Lilian Kikuvi highlights the importance of engaging with intersectionality

Growing up in Mombasa on the east coast of Kenya, Lilian Kikuvi was never consciously aware of being a woman of colour. The colour of her skin was irrelevant and as far as she was concerned she was no different to anyone else.

Fast forward 20 years to 1999, when Lilian arrived in Australia to commence her tertiary studies, and her experience of humanity drastically changed. The UOW Psychology alumna had her first personal experience of discrimination and racial bias and it was then, for the first time, she realised she was black.

“I experienced overt racial discrimination and micro-aggression, comments like ‘oh you must be very lucky to be in this country’ or ‘you speak very good English – that’s very good for someone like you’, or the N word being used to refer to me. The first time it happened, I was quite shocked,” Lilian shares.

“I continue to experience these things today in different ways and at different levels of intensity … it’s something that I’m constantly challenged by.” Since moving to Australia, Lilian has observed institutional racism in the community – from higher unemployment rates for culturally diverse groups, as documented in the government’s Australian Labour Market reports, and an underrepresentation of culturally diverse women in top leadership positions, through to low representation of minority groups in the media, reported by Media Diversity Australia.

Sadly, it is these systems and practices that Lilian says serve as a constant reminder to her that people with a minority background may not really belong in Australia. This, coupled with her personal experiences of racism, have fuelled her resolve to drive change in the diversity and inclusion landscape.

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