Episode Description

This episode is produced by Ruhee Meghani, from Allied Collective.

This Story of Community Resilience is produced by Ruhee Meghani. Ruhee speaks with Hala, CEO of the Institute of Non Violence. Ruhee and Hala reflect on ideas about resilience, through the lens of gender, their respective lived experiences of migration, and notions about spirituality and how we can build resilience in ourselves, and respective communities. 

Follow Ruhee’s work: Allied Collective  LinkedIn Instagram

Ruhee Meghani is an inclusive facilitator and public speaker with over 12 years of teaching and facilitating experience. To support others in their learning journey, Allied Collective was founded to solve the need for impactful, inclusive, and accessible training. Today, Ruhee combines these insights with years of experience in teaching to provide clients with engaging workshops, training, and facilitation.

Follow Hala’s work: Institute of Non-Violence 

Hala is the CEO and Founder of the Institute of non-violence, a service that was established to support family violence response across Australia. The Institute offers advanced family violence training programs, clinical supervision and therapeutic services to clients who are using or experiencing violence. It also works to eradicate systemic racism and misogyny.


Note: This episode is automatically generated and may contain errors.

Ruhee Meghani: Hello everyone, and welcome to this episode of the 3ZZZ podcast of Stories of Community Resilience. We would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work, the Bunurong Boonwurrung and the Wurundjeri Woiwurrung people of the Eastern Kulin nation known as Melbourne, Australia. And I pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging. I also acknowledge the traditional custodians of the various lands on which you are all listening in from today. Sovereignty has never been ceded. It was and always will be Aboriginal land. My name is Ruhee Meghani. My pronouns are she and her. And I’m the founder of Allied Collective, Australia’s first inclusive facilitation and wellbeing agency. I am yoga teacher by passion. I’m a facilitator, mentor, coach and speaker and I’m absolutely thrilled to be interviewing Hala Abdelnour today. Hala is the founder of the Institute of Non-Violence and is a highly qualified and experienced consultant and professional trainer with skills in family violence, intersectionality, and diversity and inclusion. Trained in psychology and social work and also holding an Advanced Diploma in Group facilitation. Cert IV in Dual Diagnosis and Cert IV in Training, Assessment and Education. She is a Vincent Fairfax Fellow and has completed the Company Director’s Course. Hala has lived, worked and travelled in approximately 50 countries and speaks six languages! Is there anything that Hala can’t do? Welcome to this episode of the podcast. Hala, so glad to have you here.

Hala Abdelnour:  Thank you. It’s nice to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

Ruhee Meghani: Thanks for your time. So I’d like to dive straight in and ask you, what does resilience mean to you?

Hala Abdelnour: So what does resilience mean to me? I was born in Lebanon and I migrated to Australia when I was nine years old. And have, as an adult travelled back to Lebanon many times. I’ve lived a life where my home country is under attack constantly, so you never know what you’re going to, what news you’ll wake up to. So I’ve watched my people rebuild and rebuild and rebuild. And I’ve often said, if you want to know and understand what resilience is, go to Lebanon. And I’d say the same about the Palestinian people as well and First Nations people around the world. So I draw something from that lived experience in my understanding of resilience. from a very early age, and and those of us who migrate to the other side of the planet and have to adapt to a whole different cultural framework and language system and, entire way of being. There’s so much resilience in that. And later in life, when I’ve done a lot of, different internal work, I’ve understood that, there’s like this inner child in us, and the inner child carries our greatest vulnerabilities and fears and pain. It’s also where resilience is born. And so this beautiful relationship we can have with our most vulnerable parts, because they’re our strongest parts. And that’s what resilience is for me.

Ruhee Meghani : That’s such a beautiful way to put it. And there’s so many, I guess, layers of what resilience looks like and is formed and influences so many worldviews, so many perspectives that we have. And I’m sure so many migrants listening to this can, really feel that in their hearts. So with your extensive background and so much depth of personal experiences across different cultures and having lived in so many different countries, how have you personally built and maintained your own resilience? Because in the work you do within, you know, family and gendered violence? Imaginably there are so many challenges. So how do you build that within yourself?

