PEOPLE: Elevating Youth Mental Health with ‘OurHerd’

Michelle Duong is the Growth Marketing Manager for OurHerd, a storytelling app for young people, powered batyr, a for-purpose preventative mental health organisation. With the exponential rise in mental health illnesses due to the pandemic, this is a project that is needed for young people, more than ever. Here’s the story!

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Michelle Duong?

The day starts early for me, regardless of what day of the week it is or what I may have on. First is some kind of physical exercise; a walk, yoga or a class at the gym. I find that by setting the intention, showing up and doing it sets me up for the rest of the day. I don’t find the motivation everyday, but I notice the benefits most when I show up on the days I least want to.

Since the shift towards working from home, I’ve been consciously – with the guidance of my psychologist – looking at each day as if it was a sandwich, building it with certain ‘ingredients’ that mark the morning, noon and evening. Without the need to rush into the office, I enjoy the first couple hours in the day for myself; a coffee on the balcony, a walk with the dog, a podcast, a tidy around the apartment or sometimes just sitting and taking a moment to be with my thoughts. These seemingly unremarkable activities form the first part of my “day sandwich” and are arguably my most important and energising. In addition to building a strong morning foundation, I try to take a physical and mental break at lunch by moving away from my workspace and signify the end of work by closing out the sandwich with another walk. I credit these small rituals for helping me to adjust to the challenges of going into lockdown, but even as restrictions begin to lift, I strongly see the value in holding onto them and the mental clarity they bring.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

I recently joined an extraordinary for-purpose mental health organisation called batyr, which aims to smash the stigma surrounding mental health by promoting positive conversations and sharing lived experience stories. As an organisation created by young people for young people, we ensure that the youth voice is represented at all levels of decision-making, including establishing a National Youth Advisory group, which is made of young people who reflect diverse communities and help guide our strategic direction, and appointing 21-year old Bella Cini as a Board Director, creating a powerful channel between batyr’s board and the collective voices of young people in our community. 

As part of batyr’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, we design tailored workshops for communities including LGBTQIA+, Regional, International Students, NEET and Males and are proud to collaborate on projects like the Orygen University Mental Health Framework, International Student Welfare Program, MYAN (Mental Health and Multicultural Young People) Sector Forum and National Headspace evaluation. ​​

In my role, I’m responsible for the growth and marketing of our new digital storytelling app called OurHerd. The purpose of the platform is to support young people to create change by sharing stories. It’s a safe space, designed to support young people in finding their voices, whilst being a positive environment where people with different views, cultures, experiences and beliefs can feel welcomed, heard and valued. Excitingly, OurHerd is uniquely positioned to leverage digital technology to give young people the opportunity for their voices to be heard, be deeply understood and to inform the decisions that affect them by capturing valuable lived experience insights. The platform uses the power of digital to further bridge the gap between geography, culture and gender. The nature of this work can be challenging but it’s incredibly rewarding. Every single story shared gives you something to admire, learn from and reflect on.

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

I count myself lucky to have worked for some great organisations who have generally aligned with my personal values and respected my multicultural identity. Whilst I haven’t been the victim of discrimination directly, I’m acutely aware of differing experiences amongst my peers. As a second generation Australian or “ABC” (Australian-born Chinese), the majority of my childhood and adolescent years were spent trying to navigate the intersection of two worlds; the expectation to embrace and celebrate my parents’ traditional Chinese culture at home, whilst fighting to find my place in mainstream Australian culture at school. There was always a noticeable disconnect in the treatment of the ABCs like me, who spoke English without an accent, dressed like the ‘white’ kids and whose lunch bag occasionally included an unfamiliar snack but, generally nothing enough to cause harm. I seemed to be able to just fly under the radar, whilst my newly-arrived Asian migrant friends weren’t afforded the same luxury. I wasn’t treated differently or badly per se… I just felt a bit invisible and to be honest, I was okay with that at the time. 

Whilst many of those moments took place well before I joined the workforce, the sense of uncertainty and discomfort permeates stubbornly through to this day. Although I don’t let them define my interactions, I can’t quite shake them off either. It’s something I’m still working on for myself and my confidence.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

Lean on the people you know, and don’t underestimate the power of your relationships. It can feel overwhelming and scary to consider yourself the odd one out amongst so many others who seemingly have the benefit of the majority. It’s a lot easier to focus on the collective negatives; sometimes it can completely consume your thoughts and make you feel paralysed. In these moments, I would encourage you to sit down and simply make a list of all the people you’ve come across in your life – friends, relatives, neighbours, teachers, support workers, bosses or colleagues – the chances are you’ll realise that despite feeling alone in your challenge, you actually have a network of people you can tap into. 

They may not be the obvious person you think of to help you achieve your ambitions, but by asking for 10min of their time to share your goals with them, it gives you the opportunity to vocalise and own your intentions and who knows, they may even know someone who can support you in the next step forward or hear of an opportunity you wouldn’t have otherwise known about. Generally speaking, people get a kick out of helping others – even if it’s just giving someone their ear – I think there’s something called the ‘helper’s high’. Most people want to feel like their lives mean something and that they’re making a positive difference in the world, so whilst it might feel like too much to ask someone for their time, know that the other person will likely get something out of it too; good karma at the very least! And what’s the worst that could happen? They say “No, sorry I’m too busy right now”. No harm done. The benefits outweigh the downsides by a mile. So go on then, reconnect with your people. In fact, feel free to reach out to me. I’ve always got 10min to share. 

I have to say a little thank you to Maria Chilcott, whose daughter I used to babysit, who was on my ‘list of people’ and who was kind enough to give me 10 minutes (plus more) of her time to share this incredibly valuable piece of advice that’s now with you.

Want to follow and support MICHELLE?

Learn more about the amazing work that batyr does here and check out the OurHerd app – and my story on it – here. I’m always happy to connect with like-minded people – you can find me on LinkedIn here.


About the diversity champion:

Michelle Duong is the Growth Marketing Manager for OurHerd, a storytelling app for young people, powered batyr, a for-purpose preventative mental health organisation. Michelle has experience across a range of industries but is most passionate about using her expertise to rally for the causes she believes in. When she’s not developing strategies to grow the OurHerd community, she’s hanging out with her 40kg foster-fail-dog, Sprocket, looking for ways to live more sustainably – most notably caring for her worm farm and Googling ‘how to DIY (insert everything)’ – and cooking up a storm to share a good meal with her friends and family.

Image description: Michelle is looking at the camera in front of a field wearing a black shirt with zebra prints

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PEOPLE: The increasing need for cald psychologists in the modern day

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Daniel Angus? 

I don’t think I have a ‘normal’ day. 

Vulnerable but exceptional members of our community invite me into their lives during my psychology consultations. Some days I am with clients as they visit some of their most difficult days… on others I might be sharing in the experiences of living in far-flung countries from around the world, or of exploring the challenges of substance use or the highs and lows of parenthood… no session is the same!  

On other days I am privileged to support, mentor and train early career psychologists as they embark on their adventures in the mental health sector assisting those in need of help. 

Sometimes I am consulting with organisations, providing advice on topics, helping set up mental health services or visiting declared mental health facilities.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

Almost 30% of our state were born in non-English speaking countries (almost 40% in Western Sydney where I live and work!). Many of these people have come to Australia seeking a better life, new opportunities or escaping horrible circumstances…mental illness does not discriminate, and often sustained adversities can contribute significantly to the quality of life and wellbeing of people – living and working in this region offers me the opportunity to connect with people who have come from all around the world and who have made their home in Australia. Sometimes culture, stigma or perceptions of authority or health services can create barriers to accessing good and timely support – it is critical that we assertively engage, learn from and invite cultural diversity and inclusiveness into our helping professions to better engage and meet the needs of these communities.

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

Growing up biracial meant that it had always been difficult for me to find my place in the world. Whilst I embraced the gift of being connected with multiple cultures, I didn’t always meet the ‘membership requirements’ to take part fully – perhaps one of the reasons my parents elected to gift me with an anglicized name. Perceptions based on my appearance or where I live or was educated whilst rarely overt always played a role – sometimes perhaps only in my own head but there nonetheless… Over time though I have learnt to lean into my ‘insider knowledges’. I am a kinder and more reassuring friend to myself. I put my hand up for roles that I may have otherwise assumed were only open to candidates with particular ‘membership’ – acknowledging that I have perspectives, experiences and knowledges often not represented – and to my delight organisations are gradually shifting to a more inclusive and interested space that values representative contributions from our community.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

You have stories, experiences, perspectives, ideas and knowledges to contribute. Greater representation and contributions from diverse communities means better outcomes for these communities. Be kind to yourself, seek out allies and mentors and keep pushing forward…

Want to follow and support DANIEL ANGUS?

https://www.danielangus.com.au/

https://www.nswmentalhealthcommission.com.au/staff-profile/daniel-angus


About the diversity champion:

Prior to Canteen, Daniel worked in the community sector as manager of Headspace Services in Mt Druitt where he oversaw the Headspace Youth Early Psychosis Program and the Primary Care programs. Whilst working here, Daniel also managed the operations of Headspace Penrith and the adult LikeMind centres. He is passionate about creative recovery, focused and collaborative approaches in the mental health sector, an example of which has been the PetSpace program run in Western Sydney that teaches young people with mental health problems how to support animals. Daniel has worked with people of all ages in a variety of community, inpatient, custodial and employment settings and has a keen interest in early intervention and adolescent mental health. Daniel is proud of his Vietnamese-Australian heritage and is also interested in the plight of refugees and asylum seekers living in New South Wales.

