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Multicultural Ambassadors

Multicultural Ambassadors

Multicultural Ambassadors 2019

The Mental Health Foundation Australia has experienced a significant increase in voluntary representation by community representatives as part of the awareness campaign “Better Mental Health for All” This campaign has been active since Mental Health week 2017.

The MHFA Multicultural Ambassador’s Program was initiated in 2017 to further engage multicultural and Indigenous communities in promoting positive mental health and wellbeing, via a network of dedicated volunteers throughout Victoria.

The MHFA’s implementation of this National Multicultural Ambassador’s Engagement Forum will allow the multicultural community to identify, plan and implement key initiatives that promote and create awareness of mental health. It also helps remove the stigma and myths surrounding mental illness, while also developing key workforce skills and networking opportunities within diverse communities. By establishing a multicultural platform, the MHFA can better respond to all requests for assistance in a relevant ethnic context, ensuring that support is provided at the right time.

Varan Freeston


Varan Freestone– Chairperson

Varan Freestone is the founder of Dharam Events, an Events Management company that organises events from concept to completion. Varan is also the Founder of WISE, which is an active initiative based on the principles of encouraging women to look within. The program encourages women to realign, connect, communicate, contribute, collaborate, celebrate and work cohesively together to explore their goals and dreams.

Phillip Tan

Vice Chairperson

Before migrating to Australia, Philip was an active community activist for social enterprise activities work for Singapore (SCORE) under Singapore correctional system working together with Singapore Prison, enhancing the employability of offenders and preparing them for integration into national workforce. 

Phillip is also active in the service of Jesuit Refugee services in caring for the internally displace people from Burma and Sri Lanka. His last community service was with Habitat for Humanity re-building homes for the 2005 Tsunami‘s victim of  Banda Aceh , Indonesia. A passionate believer in the creed to do one's best in all endeavour entrusted upon, he serves the community through his involvement as Pubic Relations Director of Chair of  Australian Multicultural Community Engagement , Vice President of the Chinese Professional & Business Association Victoria,  Executive member of the Multicultural Liberal Business Club and as an Advisor to Singapore Australian Association of Victoria .

Christian Chia

Vice Chairperson

A change-maker, Christina is entrepreneur by heart who finds joy by serving and leading communities via diversity, fairness & improved outcomes for social innovation.  A Malaysian born Chinese who resides in Melbourne for over 26 years, Christina is passionate about people and positive mental health. She sees her talents as a communicator, influencer & building meaningful relationships to maximise connections locally and globally. She loves to inspire and empower to get the best out of people. Multilingual and married mother of two daughters, Christina held a number of leadership & Executive roles over the past 15 years, including current role as General Manager of North Shore Coaching College, an international education institution. She is the Rotary Governor Assistant D9810 and President of Australia Asian Family Association. Christina holds a MBA and a Bachelor of Business Marketing.

Josie Swaray


Josie is a mental health clinician with over 20 yrs experience working in hospital, community and prison settings. She is the founder and Director of The Nyalima Project (TNP) which aims to promote mental health awareness and eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness in the African-Australian Community. She is passionate about breaking barriers to seeking advice and support for mental health issues in the African Community. TNP also provides Life Skills Programs for CALD youths and free Mental Health Awareness and Drug and Alcohol awareness workshops.  Josie is also an accredited Mental Health First Aider for youth.  Josephine is a member of the African Day Australia Family Forum Committee and has recently been appointed as a MHFA Multicultural Ambassador

Sashi Sanmugathas


Sashi came to Australia as an international student from Sri Lanka 20 years ago. During my university days he was a volunteer, student leader and a student representative in his University Student Union and National Union of Students. This gave him an opportunity to help fellow students where ever possible. At a later stage, Sashi wanted to continue to give back to the community therefore, he became a Freemason. Freemasons Victoria is one of the leading charities and they help the community and various other organisations in Victoria.  Currently Sashi is in numerous committees within Freemasons Victoria in State and District levels, that includes Freemasons Taskforce Executive Committee. Sashi is also an Ambassador for Royal Freemasons Homes. Through my community engagement he came in touch with Mental Health Foundation Australia (MHFA). It was an honour when for Sashi when he was inducted as a Multicultural Ambassador for MHFA in January 2018. Personally Sashi believes that mental health needs more attention and awareness because one in every five Australian suffers from mental health illness in a given year.

