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One of four children in an Indian, South-African family, Mikhara Ramsing was brought up in a country where apartheid was prevalent and the prevailing culture promoted living at home until marriage. However, this self-declared 'queer woman of colour' now calls Brisbane home, has moved out of the family home to live with her fiancée, and is fostering open and direct communication between her family, community and those struggling with their own identity.

The Ramsing family began their Australian journey in Albury-Wodonga in 2004. Mikhara loved her time in the country town before she and her family relocated to Brisbane, and St Peters, in 2006, where she commenced Year 10. Mikhara laments that she missed the Ironbark experience, however, she was a member of the first cohort to undertake the International Baccalaureate Programme, at the time headed up by Ms Jenny Winn.

At age 16, having only been at the school for 18 months, Mikhara applied for School Captain. Her obvious leadership skills and the strong impression her caring nature had made on those around her, led to her being selected to lead the school in 2008.

Since then, Mikhara has studied Law and Economics at the University of Queensland and moved to Sydney. “I purposely chose to move to Newtown in inner-west Sydney, where it was known for its diversity.’’ Mikhara found that diversity was accepted by her work colleagues also. “Working in the Deloitte Sydney office was so good. There was a PRIDE group and when I disclosed I had a female partner, no-one blinked an eye and that was really encouraging.” Deloitte gave Mikhara the strength and stability to bring her family into her entire identity. Being able to be her whole self then gave Mikhara the final impetus she needed to leave her corporate job to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a social entrepreneur. 

Mikhara’s vision was to combine starting a business focussing on social good which, would also enable her to make a living. This would require financing, so she completed her double honours degree, saved and applied for philanthropy and grant funding to found her two social enterprises – Ground Chai and Ethnic LGBT+.

Throughout this process she was very aware of the impact her decisions would have on her family. Because of her cultural background, Mikhara often questioned if she was bringing shame on her family by walking the path she chose. But as she started sharing her story and letting people in, her emotional well being improved and she felt more supported, secure and included.

“I wrote my parents this letter of understanding explaining what the last 10 years have been for me, since I disclosed to them I had feelings for a woman. I explained that it’s not a choice; it’s not a phase; it doesn’t mean I’m forgetting my culture. There are people like me, and I need you to be a part of my life. And it gave them the time to think about that and reflect on their own experiences.”


Suicide is the biggest killer of people under 43 years of age in Australia and Mikhara has struggled with her own mental health demons. The isolation and stigma she felt at being a queer woman of colour in Australia led her to establish her social enterprise, Ethnic LGBT+, which is Australia’s only free national website providing support, education and mentoring for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals.

Similarly, Ground Chai is a social enterprise that sells ethical, environmentally sustainable delicious chai (Indian tea) whose profits support suicide prevention in rural Australia. Over a period of six months in 2017, Mikhara took Ground Chai on a national tour of Australia, working across 72 communities in Queensland, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, running workshops for high schools on entrepreneurship skills. 

Mikhara and her fiancée, Elise, have travelled more than 55,000km around Australia out of their self-built tiny home attached to their ute. “There is a lot of poverty in this country. And there’s a level of inequality I didn’t know existed, on par with what I feel actually exists in South Africa.” 

Hers is not a romantic or idealized view of the world, in fact Mikhara has developed a very sensible and obvious way of looking at options for young people. “Stop thinking about a dream job. Instead think about the skills you’re learning from managing your part time job to looking after your little brother. What is your dream skill set? What are the skills you enjoying doing? How do you craft a career around strengthening those skill? By focusing on skill sets, you’re equipping yourself to be in jobs that don’t even exist yet.”

THE FUTURE OF YOUTH EMPOWERMENT

As one of 10 Australians awarded $50,000 last year by the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation to invest in her growth as a community leader, Mikhara used her Fellowship to attend Harvard Business School to learn about Design Thinking as a tool to solving social issues sustainably. She also engaged with LGBTIQ organisations across the US, India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam and is in the process of delivering the resources she learnt from these countries to culturally and linguistically diverse LGBTIQ communities living in Australia. Mikhara’s work in the youth empowerment space was recognised by the Australian Government in her being nominated for Young Australian of the Year (QLD) 2019.

And on a personal note, before this story was published, Mikhara and her partner, Elise, got engaged, an event warmly celebrated by both their families. “I would love to have two little ones running around. And our dream is to have our property close to our family in Brisbane and have hectacres of protected bushland in Tasmania.” Her goal is also to contribute $5m towards suicide prevention in Australia over the next decade.