Political Engagement, Literacy, and Public Office Leadership Program for Multicultural Australians (Non-citizens can apply)

About the Program: Long-term approach to increase multicultural representation in Australian politics #auspol

COMPELL’s Political Engagement, Literacy, and Public Office Leadership Program for Multicultural Australians (#PELPOL) will ultimately better equip you to run for office. The aim of this program is to create a politically literate, well-supported, and well-networked pool of multicultural Australians over the years, who will successfully run for office at various levels of government.

According to the latest Census results, Australia is now a majority migrant country. In order for democracy to work, we need an educated public, especially in our adult migrant communities.

Migrants often spend years and even decades living in Australia before gaining citizenship. Only then can we vote and run for office. We at COMPELL believe these are crucial years for equipping our diverse migrant communities with the knowledge and skills to not only run for office but also be well-informed voters and politically active citizens.

At COMPELL we believe in helping our people build towards a career in politics rather than teaching how to become “instant” politicians. The program will be conducted by expert multicultural trainers and facilitators from major political and minor parties as well as Independents.


Deadline extended (only 20 spots left!)

Application Closes

July 2023

Information session

COMPELL will conduct an information session to help successful applicants prepare for the program and answer any questions they may have.

July 2023

Program starts

Who should apply for this FREE program:

  • Those who are interested in entering politics
  • Those who do not want to become a politician but want to understand Australian politics in order to advocate for their communities’ needs
  • Those who want to understand the system in order to be more politically engaged and active residents of Australia

The program will be split into 2 segments where segment 1 will focus on civic and political literacy and segment 2 will focus on equipping political hopefuls to run for office.

Those who are not interested in running for office need not participate in segment 2.

Trainers and Facilitators

Tharini Rouwette – Founder of COMPELL and Program Director

At a professional level, Tharini hails from a strong media and tech background having worked with companies such as Amazon, Adobe, Singtel/Optus and Google. At a personal level, she used her skills to campaign for political parties and grassroot organisations across Singapore, US and Australia.

As an experienced political campaigner, orgainser, and coalition builder, she has worked on campaigns the likes of Bernie Sanders’ in America. Bernie Sanders may not have become the Presdent of the United States (POTUS) but Tharini’s team won him the Democrats Abroad votes to have him become a significant influence in the Biden administration.

Tharini is the first ever in Australia, to set up a networking group for multicultural Australians interested in understanding AUSPOL and potentially running for office. She’s also the first ever to create a podcast, “Allies in Politics – A Person of Colour’s Rough Guide to Australian Politics”, dedicated to helping listeners better understand Australian politics. It so far has over 1000, politically engaged multicultural listeners and counting.

Tharini has also conducted numerous workshops that delve into multicultural issues. As a daughter of migrants and coming from a multicultural background, Tharini is always identifying ways to improve outcomes for multicultural Australia through brave and innovative ideas.

Apsara Sabaratnam – Educator, Strategic Political campaigner, and Community organiser (VIC)

Apsara is an academic who focuses on Organisational Behaviour and Workplace Diversity, She has over a decade of experience organising on a range of issues affecting migrants in Australia and on fast paced political campaigns. 

Born in Sri Lanka and spending her formative years in Zambia, and then Zimbabwe Apsara and her family migrated to Australia where she completed high school and university.

As a community organiser she is a tireless and fearless advocate for environmental and social justice causes and is known for her non-partisan coalition building skills with unions, migrant communities, climate justice groups and political parties.

Having first gotten involved in political campaigning in 2013 Apsara has gone on to run large scale volunteer led field campaigns. These grass-roots movement building efforts have a long-term focus, are shaped by a positive culture, and centred around delivering real change for our communities.  

She is a member of the National Tertiary Education Union and has long been involved in unionism, successfully representing her co-workers at the bargaining table and farm workers at the Fair Work Commission. Apsara played an integral part in modernising the Horticulture Award which saw for the first-time farm workers in Australia earning an hourly wage. This was a massive win and a major step towards eliminating wage theft and exploitation in the Australian horticulture industry. 

Apsara has also successfully lobbied federal governments to introduce more humane refugee and asylum seeker policies. She has worked closely with refugees and asylum seekers in the community to provide them material aid, as well as assistance finding housing and employment.

Mariam Veiszadeh – CEO, Media Diversity Australia (NSW)

As the 2016 Fairfax Daily Life Woman of the Year, Mariam is an award-winning change maker and inclusive thought leader.

