They come from different countries and various backgrounds, but these women have established themselves down under and are making their presences felt in their respective communities and beyond.
1. Astrid Vasile from Indonesia
2. Helen Chu from Cambodia
Helen Chu arrived in Australia in 1982, and met her husband Ian while studying at the University of Canberra. After 10 years of teaching, and with her husband working as a mobile phone engineer, they gave up the comfort of their secure career paths to pursue a shared dream – farming.
Two years ago, Helen and her husband bought a huge fruit shop in the centre of Canberra, selling a wide range of fruit and vegetables as well as Asian groceries. They’ve also worked to expand their mushroom farm, where a “state-of-the-art” growing facility is now producing 18 tones of mushrooms per week.
3. Dr Miao Chen from China CSIRO Media Department
Dr Miao Chen was raised and educated in China and is currently a team leader of a multi-disciplinary research group specialising in sustainable mining at Australia’s leading research institution, CSIRO (Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organisation).
As one of CSIRO’s top scientists, Dr Chen is the only female Office of the Chief Executive (OCE) Science Leader of Chinese heritage. She is also the author of 13 patents. Dr Chen has worked in China, Australia, Germany and Japan, and says she appreciates the opportunities to work in a Western environment because she believes it gives her more freedom.
“In eastern culture, there are a lot of social and hieratical restrictions for female scientists like me. I would need to show my respect to my supervisors and other researchers who are older…however here in Australia, I am free to express myself and could have a robust discussion with many team members regardless of their gender, age and seniority. The free flow of ideas and great discussions, sometimes even arguments, help nourish new ideas,” she says.
4. Naw Say Htoo Eh Moero from Myanmar
Naw Say Htoo Eh Moero is the recipient of the ‘Above and Beyond’ award and was named Case Worker of the Year at the inaugural Migration and Settlement Awards in Canberra in 2012.
The award was presented by then prime minister Julia Gillard in recognition for her outstanding commitment to the settlement of newly arrived refugees and migrants. Naw Say Htoo is an ethnic Karen woman from Burma/Myanmar and came to Australia in 1999 as a refugee.
She currently works for the Wyndham Community & Education Centre in Victoria, and her role sees her providing practical and emotional assistance in various forms, from helping people who have experienced domestic violence, to helping locals pay bills, find housing or deal with the loneliness of life in a new country. She is also an active member in the Karen community in Werribee, west of Melbourne.
5. Pauline Nguyen from Vietnam
Pauline Nguyen and her family escaped Vietnam in 1977 and settled in Australia as refugees. Along with her belongings, Pauline brought to her new home a love of good food, and she now co-owns Red Lantern, the acclaimed modern Vietnamese restaurants in Sydney. She is the mother of two young children and is a business mentor and speaker in her spare time.
Pauline’s writing has appeared in The Best Australian Essays 2010, Voracious – The Best New Australian Food Writing, Griffith Review, as well as various other publications. In 2008 she won Newcomer Writer of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards.
Her restaurant is six-time winner of Best Asian Restaurant (Restaurant and Catering Awards) and took out first place in the New South Wales medium-sized business category at the Telstra Australian Business Awards in 2012.
6. Sana Balai from Papua New Guinea
Radio Australia: Bethany Keats
Susan Balai, better known as Sana, is from Buka Island in Papua New Guinea’s Autonomous Region of Bougainville. She is the Assistant Curator of Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. Sana is an active member of Melbourne’s PNG and Pacific communities, contributing both socially and culturally. She is involved with the upcoming Contemporary Pacific Arts Festival, and sits on the board of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies as community liaison.
7. Vijaya Vaidyanath from India
City of South Yarra : Vijaya Vaidyanath is Chief Executive Officer of Yarra City Council in Melbourne and a global citizen, having lived across countries and continents. Vijaya draws inspiration from her grandmother and mother, whose tenacity and determination to succeed against odds shaped her world view and led to her interest in social justice and value based leadership. She has been a leader from the very early stages of her career in male-dominated sectors such as central banking, international finance and local government.
In the future, she hopes for a world of equal opportunities, where women can participate at all levels of leadership and hold senior mangagement and board member positions.
As Vijaya says, “I hope that the future generations will not have a special day earmarked as International Women’s Day – that success stories of women will not belong to a rarefied class, but where gender equity will be a way of life. Since half of the world’s population is women, I look forward to a future where half of all decision-makers at all levels will be women too.”
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