Image description: Daniel is giving a speech whilst wearing a black blazer and orange shirt

PEOPLE: Balancing a full-time job and leading the Story Symphony

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Adrian Yeung? 

The Story Symphony is yet another passion project of mine, on top of other creative pursuits (not to mention working full-time and trying to have a social life too). But fortunately it’s a tonne of fun, which makes it absolutely not a chore even if I’m working on it until all hours of the night!

As an independent producer, I essentially wear all the hats: script writing and editing, audio recording and production, marketing and promotion, and of course all of the admin. The tasks that this involves are endless, and each one different to the last – reading over the writer’s scripts, scheduling time to record with actors, sourcing sound effects, graphic design work, promoting The Story Symphony… the list goes on and on!

As has been the case for pretty much everyone around the world, the pandemic has added an extremely difficult layer of complexity to getting stuff done. With Melbourne being in and out of lockdown for the past two years, it’s been a challenge trying to produce a collaborative fiction podcast entirely remotely. But with passion, patience and a multitude of Zoom calls, nothing is impossible.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

While diversity and inclusion aren’t explicitly themes of The Story Symphony, the nature of having a story that’s created by multiple people makes it an inherent part of The Story Symphony’s DNA. The writers that came together to create the story are incredibly talented people that I’ve connected with across my professional, academic and social lives. They all have very different writing styles, which is made very obvious with all of the unpredictable twists and turns throughout the story.

While diversity and inclusion in terms of who’s creating art still has a long way to go in Australia, I think it’s really important to recognise how far we’ve come. There are now noticeably more writers, actors, celebrities and public figures in Australia from culturally diverse backgrounds than in the past, who are helping to shine a light on issues that may otherwise go unnoticed by the mainstream – such as the lack of diversity in the media.

I fully identify as an Asian Australian writer, yet there is little about The Story Symphony to suggest that it’s an Asian Australian production – it’s just something that happens to be produced by an Asian Australian. I think having more representation in Australian media will ultimately normalise the idea of anybody being able to create art that is popular and universally embraced, no matter what their heritage may be. 

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

I’ve always tried my best not to let my cultural heritage dictate my approach to creativity, or wanting to achieve the things that I want to achieve. Having said that, there’s no escaping the fact that it is a fundamental part of who I am, and growing up Asian in Australia certainly presents a unique set of circumstances to when it comes to forging a presence in the creative scene.

When it comes to those from diverse cultural backgrounds trying to break into the creative arts, I think one of the greatest challenges is having few role models to compare to. But with enough courage, that also just presents more opportunities to break through barriers and do something truly unique – and to show others in the community that if you can do it, anyone can.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

Building your networks is the most important factor of success. Whether you’re talking to someone doing something similar to you or in a completely different field, you never know what you might learn from hearing about their experiences and how they overcame challenges in their lives to get to where they are now.

Want to follow and support ADRIAN ?

Website: https://thestorysymphony.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/storysymphony/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thestorysymphony/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/StorySymphonyTo connect with me personally, you can find me on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/theadrianyeung/


About the diversity champion:

Meet Adrian, producer of The Story Symphony – the fiction podcast with each chapter written by an entirely different author. The listeners don’t have any idea what to expect – and neither do the writers!

Eight writers and six actors worked tirelessly to create season one, which launched on May 2020 and has since attracted over 24,000 listens. And season two is just around the corner…

Image description: Adrian is smiling at the camera wearing a suit

PEOPLE: The charity on a mission to raise literacy rates

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Dr. Alfred Chidembo

My day starts with me preparing for work and dropping the kids off at school. I get into the office around 9am and knock off at 5pm. If there is no swimming practice for the kids, after dinner I play soccer and come back home around 8.30 pm. After the kids have gone off to bed, I relax with my wife for an hour or two before I start working on Aussie Books for Zim till 1 am or 2am.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

It is an integral part of my day job where I work with several people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.  Because I work in an environment that encourages teamwork, it is crucial to ensure that everyone feels valued and equally supported as part of the team. The same applies in the charity space. For example, in setting up our board, we have had to create a board matrix that ensures we have a diverse group of board members enabling us to tap into their different skills and experience.

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

I have experienced challenges in almost every role I have undertaken and that has caused a lot of angst over the years. For example, I would contribute to a discussion in a meeting and everyone would brush off my ideas as if I hadn’t spoken. A few minutes later, someone else would simply reword the idea and get credit for it. I strongly believe that this is linked to my identity.

Most times I would talk to my African friends and family about it because they can relate. In most cases, almost all of them would have had a similar experience, so sometimes we end laughing about such things. Other times, I dig deep for strength by simply looking back at my journey, reminding myself of all the obstacles I have managed to overcome for me to be here.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

Remember that you being here is not by accident. You are here because you chose to leave home, family and friends behind. That alone shows that you have a certain level of resilience within you that most people do not possess. The challenges you face can only strengthen you, so embrace them and use them as stepping stones to reach your goals. As you work towards your goals, give your all, immerse yourself in the journey and give it a good go and have fun.

Want to follow and support Dr. Alfred Chidembo ?

Current campaign:

 20for20.raisely.com 

www.aussiebooks4zim.org 

Social media links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aussiebooksforzim 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/aussie-books-for-zim/?viewAsMember=true 

Instagram: @aussiebooksforzim   


About the diversity champion:

The youngest of seven children, Alfred was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and grew up in the remote rural village of Mudzi. At the age of six he started school, happily walking the 5 km barefoot with his brothers. Alfred was desperate to learn about the world, but his school had no books to read or write in, so Alfred learnt to write in the sand. When Alfred finally achieved his dream of obtaining a PhD (he is a sought-after specialist in electrochemistry and energy storage), he paused to contemplate on his journey from his village in Zimbabwe to the beautiful coastal city of Wollongong, and asked himself, “How can I give back to my community?” Within a few months, Alfred had set up Aussie Books for Zim, a charity on a mission to improve the education and prospects of children in Zimbabwe by raising literacy rates. Alfred and his team have now sent more than 100,000 books to Zimbabwe, set up nine libraries, and have plans to expand their program across Africa to reach many more children.

Image description: Alfred is wearing a dark navy suit and looking at the camera with a white shirt underneath

PEOPLE: Propelling South-East flavours and cooking into MasterChef

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Depinder Chhibber? 

A normal day for me would start off with a cup of Chai and catching up on what is going on around me. I love to cook so I try to have a combined breakfast with lunch or brunch which would typically be smashed avocado toast with eggs.

I spend a lot of my day reading, researching and experimenting with recipes or ideas which have been floating in my mind. My afternoon is generally catching up on emails, chores, and sometimes a sneaky baking session.
Evenings are reserved for family be it a cup of chai with everyone or cooking dinner for them.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

Being a pharmacist I have always preached for diversity and inclusion. It is something which always come naturally to me, which I am grateful for.
I belong to a heritage where inclusion through food is something we learn at a very young age.

Food for me is an expression of love and care, something we find common in all cultures and backgrounds. For me cooking the food I love to eat is my way of inviting people into my culture and my home.

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

Moving to another country comes with its own challenges. We had no family in Australia and culturally it was so different to India so there was a lack of sense of belonging. I started working at a very young age and there were times where I had to prove myself more so than usual however, I have been quite blessed in terms of my work colleagues and employers who always accepted me for who I am.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

The youth today is far more daring than I was growing up in Australia, so my message to them would be that following your dreams and passions has nothing to do with your background or coming from a minority so please follow your dreams. There will always be someone who might not accept you for who you are but there will be plenty of others who will love you for being yourself so focus on the positives. We only have one chance to live this life right so why not start now?

Want to follow and support Depinder Chhibber?

You can follow me on social media, @depinder_ (Instagram); Depinder Chhibber Masterchef Australia (Facebook).


