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Speak Now Podcast

'Speak Now: About Forced Marriage' is an 8-part podcast series that starts the conversation about a hidden Australian issue – forced marriage.

Forced marriage is a breach of human rights and the most reported form of modern slavery in Australia.

The Speak Now podcast unpacks what forced marriage is and who it impacts, challenges common assumptions and myths, and shares stories of how we can better support affected individuals, families and communities. Our hosts, Helena Hassani and Habiba, draw on their personal and professional lives and speak with people with lived experience, community workers, researchers and the police about this issue.

The stories and experiences we share about forced marriage in this series are not representative of all experiences of forced marriage. Forced marriage can happen to anyone from any culture, religion, nationality, age group, gender, sexuality or disability.

This podcast is an outcome of the Speak Now project – an education, awareness-raising and community engagement project created by Anti-Slavery Australia at the University of Technology Sydney and funded by the Department of Social Services under the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children.

Anti-Slavery Australia is the only specialist legal, research and policy university centre in Australia working to end modern slavery and prioritising the lived experience of survivors. The podcast series draws upon Anti-Slavery Australia’s research and advocacy as well as our extensive experience working with and providing access to legal assistance to victims and survivors of modern slavery in Australia since 2003.

If you (or someone you know) is at risk of or in a forced marriage, you can contact My Blue Sky for access to Anti-Slavery Australia’s free and confidential forced marriage service.

A lawyer from the team will respond on Mondays to Fridays (9am – 5pm Australian Eastern Time). Interpreters are available.

In an emergency or if someone is in danger, call Triple Zero (000).


+61 2 9514 8115

(Mon-Fri 9am - 5pm, Sydney time)

Live chat

Click the purple icon in the bottom right corner

Our Hosts

Helena Hassani is a human rights advocate and campaigner for the prevention of child and forced marriage and family violence. She was a delegate to the United Nations for the Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR) 2023 in Geneva and continues to work and advocate for the rights of girls and women. Helena is also a poet and writes poems on forced marriage and issues related to violence against women and girl. She is founder of the Boland Parwaz Pty LTD.

Habiba works in the Child Protection sector and has experienced forced marriage. She is of Pakistani heritage and was raised in Australia. Habiba has extensive experience in the community services sector and is passionate about raising awareness about the options available for those experiencing forced marriage.

Please be aware:

Topics discussed in this series may evoke strong feelings, thoughts, and memories. If you experience any of these, please reach out to a trusted friend, family or professional. You can find a list of free and confidential counselling services at the bottom of this page.

Listen to the podcast below

Episode 1: Talking about forced marriage

Helena and Habiba draw on their personal and professional experience to explain why it is important to talk about forced marriage – an issue that is too often swept under the rug and not considered an Australian issue. They explore what forced marriage is, how it happens, and who it impacts.

If the episode does not play, click here to listen on Spotify.

Hosted by Helena Hassani and Habiba.

Episode 2: Myths about forced marriage in Australia

Helena talks to Anu Krishnan who has almost 30 years' experience working with alongside communities at risk of forced marriage. Anu helps us understand why forced marriage is so underreported in Australia, and unpacks some of the most common and damaging myths about forced marriage, including how we can work together to challenge them.

If the episode does not play, click here to listen on Spotify.

Hosted by Helena Hassani. Special guest: Anu Krishnan, founder of Kulturbrille.

Episode 3: The AFP Human Trafficking Team – the special unit responding to forced marriage

Habiba speaks to Federal Agents from the Australian Federal Police’s (AFP) Human Trafficking team, who are dedicated to responding to cases of modern slavery in Australia, including forced marriage. Together they explore what forced marriage is under Australian law, what cases they see, and what someone can expect from making a report to the AFP.

If the episode does not play, click here to listen on Spotify.

Click to learn more about the AFP and other support organisations, including their contact details.

Hosted by Habiba. Special guests: Australian Federal Police agents (Christina and Chantal) from the Human Trafficking team.

