Eradicating racism

Black and white collage of headshots of all contributors

Racism is multi-faceted and complex. Eradicating racism from our personal, family and work environments won’t be easy, but I believe it is possible.

With the acknowledgement that we will need to explore multiple methods, views and approaches to reach a racism-free society and in the hopes of helping people feel less overwhelmed and more empowered to act on this important issue, for articles #100 and #101 of Echo Chamber Escape, I asked a range of experts, professionals and community leaders for their views on racism. This article covers answers to the first question with contributors ordered alphabetically (A-Z) by first name.

“What can we as a society be doing to eradicate racism in our communities?”


[Image description: Close-up headshot of Aarti. She has shoulder-length, dark hair, is looking at the camera is wears a floral camisole. Photographer: Helen Selmeczy]

Aarti Bajaj, Artistic Director, Director, Choreographer, Actor and Dancer

The only word that comes to mind when I hear incidences of racism is “IGNORANCE”.

It’s the lack of understanding of the different races and cultures in wider society. It’s an inbuilt prejudice which is deeply rooted and ingrained in the human psychic for generations which knowingly or unknowingly put themselves on a pedestal higher than others, sometimes it’s because of race, sometimes gender, power, money – it could be anything.

Fighting for or against anything isn’t a long term solution – if something needs to be eradicated from the system, it needs to be transformed not changed as changes are reversible but transformations build a complete NEW.

[Image description: Close-up headshot of Aarti. She has shoulder-length, dark hair, is looking at the camera is wears a floral camisole. Photographer: Helen Selmeczy]


Annukina Warda, Principal Consultant at Elemental Training

As an educator my response is always – “teach people!” Ending racism is a multi-layered process. Racism is not only interpersonal, it is systemic. Dismantling racism is complex but also very achievable especially when we remember that real people work in systems and have the power to challenge or abolish them. 

A lot of anti-racism education is based around teaching people to learn about other cultures. Racism runs deeper than understanding how people eat or pray. It is about power and the ways that power and privilege play out in our everyday lives, even subconsciously.

African American feminist scholars have informed a lot of my work. I read a lot of bell hooks, Angela Davis and Audre Lorde at university. Kimberle Crenshaw and Patricia Hill Collins have also created easy-to-use resources to get educators dismantling racism – and other forms of privilege – in classrooms. Despite being around since the 1970s and 80s, mainstream educators insist that anti-racism is about flag-waving and food fairs – in Australia anyway.

[Image description: Close-up headshot of Annukina looking to the side in front of a blue fence. She has long black hair tied in a ponytail and wears large hoop earrings.]


Carmel Zein, Founder of Amina Rose

Racism at large, is a complex political and social system that has been set up generations ago, infecting the way people deal with others who don’t look like them. Eradicating it at the level of politics and power will take a long time but within our communities we can start the process by educating ourselves on the prejudices that take place around us, across race, culture, class and religion and then consciously make an effort to break the cycle. 

Some strides towards equality may look like this:

  • Surrounding yourself with people who don’t think and look like you and taking a genuine interest in getting to know them
  • Not avoiding conversation about race, religion or culture, on the contrary, engaging in discussions and learning about all the beautiful things that make us different
  • Educating yourself on the condition and treatment of our Indigenous communities and contributing to positive change
  • Encouraging diversity in your local area e.g celebrating harmony day at school, having a multicultural community day within a religious institution 
  • As a family or household, doing random acts of kindness for your neighbours and friends
  • Staying conscious and being a champion of diversity and inclusion in your workplace, your community and personal life 

[Image description: Headshot of Carmel in front of ferns and plants. She is smiling, with long black hair behind her shoulders. She’s wearing a black blazer and patterned grey and white shirt.]


Caroline La Rose, Program Director, Hotwire

Over the past week, recent protests around the world have brought up a lot of much-needed conversations about systemic racism, discrimination, inequality, privilege and police brutality against people of colour.

As an islander, or an African creole now living in Australia, of course it resonates with me. Now that we have the world’s attention to have a constructive conversation about such real, devastating societal issues, there is no place for silence. We need to get comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations about systemic racism.

Simply posting a black square on your socials for #blackouttuesday to show your support is not enough. It amazes me how some people are, or seem to be “completely unbothered” by the events transpiring in their own countries. It’s a harsh reality that this is evoking so many emotions in me while other people around me, in my own circle of friends/connections/network/acquaintances don’t have to deal with simply because it doesn’t directly affect them.

If you have social media, then you have a platform to spark debate, educate yourself and others, as well as challenge and be challenged on how we either combat or perpetuate racism in our society on a day to day basis. Now is not the time to play it safe and do the bare minimum by posting a black square to “show support” and to avoid backlash.

