Alumna appointed a Youth Advisory Board Member at Multicultural NSW

02 September 2020

Esther Adeyinka graduated from the University of Notre Dame Australia in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and a curriculum vitae that reads like it belongs to someone years her senior. Now she has added the role of Youth Advisory Board Member at Multicultural NSW, the lead agency in NSW for implementing policy and legislative framework to support multicultural principles in the state.

Since February this year, Esther has been working as an Associate at the District Court of New South Wales; a job she says she feels grateful for. “What’s really great about the role for someone who wants to pursue law, is that you get to watch advocacy in action in the court. Many people who want to be barristers spend time as associates of tipstaves in the courts because you get to see a whole range of advocacy,” says Esther. “I did a lot of mooting and law competitions at Notre Dame and I would love to go into advocacy in the future, so it was a no brainer for me to apply for a role at the courts.”

Never one to turn down an opportunity, Esther spent her time at university wisely; working as a Research Assistant and Student Ambassador, and volunteering in various roles for the Notre Dame Sydney Law Society (NDSLS), as well as joining the Notre Dame Vis Moot team in 2018. Outside of university she volunteered as a legal assistant at Redfern Legal Centre and is a board member for the Anglican Media Council.

It was while preparing for the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot that Esther first met the Honourable Margaret Beazley, now Governor of NSW, who would later kindly agree to be Esther’s reference for a once-in-a-lifetime internship with non-profit organisation Salzburg Global Seminar in Austria.

“The Honourable Margaret Beazley attended a Notre Dame Women in Law Breakfast in 2018, while I was Secretary of the NDSLS. She had judged a moot in the lead up to Vis Moot competition and that was when I first met her,” says Esther. “At the breakfast she approached me and told me she had just returned from Salzburg Global and thought I might be interested in applying for an internship there. But I had to get my application in within seven days.”

Having always wanted to do an international internship, Esther said she’d do whatever it took to get her application in on time. She also enrolled in five units of law in Semester 1, 2019 so she would be able to take up the three-month internship during Semester 2. “It wasn’t perfect timing as I was also completing my thesis but it was an amazing experience,” says Esther.

Salzburg Global’s mission is to bring together talent from different sectors to shape a better world through programs that aim to bridge divides and expand collaboration. The organisation holds sessions on different areas such as child health, the environment or education, and tackles issues to do with those specific areas. “As an intern I got to facilitate and help run these sessions. It was a great networking experience,” says Esther.

It opened my mind to what you can do with your life. There are so many paths your career can take.

The experience also set Esther up well for her current role with Multicultural NSW, where she looks forward to contributing to the cultural diversity and inclusiveness of her home state. As a Youth Advisory Board Member, Esther is tasked with advising Multicultural NSW and the NSW Minister for Multiculturalism on any issue relating to the objective or strategic directions of the organisation, based on her own experience and expertise. Having moved from Nigeria to Australia with her family in 2003, when she was just six years old, Esther has plenty of insights to offer.

“I really genuinely believe that cultural diversity is an asset for our society. But we’ve seen recently with all that’s going on in the world that many people don’t agree. I was very aware of this when I applied to the Board, and of the fact that I look different to the majority of Australians. I’m a Black woman and I’m an immigrant. I’ve come to see this as an asset,” says Esther. “Before applying for the role, I looked into what Multicultural NSW was doing – celebrating and supporting people from different backgrounds – and thought there was something I could add to their board as a result of my experiences and background.”

Esther is also in the process of establishing an ethical fashion label called SHADIE BY EA, which aims to cater to people of all skin tones, and was born from Esther’s own difficult experiences of shopping as a woman of colour in Australia.

“Part of the fun of the Vis Moot experience was getting dressed up and looking professional in order to appear in front of the tribunal,” explains Esther. “I wanted a pair of nude stockings for the event but couldn’t find any in Australia that matched my skin tone. I had experienced this with make-up and foundation in the past so I started looking on American and European websites.”

Eventually Esther found what she was looking for online, but the product came with a catch: a $50 international shipping fee. “I paused for a moment and thought, ‘This is really wrong’. It was an excessive amount of money to access something so simple,” she says. And it got her thinking that if no one else was doing anything about it, she would.

“There’s a well-known quote which states that you should be the change you want to see in the world,” says Esther. “It’s a little odd to apply to this scenario, but I want to create the change that I’d like to see in the fashion industry. For women who have darker skin tones like me, it would mean not having to work so hard to find products that are made with us in mind. It’s a small, but very important change.

“Australia is becoming more diverse and multicultural and I believe there’s a real need for change in order to reflect the people who are part of our community… That’s what I hope SHADIE BY EA will do.”

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