Human Library brings our community together

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What an epic day we had at our Human Library event on Wednesday 21 March 2018 at the Gold Coast Library!

Human Libraries are a worldwide movement for social change. They are designed to connect people from different walks of life to break down social barriers and challenge prejudice and stereotypes through conversation.

At our Human Library, students and staff had the opportunity to borrow and ‘read’ a living and breathing person instead of a book. Twenty amazing human books (e.g. Bullied, Depressed, Transgender, Hijabi Muslim, Veteran, POW) were available to be loaned out for a 20 minute open and honest chat.

Each of our human books had an extraordinary story to tell about their life experiences often faced with social stigma and discrimination. It was great to see our human books and readers connect over meaningful conversations. Questions were asked, stories shared and topics, that we don’t often get the chance to talk about, were discussed.

What did some of our readers say?

‘This was a fantastic opportunity to promote social cohesion. I really enjoyed being able to hear the personal stories of people whom I would meet in everyday life but be otherwise unaware of their challenges and triumphs.’

‘The honesty and openness of participants, and hearing about how they faced and overcame prejudice and adversity. Even as someone who feels they are open to everyone from any walk of life, there is still a lot to learn from the plight of those who are judged by their background, beliefs or situation.’

‘This is such a special event which encapsulates what Griffith is about – showing that we can all be remarkable in our everyday lives. I was so proud to be a part of it.’

So where to from here?

We want you to continue sharing your stories and engage in positive conversation with each other in order to create a more accepting community! And most importantly? Don’t judge a book by its cover! Because at Griffith, everyone belongs.

Stay tuned for our Human Library video, soon to be released!

Borrow a person in our Human Library

Image with text 'Don't judge a book by its cover'

Immerse yourself in a bestseller of a different kind at our Human Library!

On Wednesday 21 March 2018, we are flipping the Gold Coast campus library on its head offering you the chance to borrow a person, instead of a book.

We’ve gathered together a group of 20 storytellers keen to share their experience with social stigma, prejudice and discrimination in the hope to break down barriers, challenge beliefs and create a more tolerant society.

In our human library, you can borrow a human book on a certain topic and sit down with them for an honest and open 20 minute chat about their life experiences and the issues they have faced.

What kind of books can you borrow at our Human Library?

Book: Yaseen

Title: Muslim Male, Prisoner of War and Sufferer of PTSD

Story: As a 22-year-old international student, I didn’t know what September 11 really meant for Muslims until I was taken away from my hostel and locked behind bars. Nine months in a window-less cell, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the worst was yet to come. I was treated as a soldier of the unknown enemy, who had the capability to strike but didn’t have the motive (yet). But like every story, there was a happy ending.

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Image of a widow

Book: Kim

Title: Widow

Story: I’m a single mother of two children, but not for the reasons you might think. I’m a widow – usually this word conjures up images of a white-haired old lady, not a 26-year-old woman.

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Image of a man with tattoos

Book: Ben

Title: Tattoos

Story: I was always interested in tattoos and how inking your skin would change the way people reacted to you. Tough guys had tattoos, bad guys had tattoos. I was and still am neither of those things, but I liked the idea I could be. I got my first tattoo at 19, a little one on my calf, and never really stopped. At first I only got tattooed where I could hide them. Attitudes towards tattoos were very different in the mid-nineties. You couldn’t get work in a lot of places if you had visible tattoos. As time went on, I ran out of hidden space and started getting tattoos on my forearms. For the first five or so years of my professional life I had to wear long sleeve shirts! It’s funny as these days I am no longer considered to be heavily tattooed.

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Image of a veteran

Book: Richo and Maggie

Title: Veteran and Assistance Dog

Story: A former Army Apprentice and member of the Royal Australian Engineers, I returned to university in my late 40s after a serious spinal cord injury. The study challenges ahead became overwhelming, until I was introduced to the Australian Student Veterans Association (ASVA). Today with the support of Maggie (Chief Happiness Officer / assistance dog), I am achieving great results in both undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

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Image of an indigenous man

Book: Uncle John

Title: Indigenous

Story: I am a Senior Learning Assistance Officer in the GUMURRII unit on Griffith’s Nathan Campus. I am a traditional custodian of the Gold Coast region, a Kombumerri man, a saltwater man of the Gold Coast part of the wider Yugumbeh Language Group. The Yugumbeh lands are located between the Logan River in the north and the Tweed River in the south. They are bordered by the mountains to the west and the ocean to the east. I am also a Griffith Business School graduate, Alumni and long-term employee (18 years) of Griffith University. I am a member of the Griffith Council of Elders and have the privilege of being acknowledged as an Elder on the Yugumbeh Elders Group.