Hala Abdelnour: I like the question because in this sector we often talk about self-care, and I find that really, sort of questionable way of framing it, I think. How do we build and maintain our resilience in the practice is a much more empowering question. Um, because I think, I think it’s, I think it’s misplaced to talk about self-care in a sector. I think the sector where any sector that deals with so much crisis and complexity ought to take care of its employees, and the governments that fund those sectors ought to take care of the people that work much in the way that, um, people who work in emergency services are taken care of with extra leave entitlements, unlimited access to psychology, extra stress, leave and other and benefits. So acknowledging the hard work that they do. But there’s also things in place that take care of that acknowledge that work, whereas. In the sectors I’ve worked in substance abuse, prisons and corrections, violence, gambling addiction, mental health, refugee and settlement and family violence. There’s no sense of being taken care of in that. And there’s no, no resources allocated to take care of people. So inadvertently or I guess inevitably as workers in the space, we do build resilience and we do maintain our resilience to keep going. And one of the things that I have no doubt about in my mind, that has kept me going are the clients that I’ve worked with are the people who’ve been courageous enough to be vulnerable, who’ve shared their stories with me, who’ve been so raw and real, and sometimes out of necessity because they’re in so much crisis that they don’t they have no option but to be raw and real, but that the sacredness of sharing that space with people, and being part of a small part of their journey, as they try to grow and develop or have healthier ways of being in the world. Their strength and courage gives me strength and courage. There’s something that’s shared in that space. There’s just very difficult to articulate. And also no other employment offers. I hold that really sacred. And also my family, my ancestry, my spirituality. Uh, I engage in those things on a daily level, like thinking about who I am, where I come from, those who’ve come before me, what I’ve been taught, the way I’ve been sheltered and held. I’ve had that privilege. And I’m so grateful for that, that I’ve had families that have held me and nurtured me, despite, you know, the world around me going, falling to pieces. But also my spirituality that’s been also given to me by my ancestors. And I guess however you perceive the, the greater spirit, whatever that is for you, if you believe in that, um, is something that’s carried me. You know, through life. And it’s something I stay connected with.

Ruhee Meghani : I feel that in my heart so much. And you’re so right. The world around us. And I’m sure we could talk about it for hours, that we’ve been given such a narrow perspective on what well-being looks like and the whole capitalization of self-care as we know it. But we know when we talk about, you know, storytelling can heal communities, individuals, and we talk about, collective healing. Storytelling is a way to do that. And we talk about intergenerational trauma, but not enough about intergenerational healing and how that can also heal us and build resilience within us. So that’s such a beautiful way to put it. Thank you. 

Hala Abdelnour:  Can I say I just on that, we do live in a very capitalist, neoliberal, individualistic society, that is selling an idea that we do things for ourselves, and that is one of the greatest. Misinformation,  and mis guidance because as human beings, we’re actually inherently relational beings. Like, I can’t exist without you. I can’t have a sense of myself without having a sense of somebody else in relation with me. And nothing can be done on my own. Everything like self-care. What self-care? Do I go get a massage that involves somebody else? A bath like someone built that bath. Someone’s running the water like, I can’t exist without the other. And actually, just to your point, like I agree with you, it misses the power of collective healing. Even science tells us there are mirror neurons. We mirror each other. And so if I’m smiling, you’ll smile. If I’m crying, you’ll cry. But. And we can and we can come together and heal. And we can bring the strength of my spirit. And the strength of your spirit together is much stronger. And I think that there are certain minority of individuals who are in positions of power who are trying to move us away from that.

Ruhee Meghani :  That is so true. well-being is so interrelated and interconnected with each other and how we go about fulfilling each other’s lives and feeling whole in ourselves. Thank you for sharing that. And when we talk about, the cultural side of things, we talk about intersectionality as a concept a lot. And we know that intersectionality is a very important aspect of addressing violence effectively within communities. So can you share with the audience and listeners how an intersectional approach can enhance the resilience of us as individuals and also our communities who are affected by family and gendered violence?

Hala Abdelnour:  I mean, look, I’ll probably talk for hours on this topic, and I do deliver a lot of training on it. It’s something I’m really passionate about. I just yesterday was speaking at a conference, here in Sydney around, and this topic came up. And one of the things I said, which, you know, I say frequently, if you’re talking about intersectionality and you’re not talking about Kimberlé Crenshaw or you don’t even know she coined the term, stop talking about intersectionality – because you’re not you’re not actually talking about the theory. It’s a it’s an academic theory. It was coined by a professor of law, an African American woman, a feminist and activist, an intellectual. And it’s just such an irony and a paradox to discount a black woman when we’re talking about the theory she coined, because her entire theory was about how gender and race intersect to cause extra disadvantage. And yes, then you can bring in other lived experiences and personality traits. But it started with gender and race. And, that all of that and what the theory actually invites us to look at isn’t personality traits, it’s how systems, institutions, governance is structured in a way that causes further advantage or further disadvantage to people because of their traits.

