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.
Nominations for 2022 have now closed. We received over 60 nominations this year, featuring brilliant women across all industries with a range of experiences. It was incredibly heartwarming to see the incredible work South Asian women are doing in Australia and we’re so honoured to be able to amplify their achievements.
Celebrate With Us
Join us in celebrating our 2022 Stellar Women, Anjali Sharma (Climate Activist), Ana Tiwary (Producer & Founder of IndiVisual Films) and Sheetal Deo (Founder of Shakti Legal Solutions).
During this event you’ll learn about the how and why behind the work they do and will have the opportunity to connect with like minded people. Hosted by our all time favourite South Asian comedian Sunanda, this event will be full of fun, laughter, yummy food and drinks, and goodies (how can you say no to that!).
At sixteen, Anjali became a household name across Australia for standing up for what she believes in. As the lead litigant in the 2020 class action against the Federal Government (for failing its duty of care to protect young people from the impacts of climate change), she found herself receiving national media attention.
Since then, Anjali has gone on to appear on television and written for major news organisations such as the ABC, The Guardian and The Saturday Paper, and was awarded the international prize for climate activism, the Children’s Climate Prize, in 2021
We had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with Anjali and learn about her motivations, support systems and future plans. We’re honoured to have her as one of the four 2022 Australia’s Stellar South Asian Women recipients and are in awe of her tireless commitment to environmental activism and the courage she’s shown in the face of adversity.
Sheetal, like many children of immigrants was driven to achieve financial security & didn’t start law school with the burning desire to create social change. However, during her time completing her undergraduate degree, the seeds were planted relating to identity & intersectionality which laid the foundations for her ongoing commitment to social impact.
This led Sheetal to set up a law firm (Shakti Legal Solutions) designed to improve access to legal services for everyday people with a unique, ‘pay what you can’ model. This is not the only hat that Sheetal wears & she lends her time to social enterprises & volunteering with not-for-profits & boards which align with her mission & values.
Ana has produced over 25 documentaries, from working on Bollywood sets in Mumbai to National Geographic, to now working as a Series Producer for the ABC’s India Now! Not long after moving to Australia, Ana created the Facebook Group, ‘Diversity in Australian Media’ to advocate & support equity, social justice & safe spaces in the Australian film & TV industry.
Beyond this group, Ana champions diversity & representation through her writing, producing, directing & providing employment opportunities to uplift diverse talent & creatives to highlight marginalised stories in the Australian media landscape.
Yatha works in a team at Medtronic that focuses on treating patients with Aortic Stenosis, where patients have a 50% chance of surviving 2 years after the onset of symptoms. She has also done phenomenal work in the community as a Youth Ambassador for Multicultural Youth Affairs Network, consulted with the UN about global refugee youth & strategies to prevent youth extremism, Australian Human Rights Commission on anti-racism, government & policy-makers on youth responses to climate change, & roundtables with ABC News on mental health.
She has also been a volunteer with @stjohnvic for the last 7 years & was appointed to the board of Prosper (Project Australia’s community organisation supporting disadvantaged children & families) & was promoted to vice chair in 2021.
To learn more about the work that Yatha does in the community & her thoughts on creating social impact, click the button below.
Sheetal Deo (She/Her) is an advocate, opportunist and connector. She is passionate about leveraging platforms and privilege to bridge gaps in awareness, education, and accessibility. Sheetal is the Principal Solicitor and Founder of Shakti Legal Solutions; an innovative low-bono law firm designed specifically to improve access to legal assistance for everyday people and offers a unique, ‘pay what you can’ model for eligible clients. Sheetal also works with the College of Law as an adjunct lecturer, runs a diversity and inclusion collective, and volunteers her time on various not-for-profit organisations and boards including Out for Australia, the LGBTI Legal Service, and the Queensland Law Society Council.
Asha Bhat leads the award-winning regional Southern Aboriginal Corporation (SAC), which provides services and programs that address the Noongar peoples’ needs and aspirations in cooperation with other community and business organizations. Asha provides leadership in areas such as structured Indigenous training and employment, family violence prevention legal service, affordable housing, suicide prevention and health promotion and support Noongar people to achieve their potential. Nearly two decades after rebuilding her life and career in Australia as a migrant, Asha has been awarded the Order of Australia Medal for her service to WA’s Indigenous community in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Aarti’s ultimate purpose is to bring sustainability, inclusiveness equity, and more empathy to healthcare and arts. She is the CEO/Founder of the Gold Coast-based production company, Wild Dreamer Productions (WDP). In 2017, Aarti went about assembling a cast and crew of 300 local amateur performers to create the stage show MEERA which played in 2018 to a sold-out crowd of 1,100 and later toured in NZ. Aarti not only wrote MEERA, but starred, directed, and managed all facets of the production. In 2020 Aarti produced a stage show “VOID” that speaks about the impact of child abduction on families and the immediate community.
