60 seconds with Sanduni De Silva

Sanduni De Silva is a Programs Administration Officer at MCWH.

What do you most value in your friends?
My friends have always been so generous. It is a quality that I have always appreciated because its an important way that I show love, and also how I perceive love from others. Generosity is something that can take many forms, and manifests by giving someone your time, your knowledge and your love and empathy. I think it’s the purest form of showing appreciation through your actions.

Can you describe a time where you felt discriminated against as a woman or as someone with an immigrant and refugee background?
As an Australian with Sri Lankan heritage, there was an expectation from others at school that I would academically excel. I would have to work especially hard to live up to these expectations that are stereotypical of my culture, and then if I did do well, these achievements were dismissed as being a result of this culture. I know that my parents always emphasised education, because it was the way they came out of poverty in Sri Lanka, but this determination that I inherited from them was now being dismissed. I wish I could go back and tell myself to be proud of my achievements and hard work.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant refugee/background?
Also growing up, I always had that sense of being “othered” both in Australia, and in Sri Lanka when my family went back to visit. Now that I am older and (a bit more) self-assured, I can now see that its not that I don’t fit in anywhere, its that I have experiences that make my life vibrant and unique, and I bring these things into everything I do. I love that I can visit my family in Sri Lanka and feel a part of that culture in my own way, and to be able to contribute these experiences into the culture in Melbourne as well.

What are you reading right now? (Blogs, books, magazines, or anything else!)
I haven’t really been reading lately, but I have been listening to many many podcasts! I can’t get enough of American politics, and so I’ve been listening to the New York Times The Daily and NPR Politics. It has been really interesting to see how Asian Americans have, through tragedy, been able to galvanise and create a huge political influence. Also, for more relaxing listening, I have been listening to the Office Ladies. I love The Office TV Show, both US and UK, but this podcast is Jenna Fischer (Pam Beasley) and Angela Kinsey (Angela Martin) from the US version going through the episodes with behind-the-scenes stories and interviews. Its such wholesome guilty pleasure listening for me.

If you could meet the Prime Minister tomorrow, what would you like to tell him?
I have so many things to say…  it has been appalling to see what is unfolding in Parliament at the moment. I fear that it is discouraging women to enter politics and to speak out about their experiences. Now more than ever,  the public see the need for women in politics. So, I would tell Scott Morrison that he needs to put politics aside and think about these issues like a human being. I would ask him to listen to women and bring diverse women into decision making positions. I would also tell him, don’t do it because you have to, do it because you recognise that women live in Australia too, and they deserve a Parliament that truly represents them, and is a safe place for women to work.

Finish this sentence: “We need feminism because….”
I think the answer to the above question shows why we need feminism. We need feminism because women deserve to be part of public life: to be safe, to lead and to contribute. For too long, there has been a pervasive idea that women are equal, and so there is no more need for feminism. I hope that at least by now this idea can finally be put to bed, and society can at least agree that we need feminism, because that is the starting point before we can reach the goal of an equal society.

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