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Happy 1st Birthday ASAC!

To commemorate the first anniversary of the Australian South Asian Centre (ASAC), our founders, Daizy Maan Kaur and Sehar Gupta share what they’ve learned on this journey so far and what’s planned for the future of ASAC.

The journey so far with ASAC with Co-founder, Daizy Maan Kaur

I use social media a lot. But I think I’ve come to realise I use it differently now than I used to when I was 20. Over the last 5 years, I’ve been connecting with phenomenal South Asian women in the United Kingdom, USA and India. From sharing their brilliant projects to having Zoom meetings and sharing our lived experience, most of the women I speak to are 3rd or 4th generation of the South Asian diaspora.

These community leaders abroad have created spaces for migrant and diverse women and it has been amazing to witness from afar – founders of Brown Girl Magazine, South Asian Heritage Month, UK Punjab Heritage Association, Asian Woman Festival, Product of Culture, Brown Girl Therapy and the Juggernaut – just to name a few.

In 2019, I went to the UK and met with some of these women in person, interviewing them for my podcast and being there I realised how far behind Australia really is. You see, here much of our multicultural programming is delivered by those with no experience of the barriers our community face.

What I’ve learned is that Australia’s multiculturalism is like a bad branding piece where there is a significant disconnect between what our senior leaders think is happening and what those in our communities actually experience. We rarely speak up because as ‘good immigrants’ who should be ‘fortunate’ Australia ever let us in, we aren’t empowered to use our voice to claim the respect we see our non-BIPOC counterparts receive.

Combine that with my parents’ generation who put their head down and worked so hard. With their degrees in engineering and teaching, my parents like so many other educated Indian migrants came to Australia and ended up picking fruit in regional towns because their qualifications weren’t recognised. They did that to make a living for us children so we can now claim what they deserved too – to live here and thrive, not just survive.

I co-founded ASAC to empower young South Asian women in Australia to become impact-driven leaders, creatives and entrepreneurs. A community of women who support one another while, we, as an organisation leverage high-impact partnerships to create an environment where South Asian women can thrive. What I learned is that there are a lot of problems in our community and we must take an intersectional approach, to focus on leadership alone without recognising the domestic violence pandemic in our community will never give us results. To focus on entrepreneurship alone without realising international students are being exploited by ‘entrepreneurs’ will not achieve results. We must take a nuanced approach and recognise the varying barriers that come in the way of our collective progress.

Soul House Diwali Function 2020

Some of our programs and events that we’re proud of include:

  • Australia’s first South Asian Women’s Wellness Space (Soul House), featured on SBS World News which had 500+ women visit and 25 stay overnight.
  • The first Australian Indian Digital Creative Festival featuring female poets, writers, illustrators and activists from across India, Australia and New Zealand received 850 registrations and over 400 competition submissions.
  • Launched Australia’s first Stellar South Asian Woman series where we amplified and celebrated five inspiring South Asian Australian women and reached over 30,000 people. The achievements of our members and community across media, social justice, government and business. I watch in awe of their talent and am inspired by their persistence and creativity.
  • More recently, our team’s work in helping high-risk women and children in Afghanistan. We have actively been in touch with 150 people referred to us by the South Asian community in Victoria, and just last week we were able to ensure one woman with 4 children were able to get on a plane to Doha. They were outside at Abbey gate right before the bomb went off. We will continue to work on this list and hold our elected leaders accountable to give them a fair go.

I’m proud of the many projects our volunteer team has delivered on such a limited budget or no budget – the volunteers on our team are ambitious, resourceful and action-oriented. They get things done and do it with radical transparency, love and have a whole heap of fun while doing it.

 

What’s next for ASAC with Co-founder, Sehar Gupta

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the legacy we want ASAC to leave behind, and I think it’s grounded in the values that shape us as an organisation and guides our efforts and our actions.

Sherniyan Bhangra Team Performing at Holi 2021

Through the many events, workshops, panels, interviews we’ve held since we founded ASAC, I’ve come to learn, that:

  • We’re an organisation that creates space for South Asian Australian women to be heard, acknowledged and celebrated for all their achievements and impact within the community (as this is done not nearly as enough as it should be).
  • We’re an organisation that helps foster connections between values aligned South Asian women and allies to achieve real outcomes.
  • We’re an organisation that champions our members and helps them thrive (we want to see you excel).
  • We’re an organisation that speaks up and isn’t afraid to call out those in power, who supposedly have our best interests in mind, yet have no real understanding of our lived experiences as South Asian women.

Moving forward, we look forward to growing our membership of brilliant and ambitious South Asian women and accelerating the pace of change.

Over the next year, we want to scale our operations and reach more South Asian women, especially those in regional areas, so they know they’re not alone in their struggles. We’re here for them. For support. To listen. To provide opportunities to boost their careers. To provide a platform for them to share their stories. This is what ASAC is all about.

None of this is possible without our dedicated team of volunteers, which we hope to expand. Our team consists of dedicated South Asian women who are driven by their desire to empower our community.  As our organisation turns one we asked them to share their vision for ASAC, here’s what they had to say:

Team photo from ASAC's first strategy session. Pictured from left to right: Tiara, Dishi, Sehar, Anika, Daizy and Priyanka. Missing Maneet and Erika who joined our team later on.
  • Priyanka (Financial Officer): To unite South Asian women building a deep and nurturing sisterhood.
  • Anika (Book Club Lead): My vision for the Book Club is to see more affiliated programs running parallel to it, so we’re amplifying women of colour’s voices in every sector. Writing mentoring programs, school-program initiatives, maybe even a publishing house – all centred around uplifting underrepresented voices in literature.
  • Dishi (Social Media Associate): To see ASAC become the tight-knit sisterhood it has aspired to be for South Asian women here, in Australia and the rest of the world – to depend on, learn and benefit from. As women of colour, we have disproportionately suffered from a lack of access to networks, opportunities, and resources for ages. At ASAC, we are bridging that gap by empowering and amplifying our voices.
  • Tiara (Community Associate): My vision for ASAC is to have a more involved community that feeds into our strategy and amplifies the work that we do.
  • Maneet (Operations Associate): My vision for ASAC is to continue to deliver work that empowers and uplifts South Asian women. I joined the team at ASAC to learn about what goes behind the scenes to make an organisation come to life. My role in Operations has enabled me to do that whilst learning new skills and applications that I didn’t even know existed and I look forward to learning from and working with the team at ASAC as it grows and connecting with fellow South Asian Women.
  • Erika (Content Editor): My vision for ASAC is that in the coming years it continues to grow its strong network of generous, action-oriented, supportive South Asian women and allies who create positive change. I hope that our impact is long-lasting, that it inspires others to create change where they see that there’s a need in the community and that ASAC continues to be a force for good, helping to support South Asian women reach their full potential and accomplish their dreams.

Since starting ASAC in August 2020, we’ve been building a community of ambitious and resilient South Asian women and we’d love for you to join us.

If you’re interested in being part of a community that supports you, provides opportunities to meet other like-minded women and helps further your professional and personal development – register your interest here.

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