Indian-born Padma Raman has been appointed to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet as the Executive Director of the Federal Office for Women.
Last Friday, the Hon Julie Bishop who is Chancellor of The Australian National University (ANU), congratulated Raman on her role with the Federal Office for Women.
"This is a stellar appointment and in Padma, the Australian Government could not have selected a stronger leader for this vital role," said Bishop.
"Padma has been a champion for women and their children for many years and has worked tirelessly to make significant and long-lasting change. She has helped to shape Australia’s national efforts to end violence against women and their children, and raise public awareness and conversations on how we can strive to achieve this goal."
The federal government has rightfully faced extra pressure in recent years to better address gendered violence and women's rights in Australia. Whether it be the pay gap, domestic and sexual abuse or workplace sexism, most women can sadly identify various forms of gender inequality that they experience daily.
In addressing these issues, an intersectional approach is paramount, as how a woman experiences sexism or violence is impacted by the intersections of various factors including their cultural background, religion, sexuality and disability.
We must have women with diverse lived experiences – Indigenous women, and women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD), LGBTQIA+ and disabled communities – be part of the key advisory and decision-making process in order to create meaningful change that takes these factors into account.
As a woman of colour and daughter of Fijian Indian immigrants, I'm well aware of how cultural biases and community values can impact the experiences of sexism and gender inequality faced by many women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, including within my own community. Issues such as domestic violence are rarely spoken about and instead swept under the rug. Many women are still expected to put their careers on hold to raise a family. This stems from generations of narrow-minded cultural norms in South Asian communities valuing men over women.
Having moved to Australia from India when she was 11, Raman studied Law and Asian Studies at ANU. Doing classical Indian dance like Kuchipudi, and studying the ancient language Sanskrit, were important to her during this time. She went on to become the CEO of the Victorian Law Reform Commission, Chief Executive of the Australian Human Rights Commission, and now the CEO of Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety Limited (ANROWS).
Culture has always played a huge role in how Raman has approached her work in the women's safety sector, where she always deeply considers the multi-layered challenges faced by women from CALD backgrounds.
"As someone who moved here from India when I was 11, it allowed me to connect with another important aspect of my culture," Raman said in an article published by ANU in 2021. "It was also why my parents let me move to Canberra from Sydney. Imagine Indian parents saying, 'No, you can't study Sanskrit!' That simply doesn't happen."
"My advocacy of women from diverse and vulnerable backgrounds comes from my own sense of identity as an immigrant woman.
"And my experience with dance helps me today in my work in women's safety. Dance taught me how to explain what I am doing to an audience that doesn't understand it. It helps me raise awareness by connecting people to the experiences and challenges faced by women. My work today is about breaking down barriers."
Raman is yet to publicly address her new appointment, but I celebrate seeing a woman of colour in such a leadership position, and hold hope that it signals more positive change and inclusivity in this space going forward.