About the diversity champion:

Born in New Delhi, Depinder Chhibber moved to Newcastle at the age of 11. Now based in Sydney, she still considers herself a Novocastrian, but her heart and soul remains in India. Highly influenced by the women in her family, Depinder grew up watching her grandmother, mum and aunties cook, fascinating and inspiring her to cook from a very young age. This involvement has nurtured her style of cooking, learning many traditional recipes from her mother and her passion to cook from her father. Having followed in her father’s footsteps to become a pharmacist and currently studying for her Masters, Depinder enjoys her career. However, cooking is a passion that she can’t ignore, with much of her free time spent reading recipes and daydreaming about cooking experiments. Depinder is inspired by Indian and South East Asian flavours. As a self-taught baker, she adores cooking pastry and desserts.

Image description: Depinder is wearing a MasterChef Australia apron whilst wearing a brown top

PEOPLE: The community lawyer championing diversity from the front

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Tu Le? 

I have ‘Me Time’ scheduled in my calendar every morning. My mornings include meditation, stretching, giving my dog Cleo lots of cuddles, reading, walking Cleo, and having a cup of coffee with my partner while we read from ‘The Daily Stoic’ – not always in the same order. Having a consistent routine, particularly in the morning, is important to me and helps me stay energised throughout the day. I try to work between 9-5 as much as possible, as I usually have after-hour meetings and events on during the week. With the easing of restrictions, I’m back to team sports, social gatherings, and face-to-face meetings. Wednesday and Sunday evenings are my basketball game nights. I have weekly scheduled meetings for a few of the organisations and projects I am currently working on. My Sunday mornings are dedicated to the Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Association where I teach dharma classes to young Buddhists. I catch up with my family and friends around these commitments.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

I work in the community legal sector assisting people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities who are disadvantaged by our legal system, so diversity and inclusion is critical to the work that I do. I am constantly striving to break down the barriers that make it difficult for people to access legal help. This means ensuring our services are targeted, culturally-appropriate and being approachable as well as accessible. A lot of people, particularly newly arrived migrants or refugees don’t even know community legal centres exist. Some people don’t seek help from a lawyer as they think it is too expensive, or they think they don’t need legal advice for their matter, but it’s important that people understand their rights and legal options. No one should be disadvantaged because they can’t afford a lawyer, don’t speak English or aren’t aware of their rights.

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

I have faced my share of challenges in my professional career as a young woman of colour. Unfortunately, it is not an uncommon experience to be confronted by prejudice and discrimination, often because of people’s biases or assumptions about you because of who you are or where you live. I have always been opened to learning and making mistakes. You should never be afraid to ask for help – I asked a lot of questions when I first started my career, and still do! Over the years, I also gained the confidence to challenge the status quo. Just because things have always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean that should continue. People with different lived experiences contribute unique perspectives and ideas. It can be refreshing and spark the type of out-of-the-box thinking needed for creativity and innovation across any industry. I feel fortunate that throughout my career, I have been able to demonstrate my competence and capabilities with outcomes. Actions speak louder than words. Talk is cheap and not everyone is afforded the opportunity to be heard. It’s important to show your worth, and in my personal experience, sometimes this means working twice as hard just to be seen. Also, I only recently embraced my identity as a Vietnamese-Australian woman as an advantage rather than an impediment that stops me from smashing the proverbial ceilings foisted on me.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

Don’t be afraid to embrace your identity as a hyphenated Australia. Australia is becoming an increasingly diverse society and what it means to be Australian is ever-evolving. Your cultural heritage is an asset to this country. In 2021 and beyond, we should be moving from mere tolerance to cultivating our cultural diversity as central to our national identity. Young people are pivotal to that shift.

Want to follow and support TU LE?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nguyentule/
Instagram: @therealtule
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TuLe_2166
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TuLe2166/


About the diversity champion:

Tu is a lawyer, community worker, advocate, and organiser who grew up in South-West Sydney. She works in the community legal sector as a community development manager and solicitor assisting CALD communities, particularly male perpetrators and victim-survivors of domestic and family violence. She is also the co-founder of YCollab and a Youth Leader at the Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Association. Tu is a second-generation Australian-born woman with Vietnamese heritage, with her family coming to Australia as refugees after the Vietnam war. She lives to serve her local community and improve the lives of others; to make our society fairer and more equitable, especially for the most vulnerable members in her community. As a beneficiary of the public education system, Tu understands the life-changing significance of a good education and decent employment opportunities can have on individuals and their families.

Image description: Tu Le is looking at the camera while sitting on a bench, wearing a red jumper

PEOPLE: Artistic Engineer sharing the art of Storytelling, Public Speaking and Social skills

Arman Chowdhury is an artistic engineer storytelling his experiences with public speaking, social skills, EQ, creativity & level up mentality. Armani Chowdhury is a Twitter legend, sharing regular lessons and wisdom on leveling up and creating a firm lifestyle. Here is the story!

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Arman Chowdhury?

A normal day for me is broken down into a 4-step framework. The framework is: Consume, create, market, meditate. Let me share what each of these 4 means.

  • Consume is inputting information. This is when I spend time learning. I may read a book, consume some of my old content to see how I can improve, or watch a documentary.
  • Creating is when I output information. Since the ArmaniTalks company focuses on creating short stories, I aim to spend each day creating something. It can be a blog, tweet, YouTube video etc.
  • Marketing is when I put my content out in the public domain. Content is not beneficial if it is not published. So, I follow a strict publishing schedule on all my media channels.
  • Meditating is when I turn of all technology & stimulants to center my mind on a particular target. This allows me to stay sharp, focused, and creative without feeling overwhelmed.

These 4 are my daily tasks.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

Diversity & inclusion play a large role in the work that I do. Most of my readers & viewers are from around the world. This allows me to interact & engage with different members who are looking to improve their soft skills. 

Also, I often work with freelancers from over the world on tasks like graphic design, audio cleanup, and web development services. The talent of these services come from Morocco, Russia, India and other countries.

I believe diversity plays a big role in running a sustainable business. This also requires adaptive communication skills. The ability to talk to different groups of people is a skill & is important to learn because cultures communicate in different ways. 

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

Great question. Yes, I have faced challenges because of my identity. In the ArmaniTalks business, I often public speak for events. It used to be difficult to speak at events because I was viewed to be too young by the other speakers. The public speaking field is a knowledge-based field. 

Therefore, someone who is older is given more priority to take the stage over a young person. Young adults can often face ageism depending on the industry they operate in. 

The way that I overcame this was by emceeing events instead. The emcee is the person who introduces the speakers, entertains the audience & keeps the event flowing at a gentle pace. 

Where the speakers give an in-depth talk, the emcee serves as the glue guy.

As I built more emceeing experience, I made connections with other speakers and event planners. These connections allowed me to host events myself & speak more often on stage. 

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

My advice for young people who are aiming to achieve their goals but feel afraid because they are a minority is to focus on what is within your grasp. When others see you progressing, it will be difficult to ignore you. 

Whatever that skillset may be: 

Speaking, coding, writing skills etc. 

By focusing on your craft & aiming to get better every day, you create a body of work. Having a portfolio allows you to have leverage no matter which field you are in. 

Also, showing that you can overcome challenges despite being a minority does wonders for your confidence! It instills a victor mindset and allows you to thrive under pressure.

Once you see the results for yourself, that’s when you’ll want to keep moving towards your goals. Good people try to improve 10% at a time, great people try to improve 1% at a time. The small 1% changes add up, build consistency & will create momentum for you in no time.

Want to follow and support ?

Great interview! To stay updated with my work, be sure to check out armanitalks.com. Within this website, you’ll see a collection of my books, blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos, social media, and much more! I routinely discuss topics on public speaking, storytelling, emotional resilience, creativity, social skills & mindset. You will learn how to articulate your ideas with clarity & confidence. Thank you very much!


About the diversity champion:

(he/him) My name is Arman Chowdhury, the founder of ArmaniTalks. I am a Toastmaster, Engineer & Storyteller. The purpose of this company is to help shy entrepreneurs & professionals build confidence thru communication skills. This brand provides short stories to help you become more articulate in expressing your ideas. During my journey, I have served as the External Vice President of Toastmasters, Communications Chair in BNI & became the Author of the Level Up Mentality. June 2018, ArmaniTalks Media was born. Since then, the brand has helped millions of people around the world level up their mindset & communication skills.

Image description: Arman is speaking at an event with a microphone whilst wearing a black suit

PEOPLE: Inspiring the Multicultural Youth Affairs Network in New South Wales

The Multicultural Youth Affairs Network in New South Wales would not be the same without Hannah Lai. Leading from the front, hear from her experiences in leading one of Australia’s most active multicultural youth organisations and the challenges that come with that. Here’s the story!

