International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day
This International Women’s Day, we are celebrating the wonderful women that make up Wyndham.
Naw Say Htoo Eh Moero
Settlement Worker, Wyndham Community and Education Centre
My name is Naw Say Htoo Eh Moero and I am a settlement worker at Wyndham Community and Education Centre. I was born in Burma – which most people know as Myanmar. I am a Karen woman and mother. I lived in small village called Bway Baw Lu. It was in the Karen guerrilla zone and the headquarters of the Karen guerrilla army. When the Karen headquarter was occupied by the Burmese Army we all had to flee. My family moved to Mae Sarieng, a small town in Thailand, as an illegal migrant. Soon after this, all of our lives were threatened again, so we packed up and fled to Bangkok. Because we were illegal immigrants, we stayed in a small, one-room apartment– about 3 x 3 metres – silently, all five us, for more than three years, never leaving it once. We didn’t know if we would ever leave it again. But circumstances led us to a transit camp – like a detention centre – where we were granted refugee status by UNHCR, and received permission to go to Australia. I remember thinking at the time, getting to Australia is more difficult than getting to Heaven.
I arrived in Australia as a refugee. I could speak a little bit of English – but not well. At this time, I had my heart set on joining the military as a nurse, but my parents said, “You are a woman. You should do something that is more suitable.” So I looked around and found accounting. There were lots of jobs in the paper, so I decided to be an accountant. I enrolled at VU and started an Advanced Diploma course in Business Accounting.
I got my first job at La Porchetta Pizza Restaurant. I applied for a job as a cleaner, but was made a waitress instead. I lasted one shift. I didn’t know the name of any of the Italian food. It was so confusing. I kept mistaking the number of the tables for the name of the food. I still have the apron. I had enrolled to do a Bachelor of Business Accounting, but it was decided that it was best for me not to continue. I would have loved to have finished that course. But these are the sacrifices you make for your family and children – as a mother.
I had a series of jobs after this, including as a cleaner, a kitchen hand, and then at Coles for more than five years in customer service. During this time at Coles, and while having a baby boy, I started working in community organisations. I worked at Migrant Resource Centre Westgate, New Hope Foundation, Migrant Resource Centre North West and AMES. Contracts kept turning over and I kept finding new places to work. In 2009, I applied and received a job at Wyndham Community and Education Centre as a Settlement Worker. I’m still there. It is here that I have found the place I can really give back to the community. I remember those difficult years – especially in Bangkok, locked in that room. People helped us. That meant such a great deal to us, you cannot imagine. It is the most special thing. It is now my turn to help people in need. I cannot turn them away. When somebody comes to me for help, I remember those people who helped us. Sometimes there is nobody else. I know I can do this thing.
There are so many people I remember helping over the years. But the one I remember the most was this young single mother who had recently arrived from one of the refugee camps. She was feeling unwell, so I took her to the doctor. The doctor said, “You’re pregnant.” She had no idea. She had been raped in the refugee camp just before she left. The doctor explained how she could prepare for an abortion. I remember us sitting in the car afterwards she said, “How can I do this? I am Christian.” I told her we can do this together. I was there for all her appointments. The doctor was so shocked she was going to keep it. I don’t think he thought it was right. But I looked after her all the way. I was even there when she gave birth. I still see her now. She has a beautiful life. She has beautiful children. A job. A house. Everything.
In 2012, I was nominated and won the Lalor Award, presented by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Then in 2013, I was invited to Canberra because I had been nominated for Settlement Worker of the Year for Australia and had been shortlisted. I just went for the enjoyment; and only wrote my speech on a scrap of paper along the way. But then my name was called out as the winner. Again, I was on the stage receiving this award from the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard. I can hardly remember it. It all seems like a dream.
When I think back on what I have achieved, and what I have gone through to get here, I think, “How did I do all this?” I did all of this while being a mother of two children. I still went to work and put my children with my mother. I worked from morning to night. I don’t know how I managed all that. It even surprises me.
As a woman, we are strong, passionate and resilience. We can do many things at once without notice it. I would like to encourage girls and women that we are the strong and we can do a lot of thing and make things happen.
Chief Executive Officer, Manor Court Werribee Aged Care
I am Carlie Kilikas, I am the Chief Executive Officer at Manor Court Werribee Aged Care. Manor Court is a not for profit Ageing in Place Residential Care facility which has supported the Werribee Community for over 40 years.
I have dedicated my career to date working in the Aged and Health care sector. I genuinely care about the wellbeing of others and hope my contributions to the sector is positive for the community to ensure their life is lived to the fullest.
I entered into the Aged Care sector at the age of 17 and fell in love with the work, I had just finished high school and at the same time commenced my university degree in Accounting and Human Resources. I then also commenced a CPA and undertaking a Masters.