Hala Abdelnour: Another way of looking at it is we live in a globalized world. We live in a colonized world, and we live in a world where Anglo Celtic, Anglo Saxon, Western European and maybe Northern European people are on top of the power structure. They created, the power structures, they’ve placed themselves on top of it. The entire global system functions around the oppression of black and brown and indigenous. Majorities. So we keep talking about minorities, but we’re actually the majority of people are oppressed by the by and the minority are the oppressors, and within that, there’s theft of land, theft of resources, theft of identity, theft of language, theft of practices, spiritual practices, and the sale of these things, the commercialization of these things and those power dynamics impact all of us and oppress. All of us. Because even if you are benefiting from those structures and those of us who, you know, migrated from those countries and we live here, we’re also benefiting from those structures. But it’s a damage. It’s a damage for me to benefit from structures that disadvantage my own people. It’s a damage for me to pay taxes to a system that’s currently eradicating my people. So it’s like this. It’s a damage for a for white people, to completely lose sight of the fact that they are relational beings, to lose their capacity to adapt to another person’s culture, to mould into another person’s culture, to bring themselves into something that’s different to them, because we’ve centralized whiteness as a norm, and so there is no onus on white people to adapt, whereas you and I, we can, we can we can build so many skills around adaptability,  intersectionality in terms of our capacity to engage in diversity because we’re forced to.  I have to anglicize myself to thrive in this society and in the world. Really? I have to speak English fluently. I don’t have to, but the better, the more anglicized I am, the more I will succeed. And and by by having to fit that model, I’ve learned to fit other models and and and then the better I am at fitting other models, the more people ask me to work with diversity and not themselves. So I just keep getting better at it. So it’s a and I’m enriched by it, you know, and so it is a disadvantage not to put yourself in that position even though it feels easy. It feels comfortable. It feels great. What are you missing out on?

Ruhee Meghani : There’s so much to unpack and and just process that that is so such an in-depth reflective, reflection. But I just want to hear more on how do we start to reconcile, as people of color who live in the West, to be able to reconcile that, acknowledging that we have privileges and we’re operating within systems that we’re trying to dismantle and change at the same time, and challenging the status quo and trying to. Do that internally within systems. How do we reconcile that almost dissonance that comes with.

Hala Abdelnour: Absolutely. Look and I so I talk about, you’ve looked at our website and we talk about family violence being a form of social violence and being intertwined with other forms of social violence like racial violence, gender violence, economic climate, ageism, ableism, the whole thing. Right. So, and systemic abuse. And so our, engagement in systems means that we’re engaging in systems abuse, systemic abuse because the systems were surrounded by, encourage people to grow financially more than others. Encourage competition. Encourage. Sort of celebrate and I guess excuse the oppression, the mass oppression of people for personal gain, like at the greatest of levels. And whilst whilst we’re not engaging at those levels because they are preserved for white people, we’re contributing to those systems. And and how do we. So I guess for me, you know, whether we’re looking at whether we’re looking at how do you apply intersectional feminism to family violence response or how do you apply intersectional feminism to any anything to your to your way of being in the world? The reason I mentioned intersectionality and structural intersectionality, as Kimberlé Crenshaw talked about it, is what we’ve got to we’ve got to assess what systems of power and privilege exist and where I fit in that.

Hala Abdelnour: Where where do I have power and privilege? Where can I abuse my power? And to who against who and where am I oppressed? And so where I am oppressed? I can well, I can sort of sit in a well of helplessness or I can find other people who are climbing out of that well. I can look at empowerment, I can look at where what changes do I want to make because it’s so easy to say, well, the system is broken and what can I do about it? I’m just a little thing. Well, I can talk about it. I can post about it. I can say I don’t agree with it and I can not not perpetuate the same type of abuse where I have power within that system. Um, so am I. Am I a male? Do I do I see females equally? Am I fairer skinned? Can I discriminate against darker skinned people because I would. If I did, I’d just be perpetuating what I was taught to do. Um, I can’t unfortunately not pay my taxes. I probably go to jail for saying this on publicly, but can I engage in the political system that is supposed to be democratic? And how can I exercise my democratic rights to try to make changes where I want to see? So to, to to argue and say, well, I will pay my taxes, but I want my taxes to be channeled here, not here.

Hala Abdelnour:  So how do I not vote for someone who won’t listen to me and and I won’t vote for anybody who’s spending my tax money on military funding and any kind of military activity. That is not what I want to see in the world. and so the more people that sort of act, those things, you know, am I in a position of power at work? Am I a fair? Am I really fair and equitable? Is it just that I think I’m fair and equitable at work, or have I got objective measures in place that tell me I am, you know, and putting ourselves through the test of equity and inclusion is one of the hardest things we can do. I’ve got to be like, if you just tell yourself, if I test myself against equity and inclusion measures, I will find out that somewhere I’m not being fair and just, if you just accept that you’ll be able to sit through the test, find out where you’re not being fair and just and see what you can do about it. And that’s an intersectional feminist framework.

