A self-proclaimed ‘serial volunteer’, Fadzi Whande, UWA's Inclusion and Diversity Manager spends as much time volunteering as she does working. A single mum to two boys, she has also instilled her love of volunteering in them.
Six months after joining the United Nations Association of Western Australia, Fadzi became the head of the National Human Rights Program, a voluntary position she holds as well as her full-time position at UWA.
“I’m driven by a sense of always wanting to give back to the community and leaving the world in a better place than I found it.”
It makes sense why Fadzi is passionate about her role at UWA. As Inclusion and Diversity Manager she encourages continual and open dialogue between people of all backgrounds to foster a sense of belonging and inclusion and she is proud of the University’s commitment in this area.
“Being recognised as one of Australia’s top 10 employers by the Australian Workplace Equality Index, is a great demonstration of this commitment and how important this work is,” Fadzi says.
Being a role model to young women from culturally diverse backgrounds is also important to her and has been a motivating factor in her career.
“Due to the lack of representation of women of colour in senior roles, I struggled to find role models. I started a mentoring program, supported by the U.S Consulate, to address this significant gap.
“We have a wonderful mix of women from different countries and cultures who come together to share their experiences. It’s great to be able to work with different people, give them the confidence and see them soar,” Fadzi says.
Reflecting upon her career highlights, Fadzi recalls one event in particular that stands out, when she was volunteering for a 24-hour helpline in Zimbabwe.
“I started talking to a girl at the same time every week for six months. Then, just like that, the girl stopped calling and I didn’t hear from her again.
“Several months later, after I had left the volunteering service, I got a call from them to say there was a card in the office for me. It was a Christmas card from the girl, thanking me for being there.
“She had made some real positive changes in her life and was doing well. After I received that card, I realised you can never underestimate what a simple act of volunteering can do to help someone,” she says.
Fadzi hasn’t shied away from volunteering since.
“It was a life defining moment that has shaped the way I work,” she says.
Volunteering has become an integral part of her life and Fadzi was recently nominated for her work in the West Australian of the Year Awards, a testament to all she does.
Currently in her role at UWA, Fadzi is working on an inclusion and diversity strategy, and this process is allowing her to have a big picture focus.
“This is a marathon not a sprint. I’m really pleased with the work we’re completing at UWA and look forward to implementing long-term positive cultural changes,” she says.