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Image of an adopted woman

Book: Julie

Title: Adopted

Story: ‘You are adopted.’ These words broke my heart at the age of 10. All I wanted to do was find my biological mother and ask her ‘why?’. The answer I got shook me to the core. Being adopted has influenced my decisions, especially as a 17-year-old pregnant ‘unwed mother’.  Life takes you on many journeys and you get branded with many labels. I started out as an orphan and will end that way. It is what happens in between that defines you.

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Image of a male activist

Book: Owen

Title: Activist

Story: I am a socialist activist and live my beliefs in my daily life and practices. ‘A Spectre is haunting all of Europe – the Spectre of Communism.’ So opens The Communist Manifesto, the most widely read book of the 19th and 20th centuries. If you agree that we live in an upside down world, if you think it’s a crime that 68 individuals possess the same wealth as 3.5 billion (1/2 of humanity), if you’re disgusted by the war on terror and its racist violence AND you want to do something about it, then The Communist Manifesto has something to offer you.

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Book: Narelle

Title: Lesbian Catholic Priest

Story: I was ordained in 2010 as the first female Catholic Priest in Australia. I am a lesbian, foster mother, activist and passionate permaculturist and committed to providing a safe, welcoming and accepting church community for people to find comfort, inclusion and reflection. After suffering a major stroke in 2003 I dramatically changed my career paths. From the Chief Executive Officer of the statewide non-government organisation to a disability pension, I refocused my life direction, moving from a career in social work to theology.  I learnt the value of good friends, fell in love and opened my heart and garden to build community. I could not be happier with my life. I love sharing my story of recovery, gardening and finding the spiritually of life on the way.

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Book: Michael

Title: Survivor

Story: I was a supermarket developer, an aviator, a wannabe Indiana Jones in the Philippines. I was shot at by Gaddafi’s Muslim Insurgents, crashed my aircraft and walked away, got crushed into bankruptcy and became a lawyer at age 53. Events in my childhood formed my mindset instilling a determination to succeed. They shaped my attitude to life and soldiering on was the only way forward that I knew. My father became paraplegic in a near fatal building accident in his twenties. Our family home was foreclosed due to no income. My mother had to choose between a late abortion or death. Months after the abortion, she passed away due to a brain tumour. On the way to my mother’s funeral, my father attempted suicide by throwing himself from his wheelchair into the path of a Melbourne tram.

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Book: Heather

Title: Female Elder

Story: I am a proud Kamilaroi-Kooma (Aboriginal) woman. I believe in bridging the gap and understanding with reconciliation in my heart and growing as equals together as one. I believe that we need to develop an understanding of all cultures that make up the island we call our country of Australia, that we love and want to share with the world. As a younger person, I worked for 27 years in the outback on cattle and sheep stations, shearing sheds and earth moving camps. Today, I am Acting Aboriginal Co-Chair of Reconciliation Queensland Inc. and sit on the Board of Murrigunyah (Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders Corporation for Women). I am Director of DV Connect (Domestic Violence service QLD) and work as an Aboriginal Elder running Cultural Workshops. For the past 14 years, I have worked as an Indigenous Cultural Consultant for Queensland Health in Child & Youth Mental Health Service.

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Book: Nicole

Title: Bullied as an adult

Story: I was at the pinnacle of my 13 year long career. Well-known and respected in my small country town, manager of the local pharmacy, volunteer in the community and friend to many. All that changed after I separated from my first husband and one woman in particular began a relentless campaign to make my life miserable. Her extreme bullying saw me lose my job, my friends, my standing in the community and almost my life.

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Book: Adam

Title: Depression

Story: I am a father to three, step father to two, husband and business owner and have been battling depression for most of my adult life. This journey has taken me to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows through marriage, children, divorce, losing my business and back again. 40 years goes by pretty fast! From being the brightest candle in the room, to hiding away in my bed as a recluse, tempting suicide. I have done and seen it all.

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Book: Chrissie

Title: Girl in a Van

Story: I packed up my cosy apartment life, sold all my belongings and moved into a van, all the while staying in my home city and continuing my full-time job. It’s been two years now, and I’ve moved on to a roomier box truck, which I’m slowly converting into a functional tiny home whilst living inside. It’s still raw and has only a few amenities, but I’ve added some girly touches and it feels like home. I sleep in a different location most nights and spend the weekends road-tripping or staying at beaches and forests. I realise I can’t do this forever in the one town, so I’m saving and building and one day I’ll be able to quit the job and travel the country.

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Book: Dean

Title: Urban Farmer

Story: I deeply believe that becoming more sustainable is simple, easy and achievable for everyone. We need to seriously start being more green in our homes and communities now, because everything we do has an effect on the Earth. I am an urban farmer, permaculturist and gut health guru. Originally from a rural farming background, I now strongly focus on urban farming – bringing food growing back into the towns and cities, where it has traditionally always been in sustainable cultures. I run several related local, national and international groups and projects to support homes and communities in sustainable living. Join the green revolution!

