Our ambassadors

Our ambassadors

Thomas Keneally AO

An Australian Living Treasure and one of our most successful authors, Tom Keneally is best known for his Booker Prize winning novel Schindler’s Ark, later adapted to Steven Spielberg’s Schlindler’s List which won an Academy Award for Best Picture. 

He has been shortlisted three more times for the Booker, won the Miles Franklin Award, the Prime Minister’s Literary Award, the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award and the Helmerich Award.  Tom co-authored A Country Too Far, a landmark anthology by 27 of Australia’s finest writers which confirms that the experience of seeking asylum – the journeys of escape from death, starvation, poverty or terror to an imagined paradise – is part of the Australian mindset and deeply embedded in our culture.

Tom has a passionate commitment and deep understanding of why people come to our country seeking safety and protection.

Thomas-Keneally-002Thomas Keneally. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe

Wendy Sharpe

Wendy Sharpe is one of Australia’s most awarded artists.  She has won many major national awards, scholarships and prizes including The Archibald Prize, The Sulman Prize and The Portia Geach Memorial Award (twice).

Major commissions include the olympic pool size mural for Cook and Phillip Park Aquatic Centre, Sydney; Australian Official Artist to East Timor 1999 (the 1st woman since WW2) by the Australian War Memorial, and many others.  She was a member of the Council of the War Memorial from 2005 to 2013.

Wendy has been awarded many international artist residencies including Egypt, Mexico, China, the Arctic, two in Antarctica and two in Paris.  Her most recent Australian residency was with the State Library of NSW. She has held more than 60 solo exhibitions around Australia and internationally. Her exhibition, ‘Seeking Humanity’, which comprised 39 portraits of people seeking asylum and refugees, made an enormous contribution to the perception of asylum seekers at all levels of society.

Wendy is a figurative painter.  Her work has always been about people.

WS at Refugee Week

Wendy Sharpe. Photograph: Phat Ngo

Saba Vasefi

slider_750x332Saba Vasefi speaking at NSW Parliament House.

Saba Vasefi is an Iranian-Australian academic, feminist filmmaker, poet and human rights activist.

At sixteen she published her first poem and began advocating for children’s rights through her work with orphaned children. She was co-founder and director of the Art Therapy Project as an underprivileged orphanage in Iran, a Member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters and worked as a journalist for the International Campaign for Human Rights. Saba’s master’s thesis in Feminist Literary Criticism received the highest grade possible in Iran. At twenty-four she became a lecturer at the prestigious Shahid Beheshti University in Iran, but after four years was banned from teaching due to her activism against capital punishment.

Saba has made a number of internationally acclaimed documentaries with her latest film, Beyond the Father’s Shadow, the story of Australia’s first female parliamentarian, Edith Cowan, recently launched at NSW Parliament House. She has also spoken about women’s and children’s issues at the UN, Amnesty International, and at numerous universities around the world.

Since her arrival in Australia, Saba’s passion and commitment to human rights has continued.

She said it is a great honour to work alongside those who are highly experienced in human rights advocacy and respect people’s dignity.

“The dominant culture and social discourses are patriarchal, monoculture and sustain various forms of symbolic violence and systematic prejudice. Women, in particular, are subject to institutional bias and structural exclusion. My awareness of this matrix of oppression, and the complexity of the humiliating structures that support it, motivate me to represent a world brutalised by capitalism, sexism and racism.”

CEO Melanie Noden said it is the highest honour to have Saba as an Ambassador. “We have known her since she first arrived in Australia and her achievements and compassion make it a privilege to have her join us in this role. Saba has been able to share, not just with us at the Centre but the many people who have met her and heard her speak, the issues and challenges that continue to be faced by the vulnerable people around the world.”