instantly transported back to my high school bedroom, where I sang all those desperate break-up tunes so passionately, having never even been kissed.

It’s not surprising that we are so often attached to our high school hits, even in more typical times. The music that we love in our puberty years – when all of our emotions are often experienced in extremes – will always have a powerful place for so many of us.

Writing for, Mark Joseph Stern says, “between the ages of 12 and 22, our brains undergo rapid neurological development—and the music we love during that decade seems to get wired into our lobes for good. When we make neural connections to a song, we also create a strong memory trace that becomes laden with heightened emotion, thanks partly to a surfeit of pubertal growth hormones. These hormones tell our brains that everything is incredibly important—especially the songs that form the soundtrack to our teenage dreams (and embarrassments).”

Comfort cooking

Don’t worry, this subheading is not about making bread (although more power to you if you find that comforting). In fact, a little content warning for this paragraph: like so many of us living in a society where diet culture is constantly being thrown at us, I haven’t always had the healthiest relationship with food. And at times when my mental health has been at its lowest, the effort of making food is often the first to go. Luckily, I’m in a place of my recovery where I’ve learned to notice early warning signs.

For me to make healthy (and by that, I mean, not disordered) food choices, it’s important to remove as many barriers to cooking as possible. That might mean buying precut vegies for example, or ready-made sauces. While I’ve been working to be more mindful of environmental impact and reduce my meat/animal product consumption  for the last five or so years, for my own mental health, I can never place completely rigid rules around my food consumption. With the added stressors popping up currently, I’ve had to loosen those restriction even more and simply give myself permission to accept that I’m doing the best I can.

Usually, I still make the vegetarian option, but the easy, familiar meals of my childhood – often a stir-fry with vegies and some kind of meat – are the best way I can take care of myself right now. The constant jokes and memes about people’s fear of weight gain is damaging enough, putting restrictions on the way I keep my body alive in a global pandemic is something I can’t afford to do.

Those are a few of the ways that nostalgia is helping me at the moment. The truth is, I don’t think I’m feeling terribly lonely right now. I’m an introvert. I’m independent. I enjoy my alone time. But I am anxious, and more than a little stressed about the general state of the world.

Besides, there’s a difference between choosing to stay at home and having to stay at home to keep everyone safe from a global pandemic.

For me, the truth is, having an excuse to stay home is not always the best thing. I may like being shut away at home (insert introvert meme here) but having the perfect built-in excuse to isolate from people is not always the best thing for my health. It’s human nature to do the comfortable thing and with the way ‘self-care’ is often packaged to us these days, it’s easy to convince ourselves that leaning into comfort is the best thing to do. It’s like I have society’s permission to shut myself away and that’s not always the healthiest thing for my brain. I like being on my own but that’s not always the best thing to keep my brain healthy.

So, although I’m enjoying relaxing into some of these nostalgic comforts, I’m also trying to stay aware, so I can catch myself if I start to spiral a little too deeply into my comfortable past.

I mentioned earlier that researchers weren’t completely convinced that nostalgia is ‘good’ for us. While it can be a soothing behaviour, that doesn’t automatically equal good for us, and research has shown that in some cases it can lead to feelings of frustration and discontent.

Dr. Krystine I. Batcho, a licensed psychologist who researches the psychology of nostalgia, says that “the main risk for unhealthy nostalgia lies in trying to do it all ‘solo’”.

Speaking to Mary Grace Garis for Well and Good, she says, “if we find ourselves becoming trapped in sadness, we need to reach out to others. Not only is it great to receive support, but it’s incredibly beneficial to extend support to others. Extending a digital hug to another feels good and can encourage us to look forward to better times. Just as there were good times before, there will be good times ahead.”

Overall, aside from the inconvenience of trying to self-motivate when it comes to studying online, I’ve not found my isolation to be the worst experience. I know how incredibly lucky I am to be in a more secure position than many – the increase in Austudy has meant I’ve actually had enough money to pay rent and manage other living expenses – which is a whole other piece of writing.

I have a safe place to live, enough money to buy food and pay my bills, and friends and family to check in with. So, taking comfort and joy in familiar things while also making sure I’m staying in contact with friends and family, and looking after myself physically and mentally has mostly been manageable.

The truth is, it is important to be gentle with ourselves right now. I’m not going to say that we’re living in unprecedented times, because holy shit am I sick of hearing that from companies still trying to sell us their products. But it’s important to remember that this isn’t the experience we thought we would be having in 2020.

So, if you’re feeling a little stressed about your current circumstances, or more than a little anxious about the future, remember that you can take a little comfort in some familiar experiences, solo or with others, and you’ll be in good company.

About Jessica Murdoch

Jessica is a writer, teacher and experienced list maker who is currently doing a media and comms degree.

She has spent almost a decade teaching primary age students and is passionate about young people having access to critical literacy skills, opportunities to express themselves and quality representation in media. She uses writing to help her figure out her opinions about books, pop culture and the world.
You can find her collection of bookish thoughts and reviews, as well as the occasional food shot on her blog or Instagram @mermaidhairandtales. She’s also had writing published in previous editions of Swine and Other Terrain.