by Lena Gasparyan, Multicultural Communities Council of SA

I was born and raised in Armenia, an amazing and beautiful country filled with rich culture and tradition that holds a very deep and long history; but also one where life for women has been particularly disadvantaged, especially in the area of work, with job prospects and career development being very limited.

After moving to Australia in 2009, I had to overcome language, cultural and social barriers. Then, through hard work and determination I finally found my place and established myself firmly within the multicultural sector.

I currently work as a Project Officer for the Multicultural Communities Council of SA. In my role, I run various projects designed to help culturally and linguistically diverse communities integrate into local society.

I am also very proud to be the President of the Armenian Cultural Association of SA. I was the first female President of the association since it was established in the 1960’s and I have now served our local Armenian community as President for 9 years.

Three years ago, I set myself the goal to participate in the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (GLF) program. At the time, this seemed a far-fetched dream due to personal and work barriers, and my own financial situation.

A great weight was lifted off my shoulders thanks to the CBB Keith Fulton Memorial scholarship, which really granted me the chance to achieve my goals and work to my full potential.

Now, I have proudly graduated from the GLF class of 2020!

Having the unique opportunity to completely immerse myself in the GLF program allowed me to be fully present, inspired, and challenged., I can tell you now that it is a very challenging experience to hold the mirror up and face your own shadows. The constructive feedback from the program provided me with invaluable insight into myself, who I am as a leader, and what changes I can implement to improve my leadership style.

Being amongst the first COVID-19 GLF participants in the crazy year of 2020 gave us the added advantage of applying our adaptive leadership skills into practice during the program.

GLF is unlike any other leadership program -it’s current and relevant. While learning the leadership concepts, our journey passed through not only the movers and shakers of the State but also the real and ordinary people. Their truly inspirational stories and lived experiences taught us that there is so much courage and hope out there that we all can draw from.

The program gave me the opportunity to see our great state from many different perspectives and to fall in love with it even more. It showed us that South Australia outperforms on the world stage with innovation and multiculturalism and has a lot of firsts and number ones.

My deep passion for South Australia and multiculturism continually drives me to participate and seek ways to contribute to our great state as well as my own local Armenian community.

One of my goals for the future is to further advance myself as a leader for women in the multicultural sector; a sector that has an above average representation of women who are victims of domestic violence and who are often victims of isolation, low skill development and high unemployment.

I am strong, determined and committed to improving the lives of migrant women.While I am already leading in this space, I want to continue to gain skills and knowledge on how to be a better leader and help motivate others to be inspirational leaders.

At our last GLF session we were asked to bring along something that represented our journey – an ‘Artefact’ to be contributed to a collective creative piece.

The symbols I chose were three keys, representing social justice for three areas that deeply touched me during my GLF experience:

  1. Improving women’s status and wellbeing
  2. Aboriginal reconciliation and rights
  3. Preventing and reducing homelessness

All my GLF learnings still resonate with me today and in my everyday life. While my focus is mainly on supporting women, especially those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, I now understand that there is a lot more work to be done on the issues facing our society. This work starts with me, you – all of us – leading with kindness, empathy, and an open mind.