27 October 2022
Meet Asanga, CMY’s newest Board Director
Asanga Seneviratne is a young person, CMY Board Director, and Adviser at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. He has previously worked as a Senior Policy Officer within the COVID-19 Response at the Victorian Department of Health and as a Consultant at global management consulting firm, Oliver Wyman. His involvement in a range of CMY programs since 2016, including the Youth Advisory Group, Shout Out public speakers agency and the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network (MYAN), is testament to his dedication as an advocate for multicultural young people.
When the CMY Board put a call out to its alumni network for applications for new Board Directors earlier this year, Asanga put his hand up as he was thrilled that young people were being offered such a rare opportunity. Among a strong field of candidates, he was successful in landing one of the two positions vacant for young people under the age of 30. Albeit a steep learning curve, Asanga says the opportunity to learn more about governance and finance, and being at a decision-making level in the organisation, has been a rewarding experience so far.
“It’s important for multicultural young people to be on the Board, especially for an organisation that exists for multicultural young people like CMY, as we help ensure that there is a continual voice for multicultural young people in CMY’s governance, including for its volunteers, the young people in its programs and those it continually advocates for,” Asanga said.
As a young person from a migrant background himself and having a dual identity, Australian-Sri Lankan, Asanga said he didn’t feel as though he was completely accepted as Australian especially at school, despite being born in Australia and having an ‘Aussie accent’.
“Whether it’s covert or overt racism on public transport, at schools or in the media, things that happen every day fly under the radar – that affects employment opportunities and heightens stereotypes for young people on a regular basis. It has an impact on people’s mental health and the opportunities available to them, and that can be incredibly challenging,” he reflects.
While he was studying a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne, Asanga was eager to tackle racism and advocate for young people, especially first- and second-generation Australians like himself, and decided to get involved in some programs at CMY.
“The Shout Out [public speakers] program and the support I received from staff was monumental in inspiring me to shine a light on my own story and that of others, and helped me develop a passion for activism – to be able to speak to schools and government institutions and to encourage them to think about steps to combat racism,” Asanga says about what’s helped him gain the confidence he needed.
As a student, Asanga also co-founded and created Project Lantern, a podcast about young people trying to ‘change the world’ and trying to understand what that actually means.
While Asanga acknowledges his privilege in having a supportive family, and a stable financial situation that enabled him to do unpaid volunteering during university, he encourages young people to be curious about the volunteering, leadership and advocacy opportunities that exist and to take advantage of them where possible.
Based in Canberra, Asanga currently supports the development of policy advice to the Prime Minister and the Federal Government on a range of policy issues in Commonwealth-State relations with a focus on social policy including on schools and early childhood, education and Indigenous Affairs.