Don’t be afraid to instigate those conversations, be open to being challenged and getting called out, use your social platform to raise awareness. This is not comfortable for anyone. Yet, it is so important as this is what will drive change! Speak up about where you stand!

[Image description: Headshot of Caroline from the shoulders up. She has shoulder-length black hair and wears a long-sleeved floral blouse.]


Cathy Ngo, CEO and Founder of Keynoteworthy

We need to start off by acknowledging that there is racism in our communities. Just because you don’t see or experience it yourself doesn’t mean it’s not happening — and when you hear about racism, believe them. 

I’ve had my fair share of racism and when I share it with people, most of the time, they’re unknowingly victim blaming with comments like: “I’m sure they didn’t mean it.”

“Take it as a compliment.”

“Are you sure they said that? It’s 2020”. These comments are not helpful, brings shame to the victim and only makes things worse.

Secondly, we need to be better allies. Educate yourself. It’s not up to the oppressed to educate you. Everyone has some level of privilege and most people hate admitting that. If you don’t see it, you’ve enjoyed it. You’ve won the lottery of life. 

If you are uncomfortable, good! Change is happening. 

To sum up, being a good ally is to:

1. Take on the struggle as your own.

2. Stand up — even when you feel scared or uncomfortable and to use your privilege for those who lack it.

3. Acknowledge that while you may feel pain as well, the conversation is not about you.

[Image description: Headshot of Cathy with long black hair hanging to the side in front of one shoulder. She is smiling and looking at the camera. She wears a blue blouse.]


Dr. Dede Tetsubayashi, Social Scientist and Technologist

First, since racism is systemic, we need to understand the multilayered nature of it in order to eradicate it. Racism isn’t always overt – in fact it comes in many forms such as assuming and we need to be anti-racist in our intentions and actions, which requires educating ourselves, having conversations, and dismantling white supremacy. It also requires white people to be conscious of their privilege and check that privilege by being teachable and willing to undo their solitary privilege in the effort to make sure all people have equitable access to the same resources they enjoy – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We need to divest from institutions that prevent equitable wealth building and distribution as well as all policies that favor whites over under-represented and historically disenfranchised groups of people.

[Image description: Dr. Tetsubayashi’s face tilted in profile, smiling. She wears a patterned top, jewelled necklace, and has long hair in braids.]


Diana Nguyen, Actor, Comedian and Writer

Stop. Listen and Watch. And after that have the conversations. Ask the questions. Invite stories to be shared about people’s experience of racism. As an Asian Australian woman working in the entertainment industry I have faced racism, and the Australian term of casual racism. It is the same thing. It is excluding someone of a different race and culture to be disconnected from society, to feel disconnect. Let’s connect now. Let’s listen now. That is a powerful communication tool.

[Image description: Headshot of Diana looking at the camera with a determined expression. She has one hand on her hip, wears a colourful, floral camisole, and has shoulder-length wavy hair.]


Jaynaya Winmar, Founder of Blakbone Sistahood

In order to understand why racism now plays a large part in the current climate we need to understand how it has been used to affect the narrative today. Race has always been used to identify superiority in authoritative environments. Most First Nation communities have been invaded as part of the country’s development and have had Leadership based on a specific race, whilst degrading the other. I am a big believer in factual education is the key to creating a change in this form of racist mentality. As racism is a learnt behaviour and starts to develop in a child’s developmental stages when they start to identify differences.

So, in order to create a positive change in tackling racism this is where we need to start with curriculum changes. Schools are now looking at ways in which to deliver the curriculum to include this better and newer teachers are defiantly leading the way. If you want to see the difference in curriculum delivered watch the film ‘In My Blood it Runs’. However, education should not be limited to children but should be accessible to everyone through every aspect of professional development KPI measurements. Not just through cultural awareness programs but cultural change like the feminist movement within company structural changes.

[Image description: Jaynaya is smiling in front of a red, blue and white painted wall, wearing a black top, black-rimmed glasses, and brown earrings with her hair tied back.]


Jean Sum, Founder of Sum of Jean

We need to look at our attitudes, behaviours and actions at all levels of society – individuals, communities, schools, workplaces, law enforcement, government and media. Racism is a systemic issue which has arisen from our upbringing, education system, legal structures as well as cultural norms and the bar to which we have come to accept.