Gerard Felipe

Marketing - Chairperson

Enthusiastic and driven second-year Criminology and Politics student who is highly motivated and passionate in community leadership and the not- for-profit sector. Genuine, warm and can ensure responsible, efficient and reliable work ethic in all tasks with excellent interpersonal skills. Gerard is a passionate young person willing to make a difference in the community, and contribute to the positive change we need in our society.

Lucia Hou

Events Coordinator

Lucia Hou lives in Melbourne and is the proud official ambassador for Project Karma, an Australian charity organisation that saves children from sex slavery & sex exploitation across South East Asia & Australia. Lucia is also currently awarded Woman Of The Year 2018 internationally and is Ms Oceania 2018 World Class Beauty Queen, Ms Oceania Globe 2017, a title awarded at the Mrs Globe international world finals by the largest and longest consecutive running pageant in the world for the Miss/Ms & Mrs.

Sunny Duggal

Events Coordinator/ Membership Coordinator

Sunny is a Volunteer In Charge and Working Committee Member with Australian based Saint Nirankari Mission Based in Rowville. Sunny has personally been awarded Volunteer of the Year 2012 in Knox City Council and Red Cross Youngest Volunteer and also sits on Board with many more Community and Volunteer Organisations. Sunny is the Senior Sales Manager, Land Specialist and Project Development manager at FVRREALTY.

Santi Whiteside

Social Media Chairperson

Santi was born in Jakarta, Indonesia and moved to Australia in 1999 with her Australian husband. Santi has three children with two born in Indonesia and one in Australia. Soon after moving to Australia, Santi became involved in the Indonesian Community as a volunteer and a radio broadcaster on Indonesian programs for 3ZZZ and 3WBC. She is also a writer for a number of Indonesian publications and a frequent participant in various multicultural parades and events such as Moomba, Australia Day and Harmony Day. Santi has appeared in two Indonesian movies including a film about the Bali Nine. She is now Vice President of the Indonesian Society of Victoria and aims to promote this organisation to increase participation in Indonesian cultural activities including promotion to other communities in Victoria

Rowena Hansen

Social Media Chairperson

Rowena migrated to Australia when she was 17 years old and went and pursued a career in nursing. She finished with a masters certificate in intensive care and currently work as a clinical specialist manager at an aged care facility. She is an aged care advocate. Rowena also volunteered her spare time in community charities around Melbourne. She is an active Filipino- Australian community leader. She participates in community events and also assist in producing community events with the aim purpose of spreading multiculturalism. 

Her affiliations include the

  1. Philippine Fiesta of Victoria- PRO 2018
  2. The WOMENS Association Incorporation-chairperson
  3. Australian Community Engagement Forum- event management subcomittee
  4. Mental Health Foundation Australia- Multicultural Ambassador: Social Media Chairperson

She represented her birth country the Philippines in Tbilisi Georgia as ’Mrs. Universal Philippines 2019’. Her aim was to spread mental health awareness internationally and she won the title of Mrs. Universal Diamond 2019. 

Stephen Yin

Religious and Spiritual Coordinator

Malaysian born and UK educated, Stephen brings diverse experiences from his legal and political training to forefront in positions he is appointed to.

He was formerly the Group Chief Legal Officer of a listed public company group in Malaysia and Singapore.

As group Chief Officer for legal / corporate compliance and administration to the board, he was also the group MD’s special advisory officer for corporate negotiations / business development /joint ventures domestically and within the Asia Pacific region .

Stephen is committed to the multi diverse Australia vision and a strong advocate to preserve and protect Australia’s way of life and its founding principles.

He is presently Director, Strategy, Growth & Assurance at Advance Strata Consulting group including Business Ambassador  to Malaysia, Singapore and neighboring countries.   

