By Amit Sarwal and Jitarth Jai Bharadwaj
Asha Bhat OAM has received the WA Multicultural Award 2023 – Sir Ronald Wilson Leadership Award. In addition to this honour, she has also been inducted into the Western Australia Women’s Hall of Fame in recognition of the mark she has left on the local community in the business category.
Ms Bhat told The Australia Today, “I am incredibly honoured to be a recipient of the WA Multicultural Award 2023 – Sir Ronald Wilson Leadership Award.”
“It was a real privilege to be standing in the company of some amazing community leaders.”
The award ceremony was hosted by the Office Of Multicultural Interests – Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries.
The Sir Ronald Wilson Award recognises outstanding Western Australians who have had a sustained impact on the lives of Aboriginals, CALD or other marginalised groups in Western Australia.
Earlier, sixteen women inducted into the Hall of Fame were announced on International Women’s Day.
The purpose of the Hall of Fame is to recognise and celebrate the achievements of Western Australian women past, present, and future.
As CEO of Southern Aboriginal Corporation (SAC), Ms Bhat leads the award-winning regional organisation that provides services and programs to address the Noongar peoples’ needs and aspirations.
Originally from Karnataka, India, she migrated to Australia from India in 2004 with her husband and son and made Albany her home in 2008.
Ms Bhat has been working in Indigenous Affairs for the last 15 years and has worked across all levels of the organization, from grassroots through senior management.
“I am proud of my Indian heritage and identity. I feel very proud to be able to set an example for other women migrants like myself who came to Australia with very little and for other disadvantaged groups to show that through hard work and strong commitment, they too can be successful.”
Under Ms Bhat’s leadership, SAC has won many awards, including the Community Business Award of the Year 2016 and the 2018 Community Services Excellence Award.
Ms Bhat adds that she has been accepted by the First Nations peoples and they recognise her efforts.
“I have found many commonalities with our Indian culture and First Nations cultures in terms of family values, dealing with loss and grief, using informal ways of working, etc.”
She has successfully expanded of SAC’s family violence prevention legal service to the South West, Wheatbelt, and Perth.
Ms Bhat observes:
“Aboriginal people experience racial discrimination all the time and I am committed to advocating and supporting Aboriginal people to improve their safety and wellbeing.”
In 2017, Ms Bhat received the Albany Citizen of the Year Award, in 2020 Women in Business award, and in 2022 the Pro Bono Australia Impact Award. In 2017 and 2020, she was also a finalist in the Telstra WA Business Women of the Year Awards.
In 2022, Ms Bhat was awarded the Order of Australia Medal last year for her service to WA’s Indigenous community.
On looking back and mapping her success in Australia, she says:
“When I came to Australia I found I needed to completely re-establish my professional and personal life in an environment that didn’t particularly support migrant Indian women.”
Today, Ms Bhat volunteers for a number of charities and sits on several Boards and Committees. She is the chair of the Albany Family and Domestic Violence Action Group and the WA volunteer team leader for the national women’s charity Share the Dignity.
The WA Women’s Hall of Fame was first established in 2011 in recognition of the Centenary of International Women’s Day held annually on 8th March.
Since then three Indian women have been inducted celebrating their diverse set of achievements.
Listen to Asha Bhat’s exclusive conversation with Dr Amit Sarwal and Jitarth Jai Bharadwaj mapping her amazing journey from India to Australia.