Can you tell our readers d what a normal day looks like for Hannah Lai? 

I really feel like I’ve got the best job. I help coordinate the Youth Ambassador Program at MYAN NSW with some fantastic folks. 

So, typical day (working from home)…

I like waking up early-ish so I have time to myself before I give time to other things. Often, I’ll stretch or do a workout. Get the blood flowing, you know!? 

Once I start work it is a mix of admin, event planning, individual support and connecting with other services. Relationship building is a huge part of work, which is awesome!

When I finish work, I like to go for a walk with my partner to transition from work mode to home mode. I also love being outdoors – camping, hiking, surfing.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

I’m passionate about people feeling like they belong. It took me a long time to get comfortable with myself, but I’m here now and I want others to feel like they belong here too!

People should feel welcome when they come to Australia. They should feel welcome not because they’re ‘diverse’, ‘deserving’ or ‘resilient’… but because they’re human. 

Working with young people, whether they’ve been through a refugee or a migrant experience, is ultimately about walking with people as they grow their confidence in who they are. Walking with, not walking over. 

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

When I was younger, I didn’t see my culture and my lived experience as an asset. Now I do. One of the challenges I faced was that I doubted myself. I thought I hadn’t lived in Australia long enough to apply for certain jobs.

Now I know, my lived experience is one of my biggest strengths. If an organisation chooses not to hire me because of what I AM, I don’t want to work there.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

Find people you feel home with, people you feel safe with. People you don’t have to ‘explain’ your identity to. 

When you find those people, nurture those relationships. They are your support system.

And don’t forget about your physical health because your body is there for the long run! 

Oh, and that first year of full-time work is going to be HARD. You are not alone. It will get better. And yes, majority of society is working those super long hours. It’s weird, isn’t it?

Want to follow and support HANNAH ?

@myannsw is where I work

My LinkedIn is Hannah Lai https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannahlai/ 


About the diversity champion:

Hannah (she/her) is passionate about belonging, cultural identity and what it means to feel at home. She works with young people of migrant and refugee backgrounds at the Multicultural Youth Affairs Network (MYAN NSW). Prior to this she was a caseworker with unaccompanied minors, people seeking asylum and families exiting detention. When she’s not working, you might find her learning a random hobby, camping or playing a board game. 

Image description: Hannah is looking at the camera while wearing a blue scarf and light blue shirt

PEOPLE: PHD Candidate striving towards elevating inclusion for nonverbal communication and individuals with diverse cognition

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Ilianna Ginnis

For me, no two days are alike. I work and engage with diverse individuals with a range of needs and as a designer, I find that I need to be flexible and attentive in order to respond to diversities. The individuals I support and design with have intellectual disabilities and diverse cognitive capacities, therefore, design takes on a role beyond aesthetics and begins to become an advocate and a communication partner for individuals with communication and cognition diversities.

Communication is a very important part of my day. The people I mostly work with are non-verbal and minimally verbal communicators who utilise assistive communication and alternative augmentative communication (AAC). I communicate with so many different types of people, individuals who use picture exchange communication, gestures, facial expressions, objects which have unique and specific meaning to them and so much more. Growing up with a sibling who was non-verbal, it was evident architecture does not meet the needs of people who are neurodiverse and use alternative forms of communication. I wanted to change this, so I dedicate every day of my life as a designer and an advocate to ensure people who are non-verbal are heard and represented within the design. I am motivated every day by my younger sister Michelle and all the other non-verbal communicators. I want to see a world where communication access is met in the built environment. 

I am currently a PhD candidate at Monash University as well as an interior architectural designer within an architecture firm in Melbourne. 

I also assist my younger sister every day, as she is my ‘why’.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

I grew up very close to my younger sister Michelle who has an intellectual disability, and this enabled me to see the world from this unique and diverse lens. Growing up with a sibling like Michelle has been amazing, she has positively impacted my life. Through Michelle, I was able to learn diverse forms of communication and interaction. 

Being that I was one of Michelle’s main caregivers, I would see the challenges Michelle experienced in her environment. Michelle is additionally a non-verbal communicator, which makes her experiences in private and public spaces more challenging, as space does not accommodate diverse communication needs. Space did not accommodate to her needs. For instance, spaces were too bright, or sensory rooms were controlled by adults with no disability, therefore, limiting her engagement with space further. 

I adored looking after Michelle so much I studied to become a disability support worker. This introduced me to even more incredible people like Michelle, who too, was non-verbal and minimally verbal. These experiences further exposed me to the problematic sides of architecture. We experienced a variety of spaces together, including sensory rooms, quiet spaces, shopping centres, supermarkets and even parks. They all had challenges that restricted Michelle and the other non-verbal communicators. 

I didn’t like the way architecture was excluded, so I decided I wanted to make a difference. Spaces designed for non-verbal communication, are designed in their absence excluding them from design, therefore, design outcomes don’t respond to their needs and desires. I studied Interior Architecture at Monash University and completed my honours in developing spaces for no-verbal and minimally verbal communicators. When studying, I saw nothing was developed within architecture practices for the inclusion of non-verbal individuals or even individuals with diverse cognition. 

This has led me here, to begin a PhD within the Design Health Collab at Monash University, creating systems for designers to learn from non-verbal and minimally verbal individuals and consider them in the development of design  

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

Not so many challenges with my identity, more so that architecture still does not meet diverse cognition and communication. 

Michelle is my why and the reason I dedicated myself to this work. Growing up close, I was able to see the challenges she still experiences in space. Michelle is my why and the reason I want to make space more accessible to her communication needs. 

I was surprised, as I have grown up around non-verbal communication and my reality consisted of Michelle and children like her. So, for me, Michelle and all the other people were my audiences. However, in architecture systems are designed in a way that excludes diverse forms of communication and priorities spoken language. So, by the time I graduated, there has been no change within architecture in moving towards diverse communication inclusion.

By designing a home for people who are non-verbal, this was my attempt to reveal the potentials and possibilities design has. The home was designed purely by non-verbal individuals, as the designer, I was simply the facilitator, responding to their diverse needs and desires to make the home accommodate their needs. 

Michelle has faced challenges, particularly within spaces. Some of these include spaces being poorly lit, too loud, and over sensory stimulated, claustrophobic, poor circulation, and layout as well as voids to reflect the lower level. In addition to this, public spaces do not cater for diverse communication needs. For example, not all parks have the inclusion of diverse communication and shopping centres do not cater for the needs of communication disabilities. 

These challenges are ongoing for people with intellectual disabilities who are non-verbal and minimally verbal. 

My research aims to create a design process that takes into consideration the unique communication needs of non-verbal individuals. By doing so, designers will include non-verbal individuals and learn from these encounters to include them in the decision making of spaces. The desired result would be for spaces to being to produce outcomes that are empathetic to diverse needs as well as allow communication access for people who are non -verbal. 

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

My message would be to be yourself and embrace your diversity as they make you powerful. By empowering each other in creating inclusion, we can create a place with diversity that is recognised.

Just because someone can’t speak, doesn’t mean they have nothing to say. I am working for a future where people like Michelle will be heard and where design responds to their needs and desires, as well as their human rights.

Want to follow and support ?

Instagram: @Ginnis_Design 

Website: www.ginnisdesign.com


About the diversity champion:

Ilianna Ginnis is an Interior Architectural Designer and a current PhD Candidate at Monash University. Ilianna is also a caregiver for persons with disabilities. Ilianna prides herself on designing with consciousness, creating interventions that extend the ordinary intentions of architecture, multi-disciplinary and sensory design for people with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Ilianna maintains a focus on communication, especially behavioral and non-verbal/ minimally verbal, to create design processes which are inclusive to neurodiversity and communication access. She aims to achieve empathy by exploring interior architecture with a fundamental focus on intellectual and neurodevelopmental disability. Her PhD speculates how design processes consider persons with severe and profound intellectual disability and non-verbal communication, allowing designers to integrate users into complex processes as narrators of their own experience.

Image description: Ilianna is looking at the camera wearing a white shirt

PEOPLE: Award-Winning Director and Producer driving diverse perspectives onto the big screen

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Hawanatu Bangura? 

