Meet the Team #4: Vishal Vivekananda, Legal & Finance Director

In this series, we want to share what has inspired our committee members to join the team, what issues they’re passionate about and a bit of their story.

Vishal joined the Asian Australian Project this year, leading a new part of the executive team.

When I was seven, my family moved to Australia, to the country town of Wagga Wagga. Despite being the only Asian kid in my primary school, I integrated into Australian life pretty quickly. But moving at an early age and not having any Indian influences outside my family resulted in me being quite disconnected from my culture, and there have been challenges reconciling my cultural roots with my largely ‘Australian’ identity. This may also be in part due to the lack of Indian role models in Western media.

Unfortunately, the representation of Indians in media has not been very positive. Characters like Apu from the Simpsons or Raj from Big Bang Theory convey inaccurate and negative stereotypes that are incredibly harmful to the community. Even on a small scale, I hope to change the perception of Indian people and to show the value of diversity in our society.

For the Asian Australian Project, a lesson that I carry is the value of community. Even in a small town, I eventually found a community of Indian people who provided me and my family invaluable support in a new environment. Similarly, after moving to Melbourne, the Indian community has been incredibly important to the social and cultural happiness of my family.

My goal for the Asian Australian Project is to provide a community for Asian Australians to share their experiences and through this, empower and enrich their lives.

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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Our Thoughts After Seeing ‘Minari’

After attending a screening of Minari, Angela and Humphrey from the team give us their thoughts on the historic nominated picture- what the film got right, and whether it’s worthy of the Oscar buzz. This review contains spoilers for the film.

Continue reading “Our Thoughts After Seeing ‘Minari’”

Meet the team #3: Sarah Choo, Design & Marketing Director

In this series, we want to share what has inspired our committee members to join the team, what issues they’re passionate about and a bit of their story.

Sarah joined the Asian Australian Project in early 2020, leading the design and marketing teams.

It’s only relatively recently that I’ve started to consider what it means to be an Asian Australian, especially in the past year amongst the discussions in the media landscape, a global pandemic and finishing my undergrad (and all the self-doubt that comes with it!). An important part of this journey was when I joined a book club which focuses on reading books by authors of Asian descent, which allowed me to engage in interesting discussions about culture, family, heritage and society in a way I’d never been able to before.

I think many Asian Australians can relate to feeling disconnected from their heritage in some capacity, whether it is a language, social or cultural barrier. I remember the first time I met my grandparents in South Korea and being confused by how both out of place and at home I felt. During my time at university, I started to realise how my Asian heritage is incredibly valuable, and that I should celebrate it, not sweep it under the rug. Connecting with others in the Asian Australian community has been a great way to reflect upon both the individual experience and the collective understanding which shapes our culture.

Our professional, personal, social lives are all intricately interwoven with this cultural thread that is tangled up in childhood, family and events which happen on a global scale. Being part of a team that is committed to exploring these topics and providing resources, safe spaces, social events and community is inspiring and I hope this empowers others to navigate their own identities and struggles without fear.

And That’s A Wrap! The Asian Australian Project Cleans Up (a small bit of) Australia

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, our volunteers assembled for Clean Up Australia Day on 7th March 2021 at Bondi Beach. Bondi was abuzz with patrons, with almost every square inch of sand covered in people, towels and umbrellas. A perfect backdrop for the day!

Continue reading “And That’s A Wrap! The Asian Australian Project Cleans Up (a small bit of) Australia”

6 Amazing Australian Initiatives Led By Women

International Women’s Day is all about celebrating women and their achievements. There are some amazing initiatives being run by women throughout Australia, and at AAP, we want to shine a spotlight on these initiatives and their founders, who are pioneering innovative and exciting projects in their fields of expertise. We’ve collated 6 Australian-Women led organisations that you just need to know who are challenging the status quo; and trust us, you’ll be better off after checking them out.

Continue reading “6 Amazing Australian Initiatives Led By Women”

Meet the team #2: Michelle Lim, Vice President

In this series, we want to share what has inspired our committee members to join the team, what issues they’re passionate about and a bit of their story.

Michelle joined the team in January this year, bringing her passion for social work, advocacy and activism.

Being Asian Australian has been a relatively new experience for me. As an expat, I always identified as being Australian; while back in Australia, people identified me as Asian. It was a difficult journey and process to reconcile the fact that I could be both and not necessarily just have one identity.

Reflecting on my experience as a child of migrants, such journeys are common but also unique to an individual person and it can be complex and emotionally laborious to unpack the immigrant experience and identity in a Western environment. That’s why I think AAP is great platform in helping those who are beginning their journey (or yet to begin) to facilitate opportunities for them to explore their identity.

My background is in international relations and social work, and most of the work I’m passionate about is around youth advocacy and grassroots activism. I’m not only passionate about exploring the Asian-Australian experience, but also about areas such as Women of Colour, migrants and refugees and young people. I want to use my platform as Vice President to elevate and empower others to be advocates, leaders, story tellers and change makers in their communities, so one day they can be figures that young Asian-Australians look up to.

5 Easy Ways You Can Be More Eco Friendly

Author: Emily Yong; Illustration: Robin Lao

Clean Up Australia originated almost 30 years ago, and today, the organisation’s chief focus is on minimising the amount of rubbish that is disposed of into the environment.

Started by Ian Kiernan, Clean Up Australia originated from a community event he organised in response to the massive amounts of pollution and waste he witnessed as a sailor. This idea gained community traction, and more than 18.3m Australians have volunteered since. Making a big difference always begins with a small step. We have collated a few, easy ways that you can lead a more eco friendly lifestyle below:

Continue reading “5 Easy Ways You Can Be More Eco Friendly”

Meet the team #1: Humphrey Chan, Founder & President

In this series, we want to share what has inspired our committee members to join the team, what issues they’re passionate about and a bit of their story.

Something I see and hear all the time from other Asian-Australians is they don’t feel either Asian ‘enough’ or Australian ‘enough’, like they’re caught in this no man’s land in the middle. But that means that just by our upbringing and experiences, we have access to two cultures and two worlds. We can be Asian, Australian, or Asian-Australian – how amazing is that?

I was born in Hong Kong and grew up there briefly before moving to Australia at a young age. There was barely any focus on what it means to be a young Hong Kongese-Australian, or even Asian-Australian – having competing cultural influences, never seeing faces that look like you on TV, or feeling distant from your extended family overseas. Growing up Asian-Australian is often filled with these confusing experiences which can make it hard to see it in the best light. The way I see my identity and culture is still evolving, but I’ve always believed that it should be a significant and positive part of my life.

The goal with AAP is to help Asian-Australians understand and embrace our identities, culture and heritage. AAP is 2 years old now, and I’m very proud of where we’ve come in that time. We’ve been able to spotlight some amazing leaders and role models and provide resources and a community for young Asian-Australians. But there is so much more to be done – so many more amazing people to showcase and unique stories to tell.

8 foods served during the Lunar New Year

Author: Linda D; Illustration: Amy Ge

Lunar New Year is a celebration held mostly throughout Southeast and East Asia, and their diasporas globally. There are a variety of foods that are a must during the LNY celebrations. Each culture and family has their own way of celebrating the occasion, so you may or may not be familiar with what’s on this list. Even then, variations of some of these foods are dependent on regional and country differences.

Continue reading “8 foods served during the Lunar New Year”