As individuals, we have the responsibility to speak up within our circles, social media and to our leaders. Communities have the responsibility to practice inclusivity through messaging, safe places and activities. Schools play a significant role in the direction of future generations to instil a sense of unity and equality for all students and provide culturally appropriate support. Workplaces need to ensure that they have a safe environment for all staff, including appropriate policies, guidelines, and including people of colour in their decision-making processes. Police and courts have a critical role in preventing over-representation of First Nations Australians in prisons. Governments and leaders play a critical role to truly represent their constituents in a fair and just manner. The media needs to take responsibility for its language; how ethnic and religious groups are portrayed and differentiate between ethnicity and country.

We all need to take action.

[Image description: Jean is standing against a white wall with one hand to her chin, smiling in a blue sleeveless dress. She has short black hair.]


Jerusha Mather, Neuroscientist

Our attitude towards differences need to change. We need to respect other cultures and traditions. We need to develop better morals in destigmatising the world around us. We can do better. Unfortunately, we do live in a pragmatic society where people still entertain “white privilege”. This is demonstrated through our media channels and education systems. Our history taught us to think a certain way about people of colour. But we cannot go back to history. We must move forward. Moving forward in full position and power to win back the absolute power, that was lost. Our society must learn to love their neighbours. Even when their neighbours may not appear the same colour as them. Acceptance is the ultimate key and will do justice.

Through love, we can win. Not through hate. Hate leads to the desensitisation and degradation of humanity. But the world is full of strife and anger now. And they have every right to be. Because they have been silenced by society for so long. They have been left alone. Hurt. It is about time they spoke up for their rights. Change is accelerating through this movement. There is no power to some. We all hold the power. 

[Image description: Headshot of Jerusha smiling at the camera with her head slightly tilted, wearing red lipstick and a white sleeveless top.]


Jieh-Yung Lo, Director, ANU Centre for Asian-Australian Leadership

We all have a responsibility to protect our inclusive and cohesive society by eradicating and eliminating racism once and for all. Whether it’s a social media post, discriminatory practices and policies in the workplace, abuse in a public setting or a media headline, we need to call it out for what it is.

Furthermore, we need our elected representatives to display political leadership to reinstate a national anti-racism campaign, legislative reform at the state and federal levels to strengthen Australia’s commitment to multiculturalism and cultural diversity, leaders within private and public institutions to support more ethnic, culturally and linguistically diverse individuals in positions of leadership and influence, funding education and awareness programs on the different forms of racism, strengthening enforcement to combat racial vilification and programs to support victims of racism and address the long-term negative impacts of vilification and discrimination.

[Image description: Headshot of Jieh-Yung from the shoulders up. He is smiling and looking at the camera. He has short, black hair, and is wearing a white collared shirt, red and white striped tie, and black blazer.]


Kera Sherwood-O’Regan, Co-Founder of Activate.Film

I think the first step is listening to communities who experience racism and then doing what is asked. Especially listening to Black folks in the USA and in our own countries right now and amplifying what they’re asking for. 

In Aotearoa New Zealand I think the key for me comes down to upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and I see that including government, businesses, and other organisations devolving power to our Māori organisations, particularly to our iwi and hapū (tribes). We need to be conscious about the space we take and power we hold, and actively work to restore that to Indigenous Peoples and to pay reparations to communities that have been harmed through the processes of colonisation and imperialism.

[Image description: Photo of Kera Sherwood-O’Regan, an Indigenous Māori woman with light olive skin and long brown hair, sitting in her office with green houseplants behind her. She is wearing a black turtleneck jumper and vintage tortoiseshell style glasses, and black pointy eyeliner. She wears Māori pounamu greenstone earrings and a pounamu pendant around her neck, and she is looking directly at the camera with a confident look on her face.]


Manita Ray, Principal Advisor at Capital Human

I agree with what  we are hearing right now, that we need to educate ourselves personally and we need our leaders, businesses and society to create laws and systems to include (not retrofit to) all races. This is critical. But how do we change what cultures and societies hand down over generations? I am no expert in this but I expect this is really difficult and will take time and effort to shift. I look at my 5 and 7 year olds and see how easily they learn, absorb and follow and wonder if, in addition to structural change, we need to build in teaching about racism and antiracism and justice and equality at school, for all kids every year, starting at kinder, starting at home. Children are resilient, smart, aware. To eradicate racism, can we stop it from starting? Can we teach how to be an antiracist to every child from the minute children start learning? Bake it into their curriculum? Teach it every year, throughout each school year until how to not be racist becomes part of the next generation’s DNA. And while we are doing this, the rest of us need to continue to act with all the power that we have. 

[Image description: Headshot of Manita in a blue blouse standing in front of a fence. She has shoulder-length black hair and is wearing earrings.]


Dr. Muneera Bano, Superstar of STEM

Racism is a multi-level issue that manifests itself in various norms of society whether it’s the top political systems and leadership models or the everyday occurrence impacting the socio-economic status.

