It was in 2016 when Pakistani born Seema Abdullah was elected into the Greater Shepparton City Council for a four year term. She has already been in the deputy mayor’s position for one year since then.
In addition to her role in the City Council, she is also the Chairperson of the Goulburn Valley Waste and Resource Recovery Group and as well as the Chairperson of the Goulburn Valley Library Group.
Pak Awaaz is proud to publish the interview which was conducted when she was first elected as a councilor of Greater Shepparton.
This month she contested the mayoral election against the incumbent and was elected for the Mayor’s role to lead the Greater Shepparton City Council by a vote of 8-1 in her favour.
After her election as the Mayor, she mentioned in her address “I am very honoured and humbled to be elected as the Mayor for Greater Shepparton”. Not surprisingly, she is making all Pakistani origin Australians and the migrant community proud for her achievements.
Pak Awaaz is proud to publish the interview which was conducted in 2016, when Ms Seema Abdullah was first elected as a Councillor of Greater Shepparton. (We are hoping to get a fresh interview in her new role in the near future).
Now that you are elected member of Greater Shepparton and will be representing them, tell our readers how it all started?
In 2014 I took time off from my work due to family reasons and decided to use this extra time in hand on community engagement. Subsequently, I was involved in several community projects/networks. For example, I participated in Greater Shepparton’s City Council’s Community Leadership Program, ran a Street Art project for young people in our community, joined Women’s Council’s Charter Alliance Advisory Committee and was involved in organising several events including International Women’s Day event in March 2016. During this time I developed a network of friends who were actively involved in community work. Towards the end of last year I attended an information session hosted by the Victorian Local Government Association to promote more women in local government. During the session, an information kit (A Gender Agenda) for women’s participation in local government (as a Councillor) was distributed. Once I read that kit, I realised that becoming a Councillor was do-able and could be considered. After discussing the idea with my family (in Australia and Pakistan) and close friends, and with their supportive feedback, I finally decided to put up my hand as a council candidate.
You are relatively new to Shepparton, how hard was it for you to run the campaign having come from Pakistani background and being female?
I was fortunate to have strong support of some good friends in the mainstream community. Also, I shared my initial thoughts about running for council with some local community leaders who I had come to know through my previous community engagements. Their positive response gave me the confidence to keep moving forward. With the help and advice of some fantastic community minded friends in local community, I utilised every opportunity to become known and visible in the community. Looking back, there was significant hard work put into my election campaign – together with my team, I was able to spread the word around using different methods, such as face to face meetings with community members, participation in various community events, visits to smaller towns in the municipality outside Shepparton, print and radio advertising, flyer distribution, social media and website. The election outcome demonstrated that both, the mainstream and CALD (Culturally and Language diverse) communities acknowledged my interest and passion for community and gave due consideration to my local and international professional work experience, qualifications and required skills.
Please tell our readers about your family, how you are managing and how you are going to manage with new responsibilities?
My husband is a surgeon and I have two teenage children. We moved to Shepparton about 8 years ago due to my husband’s work commitment. As you would agree, my family’s support has been vital in pursuing this path-they are very pleased about my election as a Councillor. It’s been two weeks now since the formal declaration of results and my induction into the Councillor role. So far so good! I feel I have returned to my career track after some gap, albeit in a different and community-facing role.
Do you have any future in politics such as participating state or federal election?
I do not have any intentions to pursue state or federal politics at the moment. I am keen to focus on my role as a councillor and make a difference in my immediate environment.
Is there any message you would like to give to our young Pakistani heritage Australian specially to young ladies who would like to achieve something in politics?
To me the role of a Councillor is very much a community-oriented role. If you are interested in this role and want to be an active member of the mainstream community, there are ample opportunities – so break the barriers, show a genuine interest in your surroundings and reach out to the wider communities that you are a part of and where you live.