Ruhee Meghani : That is so brilliantly put. And I remember since starting my DEI learning journey, looking at this wheel called the Wheel of Power or Privilege. Highly recommend people to Google this one. And often the temptation can be to look at the things where our power has been taken away, or where we give our power away, and to sit in that place like you mentioned. But there is so much more power in being able to recognize your own social location of where I actually do have power and mobilizing your voice to change. And that is such a kind of tangible step in what is known as, you know, decolonizing ourselves through that intersectional framework. this is so amazing. I know we could talk for hours. my last question to you is, what are some things that listeners, as individuals and also our collective communities can implement or do to build a more resilient system that prevents and addresses family and gendered violence? Because we know it’s such a big problem in Australia, it’s going out of hand and it’s a systemic, like you said. So how do we respond to this systemic violence?

Hala Abdelnour:  Because this is 3ZZZ and, there’s a large audience from Non-anglo backgrounds.  I think something we really need to sort of acknowledge is that a lot of us feel left out by the Western discourse, by white notions of feminism. The dominant narrative in Australia and probably globally, is based on Western feminism. Although the World Health Organisation has sort of, will have looked at the issues in different settings and contexts. And, and the gender drivers of violence are acknowledged globally, in terms of male privilege and entitlement and how that can be used against women. So, you know, the suppression of women around the world and their subjectification to violence, including murder, that is sort of excused again by by male driven systems. The issue is that the dominant discourse is is coming from the Western European context, from an Anglo context here in Australia. And we and because there are so many issues around our sense of identity and belonging in Australia, like we’re not always accepted as Australians when we don’t accept the discourse and Australian discourse as belonging to us. You know, there’s this uproar about it, but it’s like, why would I why would I take on board what you’re telling me if you don’t even think I’m equal to you? And I want to know what my people think. And when I go home and I’m sitting in my communities and in my spiritual spaces, and I’m hearing, a very different narrative. I’m not like your sounds really foreign. The thing is, the narrative isn’t always focused on the gender drivers of violence. And so our communities and our community leaders have to do more work. And a lot of them are male. And we’ve got to look at that like, we can’t say we can’t reject the notion that it’s a patriarchal society. And then every time, our communities are represented anywhere, it’s it’s so many men putting their hands up and talking over women and not wanting to hear. But, then women also, how much misogyny have they embodied? And that’s a really confronting conversation to have like it’s very it actually understanding how imbalanced the gender dynamics are in this world is very confronting. Yeah. And conflicts directly with most spiritual frameworks that I’m aware of where we believe in a divine masculine and feminine, we believe in a divine father and mother. We believe in equilibrium and equality. Like I know the swastika is actually an ancient Indian, symbol symbolizing the equality between masculine and feminine and an equilibrium, a balance of, of spirit,  or energies, and that the yin yang in Chinese culture and, and ancient Celtic symbolism has that. Arab philosophy is an ancient African like we ancient societies believed in equilibriums current societies are not in equilibrium. They’re not in balance, all of them, because they forgot about the divine mother. And colonization has had a lot to do with that. But we’re not going to sit around and blame colonization. We’re here now. We have brains. We have hearts. We have minds. We can have these conversations honestly. So if you reject the Western narrative, okay, but have your own and figure out where your own narrative for your own cultural framework meets the Anglo framework, because there’s similar at the end of the day, we’re all human, and there’s only so much that difference between all the dynamics. But let’s we can we can create our own stories and our own narratives of what we want gender equality to look like, what we think gender respect is, and what gendered non-violence would mean in our communities. But at the moment, we’re not having those conversations broadly. We’re just rejecting the narrative. 

Ruhee Meghani : What is the most important question we should be asking ourselves?

Hala Abdelnour: What if it’s true – that that gender is – What if gender really is behind a lot of family violence? What would that mean? What do we need to look at and how do we bring men back to a healthy masculinity. And how do men take leadership for that process for themselves? Because they’re the ones who went offline.

Ruhee Meghani : That’s a very amazing question to leave the listeners on. And is there anything you’d like to tell whoever’s listening to this episode?

Hala Abdelnour: I’m thinking courage. Courage is coming to mind. Like, I feel like, you know, we sit with ourselves and and sort of. What courage do I have today to do something different? Say something to someone that I’ve needed to say for a long time that I haven’t said, ask a question. Start a conversation in my community. Could be on social media. It could be in a person forum. What can I do differently today? That’s just in the direction of how I want the world to be, because we do collectively, we have collectively created the world we’re in. And if we don’t like it, we can collectively create a world we’d rather be in.

Ruhee Meghani : Mic drop and wouldn’t expect anything else from yourself. Thank you so much for your time, Hala. We’ll put all your details in the show notes so that people can find you. And if you’ve been listening in, thank you so much for your time, and thanks for joining us today. Hala.

Hala Abdelnour: Thank you. It was a pleasure. Thanks a lot. 

[End of Transcript]

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