What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
At the moment I am enjoying the fact that I can celebrate some of my team’s achievements, particularly in community-based health promotion (at Djerriwarrh Health Services). Last weekend we celebrated the Dream Big Festival in Melton South for the third year in a row. Melton South is marked by experiences of disadvantage, and when we began working there the residents had to overcome stigma and negative perceptions associated with their community. Seeing the Melton South community showcasing their art, culture, talent and generosity was an absolute pleasure to be part of. It was a vibrant celebration of a community coming together. It has been really rewarding seeing all the relationships that have been formed, the collaborative actions which have taken place around preventing violence against women, promoting social inclusion and cohesion and the stronger sense of community that has been built through our work.
If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
I would love to have a happiness wand, I feel like there are so many people out there who are battling mental health issues. There is still so much stigma attached to mental health and it makes it even more difficult for people to look after themselves and, more importantly, to ask for help when they need it. My magic wand would help bring happiness to those who are struggling with their mental health, I know how disabling it can be.
What talent would you most like to possess?
I wish I could sing. Singer/song writers have so much power as they tell and share stories to last the ages.
What is your best quality or attribute?
I believe I’m a good friend. I really value friendships I think they can get us through the worst of times and make our happiest moments even richer!
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is that it is largely unpredictable. Having worked in Health Promotion for close to a decade I am passionate about the power of community and have been fortunate enough to have roles where I work with communities to realise their aspirations. It has been such a beautiful ride and I never stop being blown away by the creativity, generosity and innovation that comes from community.
If you could have any job in the world what would it be?
I feel pretty lucky to be doing the type of working I am doing but if I had to choose a fantasy job I would love to be a documentary filmmaker travelling the world documenting people’s stories, especially the stories of women.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
I came to Australia as a child so I suppose my experiences of settlement would be very different to an adult, especially adults coming to Australia with their families. Growing up there is so much emphasis on trying to fit in and trying to belong. If I could give advice to a young person that is new to Australia I would say that although it can be hard sometimes, try and celebrate all that is unique and different about you. Everything that makes us different and unique is actually the gift we give back to the world, it helps us find our purpose, so don’t ever, ever trade it in to be just like everyone else.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
Always feeling that I have to catch up because I didn’t have the same foundation or starting point as my peers. This was probably more pronounced when I first arrived in Australia and I had to learn the language and deal with the settlement issues my parents were navigating at the time such as finding meaningful employment, social networks and support.
Can you describe a time where you felt discriminated against as a woman or as someone with an immigrant and refugee background?
I don’t think a week goes by where my race, cultural identity or background isn’t raised. Although it is not always negative, the comments always make me aware that I’m perceived as ‘different’ and because of that I feel judged in a way.
For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant refugee/ background?
The fact that I have story, a story of survival from the journey that I have travelled with my family. I love the fact that the history of my family is only just being created in Australia and that we are in turn influencing Australia’s history.
If you could invite any woman, (dead or living) to dinner, who would it be and why?
So many! My grandmother for one, who I never met, she was a poet who died from a broken heart. Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama, Amy Winehouse, Arundhati Roy, Merlinda Bobis, it would be quite a party. I have always believed amazing things come out of women being together.
Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
I want to talk about three women, my mum Jovita and two younger sisters, Aimee and Clarisse. They are all amazing in their own way. My mum has never stopped fighting for as long as she has been alive. I hope she knows how much I love, respect and admire her. Mum has worked in disability service for over twenty years, a job that is tough on her body and spirit, but this has never wavered her commitment to ensuring the individuals she cares for live meaningful, dignified lives. My younger sisters are my best friends and they are both my source for inspiration and strength. They have both gone through so much, especially our youngest Clarisse and she continues to live out her life with a strength and dignity beyond her years.