Charishma Kaliyanda

Charishma Kaliyanda

Alumni career story

Community Education & Development Officer – headspace Campbelltown; Elected Councillor – Liverpool City Council

BSc/BA ‘11 (Psychology, Spanish/Latin American Studies) – UNSW Science

A bit about me...  

I am an elected councillor for Liverpool City Council and a registered Occupational Therapist. I am currently the Community Engagement Officer for headspace Campbelltown, where I work to build awareness of and reduce stigma around mental health and well-being so that young people can access the help they need. 

I was raised in Liverpool after migrating to the area with my family as a young girl. I am proud to be one of only 11 women elected to Council in Liverpool's 144-year history, and one of the youngest. I was named one of Australia’s rising political stars by Marie Claire, and twice nominated as a candidate for NSW Parliament before I turned 30. Recently, I was named one of the 40 under 40 most influential Asian Australian leaders by the Asian Australian Leadership Alliance.

Quick-fire Q&A:

Do you have a favourite quote or mantra?

I always try and ask myself “why not?”. Asking myself ‘why?’ reminds me of my purpose but asking ‘why not?’ helps ensure what I’m doing is aligned to my values and beliefs. It helps me see opportunities through a different perspective and do things I find challenging or uncomfortable.

What are you reading/listening to?

‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ with Ed Milliband and Geoff Lloyd. It’s an optimistic podcast about ideas, and trying to solve some of the biggest challenges that face us.

My go to stressbusting music is either kpop or Desi pop!

What recent habit(s) has improved or changed your life?

Cooking more often! It’s made me so much more mindful of the relationship between how and what I’m eating and my moods.

How did your time at UNSW help shape who you are today?

My time at UNSW helped lay the foundation of who I am today. It taught me so much about myself, helped me discover my passions and uncover skills I never expected. Without my time at UNSW, I would not live the life I do now.

How do you remain resilient in your line of work?

I have amazing friends and family who remind me that work is one part of my life. I also like to unleash my curiosity and learn about random things to remind me of how big and complex and extraordinary the world is.

What was your most memorable experience from your time at UNSW?

One year I was asked to give the student experience perspective for incoming UNSW Science students during O-Week. I was paired with Prof Julian Cox for the presentation and I just LOVED the fact that he turned up in Halloween themed pants and just made everyone laugh so much! It gave me such an appreciation for the lengths that academics go to for a better uni experience.

What advice would you give a student approaching the end of their degree?

Try – and fail – as much as you can! We can often learn more about ourselves and what we want when things don’t go the way we expect.

Why is science important?

Science gives you such a valuable framework to approach finding solutions to problems. It’s taught me to gather evidence and come to a conclusion based on that evidence. I feel like this is a much more constructive way of problem-solving and tackling the challenges our community faces.