Image: Charishma Kaliyanda with the Leader of Labor Party and Opposition, Bill Shorten
Kaliyanda Charishma is in the thick of Australian politics. She is currently running up for election to the State Parliament of New South Wales, which is one of the States of Australia. “I hope to be elected in March 2015, at which time I will work hard to represent the constituents of the seat of Holsworthy” she said. Charisma is contesting from Holsworthy on a ticket from the Australian Labor Party, who have selected her as their candidate to contest the upcoming State election.
“I was inspired to become involved in politics by three incidents that all occurred around the same time. Firstly, my University (University of New South Wales) was making big changes to our degrees and I was complaining in class when one of my classmates asked me “what are you going to do about it?” She invited me to stand with her friends for election to the Student Representative Council (SRC) of UNSW. I realised I was just wasting my breath by complaining without taking any action, so I joined my classmate and her friends. The following year, I was elected President of the UNSW SRC,” said Charishma, speaking to Star of Mysore.
“Secondly, as part of my studies I travelled on exchange to Mexico. Here, I realised the value of being involved in politics — if people from all walks of life are not involved in politics then the decisions that are made cannot be representative of society as a whole,” she said.
“Finally, it was around this time that I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. This experience made me realise that the health system we have in Australia is fantastic, and that health and education are so important to being able to succeed in life. So, I got involved in local politics,” said Charishma.
Charisma is an occupational therapist by profession. Her experience with the health system there led her to get Masters in Occupational Therapy from the University of Sydney. “I love working in paediatrics, which is why I completed a program working at a school for children with physical disabilities in Mumbai last year,” she said.
About her background, Charishma said that she is the daughter of Kaliyanda Jaya and Banumathi, from Kolakeri village, Madikeri taluk, Kodagu. Banumathi is working for NSW railways. She and her brother were born in Bangalore. When she was around four years old, her parents decided to migrate to Australia. “Although the size of the Kodava community in Sydney has increased in recent years, it was relatively small when we were growing up. However, despite having lived in Australia for over 20 years, my parents have ensured that we have never forgotten our roots, our language and our traditions,” said Charishma.
“I have always found it a privilege to be able to share my heritage, particularly with Australian friends, as Australia’s multicultural society celebrates the richness of different cultures. We speak Kodava thakk at home, and make sure to celebrate Kailpodhu, Puthari and Kaveri Shankramana with not only our Kodava friends but also our non-Kodava friends. The Kodava community in Sydney gets together for our festivals every year, but we also celebrate at home. My friends love my mum’s pandhi curry and wotti” she said.
“My family is extremely supportive – they have always encouraged me to pursue my goals wholeheartedly. I am lucky that we have been able to visit family and friends in India every 3-4 years. My father is Kaliyanda Jaya, from Kolakeri and my mother, Chottera Bhanumathy, is from Kunjalageri. We still have family and friends living in Coorg and Bangalore, however, we make it a point to visit our grandmother in Kunjalageri, whenever we are in India,” she said.