Meet the committee

Mariam Issa

“I believe that nurturing, mentoring and believing in the power of all individuals forms the collective strength of a community.”

I am the Co-Founder and President of RAW, an entrepreneur, speaker, life coach, story-sharer and educator specializing in holding space for both group and personal growth. I am committed to offering tools that bring collaborative, empowering outcomes. Adversity has gifted me a potent understanding and ability to turn my experiences of suffering into compassionate conversations that help others tap into their inner reservoirs of resourcefulness. My African heritage, and a contemporary exploration of Islam, have helped me hone an expression of inclusive faith that speaks of diversity, resilience, courage, and belonging.

RAW’s acronym ‘Resilient Aspiring Women’ holds an immensely powerful meaning for me. It embodies not only my journey, but a transformational state of being for all. This is clear in the lives of female immigrants when challenged by the upheaval and change of country and culture. I am proud to be a supportive bridge to better worlds for such women and their families. I desire to serve our garden and global community by such generous planting of seeds of love. To also weed out fear and break down barriers to growth, in order for all to flourish.

My hobbies are gardening (no surprises there) and nature walks. To sustain my sense of wellbeing, I sit in a women’s circle and also treat myself to a massage once a month, then walk with friends twice a week. A fun fact about me: I speak four languages—try to guess what they are? I find it fascinating how the rhythm of speech changes body-language & even personality.

Ros porter

“I raise my voice – not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard…We cannot succeed when half of us are held back” – Malala Yousafzai Youngest Nobel Prize laureate

I grew up in a small dairy farming community in Gippsland and rode a palomino pony to a two-teacher school till I was aged 12. I have a Diploma in Fine Arts – Ceramics, A Degree in Communication and Cultural Studies and as Master of Regional and Community Development. I have had a lifetime working in community, in Local Government and the University and Community Sectors. From 2001 to 2007 I lived and worked in Devon in the UK. I’ve travelled extensively and trips to Central Australia, Cuba and Iceland as some of the highlights. Presently, I work in Local Government as the Community Development Officer at a large community centre with supports residents from newborn babies through to people in their 90s. The Centre has a large village garden, a Community Shed, a Men’s Shed, U3A, ceramics coop and art groups to name just a few of the resident organisations.

I am the RAW Vice President; our vision is to Transform Community through Compassionate Conversations. All too often we seek to criticise, judge, or find fault and this includes myself. Often there are hidden stories behind the pain and suffering people feel. In a world that is so fractured at many levels, interpersonal violence, global climate change and the destruction of our precious environment, our own actions seem small but when we come together genuine change is possible if we are open to the conversations. I desire that RAW may be such a space to have compassionate conversations that ripple out into the broader community.

I love cycling and bush walking. I’m not really very good at self-care but when I really need to, I turn to meditation and walks in nature. I also reflect on my mother and her strength and resilience who lived through the depression and second world war and its consequences. An inspiration that lives in my heart.

Jan Christie

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” —Audrey Hepburn, my most admired legend!!

I have worked in finance and accounts for a variety of businesses, including the wine industry, restaurants, accommodation, car rental, health services and printing.

I also recently returned to study to become a Patient Services assistant and now also work at Frankston Hospital, which gives me great job satisfaction in caring for others.

RAW offers support, friendship, compassion, understanding and acceptance, to a wonderful community of women… and hopes to reach out and connect with more women in the future. As a committee member and treasurer for RAW, I am grateful to play a part in making that happen.

I love to travel, this photo is one of me on The Ghan train in central Australia, I also love cooking, reading, running, golf and spending fun times with my dear family and friends

I aim to maintain my individual resilience by taking time out to do the things I love, and I try not to worry about what others may think of me or judge me, I like to think I am very comfortable within my being.

Sumaya Yusuf

“Never get in the habit of collecting red flags.”

My name is Sumaya Yusuf. I am a speaker and storyteller, and I’ve had my work shown in three exhibitions so far. I am the Director of Mariam Issa Pty. Ltd., a company I started with my mum. We both find it a great joy to unlock the potential of women through storytelling and coaching.