For me, a normal day when I’m working on my business, it will be first off when I wake up, I tend to do stretches, so I’ll do yoga or another kind of movement. Call your cheek. So I’ll do that for like maybe 15 minutes to half an hour, depending on how much time I’ve got. And then also just wanted to say that I work from home, so I have the luxury of time. Then after that, I just get ready, have a shower, brush my teeth and, you know, just dress in whatever I want to dress in and feel really refreshed for the day. So once I’ve done that, I will go and make myself a cup of tea or just warm water with lemon. First thing in the morning, I’ll drink. Or sometimes I just include ginger or something else. It’s all just kind of like healthy stuff I’m trying to get into. And and then I’ll have breakfast, which includes muesli and fruit salad. So that’s the healthiest part of my day. And once I’ve done that, I will get on my I’ll create a to do list of all the things I want to do and prioritize the most cogent ones. So but before I start my task, I usually check my emails and just reply to people that I need to. And then once I finish that, I just start with my task.

So, like most of my time is spent like on the computer and you know, whether that’s like creating new content or developing developing a proposal. So a lot of admin things because of my because of my business and I sometimes have meetings as well inside in the morning or in the afternoon with different people who want to collaborate with me. So we’ll have like. It can be on Zoom, usually with the lockdown and everything. It’s been on Zoom. But before that, yeah, I might be able to meet with the person, maybe at a cafe or their office as well. So I’ll do that. And I also tend to go like during my lunch break, I’ll go for a walk. So I live in the inner west and have the luxury of, you know, like going for a walk and going to the park. And then I’ll come back, have lunch and then continue with more work and then buy each other. I don’t really have a set period when I finish work, but let’s say by late afternoon, I’ll wrap up and then, yeah, just relax for the rest of the evening. Sometimes I just play games with my partner and we have dinner or we watch Netflix, so you know, it’s just something to wind down. So that’s a typical day for me.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

For me, as a filmmaker and and a woman of color, I feel like it’s very important to have authentic and diverse representations of people on screen and also off screen as well. What I do notice now, you know, there has been like throughout the years, couple of years now, there has been some sort of diversity. I think that’s like the, you know, the new way that we’re going, which is really good seeing people on screen. But it would also be nice to see that captured with more people off screen as well as crew members. But just going back to when I started in the film industry in 2009, I made my first film like I never saw anyone that really looked like me. You know, venturing into this, you know, it was it was sort of a risky career path to take. So I didn’t have any role models, and I just have to figure out what to do on my own and maybe get the film industry, which is predominantly made up of, you know, which is predominantly white in a way. And and so for me, I find that that was that was quite hard as someone who’s coming up and, you know, we want to see someone who is from like a refugee background or an immigrant person who is making films and, you know, trying to follow their path. But that was not there.

And I find myself exploring and networking and going to different places. But you know, I did find opportunity to connect with some people, but there’s a level of connection that you have with someone who has gone through similar experiences to you and can give you advice as well. I feel like that was missing in my case, but also in terms of diversity and inclusion. And Australia like this is, you know, Australia as Australians, you know, we really praise ourselves about how multicultural we are, but that’s not reflected in the TV shows and in the movies that we even sell out to the international community. So for me, I really realized this when I went overseas to film festivals where people were always surprised that they’re Africans in Australia, even Asians. So other people decide what they see on TV. You know, they’re not about the indigenous people. But beside that and Caucasians, there was no one else in the picture. And this really does a disservice to our to our nation because this is not what is reflected within Australia. So for me, I feel like it’s really essential that the, you know, the media and everything sort of, you know, keep up with with the fact that this is this is, you know, how things should be, you know, diversity and inclusion is really essential for our community, for our society to thrive.

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

I have to say in terms of like challenges directly based on my identity, not necessarily. Or I might have been oblivious to it, but nothing that really impacted on me in such a way. But just from my own observation of. Like my because I’ve been in the industry for like 12 years now, and just reflecting on that, I have experienced, you know, tokenism. So, you know, whereby like, you know, you just it’s something that’s even though it’s not told, but when things keep consistently happening or people keep approaching you for certain things or put in. Me in a box that I don’t necessarily want to be in. I find that quite contriving and, you know, there has been some quite a few experiences of that tokenism, which I am totally now that I’ve evolved into what I do now, like I can totally identify it. And there’s some things that I will say no to because I can sense that that’s what it is like. There’s nothing essential behind it. There’s no good intentions beside like, Oh, you know, we’ve got diversity, and here is this person, one person that’s part of the, you know, part of this whole thing. But there’s several other people as well people of color who are not being recognised in that way or or it’s just even the language that is used that is, you know, not necessarily empowering. So for me, that’s one thing. And being in the film industry, it is very there is challenges I find am I don’t necessarily be due to my background or identity, but what I find is that when a person is emerging filmmaker, we tend to find there is more opportunities in that level.

From my own experience that, you know, there’s opportunities here, there’s opportunities there to to gain experience to learn about the industry. But the next step from there is where there’s a wall, and that wall is really hard to break because once you’re not emerging anymore, you’re not really like established where you’re in the middle. It’s kind of like a limbo place, and that’s quite challenging, I think for a lot of people in my either make or break. And for me, that’s where I emerge with my with my social enterprise, my creative, because I didn’t necessarily see myself fitting into the film industry. And I consider myself as a storyteller. So I then I’m not necessarily just a filmmaker, but I can tell stories in different mediums and that’s what I wanted to do. And I also wanted to create a initiatives that will help people to transform their personal stories as well. So something empowering. And I also wanted to incorporate my social work skills into it. So none of this really, you know, is something it’s not a position that’s created for me. I had to create it for myself, have to pave my own way in other for like just for the vision that I have for my own career. I think that’s that’s the way I’m going now. So it’s a combination of my social work and filmmaking passion. Combined together is what I have as my social enterprise now, which I really enjoy.

I wake up every day and I’m very enthusiastic about it. So for me, that’s very important and I also like working on other people’s start, like working on other people’s, collaborating with other filmmakers and making their work as well as producer or whatever extent it is. But I feel like the greater impact for me comes from the vision that I have. That’s bigger and I think in in a place like Australia, this is what I find as well. I had the experience of travelling overseas to attend film festivals and met other filmmakers, and I get an understanding of the way they work. You know, a lot of places that don’t have, you know, government initiative. So those sort of things, so they have to work triple had and from there for them to go from nothing or start from scratch to something, you know, make something amazing happen. They have to have a vision for that. And I thought, that’s what I need and having the right people to come on board to work with me and make that vision possible because that’s what is really important in in Australia right now. You know, we may not fit into us. Some of us that come from migrant background might not necessarily fit into that niche or that box of the film industry. We can create our own of what we want to see, you know, with social consciousness, social justice and all the sort of things that are important to us as well.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

The one piece of advice just connecting with what I mentioned before, it’s really I think the greatest thing is don’t be limited by yourself. Don’t be limited by the external barriers, but also your mindsets as well, because their true levels of barriers that you may be facing. You doubting yourself. And also people that are doubting you or not giving you the chance to to do what you you want to do. And I say, once you’re really passionate about filmmaking, it is very hard. It’s one of the most hardest industries to be in and you have to work with people. It’s not just one person, but you have to work with a crew of people or even actors and all these things, sir, you really got to be, you know, you really got to have like a tough game going into it and know that it’s not just, you know, what probably we see with people who have become more established like the Hollywood directors or filmmakers. You know, that is like the, you know, the pivotal point of whatever it is you get to showcase. But in the film industry itself, it’s just like, you know, it’s it’s a hustle. So, you know, really knowing who you are intuitively and making decisions based on your intuition and what seems right for you in terms of the people you get on board to work with you in terms of the stories you want to tell as well. And don’t just see that you know that someone has told a story or whatever it is, think about what angle you can tell the stories because most of the stories are pretty much recycled.

Want to follow and support HAWANATU ?

Website: https://www.mahawacreative.com/
Hawanatu Bangura| filmmaker|writer| director| Australia

Facebook and Instagram handle: Mahawa Creative


About the diversity champion:

Hawanatu Bangura is an Afro-Australian award-winning director, writer and producer. She was part of the prestigious Screen Producers Australia: One to Watch program in 2017. Born in Sierra Leone, she migrated to Australia in 2002 and as a teenager discovered her interest in filmmaking when she was involved in a youth film project. She took the creative lead to make a short film and realised her passion for storytelling, creativity, and expression could be best channeled through the medium of film. Hawanatu relentlessly pursued this passion, attending her first filmmaking workshop and shortly after wrote and directed her first short narrative film about the experience of a person from an African background challenges and triumphs of settling in Australia.

Image description: Hawanatu is looking at the camera with a gleaming smile

PEOPLE: Liverpool Councillor leading grassroots change in South-West Sydney

Charishma Kaliyanda is a councillor at Liverpool City Council and Community Engagement Officer at Headspace, a non-profit organisation for youth mental health established by the Australian Government. We speak to her about what these roles mean to her and the change she has seen in South-West Sydney. Here’s the story!

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Charishma Kaliyanda? 

