60 seconds with Zubaidah Shaburdin


MCWH’s new NETFA Project Officer, and diving enthusiast

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
Learning and working on the MCWH NETFA (National Education Toolkit on FGM/C Awareness) Project. After recently completing my dissertation I’m very excited to jump straight into a new project. Women’s health, and particularly the prevention and elimination of FGC, is something I am passionate about and I feel blessed to be given this opportunity to work on it.

What is the best thing that happened to you today?
Buying the last copy of the Big Issue from the vendor this morning. The smile on his face was worth it!

If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
If I had a magic wand, I would turn the delicious food I see in recipe books into real food. I would use it to feed myself as well as the growing number of homeless people in Melbourne.

What talent would you most like to possess?
The ability to absorb information quickly and retain it for a long time.

What is your best quality or attribute?
I will always find a way to solve a problem. I don’t like using the phrase ‘I don’t know’. Instead I prefer to figure out the problem.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
To be a traveller. If I could get paid to travel around the world, I would.

What do you most value in your friends?
Loyalty and a wicked sense of humour.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
To approach living in Australia with an open mind and immerse yourself in the culture. Australia has a lot to offer in terms of its natural beauty as well as the friendliness and openness of people.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
Coming to Australia at the age of 17 from Singapore, I struggled in my first few years to understand the idea of independent thinking in Australia. Singapore’s approach to education is to tell students how to think whereas Australia focuses more on creative and independent thinking. It was a shock to me when my first day in year 12, a teacher asked for my opinion on an issue we were discussing in English class.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant/refugee background?

I feel lucky to be part of the diaspora community as I get to appreciate the values of two very different cultures and I get to enjoy the best of both worlds. This means I grew up speaking two different languages and I am privileged to be able to celebrate two different sets of festivities.

If you could invite any woman (dead or living) to dinner tonight, who would it be?
Virginia Woolf and Julia Gillard.

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
My mother. She is the reason I have become the person I am today. Her dedication in doing charity work and her generosity towards the community inspires me every day to be a better and more giving person.

Name a book or film that changed your life.
Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone by Heidi Postlewait and Kenneth Cain. It gives a wonderful insight into the personal experiences of United Nation peacekeepers.

What does multiculturalism mean to you?
Multiculturalism to me is about accepting and celebrating the differences of other cultures’ norms and values.

If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?
I would convince the world that we are not all that different from one another. Besides the colour of our skin and the culture we come from, we all have the same basic needs and desires.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I would want universal access to health care for everyone.

Finish this sentence: “We need feminism because…”
We are still pretty far from achieving the goal of feminism: egalitarianism. We still need feminism in order to change norms and attitudes towards gender. The sooner we modify our discourse of gender the quicker we will get to achieving egalitarianism.