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Book: Blair

Title: Transgender

Story: As a kid I always split girls into ‘tomboys’ and ‘girly girls’. Tomboys would wear shorts and play with action figures, and girly girls would dress up as fairies and like pink. I was definitely a tomboy. I always preferred boys toys, was happiest dressing as a boy, and felt more like ‘one of the boys’. I never thought anything of it but as I got older it became increasingly harder to be myself and still be accepted. At puberty when my body changed, I was never excited like the other girls were, and by 17 I realised that I wasn’t meant to be born a girl. Transitioning from female to male was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it was definitely the most rewarding. It made me a better person.

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Book: Jazmina

Title: Hijabi Muslim

Story: I am a Hijab-wearing Muslim woman and I am judged based on my appearance. Growing up in rural Australia, my family and I were almost always the only Muslims and ethnics in the community. People would roll down their car windows and yell insults as I walked to the bus stop in front of my high school. A lot of the time there are missed interactions because people are too scared to approach me. But, if I have the chance to speak to people, they will know that I am just as normal as everyone else and that my qualities are what make me extraordinary.

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Book: Reena

Title: Multicultural Advocate

Story: I grew up in a small city in India and came to Australia as a student. My dream has always been to unite people from all walks of life, to remove racial barriers and replace them with a sense of belonging. I made my dream come true by organising multicultural fashion shows that challenge the stereotypes of beauty and fashion through celebrating all men and women, no matter what cultural background, shape or size. I believe beauty is in the spirit which shines through in your eyes, in your laughter and through your happiness. Diversity and acceptance is the culture we should follow and I am proud to be a platform that says no to pre-existing stereotypes of the fashion industry as we lead the way to a more inclusive future all the while promoting multiculturalism.

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Book: Helen

Title: Female Plumber

StoryAs the CEO of Australia’s first female plumbing company, my mission is to help every woman and girl in the world to know they have choices to do whatever the hell they want to do with their life. To influence every woman in the world to take action to create the life they choose.

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Book: Sauda

Title: Discriminated

Story: I am from India and come from a family with strong values. I believe that marriage is a commitment to be treasured. When I said yes at the age of 38, I was very much in love. I soon found out that marrying into a western family had its challenges. It came with all the trimmings of who is what and who is who. Least did I know that racial discrimination and hatred would be part of it.

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Book: Nicholas

Title: Gay Male

Story: I was the youngest born with a traditional family, Mum, Dad and an older sister. I was always a happy energetic kid, but I always felt a little different from about the age of 7. As I grew older I ignored the feelings that I had towards other males, it seemed wrong, but I didn’t understand what it meant or that there was a label. When I found out I had two half-brothers at the age of 20, my life turned upside down and allowed me to question many things in my life, including my sexuality. I still remember the day I came out to my parents! Living as a gay male has presented some challenges.

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Want to borrow a human book?

Want to be involved in this unforgettable experience? Register as a reader in our Human Library. There are limited sessions available in this two-hour event, so get in quick!

Become a book in our Human Library!

Do you have a story to tell? Griffith University Library is looking for people to volunteer as human books in our second annual Human Library event to be held on 21 March 2018 at the Gold Coast campus.

Wait, what? A human library? A human book?

Human libraries are part of a global movement to break down social barriers and challenge prejudice and stereotypes through conversation. At Griffith, we value and recognise diversity. We believe we can help spark social change through encouraging positive conversations with people, who may not ordinarily have the opportunity to speak with each other.

How does the Human Library work?

In a Human Library, readers borrow people instead of books. If you sign up as a human book in our Griffith University Human Library, you can expect to be loaned out up to three times during the two-hour event. The loan period is for approximately 20 minutes, giving you enough time to share your story, answer questions from your borrower and engage in positive and real conversation.

Who can be a human book?

Human books are often people who have faced discrimination and prejudice in their life as a result of occupation, ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender, cultural background, health, social status, lifestyle or disability.

Our selection of books in last year’s Human Library included a homeless person, refugee, an adopted person, a Muslim woman, a Muslim man / prisoner of war, a lesbian, a gay male, a Maori, an Indigenous person, a woman in IT, a veteran and assistance dog, an author, a person with tattoos, a person with dreadlocks.

How do I register as a human book?

If you are willing to give people insight into your life with stigma, discrimination or prejudice in the hope to create a more tolerant and understanding community, we’d love to hear from you!

Register your interest via our online form now. Feel free to contact Renee Wilson or Brigitte Braddock at for more information.

Want to see a Human Library in action?

The 2017 Griffith University Human Library was a huge success with 20 human books loaned out to borrowers. Check out our wrap-up of last year’s Human Library event.