The grass root level of racism always starts with a single individual. Every individual has a choice to embrace the differences and equality of human race, or get convinced of superiority or inferiority of their own race. From individuals, we move to a tribal culture, where anyone who cannot fit into the acceptable model of the group based on the looks, behaviours or communication structure is an outsider. Moving on, various social groups form a state culture with laws and policies for whether there will be any tolerance for injustice based on racial differences. Personal beliefs of one individual can impact an entire nation; either with Hitler’s notion of racial superiority or Nelson Mandela’s strong conviction of racial equality.

Every individual has the responsibility to understand their personal belief system of how they accept the racial differences. Eradication of racism doesn’t mean everyone should look, dress and behave in the same way, on the contrary, it is about accepting everyone for who they are. Education plays a critical role in order to make everyone aware from the very young age about the fundamental principle of oneness of humanity. Despite all our differences of skin colours and level of melanin, facial features and languages, we are all one race i.e. humankind.

[Image description: Headshot of a woman with long, brown and wavy hair hanging to the side. Muneera is sitting at a desk in front of a laptop and coffee cup. She wears a collared white shirt underneath a blue sweater.]


Rathana Chea, Head of Global Learning and Development at Greenpeace

Equity is key. Equality cannot be achieved without equity. Equity ensures we can re-level the playing field of opportunity. Treating people equally is not equality. It’s recognising the barriers people of colour face because of their skin tone and celebrating the obstacles they have overcome to be here. We can have all the laws, art initiatives, education projects and other good and well meaning projects. But if we don’t start with bridging the concrete divide of access to opportunity and support to succeed, those initiatives are like sandcastles by the shore.

The only way to eradicate racism is to restore the balance of power through restoring the confidence of people. The leadership of anti-racism falls on those directly impacted by it. The leadership of supporting them to do that falls on those who are privileged because of racism.

[Image description: Headshot of Rathana in black and white. He has short black hair, a moustache and beard. He wears a collared polo shirt.]


Shantelle Thompson, Warrior Within

We can never eradicate racism from the bottom when the top and the systems that are in place continue to use it as a weapon to divide and conquer. What we are seeing now is not new, it is centuries old. In some ways it has been used to conquer and control those it wishes to keep down. Society is not created equal, the society we live in today was created by white people to serve white and to privilege them above others. It is why we still have predominantly white leaders from middle class backgrounds who have majority all had the same life experience.

Yes, we have pockets of diversity and inclusion and people who are fighting to change this. But the majority stays unchanged.

Until we acknowledge, accept, and take responsibility as the society we are now (not the one we live in) to dismantle the systems that oppress, suppress and kill. And instead have the courage to start again, create new systems and a society that is about our shared humanity, equality, equity and sustainability not just for now but the generations to come. Only then can we really say that we as a society are Actively working to eradicate racism.  Remember racism is learnt behaviour, babies are born seeking love, connection and belonging. It is though socialisation, teaching and lived experiences that we learn to hate and be racist. When we can learn to live, lead and serve from love and the heart and do this for a few successive generations will we begin to see progress.

[Image description from Shantelle: My photo incorporates elements that are essential to my sense of self and my journey in this life. However what it does not allow you to see are the ancestors that come before me, my children who are the next generation and will inherit the legacy I leave behind and be influenced by who I am being, not just what I am doing in this life. And all those I fight to serve.]


Shawn William Edge, MBA, Manager, Quality Assurance at Voice

This is an extract from an opinion piece by Shawn, which can be accessed here.

I’m anxious most days. Because the world I live in is always peppered with an undertone of racism and prejudice. It’s not easy being African-American, everything I say or do could put me in a situation where the odds are I’m likely to be killed or falsely incarcerated.

I’m always cautious and always aware of my surroundings and who is close to me in public or it might be the way people look at me.

There’s a lot of perceptions I think people have about African- Americans that are negative. Growing up during that time, I was told I was the “whitest black guy” and others
described me as an Oreo. It didn’t bother me at the time, but the more I thought about it, it bothered me that people knew I was different from other African-Americans.

I always try to conduct myself in a respectful manner but sometimes it can be difficult for other people to reciprocate in kind depending on their background and upbringing.

Emotions are very high right now. But I think it is important to understand where they are
coming from. We need to approach this from a spirit of understanding, not aggression to one another.

We need change in our country. Black lives do matter. George Floyd should not have been killed at the hands, or in this case the knee, of a police officer while he said he couldn’t breathe. Other police officers involved should not have stood by and not listened to the cries from the public to stop killing him.

