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Diversity in action

Following the trail of diversity in the Australian Capital Territory.

Bianca Elmir

Wendy Dawes

Bianca Elmir encapsulates the tired cliche, 'larger than life', in a way that is neither tired nor cliche.

Currently in training for the Brazil Olympics as a boxer, she taps into a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy to fill in any gaps in her diary as a boxing coach, youth worker and occasional circus performer (most recently at a fringe festival in Melbourne).

"I like helping others," she explains. "Whether through community liaison or working for the Greens; I enjoy working with children, Indigenous people or others who find themselves to be disadvantaged for some reason."

Her eclectic career reflects a similarly diverse and interesting background. 

"My cultural heritage is mainly Australian, having been raised here since I was very young, but I have Lebanese forebears, who have been Muslim," she says. "Lebanon is at the cross-roads of many cultures, so that also means I have a very mixed genetic heritage – probably European, Eastern and North-African."

"I have lived and/or worked in Australia, Lebanon, Africa, Spain and even South East Asia (where I have done a deal of boxing training over time). I feel very much a citizen of the world, yet I still love my grandmother’s traditional middle-eastern cooking."

It's apparent why she was an ideal candidate for this campaign. 

"In the main, people regard me with interest because of my mixed background," she acknowledges. Bianca also admits she has been fortunate to have not been the target of much racial vilification during her life.

"I do feel that if you have an open attitude and accept others then they will accept you," she says. "This is what I try to do every day – not stress the differences but the commonalities between us all and regard the differences as enriching, not conflictual."

Which is not to say she has not seen the pain caused by discrimination of others.

"I am aware of others who have experienced prejudice," Bianca says. "And I do have great empathy for people who experience prejudice – I go out of my way to stick up for people I feel are put down in any way or form."

Having travelled so extensively, Bianca says in her view, Canberra fares well when it comes to being an inclusive city.

"Canberra is very diverse and people here are better educated on average than the nation as a whole so, yes, society here is more inclusive and tolerant – that goes with being educated," Bianca says. "That does not mean we cannot do better and help all people who live here to reach their potential."

Her advice to achieve this, is "more cooperative projects, cross-cultural and cross-sector, that draw upon the rich diversity and talents of our population, especially with young people."