Changing Perspectives: From shame to pride

19 September 2023
Thang Ngo

The MFA DE&I Council would like to see an industry where everyone can thrive, feel heard, supported, and safe to do their best work. Let’s meet the Changers who are sharing their own lived experiences to inspire us all to change for the better.

I’m Thang Ngo a refugee from Vietnam. I help people see value in diversity. Ex media, now at Multicultural NSW.

In the 80s, I was one of three Asian kids at school. I hated being different. I looked different, acted different, didn’t like sports, was introverted, had no money and lived in public housing. At the time, I thought being different was an economic and social disadvantage.

After high school, I travelled to Asia and started to appreciate the richness of my Asian background. It was an epiphany - the things that made me different were the things that made me more employable and more interesting.

The old me saw diversity as a deficit. The new me knows that being different can be a distinctive advantage at work.

❌ OLD MINDSET: Migrants/refugees aren’t employable

NEW MINDSET: Migrants have skills that companies need I turned my refugee experience into a successful career in multicultural marketing.

❌ OLD: Migrants don’t know how Australia works 

NEW: Migrants succeed because they’re not bound by traditional constraints/thinking

In 1999, I was elected to Fairfield council. I didn’t know (or cared) that it was almost impossible to be elected as a first time candidate when you're not with a major party.

❌ OLD: New arrivals don’t know our tastes and what we like

NEW: Migrants have a global view and can recognise and build trends

In 2012, while working at SBS, I came up with the concept for SBS PopAsia, the first Asian pop music program on Australian free-to-air TV. It takes a migrant to recognise the global phenomenon of K-pop.

❌ OLD: Gays aren’t good for a company’s culture

NEW: Embracing diversity is better for company culture Walter and I have been together for 33 years. Colleagues have told me how it’s changed their perspective of a loving ‘family’ unit.

Diversity is a valuable asset. What's holding you back?

A new migrant, introverted, different sexual orientation, different ability, left-handed, public housing resident, chess addict - take five minutes to change your perspective (and everyone around you) because being different is a blessing.

❓In what ways have you turned your perceived disadvantage into a distinctive point of difference?

Thang Ngo, associate director, communications and marketing at Multicultural NSW.

To broaden your understanding of DE&I, complete the SBS Core Inclusion course – Australia’s leading online DE&I training course – available for free to MFA member employees. Access ends December 2023.

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