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Randa Abdel-Fattah is the award-winning author of young adult novels and has extensive experience speaking at schools, writer’s festivals, universities and conferences in Australia and overseas. She is also a human rights activist and practicing lawyer and enjoys a public profile, appearing on television programs such as the ABC’s Q & A, First Tuesday Book Club, SBS’s Insight and Channel Seven’s Sunrise.
I was born in Sydney but moved to Melbourne when I was three. I attended a Catholic primary school and an Islamic secondary college.
In my first year at university I worked at a fast food shop. I then obtained the position of Media Liaison Officer at the Islamic Council of Victoria, a role which afforded me the opportunity to write for newspapers and engage with media institutions. In my last years at university I worked as a paralegal at a law firm specialising in employment law. I now practise as a lawyer and juggle this with my writing and speaking engagements at schools, universities and writer’s festivals.
Building a sense of Australian identity that is inclusive and based on civic values, not cultural or ethnic definitions which necessarily exclude in our pluralistic and multicultural society. I’m passionate about human rights and women’s empowerment. I’m passionate about addressing social injustice, corruption and discrimination. I’m passionate about inspiring my readers, whether old or young, to challenge their value judgments and assumptions and think beyond stereotypes.
Winning the Australian Book Industry Award Book of the Year for Older Children in 2006 for my first novel, Does My Head Look Big in This?, followed by it being longlisted for the UK Galaxy Book Awards 2006 and shortlisted for the Grampian Children’s Book Awards UK 2006. It was also a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age and one of the USA’s Kirkus’s Best Books for Young Adults.
Winning the Kathleen Mitchell Award for Ten Things I Hate About Me was also a highlight! Knowing that it has done well in the USA, where it was selected, by a joint committee of America’s Children’s Book Council and the National Council for the Social Studies, as a CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People 2010, has been a real thrill as well.
As for Where the Streets Had A Name, there can be no greater thrill than winning the 2009 Golden Inky, Australia’s only teen choice book awards. There is no better validation of one’s writing than knowing that the people you write for are commending your efforts. So this is the most treasured prize for me of all.
Last but not least in September 2010 I was invited by the US State Department as the only Australian representative in a delegation of fourteen international guests to participate in a multi-regional international visitor’s leadership program looking at changing demographics, multiculturalism and immigration in the USA. It was a wonderful opportunity and I feel very honoured to have been invited.
I’d love to recommend Randa. Randa worked with a small group of creative writers in Year 11, running a workshop on the process of writing a novel, and then addressed the entire Year 10 cohort about her experiences growing up as a Muslim-Australian and her writing. The Year 11s were so thrilled and inspired to write, even though they were very busy with their VCE studies, and the Year 10s were genuinely engaged.
I would highly recommend Randa to any school looking to further their students’ awareness of multiculturalism in the community and to give the students a true writing experience.