Sabrina Muysken

Recently recognised at the 2016 Australian Financial Review & Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards for her Excellence in Law, Journalism & Community Services, Pallavi Sinha is officially a Woman of Influence – a title she has unofficially held for some time.

Recognising the quality and impact of a woman’s work rather than the seniority or scale of a nominee’s role, the annual event sets out to encourage all Australian women to show what they are doing and the contributions they are making to society; identifying and celebrating “bold, energetic women who capture the spirit of progress, helping shape a vibrant, inclusive, economic and social future for Australia.” Pallavi Sinha embodies this characterisation having worked extensively across issues of violence against women and social cohesion.

“I have always been drawn towards people who might need help. I think it is because I myself have had a very fortunate upbringing,” says Pallavi.

Born and raised in Sydney, Pallavi attended MLC Burwood before going on to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Law at the University of Sydney. After a stint in corporate law and litigation at a top tier firm, she redirected her focus towards the areas of immigration law and family law, which were more aligned with her altruistic nature – she has since represented asylum seekers as well as women who have experienced domestic violence.

“Two of my favourite subjects to study at Sydney University Law School were Philosophy and Human rights and Anti-Discrimination Law because I’ve always had a passion for advocacy and standing up for disadvantaged groups…Today, I’m particularly passionate about promoting a harmonious society.”

It was not long before Pallavi expanded her work arena towards the media industry, taking on roles in radio, television and freelance journalism. She has appeared on ABC TV’s Q & A, the 7.30 Report, The Drum and participated in the Racism Debate with Stan Grant which was also broadcast on BBC World. A valued contributor to Australia’s social discourse, her articles have been published by the likes of the Sydney Morning Herald and SBS. Pallavi regularly brings awareness to topics on government policy, family violence and social justice. She views her multi-platform media involvement as a way to shed much needed light on burgeoning issues that are routinely overlooked.

“The media play an extremely important, informative and educative role. It has very strong potential here and holds a lot of power whether it is in TV, print, radio or online. That is something that has to be used responsibly and with care.

“A part of my interest in the media is putting a voice to the voiceless and getting out messages from groups that may not be that well represented.”

As a female of Indian heritage, it is only fitting that Pallavi’s primary areas of advocacy surround issues pertaining to cultural and gender discrimination and violence; the latter being particularly alarming, with recent national statistics revealing violence against women as a sad reality still existing within current Australian society.

“Violence against women is a very serious issue. There are some really heart-wrenching stats in Australia disclosing that there is at least one woman a week who dies at the hands of her partner or former partner.”

Tying in with her core beliefs, Pallavi fights fire with water in opting to promote a more peaceful way of addressing these concerning statistics. This is seen through her legal representation of victims, involvement in peaceful protests and petitions and encouragement of media coverage to steer social discourse to areas of need.

“I’ve always tried to have a collective view towards things rather than an ‘us against them’ or ‘men against women’ approach.”

“There is a principle of ahimsa that is referred to in Indian culture that I identify with, which is just non-violence. Whether it is against a man or women I’ve always thought it is just wrong, particularly if it is in Australia or in India.”

Unfortunately, Australia’s gender issues extend far beyond domestic violence, with workplace discrimination being a common experience amongst women. Yet despite the impression that ‘millennial women can have it all’ a severe dichotomy exists between how the public views the status of Australia’s workplace gender equality and where it is really at. Pallavi acknowledges that working women are still facing the same pressure of juggling their careers and family life and highlights events like the 100 Women of Influence Awards as key in making progress.

“The event is this incredible platform where women are helping women. After all, woman are more than half of the Australian population! Recognising women nationally as well as helping them to pursue their chosen paths is crucial because otherwise that’s a large percentage of the population you just aren’t utilising well if they are not given equal opportunities or being represented… Currently women on boards make up only 23.4 per cent and although overall statistics are improving they are still very low. There is still a lot to do!” enthuses Pallavi.

It is this enthusiasm for positive change that has set Pallavi apart as a progressive and influential woman.

“It is a huge privilege and honour to be selected on such a prestigious list. I view it as a way to add weight to the work that I am continuously doing and will be doing on an ongoing basis for causes and disadvantaged groups.”

Career success in one field, let alone multiple as Pallavi has done, requires absolute commitment, personal sacrifice and a certain tenacity. Having forged successful careers in law and media these are tough demands she is all too familiar with and attributes her achievements to a close family upbringing and supportive friendships.

“I don’t get much sleep,” laughs Pallavi.

“Solid family and friend support networks have been very important. As has working hard and perseverance – you won’t get anywhere in life if you don’t work hard!”

When asked on her advice to young women, Pallavi talks of a floral analogy that epitomises her way of life – never giving up. To her, so long as you continue to grow through your experiences, difficulties and adversities you will undoubtedly reach your full potential.

“A symbol that resonates with me in life is that of a lotus flower because the lotus blossoms in swampy, murky waters. That means, to me, that even if you go through negative experiences or face hardships in life, you can still progress and reach your goals.”

Anyone in immediate danger should call Triple Zero (000). For information, support and help for DV, call the 24 hour Domestic Violence Line on 1800 65 64 63. To report domestic violence call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call the 24 hour Child Protection Helpline on 132 111.