60 seconds with Neslihan Sari

Neslihan Sari

Paralegal at Public Transport Victoria, disability and civil liberties advocate and cat lover

What are you enjoying doing at the moment? 
Working hard and seeking out exciting opportunities wherever I can. As a person from a CALD background, who has a disability (vision impairment), a non-English name, and who dons a veil, I often find myself negotiating multiple ‘identities’ and prejudices. It has been a long journey in finding full-time employment for example. But now that I finally do have a job – with a great team as a bonus – I have been able to achieve a dream I thought I’d never reach, to buy my very own brand new apartment! Every day, I enjoy waking up and saying ‘yes I can’. It has been a long journey in being able to say that phrase with conviction.

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have? Or if you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
I always wanted to fly, freeze time/people and read people’s minds! If I had a magic wand, I would use it to eradicate evil feelings and thoughts from the hearts of people and make everybody smile and dance. I would make cats rule the world. Okay, maybe not that last one… (because they already do!)

What talent would you most like to possess?
To be physically flexible and do all sorts of fancy acrobatic tricks.

What is your best quality or attribute?
People have told me that I am empathetic, a keen observer and listener.

What is the best part of your day?
The best part of my day is usually around 9am because the weather is almost always deceptively sunny and calm around that time, before it decides what mood to take on for the rest of the day. It is a new beginning to the day when only God knows what surprises that will come.

What’s your favourite word?
“YES”. Say yes to opportunities, but let your values and principles always guide you.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
You are an asset to this country. Don’t let anybody make you feel unwelcome or less of a person because of anything – whether it is due to your race, your appearance, your name, accent, religion, culture, ideas, dress, health, educational or economic status etc. The bigger the dream, the harder you have to work towards it. Immerse yourself in the many cultures, explore the natural beauty and wildlife Australia has to offer. Open your world to someone. Find a mentor, be a mentor. As one person once said, “If you are not at the table, you will end up on the menu.” Be there and speak up.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant background?
Having access to a rich culture and greater perspective on various topics. I can speak in another language with my friends or my mother whilst out shopping and it could be like a secret code that the shop keeper won’t understand.

What could you never be without?
Quite frankly, oxygen, food, water, shelter, my faith and my mobility cane. It is simply a stick made of aluminium and about a metre long. It allows me to navigate my way around in this crazy big world. Without it, I would be like a fish out of water and very limited in where I could travel. I would bump into, or trip over things, and make new enemies with every person I walk into!

What does multiculturalism mean to you?
Multiculturalism is a politicised term. But ideally, for me it involves more than just sharing good cuisine and music. Multiculturalism means a diversity of cultures integrated under one harmonious umbrella. It means respecting and embracing each other as human beings. It means recognising that we are all human with all the basic human needs, regardless where we come from or what we believe in or how we look. It means appreciating each others’ differences and maximising the strengths we each bring to the table.

If you could meet the Prime Minister tomorrow, what would you like to tell him?
I would firstly remind the Prime Minister that a good leader listens to, and serves the interests of all his/her people, NOT the interests of a few rich white men; NOT the interests of multinational companies; NOT the interests of other countries. I would tell the PM that the Government as well as the other major political parties are not doing enough to foster an inclusive and just society. The past decade or so has seen incredible encroachments on our civil liberties. People have become increasingly fearful and suspicious of one another. I would ask him to take his party on a boat and re-enact the journey of a refugee, to actually step into a war-torn nation, to do more for the equal treatment of the Indigenous community. I would urge him against commoditising people or measuring the value of a person in monetary terms. Whilst the economy is important, a thriving and harmonious society is also important for the wealth and sustainable future of our nation. Australia has become a nation where the solution to almost everything is either to ‘tax it or ban it’, rather than finding creative and innovative solutions. If he can listen to all that, I promise I will vote for him next time!

Finish this sentence: “We need feminism because….”
Feminism does not just relate to gender inequality. It holds that each person should be viewed based on their individual strengths and capabilities as a human being, not the strengths and capabilities assumed of their gender. Feminism intersects with seeking equal treatment for other marginalised groups, for example people with disabilities – women with disabilities have the least access to equal access and treatment.

Feminism is not, and should not be about telling women what to do. It is not about competing with men, or denigrating a religion or culture. It is about giving them the ability and freedom to be able to choose to do whatever they want to do and narrowing the political, economical, educational, familial, cultural, and health gaps and inequalities in society.

