Arman’s story is inspiring, as are the other profiles covered by CommBank’s Australian of the Day series. If you would like to read more feel-good tales then check out our coverage of top-shelf people in NSW (HERE), NT (HERE), QLD (HERE), WA (HERE), SA (HERE), TAS (HERE) and VIC (HERE) – they’re pretty darn good, if we do say ourselves. If that doesn’t quench your thirst for all the feels, head over to the AOTD website HERE.
PEDESTRIAN.TV has partnered with CommBank to highlight some of the unsung, spectacular people making Australia great. They’ve been doing this for over 35 years through the Australian of the Year Awards, which gives remarkable Aussies the recognition they deserves, as well as providing a platform for them to further their causes. Wanting to spread more good-feels, they created the Australian of the Day initiative to give attention to those who’d normally fly under the radar – y’know, everyday folks doing their bit for our country. We spoke to Arman Abrahimzadeh, domestic violence advocate and winner of South Australia’s Young Australian of the Year (+ nominee for Young Australian of the Year) about all the impressive work he’s been doing. If his story has made you feel warm and/or fuzzy, then head to the Australian of the Day website HERE to feel even more warm and/or fuzzy.
“He stuck to his word – he always said he was going to make history out of her death and that’s what he achieved.”
Naturally, most of us are speechless when someone presents their harrowing circumstances with neutral candidness – one that aids, in a factual manner, to the understanding of the horrors they’ve endured – and it was no different when Arman Abrahimzadeh spoke of his mother’s murder.
Seeing as he was just shy of completing a month’s worth of 20-hour days, keeping energised by willpower and caffeine, the clarity with which he spoke was remarkable. Within two minutes of talking to him it was easy to appreciate why Arman had been nominated for, and announced the winner of, South Australia’s Young Australian of the Year.
The violence suffered by Arman’s family came to a head in 2009 when his father, Zialloh, threw his mother, Zahra, into a window – as well as threatening to set their home ablaze with all of them in it, including Arman’s sisters Atena and Anita. These were especially heinous actions and threats made by Zialloh who’d subjected his family to similar violence their entire lives.
“I grew up with abuse and violence being a normal thing,” says Arman.
After the events in early 2009, however, they knew they needed to flee.
“It made us draw a line and leave home – we felt like he was going to kill us all, like he was going to burn us all alive in our house.”
“I thought to myself, this has gone too far.”
“We packed our bags, chucked them all in the car and went to the police station to report it – from that point a new chapter in our lives started.”
Homeless, they lived out of their car before being placed in a motel until they were assigned a safe-house. It was in the safe-house that Zahra not only came to find, but took ownership of her independence.
Nearly a year after they’d fled, Zahra decided that she wouldn’t be held back by the threats of her husband. In March 2010, she attended an event for the Persian New Year at which Zialloh was present. Zahra, suffering multiple stab wounds, was murdered in front of a crowd exceeding 300 people.
The only family available to Arman and his sisters was their father’s side who’d all chosen to support Zialloh. For three years they endured the court proceedings unraveling around them completely alone – their thoughts on the state of domestic violence in Australia, as well as their views on where the justice system had failed their mother, were kept restrained so as to not interfere with the proceedings.
“We couldn’t say or do anything during the court proceedings when they were happening – that I found extremely frustrating because I could see flaws within the legal system, I could see where things had gone wrong.”
When the sentence against his father had been handed down, that of 26-years with no parole, Arman was finally able to express his criticisms.
“I came outside of the court and I told them exactly how I felt, I told them what needed to be said and I told them since day one – and I still stand by that comment – I said this murder could have been prevented.”
He continued to probe the system – sending letters to the Premier, relevant State cabinet MPs, as well as South Australia’s Police Commissioner. The State Coroner launched an inquest in June 2013 that investigated assault charges filed against Zialloh prior Zahra’s murder, and the measures police made in dealing with those allegations.
The outcome: a large report filled with several recommendations made by the Coroner, some of which have been implemented.
Arman became a White Ribbon Ambassador and has spoken in front of varying groups on the state of domestic violence in our nation. On the back of this work, he and his sisters – in conjunction with the Central Domestic Violence Service and a host of other support networks – established the Zahra Foundation Australia.
“The foundation aims to assist women who have been threatened and abused in the hands of their partners. And mothers that want to save their children from violent homes. The goal of the foundation is to empower these women to stand on their own feet. This foundation will also be a tribute to women who sadly lost their lives in search for hope of a better life for themselves and their children,” says Atena Abrahimzadeh.
The Foundation hopes to help provide women and children a life without fear of violence, while also providing services to attain economic independence.
“These courses aren’t just about finances – they’re about life skills as well,” says Arman.
“These women have had all elements of control taken away from them – we’re trying to give them the control back. Once they do, they’re in their element.”
Arman wants to use the platform he’s been given by winning South Australia’s Young Australian of the Year – and a nominee for Young Australian of the Year – to honour all those who’ve aided the state of domestic violence in the country.
You can make a donation to the Zahra Foundation Australia by following the link HERE.
If you feel distressed by this story, or if you or someone you know has been affected by sexual or domestic violence, you can speak to a friendly counsellor at 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.