Category Archives: Genocide

The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe World Premier

 If you truly want to understand the plight of women in war, I encourage you to go and see firsthand the genius of director Ros Horin, who has written, produced and directed this eye-opening documentary about her play of the same name.

The candid way Ros explains her frustration and ineptitude to help woman such as these is something we can all relate to but she has succeeded where we have only thought about it. A stark show about brutality, rape and the strength of women – many congratulations to Ros and the four breathtakingly strong women who put it all on the line to be heard – I cannot think of a greater example of dignity.

 The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe World Premier

We are premiering at the Sydney Film Festival!

We are very excited and honoured to announce that The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe is making its debut at the upcoming Sydney Film Festival on June 9th at the Event Cinema George Street.

For those who missed the film screening at the Chauvel please join us for the official world premier of this moving documentary and Q+A with the women and Ros after the screening. Be sure to grab your tickets as the film will only have the one showing.

It is a public event open to all audiences. Therefore, if you have already seen the film, please encourage friends and family to join us as it will be a wonderful evening that offers the unique chance to hear the women share their experiences in the Q&A.


Official Premier – The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe
Thursday June 9th, 6:00pm
Event Cinemas George Street 9
525 George Street, 2000
Tickets required

Buy tickets
About the film:
The film follows the story of four inspirational African women, now living in Australia, who, under the guidance of theatre director Ros Horin, collaborate to let their life stories be transformed into an extraordinary  theatrical experience.
This film charts their personal journeys from trauma to healing and public triumphs, as the Troupe’s show moves from a stage in western Sydney out to the world. It tells an inspirational story of courage and resilience, that reveals the transformative power of story-telling through the arts.
Also posted in Dignity, Marginalised People, Movies, Philanthropy, Refugees, Uncategorized

Meet Khalid – a refugee from Darfur

On the Chad Sudan border, there exists an inhospitable place that reaches 40 degrees Celsius most days with winds over 100 kilometres an hour, 180,000 refugees from Darfur in Western Sudan rot in 12 refugees camps. Persecuted by their Government and paid militia known as Janjaweed, which means the devil came on horseback, most have lost numerous family members and some walked 800 kilometres across the dessert to safety. Their only crime, they are African not Arab. Most people here arrived around the turn of the century – these days, 16 years is the average stay in a camp.

I was privileged to visit four of the most northern camps back in 2009. The people I met humbled me with their stories but one, in particular, stood out from the crowd.

Meet Khalid (His name has been changed for protection purposes).

Kounoungou Crop Maureen %26 Mohammed UNHCR M Collins-c41.jpgKounoungou Mohammed President of the Journalists Club-c95.JPGKounoungou Mohammed Using My Camera UNHCR M Collins-c10.jpg

When I met Khalid, he was 19 years old and in terms of UNHCR policy, he did not meet any of their criteria for resettlement. He had been at the camp since he was 12. Despite little to no education, he spoke four languages and yearned to become a journalist.

While I was there, Khalid and I spent a day together. I asked this ambitious young man to show me his world. I met many of his friends, some had been there as long as if not longer than Khalid. A few months earlier, there had been some excitement in the camp as UNHCR had begun resettling refugees to the United States. None of these young men felt that way. They knew the truth and had two choices: stay in the camp with no progress or prospects until UNHCR deemed it safe for them to return home or join the Janjaweed and rape, kill and maim their own people.

In a two-hour masterclass, I showed Khalid how to use my Canon 1DX SLR Camera. He picked it up quickly and was soon moving settings to accommodate landscape and portraiture. The speed with which he absorbed information was astounding, and I couldn’t help but feel sad at the thought of such a talent rotting there in hell on earth.

At the end of the day, Khalid asked if he could use his refugee card to cross country borders. I showed him my passport and explained about visas. I knew then that he was close to running, and who could blame him, he had his whole life in front of him and no way out.

Today, seven years on, Khalid remains in the camp. He is a teacher now and has some sense of self-esteem but he still hopes that, one day, he may become a photo-journalist, reporting on events in his country that has seen much of the population marginalised purely based on race.