He actively serves the community through his involvements as Multicultural Ambassador of Mental Health Foundation Australia, Vice Chair, Australian Multicultural Community Engagement Forum, member of the Knox Multicultural Advisory Committee, Chinese Professional & Business Association Victoria, Singapore Australia Association, Lions Club Blackburn, Neighbourhood Watch scheme, Ethnic Communities Recruitment, Victorian Police, Event & Fund Raiser, Multicultural Liberal Business Club and is also involved in community engagement programmes  in the electorates of Deakin & Aston

Harlin Gandhok

Education Coordinator

Harlin Gandhok has been working as a student wellbeing counsellor for the last five years. She has experience working with students from a range of backgrounds including refugees, asylum seekers and out of home care placements. Her daily role involves one on one counselling, group programs, social skills development and case management. She has previously worked as a family violence advocate, lifeline counsellor and in her spare time runs her own business.

Rishi Venkatraman

Information Technology Coordinator

Rishi is an IT Professional with over a decade of experience in Client Engagement Roles. Even in the early schooling and graduation days, Rishi been part of student committees and associations which has given him opportunities to serve and assist peers. Rishi has been associated with Mental Health Foundation Australia as a Volunteer in the beginning and had the opportunity to be employed for a couple of months post arrival in Melbourne. Having been a survivor of an accident, Rishi can understand what an individual or a family goes through in crisis and what assistance could be provided to them for a Better Mental Health. Rishi is excited to be representing the foundation as a Multicultural Ambassador and to serve the community for raising awareness and promoting Better Health For All and Wellbeing.

Dawei He


Accepted by the Shanghai Opera House as a junior student at the age of 9, two years later David started full-time professional dancing and performing arts training at the Shanghai Academy of Drama & Performaing Arts. David became the first overseas student received a scholarship admitted to the Australian Ballet School. Follow the graduation, David danced as a lead dancer in many international dance events and became the principal dancer in Canada and the Hong Kong Ballet at the age of 19.

Twenty years experience in the performing arts and show business has nourished David's complete understanding of what people to be expect from any event and shows, combined with my know-how this regarded as my knowledge base. Using this knowledge it has helped David run events or shows more efficiently, decrease financial risks and exploit opportunities to the full. David has been actively involved in the multicultural events in states of Victoria for entertainment shows, marketing and sponsorship campaigns. Including few Chinese Christian events in 2017. Over the years of his career in Hong Kong and Asia, David has organised and coordinated hundreds of events & shows. Worked with some major companies like (SONY, JVC, HUGO BOSS, I.T, PUMA, SAMSUNG, L’Oreal, etc.).

Nilinka Amarasekara


Nilanka Amarasekara is a Director of N&N Group Of services since 2011. After graduating from University Of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka with Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 2004, Nilanka worked as an assistant lecturer at Department of Animal Science, University Of Peradeniya till 2005.

After she migrated to Australia in 2005, Nilanka started her postgraduate studies at RMIT. During her studies, she worked as a laboratory technician in a few private companies. After completing Master Of Biotechnology (Food Science) she joined the CSIRO

Always passionate about volunteer work in the community and places high value on building relationships with the people around her by understanding how to best meet their needs.

Nalinda Amarasekara


Nalinda Amarasekara is a director of N&N Global Services Pty Ltd since 2011.  Since he entered into the Facilities Management Industry Positively he has actively engaged with customers and maintained professional appearance at all times as company representative.

He was a pilot officer after graduating from Asian Aviation Centre Colombo, Sri Lanka.  Then he migrated to Australia and expanded his knowledge in aviation field with an advanced diploma in aircraft maintenance engineering and Bachelor of engineering In Aerospace from Kangan Institute & RMIT University.

In 2006 he joined with Qantas airline and worked as an AME – Aircraft Maintenance Engineer till 2010. Then started his carrier as a LAME – Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer at John Holland Aviation Services and provide his services until 2014.

Nalinda is an active volunteer in his community as well as other communities because of his passion for helping others and seeking in adventure in the outdoors during his leisure time.

Santosh Yadav


Dr Santosh Kumar Yadav is an Ayurveda specialist and very well known in the community. He helped a several members of the Indian community in giving wellness advice whenever required.