60 seconds with Carmel Guerra

CEO and youth advocate

What are you enjoying doing at the moment? 
With generous philanthropic support, I have been given the opportunity lately to think more creatively about employment initiatives that will really make a difference to the Victorian community. Australia’s youth unemployment rate has risen from 12% in March 2016 – 13.2% in June 2016, demonstrating the importance of sustainable and effective action in this space.

Best thing that happened to you today? 
It made me so happy to hear today that a Centre for Multicultural Youth program participant has joined the team in an official capacity – as a staff member. That we have seen this young man grow so much in the time that we have known him, and then to be able to offer him employment has honestly made my day. He, and the other young people CMY works with every day, is an inspiration and true testament to hard work, dedication and going after your goals, even when you may face adversity.

If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for? 
My first order of business would be to rectify the inequality seen in education for young women across the globe. I would make sure that each and every young woman who wanted to go to school was supported, encouraged and enabled to do just that.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be? 
If I couldn’t be CEO of CMY, I would really love to be a pilot. Or an astronaut! Good thing I didn’t follow that path though, as I’m sure my motion sickness and hatred of flying might have hindered my success!

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
Uprooting your life and moving it across the world can be, understandably, overwhelming, unnerving and anxiety-inducing. Fortunately, there are a number of professional and community structures in place to assist migrants in the settlement process. Australia is a country built on migration and is generally very welcoming. Embrace the opportunities available to you and this great country will show you its true beauty.

What’s your favourite word in the English language? Why? 
Being bi-lingual, I love the fact that some words just don’t translate. One of my favourite Italian sayings is ‘Cosi Cosi’ which is used extensively in Naples, where my family comes from. It translates roughly to ‘So So’, but the English equivalent just doesn’t quite cut it!

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
Growing up in Australia can be hard. Every child faces their own challenges and experiences their own issues. The biggest barrier to success for me, however, was the expectation that, as a child from a migrant background, I would not amount to much. I distinctly remember my high school careers teacher dampening my enthusiasm for journalism, instead saying I should just be a secretary like all the girls in my class.

Are there any disadvantages about being a woman from an immigrant/refugee background?
Similarly to what I mentioned earlier, I think the expectation that I wouldn’t amount to much in comparison to other kids was hard to grasp. But I see it now as both a curse and a blessing. It saddened me to think that my heritage, my family, might be the reason I couldn’t thrive in a country like Australia. But it also made me stronger and more determined. Ultimately it is one of the reasons I’ve worked so hard to ensure other refugee and migrant young people don’t ever feel the same way.

If you could invite any woman, living or dead, to dinner tonight, who would it be? 
There are so many possibilities but when it comes to dinner company, I would be looking for a really great conversationalist. Somebody who could stir emotion, ask deep questions and be fun all at once. I think with those criteria, Michelle Obama would be one of my top choices. She is grounded, intelligent and would have many stories to tell about her time in the White House.

What is your favourite possession? 
The jewellery that my mother left me when she passed is my most treasured possession. It carries with it such beautiful memories but also the hardship of the migration journey to Australia from a small village outside Naples.

If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?
We see so much negativity in the portrayal of young people in the media, particularly of late. I want to shout from the roof tops that young people are incredibly resilient, intelligent and resourceful. They are entrepreneurs, leaders and the future of this country. I think that if I could convince others of one thing, it’s that young people are the future – and that future will be bright if we give them a chance to shine.

If you could meet the Prime Minister tomorrow, what would you like to tell him? 
Please Mr Turnbull re-instate a Minister for Youth! We need this to believe the rhetoric of Australia being an innovative country and that young people are an important part of building a new economy.

Finish this sentence, “We need feminism because….”
We have made enormous strides in equality and women’s rights (18 current female world leaders are testament to this) but there is still so much work to do (as these women account for only 1-in-10 leaders of UN member states – and half of them are the first women to hold their country’s highest office!).We must never take for the granted the improvements we have made to the life situation of women throughout the world, and we can’t rest on our laurels.

60 seconds with Ozana Bozic

Photo by Mila Robes

MCWH Finance and Admin Officer and aspiring biographer

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
Reading. I’m usually busy with work, studying and family commitments but I always like to read. A friend suggested the four-series Neapolitan novels of Elena Ferrante and I haven’t been able to put them down since I started reading the first book.

