GLOSS Issue 21 APRIL 2015 - Page 13

Rabia hadn’t intended for her journey to take her to that incident in Basra, or to serve in the British Army. But a combination of events - including 9/11 - brought her to a point where she felt she could best be of use to her country, and her beliefs, by being a part of the Armed Services as a legal officer. This eventually brought her to active duty in Iraq where she had been investigating human rights abuses on behalf of the British Army, and a day in 2005 when she stood with an AK-47 held to her head and being able, from her knowledge of Arabic, to understand that the insurgents who held her, and the men she was negotiating the release of, were debating whether or not to kill them. The road from there to her lodging a formal grievance with the Army Board, an out of court settlement with Defence, and her return to life in Australia is a long one. It’s also documented in Equal Justice in a way that is frank, honest and engaging - in other words, as Rabia herself is in person. I wanted to know how life had changed since its publication. It doesn’t hold back in terms of her treatment at the hands of higher-ups in the British Army after the events in Iraq, and her upbringing in Perth as a nonChristian and the child of immigrants at a time when neither of these things were common to what was essentially still a big country town in terms of attitude. “It’s interesting because I had to be convinced to write my memoir; it wasn’t something that I set out to do, or that I had any desire to do. A lot of people had to convince me, and it wasn’t until someone whose opinion that I particularly valued came along that I finally listened. After the book was published in October 2013, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming reaction that it got – and really that has changed a lot of my life over the past year – because after I went on a book tour, and was a part of a few writers’ festivals last year, there were more and more requests for me to share my story. What I didn’t realise was that my story was many people’s story – and over the last year, as I have shared my story and realised the power of storytelling – what I have come to know is that what we need in this country is for strong women to stand up and share their stories like mine, because that’s the way we are going to change things, that’s the way we are going to change the narrative. That’s the way we are going to change things for ethnic minorities, for women, for those that are vulnerable through disability, through poverty.” She of course has seen these vulnerabilities in women affected by war overseas, both directly and indirectly, but she is more focused now on those who are often forgotten about; women and girls in Australia coping with a lack of what most of us take for granted - food, shelter, employment. As she said, “... In my work now with corporates, I make a point of talking about the grassroots level issues in the backyard. Until we fix our back yard – because charity does begin at home – until then we cannot look