Menaka's Story

Breaking down barriers
A portrait shot of Menaka
Menaka Iyengar Cooke is a highly qualified professional woman with great personal drive, a force that has kept her going through periods of adversity.
“I had to break through barriers; I had to have courage and strength to be bigger than myself sometimes to make my voice heard because I knew I would just be the dregs at the bottom of the fish-tank and it was not easy.”

Now in the ‘third age’ of her life, she works to give back and play a role as a social activist with the wisdom and compassion she has gained over many years.
A portrait of a young Menaka

Menaka moved from India to Australia in January 1973 but, on arriving in her adopted country, found that her academic qualifications (B.A. Hons) were not recognised.

At the age of 28, Menaka had to leave her marriage, with her young daughter. With ten dollars and two suitcases, she started her search for accommodation and a job.

Already traumatised, she faced the additional stress of a lack of social services and support, and was told to look after herself. From this low point, she eventually found a clerical job but though she worked hard couldn’t get a promotion.

She needed a local qualification so she decided to study again at University, where she was exposed to the ‘triple whammy’ of racism, ageism and sexism. This led her to study at night and work full time by day.

She needed a local qualification so she decided to study again at the University of Western Sydney, where she was exposed to the ‘triple whammy’ of racism, ageism and sexism.

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