Having dedicated the last 15 years of her life to intersectional gender equality, human rights advocacy and championing cultural diversity, Mariam’s advocacy has led a transformative discourse on the issues of cultural diversity & racism and has helped cultivate a more inclusive Australia across multiple diversity streams. Her work in the Islamophobia space has been transformational.

With many accolades to her name, Mariam prides herself on her strong record of thought leadership and inclusive advocacy and truly embodies the values of justice, equality, and inclusion in all she does. Despite the many hurdles she has faced, Mariam has a strong record of devising and executing grassroots community campaigns across various areas of social policy and she’s most proud of the groundbreaking human rights work she’s done in the islamophobia space, which has made a positive difference to people’s lives.

After more than a decade working as a lawyer, Mariam has now dedicated her career to social policy advocacy (although many still seek her legal input) and she’s been described as a “leader in fighting hatred” and an advocate who “uses her considerable wit and smarts to punch holes in the stupidity of racism, sexism and xenophobia”.

Ogy Simic – Director Refugee Leadership, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (VIC)

Ogy arrived in Australia when he was eleven years old as a refugee after a civil war erupted in his hometown of Sarajevo.

As a trained lawyer and a long-standing social justice campaigner, he has worked tirelessly to promote a society with acceptance of human rights at its core.

In 2016, Mr Simic was elected to the Port Phillip Council and he was determined to tackle education, public transport, sustainability, social inclusion, community safety and climate change. He said council had done a lot of work in those areas and “have made huge steps forward”. Key examples were a new waste strategy, environmental policy and the integrated transport strategy, which would tackle congestion and aim to prioritise public transport.  

“I have encouraged and fought for better consultation processes on the big projects we work on,” he said. As a result, the council was conducting its first trial of a participatory democracy model of engagement and had set up a panel to shape the new St Kilda Marina.

Grace Akosua Williams – Director of Citizen Tasmania (TAS)

Grace Akosua Williams is the Director of Citizen Tasmania and an award winning social entrepreneur shaping grassroots capacity across Australian communities. She founded Citizen Tasmania to provide people from refugee backgrounds with strong advocacy and creative tools to strengthen human rights in their local communities.

Grace developed the Ethic of Thriving, a new and innovative model for refugee resettlement from her lived experience of forced displacement, to create successful settlement outcome by elevating the agency of refugees and providing stronger pathways between skills and meaningful employment.

A graduate of Law and Political Economy from the University of Tasmania, she was awarded the VC award for global leadership and is internationally recognised for her advocacy work as a 2022 Echoing Green Global Fellow.

Karla Benitez – Political & Community Advocate (WA)

Karla has devoted 20 years of her professional career advocating for social and economic progress.

As an experienced politician from Mexico and now in Australia, her experience in politics, private, not-for-profit, and community sectors have reinforced her commitment to equity of opportunities, women’s rights, improving working conditions, sustainable growth and building a stronger nation.

Since arriving in Australia she has been working and volunteering for the culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) communities in the country.

As her journey goes, she realised that CaLD Australians have been facing for more than half-century, language barriers, lack of quality employment opportunities, housing, access to medical services, racism, and lack of cultural diversity within senior positions in the public, private and academic sectors just to mention some.

As Australians, it is time to think differently and have a more progressive and modern approach, move from social justice to social capital, human rights to human potential, cultural maintenance to creativity and innovation.

Supporting Politicians:

Trung Luu MP – Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs (VIC)

Prior to entering Parliament, Trung served for 28 years with Victoria Police and championed bridging the gap between the Vietnamese Community and Victoria Police where he presented the Victoria Police Multicultural Media award in 2010.  Trung has also completed a Graduate Diploma in Public Safety and Forensic Investigation.

Trung also served for 19 years with the Australian Army Reserve.  In 2016 he presented with the Junior Non-Commissioner Reserve TASMAN Scheme award for leadership, dedication, and commitment, and the honour of representing ADF in a bilateral exchange program with NZDF.

In 2019 Bushfire Assists Trung led a team of mobile units in the Alpine area, northwest of Victoria, assisting local authorities and evacuating residents from the fire fronts.

Trung arrived in Australia as a refugee in the late 1970s from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon and is married with five young children. He is the first Vietnamese State Member of Parliament to represent the Liberal Party in the Legislative Council.

Trung’s priorities as a Member of Parliament are to ensure equality and equal opportunities for all. He would like to ensure that all diverse and multicultural communities have a voice.

Dr Samantha Ratnam MP – Leader of The Victorian Greens and Spokesperson for Multiculturalism (VIC)

Before entering Parliament, Samantha was a social worker in the fields of drug and alcohol rehabilitation, international development and settlement services. She was also an elected councillor for the City of Moreland and the first Greens Mayor of Moreland. 