We need to talk about what is going on. We can’t ignore what is happening anymore. Because years of sweeping it under the rug has led to this tinderbox moment at the worst possible moment in our country.

[Image description: Headshot of Shawn smiling in front of two computer screens. He wears a purple collared shirt.]


Solai Valliappan, Angel Investor

Telling more stories shines a light on the issue, as opposed to looking away and not addressing it. We shouldn’t be afraid to have uncomfortable conversation and discussions at all levels – from your family and friends right up the chain to business leaders and politicians. From there being a more centred discussion, tangible action can and should be taken, otherwise we’ll be unable to grow and move from the status quo. 

[Image description: Headshot from the shoulders up of a smiling woman with a brown face, brown eyes and long black hair wearing a blue sleeveless top in front of a white background.]


Weh Yeoh, CEO and Co-Founder of Umbo

We can all do a little more to eradicate racism in our communities, but the first step would be to acknowledge its existence. We need to acknowledge that it is a systemic issue we must address, and that each of us have our own biases. This means we don’t demonise people who have displayed outward signs of racism, as tempting as this is, it doesn’t help to address the underlying causes.

We could also do with spending more time listening. This is the one step that we often forget, that listening is a very strong form of action, and yet it’s a skill which we put little value on.

We can also make a serious effort to combat systemic racism by making a stronger commitment to diversity and inclusion. I believe that in Australia, at least, we are currently making great strides in gender equality. Yes, there is more to be done.

But diversity of gender is not the be all and end all when it comes to diversity. There is also cultural diversity, and diversity in terms of disability, LGBTQI, age and socio-economic status. It makes sense to me that we should not just address one form of diversity because it suits us here and now. We have to do what we can to improve all levels of diversity at once.

[Image description: Weh is smiling in front of ferns and plants. He has short, black hair and wears a collared blue shirt.]


Yasmin Poole, Youth Advocate

I think the first important part is realising that we all collectively share that burden. As the Black Lives Matter protests demonstrate, people of colour – and in Australia, especially Indigenous communities – are tired of constantly having to explain and justify their experiences of racism. It’s our responsibility to acknowledge how racism has shaped our history, and in turn our education and institutions.

On a political level, we need to create a Parliament that’s representative of multicultural Australia. Politicians frequently celebrate Australia’s successful immigration scheme, but it’s not represented in the disproportionately low amount of culturally diverse politicians. We also continue to see politicians using racism to fearmonger, from refugees to ‘African gangs’ to Asian immigration.

The media also has a role to play. I was really disappointed when watching the news this week. Despite covering Indigenous deaths in custody, it was rare that an Indigenous person was given a platform to have their say. It’s essential that we incorporate all voices.

Corporations also have a responsibility to leading the conversation, including having frank and candid discussions about racism. People of colour continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions. Corporations should be questioning this and thinking about how they can create a workplace culture that taps into our different cultural strengths.

[Image description: Black and white photo of Yasmin standing at a lectern on stage speaking into a microphone.]


Wesa Chau, CEO of Cultural Intelligence

When there is prejudice, there is racism, so I don’t think it’s possible to completely eradicate racism. However I do think we can and must reduce racism and reduce the impact of racism. There are a few levels that need to be worked on.

1. Politically, when Australian politicians talk about issues with a racial undertone or are racist outright, this can and does inspire racism. So I think whilst freedom of speech is important, it cannot be at the expense of dehumanising groups of people. Therefore it is important to have people speaking out against Australian politicians who are racist.

2. Australian media and the way incidents are reported also promote racism – especially when Australian media confuses Chinese-Australians with the Government in China or assume that all Chinese-Australians are all Chinese citizens. Without making clear distinctions, any news in relation to China are blamed towards anyone who looks Chinese (therefore includes all Asian-Australians).

3. Community. Whilst structurally, there is a need for some Australian leaders and media to take responsibility for spreading racism and for other Australian leaders to speak up against that, there is also a need for the everyone in the community to be more careful about the words and terms they use. For example, it is not OK to make a joke that has racial undertones. Everyone in the community can be involved in stopping this and should be – this can be speaking up against their mates who made racial jokes, or defending another person when they have been treated unfairly due to race. For this reason, I’m also taking up the responsibility and leadership to do something by creating the project Resilience Against Racism, to provide support to people who have experienced racism in the community. 

[Image description: Wesa is smiling and looking at the camera. She is wearing a red scarf over a dark grey blazer.]