Thenu Herath is the CEO of Oaktree, a non-profit that supports young people in the Asia-Pacific region to lead sustainable development initiatives in their communities. She has previously worked with World Vision, Teach for Australia and was the first female host of the Australian Institute of International Affairs’ Dyason House Podcast. Alongside her role at Oaktree, Thenu is also a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum and a co-author of Australia’s first youth national security strategy. She has a degree in politics and international studies and is currently completing her Juris Doctor at the University of Melbourne.
Anjali Sharma (she/her) is 18 years old and was the lead litigant of the Sharma vs Environment Minister, a class action legal case which, in 2021, successfully established that the environment minister owes all young people a duty of care to protect them from the impacts of climate change. She aims to raise awareness about the disproportionate impacts of climate change, particularly towards young people and people of colour, and advocates for a just future where the voices and stories of marginalised communities are amplified in the process of moving to a low carbon economy. Her work has been featured in Saturday Paper, ABC & The Guardian
Mandy (she/her) is the CEO & Founder of Flourish Girl. Flourish Girl is a not for profit organisation that delivers rites of passage programs for teenage girls & gender diverse teens to build their self-awareness, self confidence and social connectedness within their school community and other trusted relationships. To date, Flourish Girl has worked with over 10000 teenage girls & gender diverse teens across Australia. Mandy is also an ex-speech pathologist, TEDx Speaker, an Australian Accredited Facilitator and was the first-senior female facilitator at The Rites of Passage Institute paving the way for their school programs for teenage girls & gender diverse teens.
Varsha (she/her) is a law student, podcaster, writer and advocate for climate justice and mental health awareness. She has been an organiser for School Strike for Climate and was listed as one of the 100 women resetting The world in 2021 by Women’s Agenda and as one of 30 individuals changing the world by 2030 by Urban List. Varsha is currently a coordinator at SAPNA South Asian Climate Solidarity Network and a paralegal at Equity Generation Lawyers which conducts climate change litigation. Her work along with her podcast, Not to be Controversial, aims to create a community for young South Asians to feel represented and empowered.
“Yatha यथा (she/her) is an award-winning multicultural advocate and speaker, pursuing a career in the medical device industry. She’s currently a Youth Ambassador for the Multicultural Youth Affairs Network NSW and Vice-Chair of the non for profit, Prosper (Project Australia). Yatha has spoken at the International Youth Media Conference, the National Youth Futures Summit and has commented for media publications including the Sydney Morning Herald and Triple J. She also worked with the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism in a Global Program to prevent violent extremism among young people. “Photographs taken for a wider portrait collection Heart of Heritage by @until.sunrise”
“Ruchika Rawat is a fierce DEIB advocate, Healthcare Redesigner, community leader, migrant women’s advocate, researcher, physiotherapist, digital health mentor, and the first woman of South Asian heritage to work closely with the Aussie owned AusMumpreneur group after being the national finalist for Sustainability Award in 2017 which resulted in start of a new category – the multicultural category! Ruchika is a local community champion and has landed coverage in various media outlets including the Herald Sun, AFR, The Muse AUS & NZ, and the Indian Sun. She works in the public sector and brings diverse perspectives of the multicultural communities to various steering committees and is Co-Author of ‘More than a Mum’.
Amity Mara (she/her) is an autistic transgender Tamil woman from Sri Lanka, living in Naarm on unceded Wurundjeri country. She is a lawyer and social justice campaigner, currently working as the Director of Campaigns & Strategy at the Foundation for Young Australians. Over her 8+ years she has won campaigns to increase access to the Disability Support Pension, challenge the harmful Robodebt system, stop the Religious Discrimination bill from harming LGBTQI+ communities amongst others. In her spare time Amity is one of the convenors of the Borderless Affirmation mutual aid group for transgender migrants, that provides housing, clothing, food and legal support, as well as direct financial aid, for its members.