Also posted in Dignity, Marginalised People, NGOs, Photography, Refugees, Uncategorized

Syrian Refugees and Deng Thiak Adut


The moment I start talking about refugees, most people’s eyes begin to glaze over. The rhetoric and beliefs about the topic here in Australia is so out of whack with reality it used to infuriate me. Instead of boiling away in a pit of anger, I decided to do something about it and this was one of the key reasons this blog came into being. My other intention was to help these marginalised people restore their dignity by having their story told. In order to truly heal from persecution a person needs to be heard. This is something I experienced over and over on my recent trip to Rwanda and if ever there was proof that it worked, Rwanda is it.

So two extraordinary things happened here in Australia this week. Firstly, the Abbott Government agreed to repatriate 12,000 Syrian refugees, and I congratulate them for it. In recent years, Australia has accepted a total of 13,750 per annum so this is a huge step forward in what appears to be a change of heart for our Prime Minister.

But for all those people who have doubts about refugees and their impact on the Australian community, this week’s stand out was the acknowledgement by Western Sydney University to recognise the success of Deng Thiak Adut and , believe me, his story gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘against all odds.

Decide for yourself.

Also posted in Dignity, Marginalised People, Refugees

Reflection – A Sunday afternoon by the pool in Kigali

To be fair, I didn’t come up with this title. It’s from a fictional book about the genocide, and follows the relationship between an ex-pat businessman and a Tutsi waitress. And, no, it doesn’t have a happy ending, but it is beautifully written.

Yesterday morning, a driver from the Mille Collines Hotel took Lena (A contact from OZ), Dieudonne (A genocide survivor) and me to a market frequented by locals in Kimironko.

It was interesting, meeting the local population and admiring the spectacular array of fruit and vegetables on sale. When we returned, Lena had a business meeting so Dieudonne and I sat by the pool and listened to live music.

Milles Collines Pool.jpg

Without warning, I felt my throat constricting and eyes filling with tears as a well of emotion rose up and consumed me. I took a long slow walk around the garden and gave myself a good talking to. There seemed to be something hauntingly poignant about sitting in ‘Hotel Rwanda’ with a genocide survivor, trying to comprehend the scale of everything I have heard and seen over the past four days. It took another two hours for me to breathe easy. Being here is the ultimate lesson in forgiveness.

Also posted in Dignity

Warning – This blog contains some confronting remarks & images

The Kigali Genocide Museum and Memorial Gardens

Today was never going to be an easy day. 259,000 victims of the Rwandan genocide are buried here. Personally, I find that number staggering and impossible to comprehend.

Shocking Statistics

  • The genocide lasted 100 days
  • 1,000,000 Rwandans lost their lives
  • 300,000 children were orphaned
  • 85,000 children became the head of their household
  • 2,000,000 became refugees
  • Two-thirds of the population were displaced

As most of you know, I have researched this subject in great detail but there were still several things that shocked me today.

  1. A common thread for survivors of the genocide here is that they knew their attackers, many were friends or neighbours. To know something is one thing. To hear individual survivors tell their personal stories and call their attackers by their names was harrowing. One lady said, “Patrick, my next door neighbour, came to kill us. The family were not well off and we had paid for their children’s education.”
  2. Part of the museum is dedicated to children. There are numerous photographs and below each a list of details:
    • The child’s name
    • Their age
    • Their favourite hobbies
    • Their favourite foods
    • Their favourite person
    • How they died

I will spare you by not citing an example.

Hotel Rwanda 6x4.jpgKGM Stain Glass Window 6x4.jpgVictims Photos 6x4.jpgVictims Skulls 6x4.jpg

3. Near the end, at the bottom of one display, there was a photograph of two round faced nuns, one with wire rimmed glasses. Immediately, my heart went out to them, they were here to help and must have witnessed heinous crimes and even lost their lives. The text beneath the picture explained that these two women were convicted for ‘crimes against humanity’ as they had handed a church full of Tutsi to the Interahamwe militias who had killed them all. Both women were sentenced to 10 years in jail.

To end on a positive note, many survivors whose family members are buried here spoke openly about how much they loved the Memorial Garden and how it was a place where they could feel both close to their loved ones and feel loved in return.


Also posted in Dignity

The Land of a Thousand Hills

It is never a good thing when you arrive at an International airport and are told, “I think you’re in the wrong place!” Fortunately, what the man meant was, “You need to go next door.”