 

 


About the experts


Aarti Bajaj, Artistic Director, Director, Choreographer, Actor and Dancer

With a bachelor’s degree in Indian classical dance Bharatnatyam and experience of over 25 years in creating, performing and managing the journey of creative works and creativity as a whole: I believe the most important role of an artist is to tell stories. We are storytellers – storytellers that have the ability and power to transcend the emotions of humans and all other living creatures beyond boundaries, breaking geographical and ethnic cultural barriers using our expressions, physical and technical craft. The main ethos and motto for me as an artist remains to be a global citizen that sees art as an entity that speaks the global language and brings all culturally diverse backgrounds, humans and ideas on one platform of humanity.


Annukina Warda, Principal Consultant at Elemental Training

Annukina Warda is an educator, community development practitioner and social policy analyst who has worked supporting communities in Australia and abroad.

She started Elemental Training and Consulting to offer a range of supports to the public and not-for-profit sectors in order to thrive.

Elemental Training resources are practical tools for young leaders and professionals to practice cultures of care, increase their connection to the earth and participate in communities in radically creative ways.

Annukina Warda is an Assyrian woman born and raised on Darug country. She holds an Arts degree majoring in Gender and Politics and a Graduate Diploma in Education.

More info at www.elementaltraining.com.au


Carmel Zein, Founder of Amina Rose

Carmel is a content and marketing professional and Founder of a sustainable retail business named Amina Rose. 

She has built a career around fostering meaningful relationships, supporting initiatives around diversity and inclusion, women in tech and mums in business all whilst maintaining a healthy lifestyle and being a mother.

As a woman of colour and daughter of migrants, Carmel is passionate about giving a voice to minorities and educating others on how to show support.


Caroline La Rose, Program Director, Hotwire

Caroline La Rose is a PR and Communications consultant at Hotwire. Originally from Mauritius, Caroline moved to Sydney Australia in 2007 and has since built a successful career in Public Relations but her journey navigating such a white industry hasn’t been short of challenges. As an African creole now living in Sydney, Caroline is passionate about cultural diversity in the workplace, and more importantly, cultural diversity in leadership roles.


Cathy Ngo, CEO and Founder of Keynoteworthy

Frustrated with seeing the ‘usual suspects’ at events and conferences, Cathy Ngo founded Keynoteworthy as a way to amplify the voices of  the ‘everyday speaker’. She believes there is no shortage of talent out there and wanted to make it more accessible for event managers to find amazing and diverse speakers. Cathy believes representation on stage matters because impact does not end on stage – it’s where it begins. 

Before founding Keynoteworthy, Cathy has spent more than a decade in corporate HR and communication roles implementing change programs for top ASX listed companies. Outside of work, Cathy loves to dabble in stand-up comedy, collect indoor plants and frantically balance the grind with her young family. 


Diana Nguyen, Actor, Comedian and Writer

Diana Nguyen is an actor, comedian and writer. She is also a video content creator on LinkedIn with 38k followers. Diana has been in the entertainment industry for 15 years, and performed all over Australia and internationally in LA and Edinburgh. Diana has performed on TV, film and theatre including devising over 10 shows, including Dirty Diana and Naked (standup), Dirty Baby and Viet Kieu (theatre), and has appeared on The Project (Ch10), QandA (ABC), How to Stay Married (Ch10), 5 bedrooms (Ch10), Fancy Boy (ABC) and Fat Pizza (Ch7). In 2008, Diana’s popular short story “5 ways to disappoint your Vietnamese mother” was published in Alice Pung’s book “Growing up Asian in Australia.” This started her need to share her story of growing up in Springvale and led to the creation of the theatre show, Phi and Me. She is the co-creator of Phi and Me, the first ever Vietnamese Australian family comedy series which was first performed at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2011, sharing the story of a refugee mother’s love for her child living in Australia. In 2019  Phi and Me became the first ever Vietnamese Australian family comedy webseries which was funded by Screen Australia and crowdfunders from around the world. www.diananguyen.com.au


Dr. Dede Tetsubayashi, Social Scientist and Technologist

Dr. Tetsubayashi is a social scientist and technologist who has built an expertise in product strategy, policy, consulting, and cross-cultural design research for the US, APAC, and African markets for more than 16 years. Her extensive experience lies in helping companies (from startups to Fortune 100s) develop and invest in creating processes that answer questions related to cutting edge tech going global and what it means to design for—and to empower—a diverse world, as well as address ethical usage of technology and ways to engage with as well as include users as dynamic participants in product development. She is an expert in designing, launching and scaling responsible, ethical and equitable products that have global impact, cultural and technological relevance within emerging markets.


Jaynaya Winmar, Founder of Blakbone Sistahood

Proud Noongar/Balladong woman from Quairading in the wheatbelt region of Western Australia.

