Pema Dolkar is an up-and-coming SBS reporter who last year covered an initiative in Sydney’s Northern Beaches where Tibetan refugees are learning how to navigate Australia’s picturesque waterways.
This week, I had the remarkable experience of presenting Pema with the SSI Journalism Excellence Award at the Australian Settlement and Migration Awards. The reason this felt so remarkable was because the last time I saw Pema was two years ago when she was speaking at SSI’s Mosaic Gala about her journey to Australia and her disrupted education.
Pema is an alumni of the SSI-Allianz scholarships program, which helps refugees to overcome financial barriers to education.
With support from SSI, Pema has resumed her university education and is putting her skills to good use, reporting on wonderful local initiatives like Water Skills for Life’s swimming program. You can read her award-winning article here.
In a week where newspapers around the country have censored their front pages to protest press freedom, it is more important than ever that we acknowledge and recognise the positive contributions journalists make to our society.
The media plays an important role in shifting public perceptions about migrants, multiculturalism and social inclusion. Transparency and pursuit of the truth are core tenants of journalism, and this is particularly true when reporting on our new and emerging communities.
Media representation and language directly affects public perceptions. This has a trickledown effect to the everyday lives of community members.
We see this in our day-to-day work at SSI, where we support migrant and refugee communities to live rich, independent lives in Australia.
When new arrivals feel welcomed and included, they have a greater sense of belonging and can make an important contribution to their new home.
Journalists like Pema are playing an important role in fostering social inclusion and helping the wider community to understand the benefits migrants and refugees bring to our shores.
I was honoured to present this award to Pema on a night where so many of our colleagues in settlement received well deserved recognition. My heartfelt congratulations particularly go to our colleagues at Access Community Services, part of the SSI group of companies, which received the Settlement Innovation Award for its ‘no wrong door’ approach. You can read more about this here.