So it was a relief to finally land at Kigali Airport and meet the enthusiastic Amos, who will be my guide while I am here in Rwanda. Much of the afternoon, I spent at the memorial for ten Belgian Peacekeepers, who were murdered at the start of the genocide while protecting the Prime Minister.

It was a sobering sight regardless of how much I had read about the attack prior to coming here. What was interesting was that the taxi driver who took me there had never been there before.

Tomorrow is the 21st anniversary of Liberation Day.

Here’s a few images from my visit.

Belgian PK Building 6x4.jpgBelgian PK Memorial 6x4.jpgBPK Genocide Artwork 6x4.jpgNames of BPK 6x4.jpg

Also posted in Dignity, NGOs

Sydney – Antarctica – Rwanda

It is often said that the best things in life are free. Many would argue that flying Qantas could hardly be construed as gratis but today’s experience certainly was an unexpected pleasure. Australian’s frequently complain about flying and my fourteen-hour endeavour from Sydney to Johannesburg, some might see as a chore. But that’s not how I see it.

No bastard can get you! Once those doors are closed, you’re free. If you’ve forgotten something it’s tough. You get waited on hand and foot, depending on the airline, of course! Indulgence is key: reading, writing, watching movies, listening to music, eating and drinking – what’s not to like?

But today’s surprise, and it was a surprise given I have travelled to more than eighty countries, was that I had never flown a southerly route from Australia. We spent hours, in a cloudless sky, gazing down on the Antarctica ice flow. It was mesmerising. Spectacular would be an understatement. There was nothing but white, white and more white all the way to the horizon. Icebergs floating in small pools, the size of which I could not comprehend from 32,000 feet.


I was so intent on reaching Rwanda, I had forgotten that old adage, it is better to travel than to arrive – and, today, it was.

Varuna – the National Writer’s House

Happy Australia Day – as you celebrate today with your family and friends, please spare a thought for those whose lives were marginalised as a result of the actions carried out on this historic day – thank you.

Now many of you know that I am on annual leave, but I want to reassure you that I am not having a holiday, well not entirely.

At the end of last year, I was privileged to be awarded an Eleanor Dark Fellowship for Fiction at Varuna.

Varuna, the National Writer’s House is situated in the Blue Mountains, an hour and a half north of Sydney. Eleanor Dark was one of Australia’s finest writers of the 20th Century, and Varuna owes its existence today to Eleanor, her husband Dr Eric Dark and their family. Her best-known novel was the best-selling The Timeless Land (1941), the first part of a trilogy, with Storm of Time (1948) and No Barrier (1953).

Read more about Varuna here:

I arrived last Monday and the first thing that hits you when you get here is the peace. Not actual quiet, as a mob of sulphur-crested cockatoos act like court jesters and keep everyone entertained, but more a sense of tranquility.

I am here with four other writers, who between us are working on fiction, non-fiction and academic manuscripts, so a diverse range of genres and inevitably some varied dinner table conversations.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to meet with Varuna elder, Peter Bishop, who was insightful about my work, but also about life.

Varuna House Sign.jpgVaruna Painting l-res.jpg

It would be remiss of me not to thank Jansis and her extraordinarily kind staff at Varuna, who have made me feel so welcome. A special shout out goes to Sheila, who prepares our divine home cooked meals each evening. I haven’t eaten as well since I was married to a chef!

On my arrival, the weather was foggy with drizzling rain, arguably a perfect environment for a budding writer. The next few days were bathed in glorious sunshine and much of my time was spent in the garden working on my laptop. I even indulged in a trip or two to the spa. Now, the rain is back and with it my productivity!

I am staying in the Bear Room, overlooking the garden. The house’s original veranda has been closed in giving each bedroom its own workspace. So, as I sit and write, amused and somewhat distracted by my screeching yellow and white friends, I can appreciate that just in front of the trees at the end of the garden is one of the most environmentally significant World Heritage sites on the planet.

It is impossible to stay at Varuna and not be aware of your surroundings. As a photographer and writer, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. A few early morning bush walks followed by half an hour of yoga have both pampered my soul. A reminder of what it means to be at one with nature, to be calm, and to have the capacity to be creative – that is Varuna. You cannot fail to be inspired by such surroundings.