Oh, God. I think I’d start off by saying there’s no such thing as a normal day, so for counsellors, some may be retired and so their counsel work is kind of like their sole focus or they sort of almost can treat it as a bit of a full-time job for other counsellors. They may have a main job or a main occupation, or they may run their own business or something like that. So council’s commitments will definitely then kind of sort of identify what they do for in terms of their usual day. So for me personally, Monday to Thursday, I work in my kind of my main role or my day job, if you can call it that. And so on Fridays is the day that I usually have allocated to kind of work on council projects and other types of things. And on those days, I can have, you know, a number of different meetings, whether it’s with residents or different members of council staff or other partners or stakeholders around different issues. So to give you a snapshot of what that might look like. I might start off the morning with plopping down to a local café or, you know, a local business to have a chat with a resident about with, you know, with the business person about an issue that they’re facing, which could be related to development. It could be related to neighbours, it could be related to their plans for expanding their business and potential sources of council support for that.

I could, you know, from there, I could stop by and speak to a resident about an issue that they’re having in terms of, you know, whether it’s infrastructure that they want to see in their neighbourhood issues with a particular park asking for, you know, a pavement infrastructure, those sorts of things to be implemented in their neighbourhood. One of the most interesting meetings I’ve had in the last few weeks is to pop out and speak to a resident around having sort of informal bike tracks in a neighbourhood so that, you know, the young people in that neighborhood could, you know, actually have something to do during lockdown? Obviously, more regional and broader facilities were closed for the better part of two to three months, and so lots of local kids had to set up infrastructure in their local neighbourhoods. But that created a conflict because council has a duty of care to make sure that any anything that’s set up, whether it’s formal or not, is safe minimises risk to the community and therefore it responds to complaints and things like that. So, you know, just basically where that had a chat to them got a sense of what was going on from their perspective and was then able to come back and facilitate a meeting with council staff in both environment and community and culture to get a process around where to from this set up.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

I think it’s very, very much at the heart of what I see a counselor’s role as because, you know, for most councils, you have between nine and 15 representatives of sometimes hundreds of thousands of residents. And whilst as a, you know, as a group, as a council, you may not necessarily be able to meet each and every single constituents specific perspective, or you may not necessarily be able to kind of, you know, have the same lived experience as them. Diversity and inclusion means that as many different types of perspectives and lived experiences and ways of thinking and being are incorporated into the decisions that are made ultimately by that council. So the role that council that you know, a group of councillors has on setting the vision and the direction of a city for up to 10 to 20 years into the future is huge, right? When you look at some of the challenges that some of our residents in Liverpool are facing now. Those decisions were made 10 years ago. They weren’t made in the last couple of years. They were made 10 years ago and they were made by the people who were sitting around that table at that particular time. So in terms of the people who are sitting around that table, if they are a diverse group of people and I mean in terms of cultural experiences, age experiences with ability or disability, I mean, in terms of gender and sexuality, we need to be able to get as close to a cross-section of our broader community as possible so that we can account for those decisions and the impact that those decisions have on our community. Because if you don’t understand the impact that the policy and the decisions that you make have on our community, that’s when you have people falling through the gaps.

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

I would say for me personally, one of the more challenging things is sort of balancing being one of the people we’ve speaking for people and it’s always going to be a dynamic balance because it no situation is going to be exactly the same. So you can’t use the same formula again and again. So you’re going to have to wait way things up as it comes. And so I personally, my value is very much around sort of equity and equality, and I I don’t see myself as part of a hierarchy with residents or with other people or those sorts of things. And so, you know, when that when you then have situations where people sort of like, oh, you know, counsellor or this or that I personally feel a bit uncomfortable with standing on ceremony a little bit. However, there are times where the elected role that you have calls on you to make decisions and actually kind of represent your community and that sort of thing. And so when it comes to being taken seriously in some of those forums I’ve had to it’s been an evolution in terms of finding my voice, finding how I’m able to relate to the other people that I’m part of that decision making collective with because we do come from different ideological perspectives. We do come from different political backgrounds and that can sometimes cause preconceptions or tension between people. So if I can, if I can do one thing differently about my term, something I would probably have done in sort of the first couple of months is actively seek out my counsellor colleagues and kind of establish a bit of a a bit of a conversation with them around how they work, what motivates them and just get a foundation of a relationship.

I think for a lot of people, that can be a very daunting thing, and that was very much a daunting thing for me. So I felt quite judged in some respects by some of those people, whether it was on the basis of my age or my background or my gender, or, you know, or like my political affiliations. I felt that I felt that they perceived me in a particular way because of those sorts of things. However, in kind of reflecting, I think it was a bit of perception on both of that ends. So to sort of, you know, come at that that relationship with a slightly different approach would be something I would have done differently. That’s it. It’s not just about my council colleagues. Sometimes I can be in conferences, I can be in other meetings and things like that where I where people think that I’m a staff member rather than a rather than a councillor, which is kind of interesting because it’s usually the dude in the suit that gets mistaken for the person who holds authority or the person that kind of is the is the decision-maker in that in that context. And so going back to that initial response I had, it’s very much that tension between, you know, you do you are the response, you are the responsible decision-maker. So you need to own that and you need to kind of put yourself forward in that way. But also like, you know, standing on ceremony and kind of like having that hierarchy, that traditional hierarchy is not something that comes naturally to me.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

I would say, although it seems really challenging to reach out because the worst, the worst thing that someone can say to you is No. I’m sorry, not the way I think they. I’m sorry, I don’t know if I would call it the worst thing, but like the the the only the only bad outcome or the only kind of negative outcome that can come from you asking the question if someone says no right, but for every know you get, you might get five other yeses. So just in the process of reaching out, making some of those connections and just, you know, starting a conversation with someone, you might go down a path that you totally didn’t didn’t imagine. And I feel like this is true, not just of young people who might be interested in politics or representation, but it’s true of young people who are interested in a whole broad range of different fields. I work with a lot of young people in my day job. And so in health, and so something that I commonly speak with them about is Gen Z are amazing at calling out people for poor behavior. And yet, you know, the scariest thing for them is making an appointment with a GP. Right. Like, it’s this it’s this really kind of fascinating, I find it so fascinating, fascinating dichotomy of being so like bad ass and empowered in one sense. And yet on the other sense like something previous generations sort of take for granted and like, Oh, this is super easy is a real challenge for Gen Z. So I feel like although it can, it can feel uncomfortable. Sometimes the most rewarding thing that you can do, actually.

Let me let me go back a step in terms of like summarizing all of this precursor. So in terms of the advice, sometimes the most rewarding thing that you can do is pushing through discomfort. So if maybe it’s better to frame it that way. Okay. Because like and just in terms of like like fleshing that out a little bit is very much around, like acknowledging that yet sometimes all the time reaching out to people can be like, really uncomfortable. It can be something that doesn’t feel natural to you. And that’s fine to acknowledge all of that, but then weigh it up against something that you’re genuinely interested or passionate in. This is why whenever like, whether it’s on LinkedIn or emails or whatnot, I genuinely try and prioritize responding to young people or champion causes that young people championing causes that young people come to me with. Because I love when young people in our community have thoughts, have ideas, and have things that they really want to say different and then act on it. And I want to support that as much as possible. So just like me, there are so many other people who have a very similar mindset and, you know, not everyone. That’s not to say everyone that you reach out to is going to be like that, but the chances of someone actually kind of going, Oh, hey, like what you’re saying is, you know, is really like a valid perspective, and I want to learn more. The chances of reaching out to someone like that is much higher than reaching out to someone who’s going to be like, Hey, look, sorry, I have different priorities.

Want to follow and support Charishma Kaliyanda ?

I’m probably most active on Instagram and Twitter, so I have to like I have my kind of combined Instagram, which is basically like bits and pieces of different parts of my life and things like that. And then I have my council, Instagram, which is very much around like what I do on council and the things related to local community stuff. 

–         Instagram – @ckaliyanda + @cllrkaliyanda

–         Twitter – @ckaliyanda


About the diversity champion:

(she/her) As a registered occupational therapist and elected representative, I am passionate about working with individuals and communities to fulfil their potential and engage in the activities they want. I have over 10 years of experience working with young people, particularly in the university sector. Currently, I work closely with the Youth Reference Group to further the aims of headspace – the youth mental health initiative. I build relationships with various internal and external stakeholders to facilitate access to help for young people experiencing distress in south-west Sydney. As an elected councillor, my focus is on balancing the growth of Liverpool’s population with appropriate social, economic, cultural and physical infrastructure. I want to ensure that residents have an effective advocate to improve their quality of life into the future.