Samantha says the threat of climate change and the need for governments to address it urgently made her want to get involved in politics. This is what prompted her to run for local government and then Parliament. 

The priorities Samantha has for her community are to ensure that we act on climate change and address social inequality. She wants to ensure that her constituents’ voices are being heard and represented in the parliament.  

Samantha’s vision for Victoria’s future is that our people and environment are cared for and protected. She believes that we can achieve this with ending our dependence on coal and gas, 100% clean renewable energy, affordable housing for all, investment in public transport and protecting our native forests from logging. 

The areas of public policy that she is most passionate about are addressing climate change, affordable housing and working towards justice for First Nations. In addition, Samantha is committed to reforming our urban planning system so that everyone has access to housing and the environment is nurtured and protected. 

MAKUR CHUOT, Hon. Ayor, MLC – Member for the North Metropolitan Region (WA)

Ayor Makur Chuot was sworn in as a Member of the Legislative Council of the 41st Parliament of Western Australia for the North Metropolitan Region on May 24, 2021.

She is WA’s first MP of African descent and the first person from a South Sudanese background to occupy a seat in any Australian Parliament.

Ayor is passionate about multiculturalism, women’s interests, and families, and hopes to inspire young people of colour to get involved in the community.

She is committed to improving opportunities for refugees and migrants in the workforce having overcome numerous barriers herself.

And is working hard for the North Metropolitan Region in the key areas of jobs, education, health, infrastructure, and local projects.

Supporting Organisations

The need for our program: Urgent need to invest in increasing Multicultural representation in Australian Public Office

The latest census results show Australia is becoming increasingly culturally diverse. Yet, our public office does not reflect this reality. Despite electing the most culturally diverse federal parliament in 2022 CALD representatives make up a mere 8% of all parliamentarians and when it came to the 2022 Victorian state election, we saw CALD representation go backwards.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS),:

  • More than half of Australia’s residents (51.5%) report being either born overseas or having an overseas born parent.
  • There was a 48% increase in Indian and 124% increase in Nepalese migrants since 2016.
  • The top languages spoken in Australia aside from English is Mandarin, Arabic, Vietnamese, Cantonese, and Punjabi.

This growing number of first-generation migrants means Australians’ ancestry will change significantly over the next decade. Australia will continue to change and look different, and we must ensure our institutions and policies reflect this.

While 71% of Australians said they want a more diverse parliament, the stark reality is that all levels of Australian politicss continues to be over-represented by Anglo-Celtic/White European politicians.

The intersecting layers of sexism and racism keep the doors into the corridors of power tightly shut to us, and when we somehow push through them against all odds, we face the many barriers of being outsiders to an entrenched system.

Mehreen Faruqi
Greens Federal Senator

biggest challenge people of colour face in politics is lack of institutional knowledge and access. We often don’t have generations of family members who have been members of a political party that can enable us to access information, networks and opportunities.

Charishma Kaliyanda
ALP State Member for Liverpool, NSW

It’s (Multicultural representation in the Liberal Party) slowly changing, but you need to be in the seat to drive the bus. There is no use people being a backseat driver. People like me are speaking up. You need people who represent the community.

Trung Luu
Liberal Member for Western Metropolitan Region and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs, VIC


Australian Bureau of Statisics, 2022, Cultural Diversity of Australia, date accessed: 20 April 2023,https://www.abs.gov.au/articles/cultural-diversity-australia

Khorana, S, 2022, Census Data Shows we’re More Culturally Diverse than Others than Even. Our Institutions must Reflect this, date accessed: 20 April 2023,https://theconversation.com/census-data-shows-were-more-culturally-diverse-than-ever-our-institutions-must-reflect-this-185575

Sakkal, P, 2022, Victorian Parliament goes Backwards on Diversity as Labor Fails to Pick Non-European MPs, date accessed: 20 April 2023, https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/victorian-parliament-goes-backwards-on-diversity-as-labor-fails-to-pick-non-european-mps-20221129-p5c21g.html

Head Topics, 2019, Exclusion: 71 Per Cent of Australians Want a More Diverse Parliament, Poll Reveals, date accessed: 20 April 2023, https://headtopics.com/au/exclusive-71-per-cent-of-australians-want-a-more-diverse-parliament-poll-reveals-5892683

Vrajlal, A, 2021, It is a White Boys Club: How WoC Are Sidelined in Australian Politics, Refinery29, date accessed: 20 April 2023, https://www.refinery29.com/en-au/2021/09/10678622/australia-politics-racism-sexism

