“Edgy multiculturalism for a new generation”
As we wind down for 2017 with this 41st edition of The Point Magazine, we look back over the issues we set out to investigate when we first started publishing, over four years ago. How have the issues changed in that time, and where are we headed now?
The mission statement for The Point Magazine was laid out in our very first edition, in July 2013. In the words of Stepan Kerkyasharian AO, the then chair of our publisher, the Community Relations Commission of New South Wales (now Multicultural NSW), The Point Magazine was established to be “a vehicle for cutting edge news and views on the most pressing multicultural issues of our times”.
"This is edgy multiculturalism for a new generation of locally engaged, globally connected younger Australians," Kerkyasharian wrote at the time.
Looking back, we can see how many of the same pressing issues have persisted, and how they have remained core topics of investigation for The Point Magazine, all the way through to the present. Let’s have a look at where we were then, and where we are now.
The ongoing humanitarian toll of the Syria and Iraq conflicts
When we first started publishing The Point Magazine in 2013, the civil conflict in Syria was already wreaking devastation in the region. Community activists here in Australia were raising awareness of the crisis, and Australia was doing its bit to help victims as one of the biggest donors of humanitarian aid at that time.
Community leaders wanted to ensure the Syria conflict did not impact on inter-communal relations here in Australia. But the fact that a number of Australians were travelling to the conflict zone and adding to the carnage was a major concern.
Even before ISIS emerged as a new brand of terror, ASIO was already worried about the number of Australians travelling to join the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusrah Front (later re-named Jabhat Fath al-Sham). The possibility that some of those combat-hardened extremists might one day return to Australia with the skill, and the will, to carry out domestic terror attacks was top-of-mind for counter terrorism experts.
With the emergence of ISIS and the declaration of its so-called “Caliphate” in 2014, it became critical to expose the reality on the ground of the brutal violence perpetrated by foreign fighters against innocent civilians, and to ensure that voices of reason within the Australian community could be heard above the din of the extreme fringes.
As the Syrian conflict spilled over into Iraq, Australian Iraqis came together to demonstrate solidarity and promote a message of peace.
The number of Australian foreign fighters killed in Syria and Iraq has since risen to 87, according to senior government officials, and just this month two are believed to have been killed in missile strikes.
But the immense humanitarian toll of these conflicts far outweighs any domestic security concerns.
The death toll in Syria has increased to at least 470,000, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research. There are currently 6.1 million internally displaced people and 4.8 million seeking refuge abroad, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Australians were overwhelmingly positive in response to the decision to resettle an additional 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq. Many of those refugees had fled the onslaught of ISIS, and many fear their ancestral ties to their homelands are now lost forever. Most of the additional intake of refugees have already arrived to find peace, security and a new life in our country.
“This is edgy multiculturalism for a new generation of locally engaged, globally connected younger Australians.”
– Stepan Kerkyasharian AO
Growing threat of far-right wing extremism
For the past four years, The Point Magazine has investigated the rise of far-right wing extremist groups in Australia, who are exploiting the fear of terrorism for their own ideological ends.
We have tracked the disturbing growth of anti-Islamic sentiment and the alarming presence of neo-Nazis at anti-mosque protests. We have exposed white supremacist lies and conspiracies, dispelled the disinformation of the anti-halal movement and de-bunked the myths surrounding “sharia”.
We have interviewed former white supremacists, including one Australian who told his remarkable story about how he joined a far-right wing extremist group, how his mother got him out, and how he is now championing the fight against extremist hate.
Far-right extremists are active in the online environment, and internationally there is a growing awareness of the problem of online hate speech. We have analysed the online tactics of extremist hate groups and joined forces with like-minded allies in global campaigns to counter online hate.
Tackling tough topics
In a media environment dominated by tabloid reporting on ‘terror’, The Point Magazine wanted to show how we can talk about tough topics, including terrorism and violent extremism, in a balanced, non-sensationalised way.
One way is to inject a little bit of humour into otherwise fearful subjects, such as ISIS recruitment tactics.
Another way is to humanise the subject by letting real people, who are directly impacted by extremism, speak for themselves. We have heard from victims of terrorism who have bravely turned their experiences into powerful messages for peace.
We have interviewed good Australians doing humanitarian work in areas that have directly suffered the onslaught of ISIS.
We have heard the first-hand accounts of former extremists who have since become strong, authentic voices speaking out against extremism.
We have also shown the human side of those serving at the frontline in the fight against domestic terrorism - our police and national security agencies - real people for whom the trauma of terrorism is sometimes a personal reality.
Grassroots good news
The best way to overcome hatred and fear is to celebrate the things that make us the strong, united, peaceful and creative society that we really are.
In every edition of The Point Magazine, we have showcased grassroots initiatives that are bringing communities together and promoting social cohesion through sport, art, comedy, poetry, music, dance, theatre, novels, food, fashion, love, faith, friendship and dialogue.
As well as bringing you the latest in grassroots community news and views, The Point Magazine has been nurturing the talents of aspiring young journalists through our community journalism masterclass, young media makers forum, and collaborative journalism workshop. The Point Magazine has been proud to give a voice to young people by providing mentoring and publishing opportunities for 17 young contributing writers and photojournalists.
We want to thank all our writers and contributors. We also want to thank the many community leaders, changemakers and champions for peace who have supported The Point Magazine by sharing their inspiring stories with us over the years.
We want to hear from you!
The Point Magazine will be taking some time to take stock, review and evaluate our efforts and impact over the past four and a half years – and we want to hear from you!
In coming months, we will be inviting all our readers and contributors to participate in an independent evaluation of The Point Magazine project.
If you are interested in participating in the evaluation process, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org who can put you in touch with our independent evaluator. Responses to the evaluation will remain anonymous and will greatly help to inform our future efforts.
Wishing all our readers a safe and happy holiday season!
The Point Magazine team
As we wind down for 2017 with this 41st edition of The Point Magazine, we look back over the issues we set out to investigate when we first started publishing, over four years ago.