 Dr. Santosh Yadav is founder of Ayurveda Yoga Wellness clinic Pty Ltd (AYWC). AYWC is an Ayurvedic Centre for wellbeing. Ayurveda Yoga Wellness Clinic was established in 2007 to promote the practice of Ayurveda in Australia. His goal is to popularise Ayurveda through Ayurvedic Medicine, Ayurvedic treatment, Yoga and Meditation. He has successfully established two clinics in Melbourne to serve the Australian community.

 He is interested in sharing valuable knowledge and wisdom of the ancient healing traditions of India. He is actively involved in disseminating this knowledge to the community in a simple way and has achieved this through radio, workshops, talks and seminars.

He is specialized in treatment of conditions Anxiety, Stress, Depression and Chronic Diseases such as Rheumatoid arthritis, Eczema, Psoriasis, Diabetes, Weight loss etc. through the holistic approach of the Ayurveda, Yoga and Kareli Panchakarma Treatment (Detox Treatment).

Lora Love


Lora Love has a self titled album in Philippines, but now based in Melbourne, performing with the very talented with Chunky Jam Band, a corporate band under Instinct Music, who are leading cover band in Melbourne, regularly performing at prestigious corporate events and awards nights, major sporting events, conferences, festivals, parties, weddings and charity fundraisers. Lora has performed at events such as Yarra Valley Food and Wine Festival, NYE at Crown supporting Mariah Carey and Les Clef D’or Concierge Ball

Su Mei Tan


Su Mei started life in the world of architecture which led to her co-founding a charity which brought third world countries building and design services. She realised that she enjoyed the time where she shared her passion of ART with the children. This led to a pursuit of a Masters in Art Therapy at La Trobe University, Melbourne. She is now completing a Bachelors of Fine Arts Honours of Social Practice and Community Engagement at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), Melbourne University.

She has had experience as an art therapist in the clinical setting at Northpark Private Hospital and the Royal Melbourne Hospital, working with patients who experience various forms of mental illness. Her speciality is with Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Eating Disorders. Su Mei is now working as a Mental Health support coordinator, helping NDIS participants out by connecting them to various supports that they need. She is also a trained Yoga Alliance instructor who did her RYT 500 training at Brahmani Yoga, India. She has shared her love of yoga in many countries around the world (Malaysia, England, Bolivia, Australia).

Her goal is to establish a network of creative art therapists and yoga instructors through her private practice who will be able to work with NDIS participants, using the power of creativity to empower those in need.


Prakash Charan


Atkinson Prakash Charan is a well known Australian businessman and philanthropist. Atkinson Prakash, affectionately known as ‘Kash’, moved to Australia from Fiji with his family as a young child. Hardworking and entrepreneurial, Kash has founded and grown various companies. He and his wife Sally, also established the Charan Foundation in 2016, a national organisation dedicated to supporting and encouraging participation in sport. Assistance is provided to sporting organisations, individuals and initiatives through the provision of funding grants. To date, the Charan family together with the Charan Foundation has provided over half a million dollars in support – with many grants and funds being provided to clubs and programs which focus on supporting multicultural and minority groups, and the most disadvantaged across the country.

In addition, Kash, through his business interests, has sponsored many Australian sporting clubs including Melbourne United, Melbourne Victory, Geelong Football Club, among others, as well as a number of associations some which include: the Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria, Russian Ethnic Representative Council; and Fiji Social and Cultural Organisation of Victoria. An avid sporting enthusiast, Kash played soccer, Aussie rules football, basketball and cricket as a youngster and understands the social, health and economic benefits sport provides to individuals as well as the broader community. In particular, Kash is an ardent proponent of the importance of inclusion and engagement – and its positive impact on mental health and overall wellbeing.

Michelle Brewty


I am an entrepreneur, mentor, volunteer, advocator for integration . Worked for 13 years with Qantas and then another 4 years with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Since 2009 own and operate "Reliable Immigration Service". Am also a single mother of two teenage girls and am grateful for all I have. Now its time to give back to society

Shanice Hoang


I am a founder/managing partner of my firm Verity Law that mainly assist business and investment migrants to come to Australia and invest and do business. I am passionate about my job and the people that I represent as it is very satisfying when you are able to assist a whole family to redesign their future.