Jaynaya has a strong background across the Employment and Recruitment sectors through partnerships throughout the Education and Employment across regional and remote areas within Western Australia and Victoria. Having previously worked within the recruitment industry specialising in disadvantaged cohorts across wider Australia under the employment services framework Jaynaya has been able to assist in identifying the gaps in engagement deliveries and having the ability to effectively articulate throughout the partnerships on how to actively develop these.

With this extensive experience Jaynaya has been consulting on Reconciliation Action Plan development and implementation across corporate national and international companies or sporting clubs and peak bodies within the sporting industry through all plan levels for Reflect through to Elevate status. As an extension on this Jaynaya also has consulted with the development of strategic Indigenous Procurement Policies and Indigenous Engagement Plans. This consul Jaynaya has been utilising these skills and natural abilities to strengthen and share this knowledge of the business bonds between Indigenous Businesses and the wider business landscape.


Jean Sum, Founder of Sum of Jean

Jean Sum is a proud Asian-Australian Woman with a keen interest in solving “wicked” societal challenges. She is a mentor to Asian-Australian women, writer, speaker and a cross-sector partnerships broker.

She created Sum of Jean to offer support to young Asian-Australian Women to align their life and career paths with their values, strengths and desires. As a woman who started a career in a traditional, masculine industry (banking), she hid a large part of herself in order to be seen as exceptional, and did not embrace her feminine qualities such as intuition, expression and empathy which are the traits needed as leaders in the 21st century.

Jean’s vision for Asian-Australian Women is to truly see and believe in themselves, to walk boldly in the world and for their voices to be heard. To know that they are worthy. You can read about her at www.SumofJean.com.


Jerusha Mather, Neuroscientist

Jerusha Mather is a multi-skilled, creative, and motivated professional with a sheer love for the neurosciences. She is proudly “brown” and was born in Sri Lanka where the doctors said she would never walk or talk. Immigrating to Australia with her family changed everything for her as this enabled access to therapy services that improved her condition. She is now able to walk and talk.

Miss Mather is a neuroscientist with a cause. Her research passion is non-invasive brain stimulation and neural plasticity and how these concepts can help treat cerebral palsy. She is currently undertaking PhD studies in this area. She is also a fierce advocate for prospective and current medical students with a disability in Australia where significant barriers exists. She is an outspoken feminist and social activist. When she is not working on the above, she engages in anything musical and loves writing poetry. 


Jieh-Yung Lo, Director, ANU Centre for Asian-Australian Leadership

Jieh-Yung Lo is the Founding Director of the newly established Centre for Asian-Australian Leadership (CAAL) at the Australian National University. CAAL aims to address the significant underrepresentation of Asian-Australians in leadership positions within Australian public institutions and major private sector corporations.

For three years, Jieh-Yung worked as the Executive Officer to Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC the former Chancellor of the ANU and Manager of the ANU Melbourne Office. As a representative of the ANU, Jieh-Yung co-initiated and successfully delivered alongside the ANU’s partners PwC Australia and Asialink/University of Melbourne the inaugural Asian-Australian Leadership Summit in Melbourne last year.

Before joining the ANU, Jieh-Yung spent years in various policy and project roles for a number of not for profit and advocacy organisations. He previously served two terms as a Councillor with the City of Monash including two years as Deputy Mayor.


Kera Sherwood-O’Regan, Co-Founder of Activate.Film

Kera Sherwood-O’Regan (Kāi Tahu, Te Waipounamu) is an Indigenous multidisciplinary storyteller and activist based in Aotearoa New Zealand. She leads social impact agency, Activate [www.activate.film], to co-create community-led stories and projects for social change. Kera’s work and activism centers structurally oppressed communities in social change, and crosses the intersections of Indigenous and disability rights, hauora (health), and climate change. She is also the Founder of Fibromyalgia Aotearoa NZ [www.fibromyalgia.org.nz], and in her spare time organises for ethical representation in media, and collaborates with many NGOs on issues of climate and disability justice.


Manita Ray, Principal Advisor at Capital Human

Manita Ray (MBA, B.Eng) is the founder of Capital Human, Gender Lens Action Australia and the GESIData project. Capital Human works with business, government, SME’s and NFPs to operationalise gender equity and social impact initiatives into organisational decision-making and applies an intersectional lens when considering gender. Manita is the immediate past CEO of ygap, with over 22 years experience across the private, public, not-for-profit and international development sectors. 

She has worked in multiple sectors including renewable energy, infrastructure construction, hazardous waste, frontier markets, entrepreneurial ecosystems, impact investing, medical research and refugees support. 