Image description: Charishma is smiling at the camera with a coffee in hand, wearing a pink blazer

LIFE: LOCAL INDIGENOUS ENTREPRENEUR in the PITCH OF A LIFETIME

Local indigenous business-woman, Julie Okely, of Dilkara, is set to face 30 of Australia’s top CEOs and business leaders, at the 2021 Global Sister Pitch.

Not-for-profit organisation, Global Sisters, will host the third national Sister Pitch. The online event will see local businesswoman, Julie Okely, a proud Kamilaroi woman, face a panel of high profile CEOs, founders, and senior executives to pitch her Indigenous range of hair products, Dilkara Essence of Australia. Here’s the story!

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Julie Okley? 

I love my “normal” days because they offer so many opportunities to my businesses along with connections with family and friends. A usual day starts at 8.00am (which to some seems a little late but I am a self-confessed night owl) with a black coffee and time with my two Pomeranian puppies. It then leads into getting ready for the day ahead. I am usually in my office at 9.00 checking emails and compiling the to-do list for the day. By 9.30 I am starting to see my Dilkara Hair clients, as I have a salon built into my house. 

I have had this business for over 20 years now, and many of my clients are long time customers and I have seen many new babies grow to graduate high school, even University. I am lucky enough to have my office in close proximity to the salon, so I am able to work in the office whilst my clients are having colours and we chat and enjoy the quiet time!

It is not unusual for me to work in the salon for at least a 10-12 hour day. I tend to prepare meals during the processing times and I am an amazing multitasker that can also do the odd household chore or prepping the many online orders that need to be shipped out via our courier company for the next day, whilst I am making a cappuccino at the same time!

At the end of the day, I have usually had online meetings with my web design team, graphic designers and our social media guru Dish, who works remotely for Dilkara. It isn’t unusual for me to place several orders with manufacturers to maintain a consistent level of Dilkara hair, skin and hygiene products – that are made here in Australia. My pet hate is when the stock sells out and I need to have a slight delay for new orders coming in.

I often have phone conversations with my business team in Melbourne to see where Dilkara can be seen next, and focus on the growth of the business.

At other times, I can be found in conversations about my new book being made into a TV Series, with my co-author Simone Hamilton or our TV Production company based in Sydney.

An important part of my day is organising all of my paperwork and financials for my bookkeeper. This helps me see the financial health of my business and assists me in understanding where things need to be changed or added.

I usually end the day with a nice relax and a mental breakdown of the day, and where it went well.I love what I do, but I do find it easy to switch off when I need to, and even though I tend to have a lot of energy, I give every day it’s all (unless it’s my day off and I love Netflix time!)

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

I have been in the Hairdressing industry for over 30 years of my life and I think when we talk of hairdressing, diversity and inclusion immediately comes to mind.

I find this topic comes with a sense of normality in this industry, as we love anything that its outside the norm, and we want, and need diversity and inclusion in our industry.

Creativity conjures up thoughts of diversity and feelings of expression. We showcase our ability to show our true personalities through fashion, design and colour! Just look at the kaleidoscope of colours available to utilise on any colour chart. Last week I did two amazing expressive colours that brought out the wonderful personalities of my clients using orange, black, purple and pink.

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

A challenge that I faced in my professional career because of my identity…? That is a tough question. I think identity hasn’t really been an issue for me because I identify as a proud Aboriginal woman and I own that. It is part of who I am, so to me, it’s not a debateable topic. But on my personality…? Sure, I can sometimes come across as open and driven, sometimes to the point of being too blunt at times. I don’t apologise for that, as I honestly feel where I am coming from is a place of concern and compassion, I just don’t offer it with fluffy fairy floss.

Maybe that is the strength I derive from my heritage. There has been so many challenges for the Indigenous peoples in this country, I believe it’s a story that needs to be told and we need to remind Australians we are all in it together and we all deserve a voice. 

I don’t think it is wrong to believe in yourself and aim to do the best you can, by your own standards.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

Feel special. You are unique because where you have been placed in this world. One voice has a powerful impact and I think if your voice is one for positivity, you should stand tall and focus on the positive things you bring to your community. 

Everyone is an individual and no one person is more important than another, but how you share that message can come from a place of good. Create a movement of positive change, don’t sit with conformity and hope you see amazing things comes from a lack of involvement. No one ever won watching the game.

Be kind, be true and be focused. Write up your goals and your dreams for the future and aim for them, no matter how long it takes to get there. Life is a journey and it is never a straight line with instant success. Our knowledge stems from all of the things we learn not to do – just like many entrepreneurs in our history. Find your favourite one and use their story to inspire you to achieve your dream for your own life. As they say, find someone that does it well and follow their footprint, you too will leave yours.

Oh, and never base your success story on the pigment of your skin colour. Remember a cup of tea is still a cup of tea, with or without milk.

Want to follow and support ?

www.dilkara.com.au

Instagram: Dilkara_Australia

Facebook: Dilkara Australia


About the diversity champion:

(she/her) Julie Okely is the award-winning founder and creator of Dilkara products. She has won the 2016 NAIDOC Business Woman of the Year, Supply Nation Indigenous Businesswoman of 2017 and Winner of The best new business 2016 Canberra Women in Business Awards. In 2015, Her Canberra named her as one of the 15 Women to Watch in 2015

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PEOPLE: Finding your ‘WHY’ to achieve your goals

Yemi Penn is a fearless businesswoman and thought leader on creating your own memo, meaning ‘she’ gets to write the script of her life and she encourages others to do the same.

We speak to Yemi about what her day-to-day looks like and how she found her ‘why’ in achieving all her accolades and the many hats she continues to wear.

Here’s the story!

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Yemi Penn? 

Ha! This feels like a trick question but pre-covid and covid days vary a lot. In the spirit of manifestation, this is what my day should look like.

My alarm goes off at 4.45am, I make my 5.30am F45 class, there is an 80% chance I beast mode in that class and then I’m set up for the day. I would then head home, meditate, although I get distracted with the gram so this needs further work. I then share the contents of my day with my partner to see if we have any gaps we could fill. I get my daughter (and son) ready for school.

My day is filled with variety, the mornings are about high impact deliverables as this is where my brain is on fire. So I am either building presentations, keynotes, programs or a campaign around my next documentary. By around 1pm, I need a nap….true story, I have a nap or at least get horizontal to trick the mind and body that I’m giving it rest. I have a mini second wind around 3pm which is where I make phone calls or focus on applications and/or emails.

I do eat somewhere in between but I rarely cook. I then go for a walk before dark and figure out what my daughter will eat as she is a fussy eater, and I don’t cook so it’s ‘hit and miss’

I will watch some crap tv if I’m a little wired or I get into house renovation/building programs with my partner as we plan the build of a mini retreat for our family and extended community.

During COVID? Remove all the freedoms and no F45…..ouch

How important is diversity and inclusion to you and in the work that you do?

So important, I no longer subscribe to lip service or shallow allyship. We can no longer survive, let alone thrive in a ‘sameness’ environment. D&I is a buzz word but it is necessary, the planet is sustained by a biodiverse community. Humanity needs to wake up and understand the importance of a diverse and inclusive world. I appreciate I tick a few diversity boxes and so when I work with clients, it is important I let them know why it matters that they invited me to the table but best believe I also build my own tables because according to research and data it will take decades for equality to be a thing and that is purely on a male/female gender basis, so this doesn’t take into account culture, neuro-ability, physical ability, non-gender. The work needed is deep.

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

I can’t say anyone has said something specifically to me based on the labels society give but the ‘jokes’ and ‘offensive’ (unconscious bias) comments cuts deep. I didn’t have the vocabulary or confidence back then to correct people, especially in a compassionate yet clear boundaries way. This is a skill we need to work on especially with kids who are still figuring out their identity as a human being, let alone the labels they were given.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

Firstly, get clear on your goal. Noting a goal is a dream with a deadline so I invite you to dream big and often. Then put together an action plan and either find a mentor you share this with or an accountability partner, so you stay on track. It is important you think and write down ‘why’ you want to achieve these goals. This ‘why’ ideally will be so strong and rooted in your identity that you won’t ever let that dream go or worse, let your world given identity make you shrink. I personally find that when I am the ‘minority’ in a room, I imagine this superhero cape on my back and make sure I represent all marginalised groups in society even if I represent purely with my presence #blackgirlmagic

Want to follow and support yEMI?

I would love your support by following and engaging with me on my Instagram page, link below

Yemi Penn (@yemi.penn) • Instagram photos and videos

But what would really really help me and my ‘why’ is contributing towards my next documentary. $5 goes a long way as I take that as your energy and vibration to want to make the project succeed. You can learn more about the project and donate via the this link. Do We Choose the Experience Our Trauma Teaches Us? | Documentary Australia Foundation


About the diversity champion:

(she/her) Yemi Penn is a serial entrepreneur with a common thread of transformation, whether it be transforming Sydney’s rail network as an engineer, transforming physical health in her F45 gym or shifting the perspective of our minds as she supports people in creating a life that they not only want and deserve. More recently Yemi has added documentary producer to her repertoire as she shifts her core life’s purpose to raising the vibration of acknowledging and healing our individual and therefore collective trauma.

