As a painfully shy child, Perth native Sukhjit Khalsa never imagined she would take to some of the world’s biggest stages with her slam poetry, but she is now using that platform to inspire change.
The Melbourne-based activist, 22, will visit Shepparton tonight as part of Multicultural Arts Victoria’s emerge cultural leadership workshops, with a view to encourage new migrants or keen communicators to master the power of speech.
Workshop attendees will learn movement and verbal exercises to help overcome fear in order to tap into passion and speak with confidence.
As a first-generation Sikh, Khalsa remembers growing up in an environment where she felt anxious about being different.
As a result of being pushed by one of her teachers to come out of her shell, Khalsa embraced the arts and spoken word.
Now a spoken word artist and an employee of MAV, Khalsa said she’d never imagined herself taking to the stage of Australia’s Got Talent last year to use a combination of satire and humour to address important social issues.
In many of her public shows, Khalsa addresses issue such as feminism, racism and a range of other social issues in the Australian community.
‘‘Part of my anxiety when I was younger was to do with a mixture of growing up in Perth and not feeling accepted or like I belonged,’’ she said.
‘‘As soon as I was pushed I got addicted to the feeling of actually being myself and no-one hating on that, and I feel like everything I’ve done since has been to conquer that fear.
‘‘Being on stage, you’re alone and sometimes in the most awkward positions, but getting my message out there has triggered some amazing things.’’
Now having mastered the spoken word, Khalsa feels she has a responsibility to empower the multicultural community and challenge Australians’ understanding of concepts they don’t agree with or may not be accustomed to.
She said migrant communities faced a multitude of issues their Australian counterparts didn’t have to deal with, and empowering public speech was a way to break down barriers and contribute a variety of voices to the public sphere.
‘‘I hope they can receive some sort of affirmation that they can face their fears and that it puts them on a mission to get out of their comfort zone,’’ Khalsa said.
‘‘I guess what to expect is just empowerment and confidence built through public speaking and communicating.’’
The workshop Public Speaking: Telling Your Story With Passion is a free initiative through MAV.
The session will be held at Kaiela Arts Shepparton, 137 High St, from 6pm until 9pm tonight.