Smethurst, A, 2023, Liberal Party’s First Vietnamese MP Shares Story of Perilous Boat Journey, The Age, date accessed: 20 April 2023, https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/liberal-party-s-first-vietnamese-mp-shares-story-of-perilous-boat-journey-20230225-p5cnjo.html

Academic Research Support

Political and Media Literacy of Chinese and South Asian Migrant Communities in Australia

Research Aims:

  • To map the current voting preferences of first and second-generation migrants from Chinese and South Asian backgrounds who have been resident in Australia for at least 2 years
  • To understand what factors inform the political choices of these migrant groups
  • To investigate what media sources these migrant communities use to inform themselves about socio-political issues in Australia, especially in the lead-up to an election
  • To chart a pathway for community organisers and political parties to more meaningfully engage with Chinese and South Asian background communities

Research rationale and significance:

In Australia, the South Asian and Chinese communities demonstrate statistical, political, and economic significance. The 2021 Census reveals that ‘Chinese’ and ‘Indian’ are the most commonly reported ancestries after the UK and Australia. There is also a significant increase in migration from other countries in South Asia, such as Nepal and Bangladesh. With Australia’s increasing strategic connections with these countries, it is foreseeable that the scale of South Asian and Chinese communities will keep expanding.

Most existing research takes a top-down and monolithic approach to evaluate Chinese or Indian migrants’ political participation, and intra-ethnic diversity is neglected. This project intends to identify different factors that shape migrants’ political and media literacy and consequent engagement with Australian politics. We tentatively define political engagement as migrants’ willingness and actions in learning Australia’s system of governance, voting based on informed decisions, and engaging with political campaigns on various media platforms.


Dr Sukhmani Khorana

Scientia Associate Professor in Media, School of the Arts and Media at UNSW

Dr. Sukhmani Khorana is a Scientia Associate Professor in Media, School of the Arts and Media at UNSW. Previously, she was the Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow based at the Young and Resilient Research Centre, Western Sydney University. Sukhmani has a national profile and recognition across the universities she has worked at, as demonstrated by her being named a ‘UOW Impact Maker’ in 2018, and being awarded a local ‘Research Engagement’ award at WSU in 2021. She received four overseas invites to present work and collaborate during her sabbatical in 2019, and these are testament to her growing international reputation for work on media and migration. 

She has extensive experience in collaborating with media and arts organisations, young people, and government agencies on projects benefiting diverse communities. With Kate Darian-Smith and Sue Turnbull, Sukhmani was a CI on an ARC Linkage Project, ‘Migration, Cultural Diversity and Television: Reflecting Modern Australia’ (2016-2021).

Dr Fan Yang

Postdoctoral research fellow at Melbourne Law School and ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society

Fan Yang researches the effects of large scale international social media platforms in terms of cross-jurisdictional tensions and expectations, and their cross border effects on political activity and identity. She studies this through interviews and ethnographic observation with production teams that generate native content for those platforms, particularly observing decision-making and self-management in this context.


“Thank you so much for all your support, to think I was going to wait until I was 50+ to do this, because I didn’t have the support, knowledge or tools & because of you all, I’m giving it a go now!”

Tatum.M – Indigenous Australian

“Tharini delivered an interactive and practical session about things to look out for when preparing to run for public office. Sharing her lived experiences on various campaigns, Tharini gave useful insights about community organising in an engaging way”

H.Wong – Asian Australian

As a first-generation migrant wanting to enter the Australian political process, I was not sure where to start. During the consultation, Tharini provided tailored feedback that suited my background and experiences. I felt a lot more confident walking out of the session, about pathways to a career in politics and how I could best engage with local communities heading into the future.

G.Choong – Asian Australian

“I’ve been a member of my political party for years yet there is so little that I knew about running for office. This is something political parties have failed to teach their CALD members and so when I attended COMPELL’s “Pop-Up Candidate consultation session,” it was such an eye opener! I now have a step-by-step plan to get ahead in politics and am so grateful to COMPELL for their session!

Ramesh.V– South Asian Australian

Frankly speaking, it is disheartening to see nobody from my background in Federal politics and so I felt I had to be one of the few to strive for that achievement. I met Tharini from COMPELL at her networking event and jumped upon the opportunity to attend her pop-up political candidate consultation session. No one in my entire life in Australia has personally guided me the way she did! Thanks to Tharini, I know how to position myself for my political future.”

A.Akuot– African Australian

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