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Bereded-Samuel ‘Living Legend’ asset to SBS Board

The first two Directors ever appointed based on merit to the SBS Board of Directors were SBS’s Chairman, Joseph Skrzynski, and Director, Elleni Bereded-Samuel. Their term on the SBS Board is due to expire on 14 March. 

Who is Skrzynski and Bereded-Samuel?

In the lead-up to their five year anniversary of these historic first ever merit-based appointments, Save Our SBS takes a close look at each, their work at SBS and background, commencing with Ms Bereded-Samuel.

Still to come Save Our SBS profiles SBS Chair, Joseph Skrzynski

Bereded-Samuel is one of five women on the SBS Board of Directors. Her story from a struggling refugee to a Director on the Board is a truly amazing story.

She is the only first-generation migrant/refugee serving on the current SBS Board. All the other Directors are either Australian born of Australian parents or second generation or migrated to Australia at a very young age.

Overcoming personal challenges associated with being a refugee, a woman and of African background, and moving from a third-world country to a first-world country where the glass ceiling was firmly in place, Ms Bereded-Samuel has drawn on her experiences to advocate for others who were subject to prejudices and unfair processes.

Arriving in Australia in 1996, Ms Bereded-Samuel has been a champion for Australia’s Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities. She said,

I am passionate about empowering migrants to reach their full potential.

She has made a significant contribution to SBS since she took up her position on the Board five years ago; Bereded-Samuel actively developed and participated in SBS’s community engagement strategic direction, this being her passion. Ms Bereded-Samuel, who has a strong commitment to multiculturalism, wants to continue on the Board to help SBS meet the needs of an ever-changing and culturally diverse audience.

Before her appointment to the Board five years ago, Bereded-Samuel was a member of SBS’s Community Advisory Committee (CAC) – from 2005 to 2008 – and its Chair for some of that time. CAC is the committee selected by the Board to advise the Board on the views and opinions of the community. When in-program advertising was introduced at SBS in late 2006, the CAC, representing the community, advised the Board of widespread disapproval of the commercial disruptions.

Before migrating to Australia, Ms Bereded-Samuel was a journalist and presenter of a national TV program that aired seven nights a week.

Long before her involvement at SBS, Ms Bereded-Samuel began advocating for others.

Back in 1996, then working at grassroots level as a voluntary community development worker, door knocking to connect with very isolated refugee women and encouraging them into the classroom as a stepping-stone to further education. From this beginning, Ms Bereded-Samuel created her own part-time position as a Community Partnership Officer with Victoria University. She continued to build her networks, knowledge and skills by navigating the system, gaining further qualifications, building connections, and raising awareness at local and at broader community and government levels.

I was instrumental in developing programs with community organisations, local, state and federal government departments and have been a strong advocate and voice for CALD communities giving voice to refugees, newly arrived communities and communities in general.

Certainly her commitment to advocacy is evident by the numerous roles she has had within the multicultural community, state and federal government boards and by the various projects and programs she has developed.

Aside from her role on the SBS Board, her daily work at Victoria University’s Office of Knowledge, Ms Bereded-Samuel is involved in many community service organisations. In fact, in 2013, Bereded-Samuel was inducted into the Hall of Fame for her exceptional work in assisting Australian Community.

She was the co-founder of Horn of African Communities Network and played a vital role in bringing the Ethiopian, Eritrean, Somali and Sudanese (North/South) together. Traditionally they were enemies but through Horn have had a smooth transition in their settlement in Australia.

The quietly spoken Bereded-Samuel said,

Australia has given me the opportunity to immerse myself in the community at many levels.

Taking a closer look at her contribution to society, Bereded-Samuel has involved herself in a multitude of organisations.

As Deputy Chair of the Committee of Management of the former Inner Western Migrant Resource Centre, she was the first female Deputy Chair with an African background. Bereded-Samuel was former Deputy Chair of Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition, and Founder of Regional Relocation Employment and Education Partnership Program.