Sundaram Sivamalai


Sundram was born in Malaysia but he maintains his language interests in Tamil, Malay while learning Japanese, Vietnamese and Hindi

Elleni Bereded-Samuel


Elleni Bereded-Samuel is African Australian from Ethopian background who has focused her life’s work on strengthening and employment for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities (CALD) in Australia

Jamie Smith


Jamie is the Director of Crane Bin Solutions Pty Ltd, an industrial services company that specialises in proof loading and non detective testing of construction bins and lifting equipment.

Heather Marcus


Since arriving in Wyndham Heather has been involved in many exciting things and businesses. 1971 – 1976 she was a partner in a successful Building Business building new houses in the City of Wyndham

Abinaya Srinivasan


Abi Srinivasan worked in the Pharmacy industry in Rural, Regional, and Metropolitan Victoria over the last few years. She has been involved in the Indian Music community through singing and dancing and has performed on multiple platforms.

Hyon-Ju Newman


Hyon-Ju Newman has deep has deep connections in the arts and is very engaged with Melbourne’s Asian community. She is the President of Korean Society of Victoria.

Charles Walker


Charles is of Anglo Indian decent, migrated to Australia in 1986. Married to Patricia, they have two daughters Nicole and Rochelle. A Sound Engineer byprofession, Charles owns and runs Imperial Audio a company specialising in Audio systems for concerts and events. Having been involved with various communities and their events since his migration, Charles is now coming on board as a multicultural ambassador of MHFA.

Lucy Laurita


Lucy is one of Australia's most reputable boutique designers, focusing on simple, classic, couture beauty.  It was her mother's introduction into the fashion world that taught the designer a great deal about dressmaking and sewing, before going on to study fashion at RMIT.

Australian born, Italian heritage, Lucy Laurita has a strong focus on community wellbeing and is involved in fundraising for several charitable organisations as well as supporting events with emphasis on mentoring and nurturing young people to achieve their full potential.



Lydia is a corporate professional with over 20 years of experience in the space of Human Resources, Organisation Development and Career Coaching. With extensive experience partnering with executive teams in Australia and Asia Pacific delivering people-driven business strategies, Lydia is passionate about team building and empowering others to achieve their full potential. As a leader in corporate and business, Lydia advocates leadership commitment to promote mental health and wellbeing at workplaces, endeavours to make employee mental health an objective of the business.

In her community, Lydia participates in various support and care roles of visiting those less fortunate in nursing homes and hospitals. Lydia is qualified with a MBA and a Bachelor of Business Administration, a professional member of the Australian Human Resources Institute. Above all, Lydia is inspired to make a positive difference in life with her personal values of courageous, passion and resilience.

Amandeep Singh Sethi


Being brought up in a first-generation Sikh family in Australia, I lived the majority of my adolescent life growing up in Australia and New Zealand. Being the very first Sikh boy to step foot into so many domains I had to learn the art of gracefully assimilating within a western culture whilst keeping my own values intact. I make this point because as a child, I was put into many situations which I had to endure. And besides having my hair pulled, turban knocked off, nose broken, spat on and the list goes on, I am proud to say that it is this very journey that has made me better and not bitter with the ability to stand tall and strong whilst having a heart filled with compassion.

Today when I look back, I realise that real life is not an easy journey for any of us. But there is strength within each and every one of us to help someone else. As an active member of the community, it would be my heartfelt honour to learn more, support more and bring more awareness to mental health and well-being issues for all no matter their race, creed or cast.

Derya Guclu


My name is Derya Guclu, I work for CBA as an Analyst. Married and mum to 3 kids, 2 boys and a 4 year old girl. Llife has been good to me as I see it, even though there were so many times that I felt like I was in a corner, mentally challenged, sometimes depressed and sometimes probably bullied but somehow found a way to get up. 

I am positive in nature and like looking at the glass half full then empty, however there has been times I wanted to throw the tile and move on from whatever. There has been times I had to let go of things which I didn't wanted to. 

I guess I was lucky in many instances because I had good people around me, my family, my friends and just good decent people. This is why I wanted to get iinvolved as I believe that everyone needs someone to encourage them, if I could be one of those people I would be very happy.