Her work has been across SEAsia, Africa and The Pacific Islands and Australia. She led ygap’s work as a lead implementation partner for DFAT’s InnovationXChange’s Frontier Incubators Program across APAC and was the lead designer, developer and advisor for the ‘Gender Lens Incubation and Acceleration Toolkit’ (GLIA). 


Dr. Muneera Bano, Superstar of STEM

A passionate advocate for women in STEM, Muneera Bano was announced as the ‘Most Influential Asian-Australian Under 40’ in 2019. A ‘Superstar of STEM’ and member of ‘Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’ committee for Science and Technology Australia, Muneera has a strong commitment to smash society’s gender and cultural assumptions about scientists. She is the Go Girl, Go For IT 2020 Ambassador with the aim to inspire the next generation of girls in STEM careers. She serves as a member of the ‘Gender Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’ Task Force at the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment at Deakin University.


Rathana Chea, Head of Global Learning and Development at Greenpeace

Rathana Chea has worked in Asia-Pacific, Europe, Africa and the Americas for a number of international agencies including Greenpeace and Amnesty International and undertaken initiatives for various bodies of the United Nations. Born in a refugee camp on the border of Thailand and Cambodia he grew up in South West Sydney and the Northshore graduating from University of Technology, Sydney. He has given guest lectures at a number of universities all over the world in sociology and law. Much to many people’s horror he very rarely drinks coffee or tea.


Shantelle Thompson, Warrior Within

Proud Barkindji, Ngiyampaa and European woman of descent Shantelle Thompson is known in her community as the Barkindji Warrior. She believes and lives by the Warrior Within – be, lead and serve from the heart. Live courageously and dare greatly. Shantelle uses her lived, learned and earned experiences to share her story, teach, guide and mentor in her speaking, workshops and business. Shantelle is a mother of three (including twins), survivor of post-natal depression, suicidal ideation, sexual abuse, racism, bullying, lateral violence and adversity. She is a x3 world champion in jiu-jitsu, a speaker, social entrepreneur, mentor and more. More importantly she tries in each day to lead by example, be the change she wishes to see in the world and show up and do the best she can in who she is now.


Shawn William Edge, MBA, Manager, Quality Assurance at Voice

Shawn has over 10+ years of Technical experience. Talented technologist and motivated Entrepreneur, focused on e-commerce and Web/Mobile technologies. Shawn graduated from college in three years with a four year degree from Curry College. He has studied abroad in Australia where he took up studies in Nanotechnology.

After college, he worked at one of the top 100 Cloud companies in America and worked at a Boston start-up acquired by a Fortune 500 company.


Solai Valliappan, Angel Investor

Solai Valliappan is the proud daughter of South Indian migrants. She is an Angel Investor focused on the areas of CleanTech and Data/Analytics. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries of Australia and a Chartered Enterprise Risk Actuary. 


Weh Yeoh, CEO and Co-Founder of Umbo

Weh Yeoh was born in Sydney and lived, volunteered and worked in Cambodia for over five years. He is a professionally trained physiotherapist who has also completed a Masters in Development Studies. He has a diverse background, having travelled through remote parts of Asia, volunteered with people with disabilities in Vietnam, interned in India, and studied Mandarin in Beijing.

He founded OIC Cambodia after meeting Ling, a boy who slurs his speech. With basic speech therapy, Ling is now going to school for the first time and not just participating, but excelling. He’s coming second in his class.

Weh would love to see this success for every child in Cambodia, and yet, there is not one local speech therapist in Cambodia. Weh believes that every person deserves a chance and loves fighting for the underdog.

He is now co-founding Umbo, a social enterprise bridging the gap for rural children to access allied health services.


Yasmin Poole, Youth Advocate

Yasmin is best described as a ‘human megaphone for Gen Z’. She has represented millions of young Australians in advocating for youth policy reform, including being the 2018 Chair of the Victorian Government’s Youth Congress. She also led the global business development of 180 Degrees Consulting, a youth led social impact consultancy that spans across 30 countries. She is currently Plan International’s Youth Ambassador, focusing on engaging young Australian women in politics. In 2019, Yasmin was the youngest member of the Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence and Top 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian Australians. Yasmin has been a panellist on shows such as Q&A and the Drum, with a focus on how we can include youth in the conversation to create change.


Wesa Chau, CEO of Cultural Intelligence

Wesa Chau is an experienced manager, board director, speaker, trainer and specialist consultant on cultural diversity.

Wesa is the CEO of Cultural Intelligence, a specialist consulting firm that helps organisations better understand cultural diversity and its impacts on design, decision making, customer service, messaging and policy setting. In her capacity as Director of Cultural Intelligence, Wesa has worked with clients ranging from government departments, educational institutions, corporations and not for profit organisations.