Thinking of Applying for a Westpac Social Change Fellowship?
If self-doubt is getting in your way, here are some words of encouragement from a Social Change Fellow who asked ‘Am I good enough?’ and never looked back.
Mikhara Ramsing is a 2018 Westpac Social Change Fellow, a social entrepreneur and businesswoman, an activist for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) LGBTIQA+ inclusion, a QLD Young Australian of the Year nominee, a mentee and mentor. But just two years ago as she considered applying for the Westpac Social Change Fellowship, she shares how she was struck with feelings of self doubt as she wondered whether this was a program for people far more qualified than her.
The Application Process
“Am I good enough?” are the words that have been on repeat in my mind as I stare at my Westpac Social Change Fellowship application on the eve of its deadline. My partner and I have been on the road a month into our five-month journey across remote Australia, currently following the arterial highways out of Brisbane, to Dubbo and onwards to Broken Hill. I am out here because I am tired. Tired of young people taking their lives. Tired of teenagers feeling so disconnected. I am out here to understand. I am out here to connect. I’m out here working with rural high schools to impart any learnings I can to help them feel connected to their future.
“I’ve never possessed $50,000 before, that’s so much money to invest in me! What if I’m not worth it? How will I know?” was another question on repeat since I began writing my application.
“Well, what have I got to lose?” is the sentiment my mind settles on. I’ve just passed through so many rural towns, met with so many people who took the time to speak with me and share their stories. I believe stories save lives and people, all people, need to be heard. Imagining that through this Fellowship I could somehow serve them more to realise my vision of a more inclusive and safer Australia was the impetus I needed to help me click ‘Submit’.
I wake to a beautiful sunny day in Sydney, after flying in from Hobart where I was continuing my work with rural high schools in Tasmania. There was a tight knot of nerves growing in my stomach but I realise I just need to show up and be my best self – that’s all I’ve got.
Upon arriving at the Westpac office, I was warmly greeted by Sarah Yates, a former Social Change Fellow recipient, who instantly made me feel at ease. I forgot my nerves, I checked my lipstick one last time, breathed in and was called for my interview.
My interviewers were genuinely interested in me and made me feel comfortable to share my story of my journey with my family over the last ten years – what my experiences had been as a queer South African Indian Australian woman and why I was passionate about increasing the visibility of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) LGBTIQ+ Australians and their access to resources to support themselves.
The Fellowship begins
My heart stopped when I heard the news that I was going to be a 2018 Westpac Social Change Fellow. I felt blessed by the universe. Thank you. I was overjoyed. And then the nerves sat in, and I questioned how would I make the most of this incredible opportunity? I realised I did not have to make these decisions alone as the next few months saw a lot of planning, contacting and workshopping my development plan with friends, family, mentors and anyone who would listen. Time flew and before I knew it, my Fellowship was about to commence.
Post-Fellowship: The Impact
The Westpac Social Change Fellowship changed my life. It has given me a level of confidence, support network and friends all over the world who I look to in my activism for equality for CALD LGBTIQA+ Australians and in the region. I feel empowered to create and support the change needed in forming a more inclusive Australia for all citizens. The impact of the Fellowship on my ability to effect positive social change is evident in the many workshops and speaking opportunities I have had since and the stories I continue to hear.
I happily feel I achieved the objectives I had set out to explore at the start of my Fellowship and so much more. And it all started with overcoming my fears and questions of whether I am good enough and putting myself forward to be considered for a Fellowship in the first place. I strongly encourage anyone who is passionate about creating a better future for Australia, who is looking for the opportunity to invest in themselves in order to create greater impact, to set aside your self-doubt and apply for a Fellowship now.