From the warm glow of our screens, it’s time to talk

Over the past year, we hosted two Fireside Chats Panels, where we have had the privilege to invite change makers and experts from the community. After our first panel, we were absolutely thrilled with the response from everyone, and with this momentum continuing after the second panel, we wanted to keep exploring new themes in 2021.

So, what is Fireside Chats, exactly? 

Our Fireside Chats are casual panel discussions- the digital version of ‘gathering around a campfire’ to discuss questions based around a central theme. The panellists can discuss their opinions and the audience is able to listen and participate with questions from the comfort of their own homes. These panels aim to shine a light on topics that are not often discussed in the mainstream for Asian Australians/Asians Between Cultures.

Unique cultural identities should be embraced – this was the core of our first Fireside Chats, ‘Initiatives Exploring Diversity’. Our four panellists, Jay Ooi (Shoes Off), Shona Yang (Kozziecom), Dr Samantha Lin (Shakespeare Academy) and Pravin Silva (AALS Summit), shared their own personal journeys and the story behind their amazing initiatives, with the aim of empowering, educating and inspiring. 

Our panellists from our first fireside chats ‘Initiatives Exploring Diversity’

“Growing up with Chinese-Malaysian parents means that I will view the world a little bit differently from my White peers and colleagues, and that’s good. We can contribute, we can see things in a different way. And that’s something we should own.” – Jay Ooi

There are so many nuances that are unique to this cultural identity that are rarely discussed, and we wanted to bring these to the forefront. To encourage everyone who attended and all ABCs, to celebrate these parts of us rather than suppress them. Othering was a common theme but the ability to embrace that can lead to empowerment.

“Use your weaknesses, use your hurt, use your struggles to really help make a difference.” – Shona Yang

The foundation of our second Fireside Chats Panel, You, Me & Mental Health,* was around how Asian-Australians experience and perceive mental health. Our four panellists, Asami Koike (Shapes and Sounds), Dr Charles Chan (Psychiatrist), Professor Chee Ng (Healthscope Chair of Psychiatry) and Monica Dias (Haathi in the Room) provided invaluable perspectives and insights. One of the key takeaways was that we are encouraged to take a more holistic approach to our mental health.

Our panellists from our second Fireside Chats: You, Me & Mental Health

“Our culture being that diaspora culture, we live between the east and the west, in between two sets of values, two sets of ideals. The mental health sector is not quite up to scratch in terms of understanding Asian-Australian people and their needs. And so I started to write about this, and the moment I started, I realised I was not alone in my thinking.” – Asami Koike.

Conversations about mental health are generally kept under the radar when it’s a common issue that very much needs to be openly discussed. The more we talk about it, the more we can help reduce the stigma. Understanding and delving into various social and cultural contexts to see what barriers and factors are in place, can be key to changing people’s perceptions relating to mental health issues.

How do our Fireside Chats work?

Our team comes up with questions to cover the key topics being addressed, to ensure as much advice and insight can be provided to the audience as possible. You are invited to submit your own questions or ask directly during Q & A towards the end of the discussion. MC’d by one of our team members, we’ll guide you through a discussion with the amazing panellists. The group atmosphere means our panelists engage in a relaxed manner between each other, and we absolutely love that!

We also encourage audience interaction and networking with our panellists- where some of our audience members have gone on to have their own individual chats. By creating these spaces for open discussion and conversation, we want ideas and information to spread and thrive.

Author: Emily Yong

*Disclaimer: This talk was designed to discuss mental health from an Asian-Australian perspective. It is not a substitute for professional or medical advice.  

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