Tasneem Chopra has always given up her time to make Australia a more inclusive country.
The cross cultural consultant and author has received a Medal of the Order of Australia for her service to the community.
"It was a complete surprise," she said. "It still is a surprise. Hopefully it gives prominence to the work that I do in discussing diversity and inclusion."
Ms Chopra was born in Kenya but moved to Australia with her family in 1975. They spent the first nine months in Alice Springs, before they moved to Bendigo.
"Every day in Nairobi was 25 degrees, so it was a massive cultural and climate shock in Alice Springs," Ms Chopra said. "My parents decided to move somewhere greener and cooler.
"It wasn't a hard decision to come to Bendigo. With three daughters in tow, they decided a country town would be a nice place to live."
Ms Chopra said while she was often the only person of colour in her primary school, her childhood was positive.
"In terms of diversity, it was pretty much what you would imagine a country town to be like in the 1970s," she said.
"But there was an active Indian community in Bendigo at the time and my parents were heavily involved. We grew up on Indian functions and dance performances."
After graduating high school, Ms Chopra relocated to Melbourne.
"The shift was drastic in terms of diversity," she said. "I was naturally drawn to it and found culture extremely interesting. It has always been an underlying factor in all of my work."
Since moving to Melbourne, Ms Chopra has been heavily involved in the community development sector.
She is currently a board director at Ambulance Victoria and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.
Ms Chopra is also a campaign advocate of 1800RESPECT and was a contributing author for Coming of Age: Growing up Muslim in Australia.
She said she was passionate about creating a more inclusive country.
"I think we have seen an upsurge in racism," she said. "In both my lived experience and through my observations I know that migrants and refugees have been great contributors to Australia.
"But some people think that on the one hand they are doing nothing, yet on the other hand they are stealing their jobs. That doesn't make sense.
"Besides the Indigenous Australians, this country was built on migration. Diversity is an asset."
Ms Chopra said she hoped her OAM would help her work in the sector.
"We don't see diversity represented enough in terms of leadership or business," she said. "A lot of work needs to be done to bring that up to speed.
"Australia doesn't look like what it did in the 1970s - neither does Bendigo. It's more multicultural.
"It's going to take dialogue and mindful planning for Australia to be more inclusive. I think it can be done. We just need to have that mindset."
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