Bridging Cultures and Generations: Ausseela Thanaphongsakorn
Ausseela Thanaphongsakorn is a person whose passion is in social justice, local community, and volunteerism. She regards helping others and the community a dominating life theme. Although born in Sydney, Ausseela is proud of her Filipino and Thai background. A polyglot who speaks Tagalog, Thai and excellent English, she sees her multi-cultural background as an asset that has given her the best of both worlds. Her parents – mother Mila, from Quezon City and father Tom, from Bangkok who are now based in Australia – are both community oriented persons working in the care and disabilities sector.
For Ausseela what she loves about Australia is its multiculturalism and that deep down we are “very similar.” Multiculturalism is what makes Australia tick; it is “what makes this nation unique.” This insight, I think, should inspire us to talk more and connect more with people from other cultures and races! She said the Thai penchant for “sanuk” meaning having a sense of fun or joy in life resonates among Filipinos and Australians, albeit expressed differently. I couldn’t help thinking, for instance, how Filipinos go to great lengths to making colourful Fiestas and beauty pageants and brave through wee hours singing karaokes while Aussies find outdoors, beaches and footy the eternal source of youthful energy. Both are founded on the same foundation, the love for life and living.
A diligent and model student, Ausseela became active in community work way back at Burwood Girls High School. She volunteered at a community radio station and read the local news. Ausseela also wrote a personal interest project on “Postmodernism, Young People and Politics” which earned her the Civics and Citizenship medal from the Parliamentary Education Office in Canberra. The essay observed how young people are a complex group with different passions and whether postmodern apathy really played a role in their political and community involvement.
Ausseela walks the talk: Ausseela received the 2006 “Young Citizen Award” from the Hon Kim Beazley AO at the local Australia Day ceremony celebrations in Burwood. She then received a grant from the NSW Youth Advisory Council for a community project on “Anti-racism and Community Harmony.” As a volunteer Media Communications officer for the National Association of the Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect (NAPCAN) she implemented a media strategy to involve young people across NSW to create projects within their communities and later became one of the organisation’s youth ambassadors for the Asia-Pacific region.
When asked what led her to community involvement, she replied: “My local area. I have a passion for the future: what will our generation leave behind for others? It does not have to be big but also the small things that count.” I agree with her. If only we have the consciousness, in our own little way: true passion is that small spark from within each of us, which, like the flicker from a single candle can potentially light a village, or city!
Still young at 24, Ausseela has a degree in Media and Communications from the University of New South Wales. It is a university degree based on new media technologies, the “shift towards new mediums.”
At Uni she was secretary of the Filipino Society in UNSW and an active writer and contributor to various papers and magazines in Sydney. She also completed a management course at the World Youth Foundation in Melaka, Malaysia.
With continued passion for social justice and progressive politics, she is the Secretary of NSW Young Labor a role she believes is a big one as a youth activist. Currently Young Labor’s campaign to end youth wages attracted attention in mainstream and local media and is about getting a fairer deal for young workers in a range of jobs and work spaces.
Ausseela believes her favourite quote from Nelson Mandela speaks to young people: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate but powerful beyond measure.” To me, it means we are afraid of our inherent greatness and, I guess, it is a sad note that many would prefer to live lives in conformity and submission rather than find their true passion and vocation. To Ausseela, it is about getting involved and “not be held back in speaking out about what you believe in.”
Ausseela has plans for further studies in law, advocacy and public policy. With her trademark verve, talent, determination and community-sprit, Ausseela definitely has what it takes to go a long way.
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