What is the best thing that happened to you today?
I woke up in nice warm house, in a peaceful country, my family safe and sound – not just the best thing, but also a blessing.

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have?
To be able to provide peace and health to everyone.  Both are easily taken for granted when you have both and it’s easy to forget just how important they are for everyone, and not just for one section of the community or certain parts of the world.

What talent would you most like to possess?
Writing. I’d love to be able to write-up as many stories about women’s lives as I can!

What is your best quality or attribute?
Patience and resilience.  I’ve found them very useful at various times in my life.

What is the best part of your day?
Definitely the morning: a time of promise of all the good things to come on the day.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
Having escaped a war and experiencing first-hand the impacts of human rights violations on a global scale, I would want to be an international human rights lawyer.

What do you most value in your friends?
Ethics and moral principles.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
Embrace the experience and enjoy new things.

What’s your favourite word in the English language? Why?
It’s not a word, but the phrase ‘give it a go’, because it encompasses taking opportunities, and it also conveys the trying, adjusting and persisting as well.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
Keeping positive even when it isn’t all smooth sailing.  There have been many migrants before us who have experienced settlement, employment and all sorts of other issues that have come our way.

Can you describe a time when you felt discriminated against as a woman or as someone with an immigrant or refugee background?
When people speak to me differently because I speak English with an accent.  On one occasion when I was looking through houses with my daughter, the real estate agent began apologising to me profusely and I had no idea why.  I later found out from my daughter that she had told off the agent for speaking to me like a child just because I spoke with an accent and she told him that I was, in fact, an intelligent person.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant/refugee background?
Being part of two cultures and embracing both.

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
I don’t even know where to start…my mother, my daughters, my colleagues, so many positive influences in my life. This is the tapestry of sisterhood: learning from one another and supporting each other.

60 seconds with Sonali Deshpande

Sonali

Police Officer and ex-MCWH bilingual health educator

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
I am a full time Police Officer with Victoria Police and I absolutely enjoy my work.

What is the best thing that happened to you today?
The sun has come out whilst it is 5 degrees temperature outside – isn’t that the best thing on a winter’s day?

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have?
To possess a ‘Genie’ who will grant every wish that I have. Needless to say I will use this power in the interest of community. I promise, the following will be my utmost priorities: firstly, to eradicate cancer and other deadly diseases from the planet; secondly, to provide food, shelter, education and loving care for every child on the planet and lastly, to end poverty and provide a sense of security to every single person on the earth.Only when all three have been achieved, I’ll then ask the Genie for a nice beach fronted bungalow with an open terrace in Malibu for myself!

What talent would you most like to possess?
Diplomacy.

What is your best quality or attribute?
Determination and Commitment.

What is the best part of your day or job?
I am quite passionate about things I do in my personal and professional life, though coming home safe and sound at the end of day is the best part of my day.

What do you most value in your friends?
Openness.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
It’s an opportunity to reinvent oneself so accept and enjoy the experience.

What is your favourite word in the English language? Why?
‘Persistence’ because it helps you to keep getting better at what you do.

If you could invite any woman (dead or living) to dinner tonight, who would it be?
Indeed, that would be the former Prime Minister of India ‘Indira Gandhi’. She was the first female, and the longest serving, prime minister in the male dominated history of Indian democracy.

I absolutely admire her strength and leadership approach that was full of vision, passion and courage.

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
My mother. She’s the most strong minded and soft hearted woman I know.

Name a book or a film that changed your life.
No life changing book or a movie to mention here, however I did come across some inspirational literature in Marathi, Hindi and English. I love to watch movies for entertainment, including Bollywood and Hollywood movies.

What does multiculturalism mean to you?
To me multicultural means recognising positivity in diversity, being tolerant, appreciating and learning about differences, sharing and expanding your knowledge about the world that would enable one to become a broader person and understand humanity better.

Finish this sentence: “We need feminism…”
“…to abolish gender inequality and achieve more social, political and economic rights for women”. It’s only human to treat all individuals equally in every sphere of life.

60 seconds with Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Mechanical engineer, social advocate, and writer

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
Working on the script for a motorsport podcast and catching up on a lot of cycling with friends.

