Women champions honoured at the inaugural ”˜Innate Power of Women Forum’

Milli Dakshin with proud parents

Bindi Shah and Susan Day

It is good to see champions from the Indian community being recognised for all the worthwhile work they do for the benefit of community in Australia. It was a proud moment for Khushi and Milli Dakshin who received The Young Champion Award, Bindi Shah along with Susan, received Senior Champion of the Year Award, making the community   equally proud of their contribution to the Australian society.

Both Khushi and Milli sisters, one in Year Ten and the other in Year 12, together they have raised $28,000, from auctions of their on-the-spot paintings, which they have donated to various charities including recently in January to the Rural Fire Service. Bindi Shah was another one who was honoured along with  Susan Day with the Senior Champion Award. Both Bindi and Susan have over the last 10 years raised more than $149,000 by holding garage sales, themed night fundraisers, clothes and/or book swaps, making and selling candles and morning/afternoon teas.

And the platform which honoured these enterprising women was the inaugural ”˜Innate Power of Women Forum’ held at Park Royal Hotel in Parramatta on March 2. The occasion being International Women Day that falls on March 9 every year.

The idea to honour women from the multicultural community as well as women from the wider Australian community, is the brainchild of Pallavi Sinha, who also convened the forum. It was to celebrate the women and their contribution, said Pallavi, “Our aim is to provide a platform to educate, empower and enrich women to achieve their greatest potential. It was planned to coincide with NSW Women’s week which commences today & is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the economic, political, social & cultural achievements of women. One of the key outcomes of the forum today is the formation of a Working Group to regularly meet, & contribute to the development of policy and action plans in keys areas that women need assistance.”

Champion Women Awards went to Violet Roumeliotis – Grassroots Champion of the Year Award; Janelle Speight – Initiative of the Year (Individual); Dalya Karezi – Initiative of the Year Award (Individual); Khawlah Asmaa – Rural & Regional Champion of the Year Award; Viji Dhanathyan – Initiative of the Year Award (Group) and Aileen Mountifield of Lisa Harnum Foundation – Initiative of the Year Award (Group). The program was ably conducted by the MC Stephen Sim.

Forum was attended by NSW Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth & Women Minister Bronwyn Taylor, Member for East Hills Wendy Lindsay MP, Mayor Phillip Ruddock (former Fed Member for Parramatta), CMRC CEO Melissa & CMRC Chair Warren Schweitzer, Mrs Nimeesha Gupta, wife of Indian Consul General in Sydney Mr. Manish Gupta, Stepan Kerkyasharian, Sponsors University of Sydney, CBA & AFEA as well by women who make a difference to our society in various fields, through work, through volunteering and community work.

The Forum was conducted in cooperation of the Community Migrant Resource Centre (CMRC) and its CEO Melissa Monteiro, who believes in creating a culture of sisterhood, she said, “I truly believe in the aims of the Forum and that together we can build and help women realise their innate potential, their resilience and capacity. All our programs for the last few years have focussed on helping women discover the strengths that lie within each of them.”

Pallavi Sinha with Minister Bronwyn Taylor

Minister Bronwyn Taylor spoke eloquently about women and their contribution to our society, “Women make up 50 per cent of the workforce and are a force to reckon with.”

“There’s a need to establish a Women Working group that can inform on policies, on equity, help harness talent, and leadership.”

“Anything good for women is good for everyone,” she said, “They are getting there yet there’s more to be done.”

She said, “Women need to tell their stories,” relating her own journey, of being a cancer nurse, when she saw people in the country living in far off places who had to travel to city to get treatment, she ended up forming a Women’s committee and helped raise one million dollars to help set up an Oncology unit in Cooma hospital.

“We must tell our stories to younger people, back each other up and not be afraid to do something new.”

Her take home advice is that women need flexible work practices, that businesses should allow women to work remotely, “I as politician have been able to talk about health, children and education, if we do not discuss then things do not happen.”

A Panel discussion followed facilitated by Pallavi Sinha with panellists Tania Rhodes-Taylor Vice-Principal University of Sydney, Tracey Spicer 2019 NSW Premier’s Woman of the Year and Malini Raj, Head of Strategy Multicultural Community Banking CBA.

Malini who has worked in the Finance industry over 18 years and as head of strategy for multicultural community at Commonwealth Bank, has strongly advocated for a more diverse workforce and is responsible for introducing the Corporate Hijab for Muslim women employees. Malini herself, being a patient of Cushing’s disease, told her story and journey of being operated twice, “It would have not been possible for me without the support of the management to give me time and patience to recuperate. Rather it helped me to, on my part, to give more than hundred per cent.”

Tania Rhodes Taylor, Vice-Principal External Relations University of Sydney, said that when she moved to Sydney from England, she felt lonely, “It was only when I called on people to help me find friends that I was able to settle in before my husband joined.”

Tania mentioned how the university’s board has the policy of fifty-fifty ratio at the board level, “We made sure that we have fifty-fifty members on our interview panels to achieve the balance.”

Tracey Spicer, a multiple Walkley Award winning Author, Journalist & Broadcaster, on ABC TV, Radio, Network Ten and Sky News, highly recommended ‘Bystander Training’ where if one goes to a board meeting and someone says inappropriate stuff, then ask someone else who goes to these meetings to back you up if you call out on the person, “This kind of training is just priceless.”

Pallavi drew on the experience of these talented women by asking them many pertinent questions how to work fruitfully and be able to be the women as drivers of change which can only be achieved by coming together as a force.   Pallavi herself, a multi-award winning lawyer, an academic who serves on the NSW Council for Women’s Economic Opportunity and has appeared on Channel 9, Sky News and ABC TV, summed up the panel discussion that ‘take home messages’ from the discussion – to not take No for an answer, keep fighting, forge friendships, network and help each other by working together, “We are here to advance as women by keeping the goal in mind.”

It was an excellent panel of women, conducted by Pallavi, with Tracy, Malini and Tania who shared their experiences in the jobs they do and how they struggle to achieve goals set out as women and bring to light the juggling world of theirs as housewives, mothers, and still be able to work at board level in important positions. They inspired all who came to listen to their stories in the Women’s Week that is celebrated in NSW on March 8 every year.

Pics by Harmohan Walia and Neena Badhwar

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