Throughout Australia’s history there have been countless people from all walks of life that have defied what some might call ‘obstacles’ and set an example of excellence by achieving their goals and desires, and as such are an inspiration to all.
Keeping News Local had the honour of speaking to one such as this: the charming Sera Yilmaz, a young lady born in Fairfield to Turkish parents, who lived in a housing commission home in Bonnyrigg and attended public schooling, only to go on to attain a B Law/Social Science (Honours)/ Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. Sara is also presently in her final year of a PhD, focussing on Australia’s Temporary Skilled Migration Program.
Sera’s work history and list of awards and accolades is equally as impressive, such as winning the Western Sydney Women Leader of Change Award 2021, a finalist for the Women’s Agenda Emerging Leader in University and Public Sector Award 2020 and having the distinction of presenting her PhD findings at the Prestigious Metropolis International Migration Conference in Berlin, Germany in 2022.
Among other things, Sera is presently the secretary of the Australian Local Government Women’s Association NSW, and has previously served in Fairfield City Council as Deputy Mayor.
As this article is intended to inspire, not to push political agendas, we have reserved our questions to that aspect of Sera’s career and not any political allegiance or history.
KNL: Were there any particular motivations for your career choices, and if so what were they?
SY: I had a deep passion and emotional/ nostalgic connection to the area and loved volunteering at animal shelters and for charity events. I also knew that I was passionate about debating, writing, social work and helping others. If I help someone and it improves their lives, I feel like I have won the lottery.
I lived in housing until my late twenties and have experienced the stigma associated to individuals who live in housing, first-hand. This has motivated me to achieve a lot more in life to prove that people in housing are no different to anyone else, and can truly achieve great things.
All of these interests of mine have led to me following the path of the legal profession and politics. However, I am now a Team Leader at the Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association of NSW, advocating for people across NSW with disability and it is one of the best jobs I have ever had.
KNL: Would you say that your achievements were planned since you were at school or did they come more by chance?
SY: My year 12 Yearbook states that I wanted to start my own political party and be the prime minister one day. I certainly commenced my political activity in the local area quite early since the age of 16: handing out flyers at local, state and federal elections.
So I definitely wanted to be a politician: I just didn’t know at which level. Because of my activism since high school I was offered a job in an MP office and had the honour of being able to run for local government. It was fantastic as I wanted nothing more than to represent the area that has been home to me my whole life. Equally interesting was a workbook I completed in year 5, outlining that I wanted to be a lawyer when I ‘grew up’, which actually happened, so I would definitely say I am a visionary when it comes to what I want and how I put my mind to achieving it.
KNL: Would you say there are people who you have found inspired you to greater things. If so, who?
SY: There are many from all walks of life. I am inspired by my family who have done as much as they can for me under all circumstances and hardships. I am inspired by my friends and colleagues who lift me up and guide me in many facets of my life. Growing up, Julia Gillard inspired me as the first female prime minister of Australia, and Abraham Lincoln was a hero in my eyes since I was a kid, as I loved his bold ideas and how he eradicated slavery in the midst of much resistance. I must also say, the Spice Girls have also inspired me to dye my hair red in year 4, and dance and sing on stage at a very young age. They surely did give me a confidence boost since the very early days, which has helped in my life.
KNL: Would you say being a woman helped, harmed or was a neutral factor in your career?
SY: I would say neutral. I remember when I had a political position some of the opponents would usually bring up the fact that I haven’t had a child yet and would constantly remind me that my clock was ticking and that perhaps I should just leave and have a child ‘before it’s too late.’ But on the other hand, I absolutely love being a woman, dressing to impress and trying to live my best life which has also been fun.
KNL: Are there any other factors that either helped or harmed your career?
SY: I was born in Australia but have a Turkish-Muslim background. This would sometimes be brought up in particular settings in my political role, where I would have to explain myself that I do not practice, and be told to not wear my ethnic attire to certain functions. I only faced these issues in my political career, but outside of politics I have had extremely positive experiences which were beautiful, and have excelled in my career, where no one even feels the need to ask what my background is because they appreciate what I can contribute for the betterment of individuals and treat me like an equal to themselves.
KNL: What about you as a person, do you have any hobbies, play any sports etc?
SY: I do yoga and meditation, table tennis, and have enrolled in cross-fit more recently.
My hobbies right now include a lot of reading (learning more about the bible this year), aromatherapy, sightseeing, traveling, history and watching anything relating to Elvis Presley is a fantastic past time for me.
KNL: Would you say you have a particular personality type and if so, has that been helpful in your chosen field?
SY: I am one of those people who have completed the ‘personality’ tests out there and got ‘protagonist’ as my personality type. I like to say what is on my mind without shying away from it. I definitely wear my heart on my sleeve. If I want something I tell people what I want. If I love someone I tell them. If I am not happy with something I make it known. I don’t do things for people to like me: I do what I feel is the right thing to do regardless of the consequences. I managed to be able to achieve goals that I have set my mind on, but sometimes, people don’t like outspoken individuals so it has also worked to my detriment, but I am happy with all of the experiences that have come my way and I would not change them.
KNL: What advice would you give younger women starting out in life?
SY: To take things one step at a time. To plan their goals and to work on them each day, even if it is a little bit. To be prepared that life will present several challenges but that this is a normal part of life and to be prepared. To ensure to make time for things that make you happy, ensuring a good work-life balance. That self-care is just as important as working in a dream job.
KNL: What about if you could talk to a younger you, what advice would you give yourself?
SY: Not to take things too personally. To start self-care activities a lot earlier. To listen to mum and dad’s advice. To travel more.
KNL: In retrospect, if you could change anything in your life choices what would it be?
SY: To go back and ensure I focus on positivity: worrying less. To undo anything in my life that may have caused me grief/ disappointment. Then again, every experience, the good and the bad, has made me who I am today and has taught me a lot.
KNL: What would you like to achieve in the future, possibly a personal goal or something more?
SY: To complete my thesis this year and contribute to existing knowledge relating to Australia’s temporary skilled migration program. To continue to increase female representation in local government not only locally but throughout NSW. To visit my sponsor child in Africa. To increase my fitness levels. To one day, open a cat shelter in the area, as I am extremely passionate about vulnerable animals particularly cats who face the real risk of being put down. To be closer to God each and every day. To contribute financially to a community in dire need.
Keeping News Local thanks Sera Yilmaz for taking the time to talk to us. We wish her well in all her future endeavours and sincerely hope knowing a little about her can aspire others to greater things, including what might seem impossible.