My role in RAW is the communications officer. I’m good with details and note and distribute the minutes after each committee meeting and share the agenda before each meeting. I am also responsible for the monthly newsletter and the upkeep and maintenance of the website.

My vision for RAW is to see similar spaces birthed all over Australia, wherein people can connect through a spirit of oneness with their communities.

Because I love horses and feel great peace during trail rides, I gift myself a monthly treat of horse riding. Another important way I practice self-care is through positive self-talk. I can be very negative, so I make strong efforts to catch myself when less than positive voices chatter at me. When I celebrate myself and my accomplishments, I can cast out such voices and replace them with positive constructive ones.

Mind you, I am yet to conquer my irrational fear of being drowned by a giant squid if I ever went into the ocean. Swimming is not big on my to-do list.

Jane Lawrence

My name is Jane Lawrence, I retired in 2019 from paid work. I was with a CSO (Community Service Organisation) and I worked as a Training Program Coordinator which I thoroughly enjoyed. A decade ago, I had the fortunate experience of working with 15 Aboriginal people from all around Australia who had come to Melbourne for a 9-week training. It was the first time that I had mixed with Indigenous people and I found it life changing as they shared their personal stories with us. Through this experience, I knew it was time for me to give back to the community.

I have been volunteering at RAW for close to 2 years and thoroughly enjoy working alongside Mariam and meeting other volunteers. My role at RAW is tending the garden by doing anything that is needed to be done. I look forward to the pavilion being open and alive with many activities for all to enjoy. Also, to see the garden both back and front as places of tranquility. I hope I can share these spaces with you and your loved ones.

Ways I integrate self-care into my days are through the enjoyment of reading, gardening, dining out with friends, and catching up with my sisters each week.

Susan "Dusty" Dustin

“INCLUSION—It’s amazing what happens when we allow the flower that is us, the flower that is them, to become part of the bouquet.” ― Laurie Buchanan

My name is Susan Dustin Hattan, or “Dusty” as my friends call me. I grew up just around the corner from RAW. I have been a full-time, non-salaried volunteer since 1977 and have created over 25,000 caregiving activities throughout 30 countries. Refugee camps, psychiatric wards, substance abuse rehabs, correctional facilities, hospitals, hospices, rehabilitation centers, educational institutions, emergency shelters, and medical missions have been but a few of the backdrops for healing connections.

I live by the boomerang principle of “Whatever you put out in life comes back to you.” I don’t fundraise, but am fed and watered by the giving of myself to worthy causes and the generosity of friends who think my miracle-filled high-jinx are deserving of support.

As an incidental writer and presenter, I have been a Raconteur which is a Story Capturer, Keeper, and Teller and a Laughter Facilitator for RAW Garden, since 2013. Treasuring people’s stories is important, as is laughing in sacred space together. I wish for RAW’s spirit of inclusivity to spread across continents.

I’ve made 50 complete moves throughout my life. Wherever I am, I find quiet, soul-sustaining, nature-nurture spots which I dub “My pockets of peace.” Regular practices including yoga, walking, reading, journaling, hearty laughter, and occasional cat whispering help me present reasonably well to the world and make it slightly easier to live with myself.

Amanda Levi

“What you do each day is important, because you are exchanging a day of your life for it”—My Mum

I was fortunate to grow up with parents who supported me in all I did and instilled a belief I could do whatever I set my mind to. Having worked in several fields, in both small and large companies, mentoring women by encouraging the belief that capability lives in us all is a passion of mine.

We are at our best when we have faith in ourselves and the courage to pursue our dreams, whatever they may be. My time with the amazing women at RAW Garden has taught me we are more alike than we are different. Being part of conversations and activities that support women to learn, grow and achieve their goals and dreams is truly magical.

As a passionate Bayside resident of 50 years, an avid gardener, dog lover, and outdoor enthusiast, RAW provides opportunities for me to unite my skills and interests to continue my personal growth, whilst being part of a wonderful community space.

My vision for the RAW garden is to play a role in the continuance of creating opportunities to cultivate talent, nurture creativity, and grow the community spirit in our space and beyond.