I ran a genuine campaign: Sahana Ramesh

By Indira Laisram
Sahana Ramesh

While the huge swing in favour of women candidates in the Wyndham City Council elections is remarkable, for India-born Sahana Ramesh, who is part of this winning team, it is a dream come true. “The idea that I want to run for government at some stage in my life was always there at the back of my mind,” she says.

It would seem Ramesh has had the preparation going for long as she can lay claim to more than one professional title. Arriving in Australia in 2009 fresh out of engineering college, she started her first job as research engineer with a company in Perth. After a year in Perth, she came to Melbourne and “progressed through” the telecom sector. After that, she studied MBA at University of Melbourne and had a few stints in management consultancy.

By 2018, Ramesh had realised her first dream of founding her own company. Along with her husband, she co-founded Adaptive Energy Systems, after identifying a market opportunity to be the first company in India to manufacture Lithium-Ion batteries. “I have always been driven to start my own company so went back to India two and half years ago to start this up,” she says. While her husband looks after the India operations, Ramesh works out of Melbourne.

With her latest victory, Ramesh shows she has an aptitude for success. Asked what made her want to become a councillor, she says it was while watching world news one evening and seeing scenes of poverty, corruption and putrid river systems in Africa and malnourishment in developing countries that gave her the conviction of wanting to get involved. “The sense of pride and belonging to this beautiful part of the world I live in directed me to pursue my efforts here in my own backyard.”

Ramesh, who represents Harris Ward, moved to Sanctuary Lakes in 2016 and believes she broke through because she was there for the right reasons.

Although she rues the fact that she didn’t have the opportunity to engage with the community face to face, she believes she ran a genuine campaign. “There were only the digital channels available to put your ideas and policies out there for people to see and there were Facebook groups that I engaged with quite regularly. People did ask how I have contributed towards the community, but I just went with an open mind to engage with everybody in the community irrespective of who they were and I ran a genuine campaign. People paid attention to candidates and where they came from,” she says.

Looking ahead, she says there is a lot on her plate at the moment. She is looking at this win as something that would bring her a sense of greater purpose and satisfaction. “I am quite looking forward to it.” In conversation with Sahana Ramesh, the only Indian-born candidate to have won the Wyndham Council elections.

■ How does it feel to win and what do you hope to achieve now?

I am humbled by the amount of support placed in me by the people of Wyndham and I intend to repay this respect in kind, to not only all Harrison Ward citizens but to all that live and work in Wyndham. I am already being contacted by some keen residents and would like everyone to know that I always have an open-door policy and time to listen and discuss matters.

The year ahead has two big challenges that I anticipate will consume much of my time. We have a council with more new members than returning members, so aligned to my campaign message, we first need to establish a strong team that can work harmoniously, be a power for change, and role model the culture we want to see throughout the city. With this base of strength in place, we need to quickly turn our attention to the health of our city as we work our way through the Covid-19 pandemic. Our new council is inheriting a large deficit, and the challenge of balancing the city’s economic health with that of our community’s health and our economy’s health. We have seen how governments across the globe have struggled with this complex dilemma, and Wyndham is no different.

My primary campaign message was that Covid-19 presents not only challenges, but also opportunities to improve the way we live, our long-term prosperity, our long-term health and wellbeing. Within the challenge of smartly and delicately reacting to Covid-19, I intend to also commence pursuing these opportunities and laying the groundwork for an even better Wyndham.

■ Wyndham Council has broken the records with seven women councillors elected. What reasons would you attribute to it?

It is great to see the diversity of the council reflecting the diversity in the community, not only in gender but also age, professions, and cultural background. There is no clear common driver behind the election of a majority female council. Each councillor elect individually brings their unique skills and perspectives to the council and the community should be credited for achieving this outcome.

It was interesting to note how the different candidates approached the community during their campaign, and the way the different parts of the community responded. I believe that having had years of exposure to countries and cultures around the world, my perspective on life has the necessary breadth to engage with the vast majority of this highly diverse city.

■ As a migrant Indian woman, did you feel any challenges and how did you prepare for parts of the campaign?

Having grown up in India, it often hits me just how well off we are in Australia, how great the government system is and how well we take care of our community. Politics runs in my family and I grew up around it, so the idea has always been in the back of my mind that I would run for government at some stage in my life. The “that’s it” moment came while watching world news, seeing yet another scene of poverty, corruption, putrid river systems and malnourishment in our third world countries. The conviction of wanting to get involved clicked into place at that moment, and the sense of pride and belonging to this beautiful part of the world I live in directed me to pursue my efforts here in my own backyard.

My community service history spans eight years of helping the people around me in need, teaching at schools that have no teacher at all, setting up waste management systems for communities with nothing in place.

■ Are you part of any voluntary organisations?

Over the last few months, I have got involved in establishing a new group on Empowering Women. I am getting involved in the local entrepreneurship and small business incubator. I have also reached out to help with Wyndham Diwali 2020, this year being run online on the 21st November.

Connect with Indira Laisram on Twitter

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