Episode 4: ‘Shattered dreams’ – LGBTIQ+ experience of forced marriage

Helena talks to Bijan Kardouni, an LGBTIQ+ community worker and advocate. Bijan explains how forced marriage can impact the LGBTIQ+ community, including their wellbeing, mental health and relationships. We offer tips about how services can involve and better include people with diverse genders and sexualities.

If the episode does not play, click here to listen on Spotify.

Hosted by Helena Hassani. Special guest: Bijan Kardouni, community worker and LGBTIQ advocate.

Episode 5: Schools addressing forced marriage

Over 50 per cent of the forced marriages reported to the Australian Federal Police involve people under the age of 18. Helena introduces a panel discussion, facilitated by Jane Jeffes, that explores the early signs that may indicate a young person is at risk of forced marriage, and the important role that schools can play in addressing forced marriage. Habiba joins Helena to reflect on her own experiences in the Australian school system.

If the episode does not play, click here to listen on Spotify.

Hosted by Helena Hassani and Habiba. Special guests: Jane Jeffes, Dorothy Hoddinott AO (former high school principal), Eleni Argy (youth worker), and Osman Karolia (high school principal).

Episode 6: Community-led prevention of forced marriage

Helena speaks with Dr Manjula O’Connor, who shares inspiring examples of forced marriage prevention and discusses the importance of cultural sensitivity and community-led solutions.

If the episode does not play, click here to listen on Spotify.

Hosted by Helena Hassani. Special guest: Dr Manjula O’Connor, Clinical Psychiatrist and author of ‘Daughters of Durga - Dowries, Gender Violence and Family in Australia'.

Episode 7: Forced marriage and families in transition

Helena speaks to Ali Hasan who works on men’s behaviour change programs and refugee resettlement, and we welcome back Anu Krishnan. This episode explores the intersections between forced marriage and the intergenerational conflict that newly arrived families can experience as they transition to a new life, culture and gender roles in Australia.

If the episode does not play, click here to listen on Spotify.

Hosted by Helena Hassani. Special guests: Ali Hasan and Anu Krishnan, community workers working with men and refugee families.

Episode 8: Key priorities in policy and research

Habiba interviews Speak Now Research Lead, Dr Jacqueline Nelson, to understand the key trends, issues and priorities in forced marriage research. They discuss the research and policy context in Australia. Helena also joins the conversation and they wrap up the series by sharing their key reflections.

If the episode does not play, click here to listen on Spotify.

Click to visit the Frontline Worker Guide mentioned in this episode.

Hosted by Habiba. Joined by Speak Now Research Fellow, Dr Jacqueline Nelson.

More information

Production team

Kathryn Clark (they/them) is a Research Officer at Anti-Slavery Australia. They have over 15 years' experience working with diverse communities both locally and internationally in community development, program management, and research roles.

Kara Jensen-Mackinnon is a digital storyteller and award-winning audio producer. She currently works as a podcast producer at 7am and ABC.

Professor Jennifer Burn AM is the Founding Director of Anti-Slavery Australia at UTS. She has over 20 years of research and practice experience in human trafficking, slavery and forced marriage. She served as the Interim Anti-Slavery Commissioner for NSW from 2018 to 2020. At Anti-Slavery Australia, Jennifer’s current policy drive is to establish a national compensation scheme for victims and survivors of modern slavery.

Speakers and guests

We thank all of the guest speakers for their time, expertise and valuable contributions to the podcast:

• Ali Hasan

• Anu Krishan

• Bijan Kardouni

• Christina and Chantal from the Australian Federal Police

• Dorothy Hoddinott AO

• Eleni Argy

• Dr Jacqueline Nelson

• Dr Manjula O’Connor

• Osman Karolia

The team would like to thank Jane Jeffes, journalist and producer, who provided support to ASA in the early development stage of the Speak Now podcast.

Anti-Slavery Australia acknowledges the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the traditional Owners of Country and the Holders of Knowledge upon whose lands and waters we work at the University of Technology Sydney. We extend our respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Anti-Slavery Australia expresses its sincere gratitude and respect for all survivors of modern slavery whose experiences have inspired and continue to drive our advocacy for survivor empowerment and for their rights to be protected and fulfilled.

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