What is the best thing that happened to you today?
I had a great singalong with some of my friends to some 90s R&B hits impromptu in the hallway while getting coffee

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have?
The ability to give people self-confidence and belief in themselves.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
What I do now.

What do you most value in your friends?
Care.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
The assumptions people make when I meet them and the fact that there is often an unconscious bias that I have to work against.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant/refugee background?
I have a richness in culture and a strength borne of generations of strong women of colour and faith struggling and succeeding DESPITE their circumstances. I am so proud of the heritage that I inherit.

If you could invite any woman (dead or living) to dinner tonight, who would it be?
Khadija AS, the first wife of the Prophet Mohammed SAW. What a woman! She was a business woman, strong and his truest love. I could learn so much.

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
My mother. Honestly, a woman who gave up everything for her family, who challenges norms without question, who supports me and pushes me to achieve everything I can and more.

Name a  film that changed your life.
‘Catch that Kid’ It’s how I fell in love with cars!

What are you reading right now?
The 51st edition of the Griffith Review called ‘Fixing the System’, and a book on Sudan.

Do you have a song/music that inspires and motivates you?
‘Work’ by Bluejuice

What is your favourite possession?
My bicycle – I love the freedom it represents

If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?
That we should care for one another and that hedonism won’t serve us.  That our collective well-being is important.

If you could meet the Prime Minister tomorrow, what would like to tell him?
Sort yourself out mate. Stop being so rude to the asylum seekers who are asking for our help.

Finish this sentence: “We need feminism because …”
…the world has a long way to go to reach true equality.

60 seconds with Shabnam Daliri

Shabnam 2

Community worker, international student and equality advocate

What is the best thing that happened to you today?
I talked to my big sister on Viber. She is my only sister, I do love her and she means everything to me. I just wish we didn’t have to live so far away from each other.

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have?
I would like to eradicate poverty and racism. I’d make sure every child had equal access to education and health care.

If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
On a personal level, I would like to use it to see my father once again as he played an absolutely crucial role in my entire life and all my achievements. More generally, I would like to remove all the world’s borders, so people could live in peace together.

What talent would you most like to possess?
I would like to be good at playing the santoor (a Persian musical instrument) so I could chill out and relax whenever I was feeling stressed.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
A scientist, in order to be able to discover an effective treatment for all types of cancers.

What is the best part of your day?
At night because it is calm and quiet and I can think thoroughly and be creative without any pressure and stress.

What do you most value in your friends?
Honesty and loyalty. I am quite lucky to have two amazing and wonderful friends since I was 7 years old. Thanks to technology we are still in touch with each other even though we live in different parts of the world.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
To seize golden opportunities because it is very easy to lose them and also never give up working hard.

What’s your favourite word in the English language?
‘Yes’ because I am a positive person.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
There have been two major challenges: the first one is being away from your friends and families who are your best supporters and the second, is finding a job that recognises my skills and qualifications.

Can you describe a time when you felt discriminated against as a woman or as someone with an immigrant or refugee background?
I come from a country where the system of government is patriarchal and women are regarded as second citizens and where their life is literally valued as being half of a man’s life. However, I think discrimination exists everywhere and being able to advocate for eliminating discrimination is the most important goal and dream for me.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant/refugee background?
As a female immigrant I think it is valuable to know your native language and your own culture while at the same time learning about new culture and language. Because I believe that women are the best educators and teachers for the next generation.

Describe a time when you felt that being an immigrant or refugee woman was an advantage?
I work with the community. It is an amazing feeling when you understand people’s problems without being judgemental as you know their values, cultures and also sometimes you experience the same difficulties. Therefore, you can support, assist and advocate more effectively.

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
I’ve always admired my mother. She is really a good role model for me and my sister. She sacrificed her life for us (my sister, me and my younger brother). Bringing up 3 little kids during the war between Iraq and Iran is not an easy job. She always protects, encourages and supports us in the best possible way. I also would like to say that I have met so many amazing women in my entire life who significantly influence me and I have been inspired by them.

If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?
Equality, as I believe that everyone has the equal right to live the best possible life.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Unfairness.

If you could meet the Prime Minister tomorrow, what would like to tell him?
I would like to talk to him about very unfair barriers for some hardworking and successful immigrants who apply for permanent residency.  For many, going back to their country of origin often means being placed in dangerous situations.