With her strong interest in community, she has been an asset to the SBS Board. Bereded-Samuel would not tell Save Our SBS what occurs in Board meetings but says she has always encouraged the Board to take note of community concerns, including community views opposed to in-program advertising breaks and said,

I will always find time to speak with any person or community group on any issue to do with SBS.

She believes strongly in an inclusive and diverse community.

Her commitment to diversity and inclusion is evident in her continuing involvement and leadership of a number of organisations at local, state and federal level. She was the first Victorian Multicultural Commission Commissioner of an African background, and the first Women’s Hospital Board member from an African background.

Financial institutions have recognised Bereded-Samuel. She was admitted to the Westpac and Financial Review Award as one of 100 Women of Influence in Australia.

In her various positions – community or corporate – including that on the SBS Board, Bereded-Samuel says she is financially competent.

I am used to the financial responsibility that comes with those roles and working as a team player governing others and multi-million dollar budgets.

But with her notable achievements, Bereded-Samuel has not just focused on high-level positions or only the adult migrant community. She has actively contributed to enhance the lives of youth and Indigenous communities and has successfully implemented many community multicultural programs for which she has received high-level recognition.

Community service a forerunner to SBS 

In 2004, Ms Bereded-Samuel received the Victoria’s Premier Award for Excellence in Multicultural Affairs – Education, and the Prime Minister’s International Year of Volunteers Award. She was included on the Victorian Honour Roll of Women and in the 2006-07 ‘Who Is Who Australian Women’, among 6000 remarkable women in Australia.

In 2008, during celebrations in Victoria to mark 100 years of Women’s Suffrage, Ms Bereded-Samuel was recognised as one of twelve significant women who actively encourage women’s equality and public participation. In the same year, she was also one of the recipients of the Victoria University Vice-Chancellor’s Citations and Awards for Outstanding Engagement with CALD communities in Australia

Her work practice was selected for the first national Business Higher Education Round Table (B-HERT) Award for ‘Outstanding Community Engagement Collaboration’ in 2010.

Recognition at highest levels

Also in 2008 Bereded-Samuel was selected as one of Australia’s ‘1000 Best and Brightest’ to participate at the then newly elected Labor government’s 2020 Summit in Canberra. Her participation did not end there. She took centre stage at the historic 2020 Summit along with Dr Richard Pestell – a well-known oncologist working in the USA – and the then Minister for Housing and Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, where she discussed worldviews on Australia as part of the Summit’s plenary panel before one-thousand attendees including the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. The event was broadcast by national media outlets.

Following the 2020 Summit, Mr Rudd and the then Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, established the Australian Social Inclusion Board. Ms Bereded-Samuel was appointed along with 13 other prominent Australian leaders from around the country. They were instrumental in establishing the principle to ensure that Australians – whatever their origin – were given the opportunity to contribute fully to Australian life.

In 2011, Bereded-Samuel was appointed to the Western Health Board of Directors and appointed to chair the Western Health Cultural Diversity and Community Advisory Committee.

I was the first African born Australian appointed to the Victorian Hospital Board as non-executive Director.

By 2012, the then Prime Minister, Ms Gillard, recognised Bereded-Samuel as one of the 40 Australians champions independently selected as the new People of Australian Ambassadors.

Living Legend

Few people can claim to be an actual living legend but Bereded-Samuel can; officially, Living Legend 2012 and named as one of the 100 top most influential African-Australians for her work in assisting and inspiring Australian community particularly migrant and refugee communities to find rewarding careers.

What I love about my job is changing people’s lives. You give an opportunity to one person and you change life for their whole family. That one family can change the life of the community. That community can change the life of society. My job is to show people how to fulfil their dreams.  

Having worked extensively with migrant and refugee communities for over 18 years since she landed in Melbourne, Ms Bereded-Samuel’s story from struggling refugee to one of the top women at the highest levels of community and governance is unique. Her journey from refugee fighting to survive, to strongly promoting multiculturalism and social inclusion, and advocating the principles of access and equity and social justice in their application to migrant/refugee communities is a remarkable achievement.

Coming soon
Save Our SBS profiles SBS Chair, Joseph Skrzynski


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