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Celebrating South Asian Australian Women

We’ve been inspired by many South Asian women like Leila Janah however growing up it was never easy to find role models closer to home here in Australia.

Despite South Asians being one of the largest ethnic demographics in Australia it’s actually rare to see any real representation of South Asian women in mainstream media, in positions of leadership or in the community/non-profit space. In Victoria alone there are 308 000 South Asian people yet when South Asian women do excellent work, it goes mostly unrecognised. Australia’s Stellar South Asian Women series exists to change that narrative.This series is part of the global South Asian Heritage Month (18 July – 17 August) during which ASAC celebrated and reclaimed the history and identity of South Asian Australians.

We’re currently accepting nominations for 2022

Is there a brilliant South Asian women you’d like to nominate for our Stellar South Asian Women Series 2022? Or perhaps, you’ve been doing some incredible work and would like to be acknowledged for all your effort and impact. Good news! We’re currently accepting nominations for our 2022 series and we accept self-nominations as well (there’s no shame in being proud of yourself). Fill in the short form below and tell us why you think your nominee deserves to be on our Stellar list. We’ll be announcing our finalists in July 2022.

Our 2021 Stellar South Asian Women

Australia’s Stellar South Asian are not only successful but are generous and supportive of those around them. They live their values through their actions and take a stand, even when it’s not popular. They’re successful but more importantly, they care about the community around them. These women are paving the way for the next generation of South Asian community leaders.

We recognised five exemplary emerging and established South Asian creatives, activists, founders and leaders whose voices and work are a force of good.

Hon. Lisa Singh

Hon. Lisa Singh is the first woman of South Asian Heritage to be elected to the Australian Federal Parliament as the Australian Senator representing Tasmania. Lisa’s great grandfather was an indentured labourer in Fiji, which inspired her to champion the cause of fighting modern slavery. Currently she serves as Walk Free’s Head of Government Advocacy.

Her incredible journey inspires many young Australian Indian, Fijian and more broadly South Asian women and girls interested in politics, law reform, human rights, social justice and advocacy.

Sam Wilson 

Sam founded @sobermates when she discovered that being a typical Aussie party girl who loved to indulge in social drinking came at the cost of debilitating mental health.

Fearing judgment, it took her a lot of courage to open up about her experiences with ‘hangxiety’(The anxiety that followed with a hangover). Now, she successfully fosters a community of Aussies who want to explore their drinking patterns and opt to experience social situations sober.

Sam’s story has encouraged many young South Asian women to address the negative effects of a growing drinking culture, otherwise considered taboo in South Asian household

Sushi Das 

Born in a conservative Indian family, Sushi grew up as a rebellious daughter in 1970s London. Describing her youth as a ‘hideous clash of Eastern expectations and her personal Western desires, she credits her upbringing for fuelling her passion for journalism and justice.’ Truly a trailblazer in her own right, Sushi defied orthodox opinions to become a journalist, inspired by causes related to gender, culture and justice.

Currently a senior journalist at RMIT’s ABC Fact Check and a published author (Deranged Marriage), her career of over 27 years is an inspiration to many young, budding writers.

Funny, candid and honest – her message for younger South Asian women is loud and clear: listen to your inner voice and acknowledge your power.

Leah Vandenberg

Leah is ABC Play School’s first South Asian presenter. The show reaches an audience of 900,000 weekly. Young viewers regularly call Leah ‘Aunty’ or ‘Maasi’ because to them she feels and looks like family. Born in NZ, Leah spent her early years in Fiji, before moving to Brisbane. She described this period of her life as ‘harrowing’, but these experiences now, ‘inform everything about my life and the work I do with children. You may have also seen her in the award winning Netflix Series, The Let Down or SBS Australia’s The Hunting.

Her passion project created during the 2020 lockdown, Treehouse Cubby is focused on children from refugee and migrant backgrounds, living in public housing or community detention.

Leah candidly shared with us about her unconventional childhood and how it shaped her career in the Australian television and film industry over the last 20+ years.

Pallavi Sharda

Despite growing up in Melbourne, Pallavi had big dreams from a young age if becoming a Bollywood actress. She realised that these dreams couldn’t be accomplished in Australia. ‘I knew that in Australia, pursuing my dreams would mean just performing at ‘ethnic’ and ‘multicultural’ festivals.’ As a start academic student, she went on to pursue a double degree in Law and Arts at the University of Melbourne at age sixteen.

Her ambition and journey is nothing short of inspiring for younger south asian girls who aspire to make it big in creative arts. Without losing her unique voice, she has stood her ground in Bollywood despite being labeled as the ‘difficult, brown foreign woman’ and has urged other women aspiring to make it big in the entertainment industry to do the same.

She spoke to us about seeking a spiritual journey through her passion for arts, being a mentor she wishes she had to other creatives and getting involved in changing the status quo through her activism.