‘I have a voice and I can use it’

  • Diversity

NAB’s Ana Ware fled war-torn Iran in 1986, and is now raising her voice for women’s rights.

  • 03.04.2023
  • Time to read 1 min read


NAB’s Anahita (Ana) Ware was born in Tehran, Iran during the Iran-Iraq War.

“It was 1985 and I was born in the middle of this chaos,” said Ana. “Whenever there was a radio alert that war planes were flying overhead, the hospital turned the lights off so that the planes couldn’t see where they were bombing.

“My mum thought, ‘I’m going to die with my baby.’”

For the first seven months of her life, Ana and her family hid in the countryside away from the bombings in Tehran. Then, in 1986, they were sponsored by an uncle to migrate to Australia.

“My parents could both speak English well and had good professions,” she said, “so we were extremely lucky to escape Iran.”

Young Anahita

Racism and bullying

Ana’s mum, painting

Life was tough for immigrants starting out in a new country, and Ana faced racism and bullying at school.

“I was able to read and speak better than most people in my class, but I was still labelled an Iranian terrorist,” she said. “Even though I felt Australian, I didn’t feel as Australian as they did.

“I never felt completely Iranian either, so I was always somewhere in the middle.”

The bullying escalated with the release of the film, ‘Not Without My Daughter’, which featured a “fanatical Iranian father” and actor Sally Field as an “American damsel in distress”.

“It came out when I was six years old and it painted the most awful picture of Iranians,” she said. “And it seemed like every man and his dog had watched this bloody movie!

“At school the other kids would say, ‘Are you Iranian? Does your dad bash you?’”

While Ana’s school days were “a bit lonely”, she could always count on her family for love, support and fun.

“My dad is an artist – a painter – and he plays guitar,” she said. “My mum has recently picked up painting and she’s quite a good artist herself.

“They’re both very young at heart.  Open-minded, artistic, a bit hippy and very cool.”

Iran in the 1970s

Growing up, Ana learned more about her parents’ former life in Iran, prior to the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

“Iran had the sixties and seventies the same as everyone else did. There’d be parties, short skirts, music, alcohol, whatever!”

Ana also considers her mum lucky to have been raised by a father who was “very diplomatic, democratic and pro women’s rights”.

“He always instilled independence in my mother and counselled her to stand on her own two feet: work for yourself, earn your own money, and never depend on a man.”

​​​​​​​In contrast, Ana’s grandmother was quite religious, so there was a “bit of a tug of war” with how her mum should present herself in society.

“My grandma would say, ‘wear your hijab when you go out’, and my dad would be like, ‘no, you don’t need that, take it off!’

“My mum told my grandma, ‘I’m not religious and I’m not going to live by these rules that you have set up for yourself’. And my grandmother accepted that.”

Ana now says that “it’s not about hating the hijab, it’s just about freedom of choice”.

Women, life, freedom

With her liberal upbringing, Ana was rocked in September last year by the arrest of Iranian-Kurdish woman Zhina ‘Mahsa’ Amini for allegedly wearing ‘improper’ hijab. Amini later died in police custody under suspicious circumstances, sparking a female-led revolution in Iran and around the world under the slogan ‘woman, life, freedom’.

“My first instinct was to just be miserable and feel defenseless,” said Ana. “What could I do? I’m just one person in the world.

“But then I thought that Australia’s a pretty great place to have your voice heard.”

Ana has since attended and led protests in Sydney, been a guest on a podcast, engaged with her local Labor MP, and even read an open letter written for Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at one of the Sydney rallies.

“I’ve never done anything like that before, so it was really a powerful moment for me to know that I have a voice and I can use it,” she said. “I’ve probably done four or five speeches at rallies now!”

Ana is grateful that, at least in Australia, we’re on the right track to an inclusive culture where we all have a voice. And workplaces like NAB are no exception.

“NAB is a massive advocate of everybody,” she said. “Everyone’s welcome. Everyone has a voice. Everyone deserves to be championed. I’ve never felt judged or alone at NAB.”

Visit NAB’s Inclusion and Diversity page for more on inclusion and diversity at NAB.

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