Image description: Yemi is looking at the camera wearing a yellow top

PEOPLE: Not your ordinary Strategy and Design Consultant

Chun-Yin San is not your average strategy and design consultant. Alongside his role at ThinkPlace, he is the head of TEDxCanberra, where he and his team of volunteers showcase the best ideas from Canberra and around Australia to the world, and act as a platform for up-and-coming changemakers and artists.

We speak to Chun-Yin San about his work and the challenges he has overcome over the years when it comes to identity. Here’s the story!

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Chun-Yin San? 

As a strategy and design consultant, it’s actually very hard to have a “normal” day. Each day can be incredibly different depending on what projects I am working on, and for which client. I will usually have about 4-6 projects running in parallel at any point, and at different levels of intensity. During the day, I might be running co-design workshops, carrying out user interviews, building solutions, liaising with the client, and more. 

That’s what happens when it comes to my ‘day job’ with the design firm ThinkPlace. At the different times of the year, I will also spend some time with my ‘night job’ as the licensee and director of TEDxCanberra. That involves a lot of fun times, often late at night, working with (and occasionally cat-herding) a beautiful group of nerds to make possible TED conferences for the Canberra community.

Somehow in between, I will manage to find time to go outside for a walk or swim, and to catch-up with friends and family in different places.

How important is diversity and inclusion to you and in the work that you do?

It’s not just a matter of importance – it’s essential. I do everything that I can to make diversity, equity & inclusion an actual part of my work.

In my day job, this manifests as working on projects that are focused on diversity, equity & inclusion. For example, I have helped large Government agencies design new strategies and frameworks for more inclusive workplaces, as well as working with organisations to build new learning programs that can empower youth from diverse backgrounds. In my night job, I work closely with my TEDxCanberra team to make sure we are an inclusive platform for people from all walks of life to be able to share their bold ideas for better futures. 

Helping people from diverse backgrounds to break down the structural barriers and inequities that are in their way is something that I’m deeply committed to. Of course, I’m driven by lived experience too. And it is a real joy and privilege to be able to make it part of my day-to-day. 

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

Absolutely – and I dare say anyone from a diverse background will have faced those challenges at some point in their careers. 

Speaking as a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse person (I’m Chinese-Australian), I’ve definitely faced some ‘’overt’’ challenges. Often, it’s people making assumptions about what you’re capable of, purely based on your appearance and name. My favourite moments are when people act surprised when they realise I’m fluent in English and can write well. Of course I can – I came to Australia when I was 7 and practically grew up here!

The important thing to do when those moments come up is just to treat them as what they are – a minor nuisance – and not let it get under your skin. 

What’s harder to deal with are those less obvious, “covert” moments – when you feel you might be being treated differently to others in your work environment, but you aren’t 100% sure whether it’s because of your identity or something else. It could be little things, like feeling you are being excluded from a function, to bigger things, like wondering whether you have been passed over for an opportunity or promotion. It can be especially anxiety-inducing, particularly when you are just starting out in the workplace. 

There’s no easy solutions to those sorts of moments – they are intricately tied with the structural and systemic barriers that people from diverse backgrounds face. Personally, I find what helps in the moment is to take a deep breath, keep a positive mindset and invest your energy on creating change more broadly. You need to build up the resilience to push through those challenging moments, and know through the experiences of others that there will be opportunities and pathways going forward. 

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

Don’t be! Life is too short to be afraid, especially when you have big dreams and ambitions. Why waste your energy worrying about what you can’t do, when you can instead focus on doing what you can do, and make sure to do it in the best possible way? 

Want to follow and support CHUN-YIN SAN?

If you want to work together on solving a complex and messy problem that interfaces with diversity, equity & inclusion issues, drop me a line on LinkedIn (linkedin.com/in/chunyinsan). The more complex, the more excited I get!

And if you’re ever looking for inspiration about how you can make the world a better place, come along to one of my upcoming TEDxCanberra events. You can keep in touch on Facebook (facebook.com/TEDxCanberra).


About the diversity champion:

(he/him) Chun-Yin is a strategic designer who works at the nexus of public policy, design, foresight practice and science. His design and policy experience has ranged from government agencies to nonprofits and universities, and on topics as diverse as higher education reform, the innovation agenda and manufacturing in the space industry. Chun-Yin is ThinkPlace’s resident specialist in strategic foresight. He has in-depth knowledge of approaches such as scenario development and trends analysis, and is experienced in helping public sector organisations apply foresight methods to sense-make and create pathways to preferred futures. Chun-Yin’s expertise is grounded in his futurescoping work for Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, where he helped to lay the groundwork for the think-tank’s ‘participatory futures’ framework. In 2020, his work on COVID-19 foresighting for the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources was shortlisted as a finalist for the APS Public Sector Innovation Awards. 


Image description: Chun-Yin is looking at the camera wearing a charcoal coloured sweater

PEOPLE: 18-year-old Climate Activist who took on one of Australia’s leading energy companies

Ashjayeen Sharif – remember the name. A quintessential example that no matter your age, if you have a vision and purpose, you are capable enough to stand up for what you believe in.

Ashjayeen is an 18-year-old Gen Z powerhouse from Melbourne who led a campaign for a seat on the AGL Energy board. Backed by Greenpeace, he is making waves in ensuring that young people’s efforts in fighting for climate activism is at the forefront of discussions and where better than leading from the front on the AGL board. Here’s the story!

Can you tell our readers about your campaign and motivation in running for the AGL Energy board? 

Coal is the predominant cause of climate change, and AGL is Australia’s largest coal burner, and therefore Australia’s largest climate polluter. AGL and its coal-burning power stations will leave a disastrous climate-wrecking legacy that my generation, and those to come, will have to live with. 

Meanwhile, the company’s current leadership refuses to act on climate change, which is telling of their ineptitude for the job. If AGL’s leaders won’t be leaders, someone else has to – and that someone is me. That’s why I’m nominating myself to their Board of Directors.

When did you first start getting involved with climate activism?

I first began to get involved with climate activism when I came across the first school climate strike in November 2018. This seemingly by-chance discovery led me to learn of the emerging youth climate action movement, and the newly formed organisation School Strike 4 Climate.

In the following months, I learned much about climate change and the climate crisis. In early 2019, I joined the school strike organising team in Meanjin. This quickly became one of the things I am most grateful for in life as it allowed me to navigate my way around my identity within an intersectional context and understand what it is to fight for safety and justice.

What are you currently working on in your role at School Strike 4 Climate, and more recently, AYCC?

Nowadays, I take on more of a mentor role in School Strike 4 Climate. The experience that I have garnered over the years has equipped me with a diverse skillset which should be passed on to newer activists as more and more young people join the fight. At the same time, I am a fundraiser for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, which is Australia’s largest youth-led organisation.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

It’s completely okay to feel overwhelmed and unsure as to how to get your foot into the door. There is a lot of pressure on young people to take on individual actions and address individual responsibility, but I would strongly encourage young readers to prioritise corporate and government responsibility. Remember: 100 corporations make up the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions.

For me, what has been most useful in joining the fight for climate action has been finding a community. There are thousands of young people out there who are just as passionate as you to fight for change. These communities of young people are united by a bond unlike any other, so I strongly encourage young readers today to join a climate organisation. Many exist, but I’d recommend School Strike 4 Climate, if you’re in school, and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, if you’re out of school, as good places to start. They helped me get into this fight and they can help you too.

Want to follow and support Ashjayeen?

The best way to support my campaign and the broader new wave of climate activism as we venture into uncharted, digitalised, pandemic territory, is to do research, engage with climate organisations on social media and to get involved yourself. In addition to SS4C and AYCC which I’ve already mentioned, check out Stop Adani, Seed and of course Greenpeace, whose support has made my campaign possible.


About the diversity champion:

(he/him) Ashjayeen Sharif was born in Bangladesh and raised in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. He’s now studying for a Bachelor of Arts at Melbourne University. Ashjayeen has been an active leader in the School Strike for Climate movement. Like most young people, he cares deeply about climate action because he cares for people and wants to live on a healthy, thriving planet. He believes AGL, as Australia’s largest electricity company, has a crucial role to play in Australia’s climate solution. 

Image description: Ashjayeen is looking at the camera wearing a green jacket and white shirt in front of a backdrop with trees