At the age of 30 I became one of the youngest Chief Financial Officer in the public sector. I remember walking into the office for the first time in that role and the one of my employees said to me ‘wow I was expecting a middle aged man, aren’t all accountants and CFOs middle aged men?’. I was definitely not a middle aged man – I was a young woman with four children, juggling full time work and life with a young family.
Achieving my career goal of becoming a CEO has had its challenges, in terms of organisational or management opinions, work/life balance, general life circumstances and old views on how women should contribute to family life. At present I currently juggle a full time CEO Role, a family business and 4 young children. With the right support network and the determination any career goal can be achieved by any woman in any industry and I sincerely believe that.
Emergency Physician, Team Doctor, Werribee Football Club
I am Rebecca and I am the Emergency Physician and Team Doctor at The Werribee Football Club. Growing up in a relatively small community I never had any female role models in the career or lifestyle that I wanted to pursue.
Being focused on medicine, and then later specifically emergency and sports specialties, it was a male dominated field and I found myself with mostly male role models and mentors. Recognising this early gave me focus on never being given a leg up due to being female and wanting to be as good (or better) than my peers regardless of their gender. This wasn’t always easy and requires not only discipline but sometimes a bit of audacity.
I strive now to not only be a good role model in my career but also in the community so that other young women have an example that they can look up to and acknowledge that they can achieve whatever they want through unwavering discipline and hard work. Any level of greatness can be achieved with courage.
STEM teacher and advocate, VU Polytechnic
I am Hannah and I currently teach Science units within the Foundation Studies course at VU Polytechnic. As a science teacher, I am very passionate and active in the promotion of STEM for future generations to come. I have helped to create a university STEM club as well as acting as a STEM mentor for my students. I also ensure that diverse cultures are represented at the university as a Cultural Diversity Champion and is able to ask questions and analyse policies as an Academic Board member.
Community is very import and and always try to give back when I can. I have volunteered to be Secretary of the VCE Biology Teachers Network, helping and networking with a fabulous group of secondary teachers. Alongside teaching, I have a special interest in quality teaching and learning, curriculum and assessment as well as academic integrity. The major challenge I face is sometimes agreeing to too many projects simultaneously!
My advice for the next generation would be to jump in, ask questions and try new things. You never know where an opportunity may lead you!
Employment Coordinator, Wyndham Community and Education Centre
I am Jacinta Stafford, the Employment Coordinator at Wyndham Community and Education Centre. I was born and bred in Melbourne and ironically, had no real clear idea of a career trajectory coming out of school.
I always knew I wanted to help people, so I started to study Psychology and Youth work but struggled to find the right fit in amidst all the theory, so instead attempted to enter the workforce. Like so many people I now work with, I struggled to get into the very competitive job market that required experience but would not provide the entry level opportunity to gain that experience. I attended my fair share of intimidating job interviews and struggled to progress through the process. I gained first hand experience on the shattering impact this can have on self confidence.
It was only after answering a job advertisement on Seek, I began my career in employment services as a receptionist and found my career path. After completing a traineeship in community service, I worked within the federal job active system progressing through administration, case management and training roles over the last 13 years within non for profit organisations and government agencies around Wyndham.
Four years ago I was fortunate to stumble across a new role advertised at Wyndham CEC and jumped at the chance to work for an organisation that shares my passion and commitment to supporting community in improving lives on a larger scale.
One of the best parts of my role is to create group programs aimed at increasing women’s participation within the workforce. I also get to assist individual woman wanting to enter into education and employment and support their progression. It is always so exciting to witness the increase of confidence and autonomy that is a side effect of reaching these goals. Even in 2021 there is still an undeniable gender gap in accessing and securing employment opportunities, and it is one of the many areas our team are passionate about improving for women by encouraging ongoing education, targeting specific sectors to increase opportunities and tailoring recruitment drives to support women within the workplace.
It never ceases to amaze me that so of the wonderful women that I have the privilege to support are unable to identify their own skills and capabilities and fail to recognize how much they have to share and contribute. Many of these incredible women have come from war torn countries, have had to overcome language barriers, had physical or mental health issues and have overcome more obstacles than I can fathom, often whilst balancing motherhood. They inspire me daily with their hope, resilience and determination to progress towards their goals; to better their lives and the lives of those around them.
My hope is that girls of the next generation will intrinsically know that they are powerful and can achieve whatever they set their mind to. My even greater wish is that they learn this as a result of watching us, as their role models striving to achieving our goals and aspirations, even when we don’t know if it is possible. One of my favourite sayings is that of Audrey Hepburn “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible.”
Resident, Manor Court Werribee Aged Care