Shazleen Lateef (she/her) is the founder of Maba Idi, a social enterprise and ethical beauty brand that captures the essence of Australia. She founded Maba Idi with a fundamental social purpose to promote beauty as a right and a tool to empower women and girls of Australia. Before starting Maba Idi, Shazleen was an education advisor at the UN in Lebanon, taught and managed academic programs at the UNSW and La Trobe University. She worked in China, Poland, Taiwan and Sweden. She holds a Master of Anthropology from ANU and Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Sociology from UNSW.
Vithyaa (She/her) is a second generation Australian-Tamil. She is the first South Asian Female Forensic Fire Investigator and one of only the few females in Australia in the industry. She is also the founder of Murs De Fleurs Events and Sydney Flower Walls which aim to change the event industry by making events affordable to all. In 2018 she co-founded Brown Boss Babes (BBB) Australia which was created to connect and inspire all women, focusing on South Asian and brown women. BBB host events whilst raising money for charities and organisations that assist women all across Australia.
Rose Lewis (she/her) is an Anglo-Indian immigrant thriving on Darug Land in Western Sydney. She earned her Business and Law degrees from Western Sydney University, serving as a Board of Trustees member in 2020-21. Rose consistently volunteers, produces digital content and provides strategic advice on education, healthcare improvement and intersectional feminism. She’s collaborated on research covering child e-safety, financial literacy, and the impact of climate change on youth health. Rose is also an artist, performer and mentor who tackles anti-racism and enables holistic wellbeing, particularly for people from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
Shilpa (she/her) is the founder of Glowreel: a media startup dedicated to amplifying the voices of Black women, Indigenous women and women of colour (BIPOC women). Shilpa’s aim is to ensure BIPOC women feel represented, empowered and inspired to blaze their own trail! Shilpa graduated from University with First Class Honours in Politics. She has a background in public policy and experience as a lifestyle and beauty journalist. Shilpa’s from Wellington, New Zealand and now calls Melbourne, Australia home. When she’s not researching stories for Glowreel you’ll find her chilling with a strong cappuccino or a rosé in hand!
“Sumen Rai (she/her) is Director of the Defence Innovation Partnership, a collaboration between the South Australian Government, Defence Science and Technology Group and South Australian universities. She leads national and international R&D engagement and collaboration between researchers, industry and government, to deliver innovative solutions to the defence and space sectors. Sumen has extensive government experience across investment attraction, trade, and industry development. Sumen was previously a teacher and lecturer in Arts and Design & Technology, a science communicator, and filmmaker.
Raised in a conservative Sri Lankan Tamil family, Janaki Gerard (she/her) was faced with the challenge of going against the grain to pursue a career in the performing arts. Her dedication to refine her craft has taken her to New York City and London; Gaining her Masters in Acting at East 15 Acting school. Since returning to Brisbane, Janaki has worked both on stage and screen, including roles with Queensland Theatre, Laboite, Upside down Media and Dead Puppet Society. Her goal is to champion creativity as a device for our wellbeing and enrich future generations in the entertainment industry through wider representation and diverse storytelling.
Ananya (she/her) is currently a Venture Capital Investor, specifically supporting Artesian’s Female Leaders Fund, investing in high-growth, female-led startups overlooked by other VCs and underrepresented in the startup landscape. Ananya is also a founder of Brown Baddies NFT, an NFT collection that aims to represent South Asian women in the web3 space. Previously, Ananya founded a sustainable tech startup, and spent two years as a Management Consultant where she specialised in the intersection of strategy and customer experience. She is also the Vice Chair for Women of Colour Australia’s Research & Advocacy Committee.
Ana Tiwary (she/her) runs the production company indiVisual films that specialises in multicultural stories. Ana was born in India, holds a Masters in Film from the US, and has lived/worked in many different parts of the world. From Bollywood films to National Geographic Channel, Ana has experience working across factual as well as features and has produced over 25 documentaries for ABC TV and other networks. Last year she produced the first Asian Australian rom-com ‘Rhapsody of Love’ and recently produed ‘India Now’. Thirteen years ago Ana created the Diversity in Australian Media community and is an advocate for equity, social justice and safe spaces.
Named Best of the Best Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 by B&T, called ‘Mighty Mouse’ in the advertising and marketing worlds by Forbes, nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year finalist by CEO Magazine, and named a ‘Woman to Watch in 2021’ by Campaign Asia, Tash is resetting the way brands and freelancers think about and solve creative problems.
Her business, MASH, curates and connects clients with referral-only freelancers in the communications and creative profession. Founded in 2018, MASH is now active in six continents, 14 countries and collaborates with more than 100 highly vetted and experienced freelancers (known as MASHers).
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 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
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 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.
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.