My aim is to try to do justice to my story in recognition of the people I am writing for. In this instance, the people of Rwanda and Darfur, and two heinous crimes that the world should never forget, one of which still continues today.

Thank you – Maureen


Also posted in Dignity, Marginalised People, Writing

Quote of the Day

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”




Bill, Bill and George

Whenever people ask me what my dream job is, I tell them that I want to work for Bill, Bill or George. Understandably, they look confused. Let me explain.

These three men, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and George Clooney are each, in their own way, extraordinary men doing extraordinary work.

Bill Clinton has been candid that the biggest regret of his tenure as President was his failure to intervene in Rwanda. While that wrong can never be righted, in subsequent years, President Clinton has arguably done more to improve the plight of marginalised people than any other individual on earth. He has earned the nickname ‘The King of Giving’ tenfold. Through leveraging his extensive global network, he has achieved things that many said were impossible. Now, a child with Aids in Africa can be treated for US$90 a year rather than the first-world price of $9,000 annually.

Each year, the former President hosts the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, where he brings together leading philanthropists whose aim is to find innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. Subsequently, they commit to projects proposed throughout the conference, dealing with such issues as education, disease, economic inequality and refugees. CGI as it’s known amongst regulars, is graced by the likes of President Obama, Desmond Tutu, Angelina Jolie, Bono, and formally Nelson Mandela. Actress and UNHCR Global Ambassador Angelina Jolie gave one of the most moving speeches I have ever heard here back in 2007.

Bill No 2 and frequent CGI attendee along with wife Melinda are better known as the Gates’. Perhaps a more unlikely philanthropist than Bill No 1, Mr Gates has set a new global benchmark for personal giving and not just for geeks. There are many wealthy individuals who could learn a thing or two about the joy of generosity from the Microsoft founder and his capable wife. The couple runs the Gates Foundation, which is also supported by billionaire investor Warren Buffet. Each year, the Foundation contributes the equivalent of fifteen percent of the United States global health budget, which is mind-boggling! Imagine if all those other wealthy individuals found their inner philanthropist.

If you have been searching for answers to the world’s most controversial questions, such as, ‘Why do we want to save millions of people in Africa when we have a critical population issue?’ Then take a look at The Living Proof Project from Bill and Melinda Gates. They can answer all those tricky questions, provide proof of success and help eradicate a few pesky diseases such as Polio and Malaria in the interim!

To learn more about he Living Proof Project Click here

And finally George – ah! Big sigh – the ladies reading this will understand.

Perhaps the most unlikely of the three musketeers, Mr Clooney, is part of an entity known as Not on Our Watch – Click here. Initially set up by Hotel Rwanda star, Don Cheadle, he has since enlisted Ocean’s Eleven (Twelve and Thirteen) co-stars, George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt along with producer Jerry Weintraub. Imagine the whiplash you’d get working in that office!

Not on Our WatchBook.jpg

Issue No 17, on sale now, of COLLECTIVE magazine, gives an overview of George’s advocacy to this and other projects such as the Satellite Sentinel Project in Darfur. If, however, you are seeking a more in-depth read then I highly recommend the book of the same name Not On Our Watch by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast (Published by Hyperion). Interestingly, at the time of publication, in 2007, Prendergast was a senior advisor to the International Crisis Group and a former official in the Clinton White House.

George Clooney Collective Issue 17.jpg

So back to George. Mr Clooney Jnr and his journalist father, Mr Clooney Snr or Nick, have made numerous trips to the Darfur region of Sudan. They have been responsible for divestment by various American investors in Sudanese oil and, more recently, through the satellite project, have garnered additional evidence against Al Bashir’s genocidal regime. Clooney is even credited for informing the American people that genocide was taking place in Darfur prior to the then sitting President George W Bush.

One of my personal favourite speeches from Mr Clooney was his acceptance speech at 2010 62nd Emmy Awards for the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award – To watch Click here

So while my three favourite men are awesome, in the words of George, there are many who could do much, much more…

Also posted in Celebrity, Dignity, Marginalised People, NGOs, Philanthropy, Photography, Refugees