Meet our Senior Project Officer, Sienna Aguilar
In September 2022, AWHN was pleased to welcome Sienna Aguilar (she/her), AWHN’s new Senior Project Officer. We sat down (virtually) to get to know her as she drives our important project to strengthen preventive health action in Australia.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m Sienna (pronounced “Shenna”), I was born in the Philippines, grew up on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Land in the ACT/NSW, and am currently based on the Lands of the Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi people in South East Queensland.
My professional background is in applied social research, gender equity and the primary prevention of gender-based violence, and facilitating conversations with groups committed to systems change. Most recently I was Senior Community Engagement Officer at Immigration Advice and Rights Centre, a community legal centre in NSW working alongside health and community services, multicultural services, and domestic and family (DFV) services to support migrant and refugee communities.
To help care for my own health and well-being, I enjoy Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (a grappling martial art that uses technique over strength to stay safe and gain the upper hand against bigger opponents). It’s a great way to learn what your body’s capable of and is a practice for all bodies.
Which feminist leaders inspire you?
My grandmother Ruth “Nanay” Aguilar was the matriarch of our family. She was a teacher in the Philippines and had many an entrepreneurial side hustle in the local village as her teacher pay and my grandfather’s job wasn’t enough to provide for her children. She always instilled the importance of economic independence, health, community, and family.
I’ve also learned from and walk alongside many intersectional feminist leaders through an emerging network called The Shift to gender equality (shout out to Caroline Lambert, Alison Aggarwal, Amy Haddad, Jawoon Kim, Michelle Deshong, Kim Rubenstein, Helen Dalley-Fisher, Tanja Kovac, and AWHN’s very own Chair Bonney Corbin). They remind me that collective care is rooted in the work we do to create systems change.
Further afield, there’s writer adrienne maree brown, who has uplifted many Black, Indigenous, and people of colour feminists and authors in her work on “emergent strategy”. My favourite principle of emergent strategy is: “There is a conversation in the room that only these people at this moment can have. Find it.”
What drew you to working with AWHN?
I came across AWHN through the gender equity space and have seen members do fabulous work in their communities. As someone committed to intersectional practice and applying a ‘social ecological’ lens to my work, I was drawn to AWHN’s women-centred analyses and focus on the social determinants of health. Understanding health outcomes by understanding the social context of people’s lives.
It’s exciting to drive a project that will highlight the collective wisdom of AWHN members and inform effective policy that meets the needs of women in all our diversity. I’m keen to contribute my skills in engagement and facilitation, applied social research, and complexity thinking to help amplify AWHN’s collective voice.
Can you explain the project you’ll be working on?
The National Preventive Health Strategy 2021-2030 (NPHS) is a key opportunity to shape Australia’s health and its implementation must be informed by the diverse lived experiences of women.
I’ll be working on a three-year project engaging those who care about women’s health to:
- identify key priority areas for prevention action
- develop online resources to strengthen prevention action
- share evidence-based knowledge about primary prevention that is grounded in gender equity.
The first phase of the project will be all about having conversations with those who care about women’s health. How can we shift the way we understand and do ‘prevention’ when it comes to women’s health in all our diversity, across the life-course, and from communities and contexts across Australia? How can prevention strategies more effectively integrate with the broader ‘ecosystem’ of health policy and programs?
Any resources that emerge from this project will be created in collaboration with members, reflect AWHN’s commitment to the social determinants of health, align with the National Women’s Health Strategy 2020-2030, and be accessible through a refreshed online hub. What this looks like will be shaped by the insights and expertise of members and partners across Australia.
What would you like to hear from AWHN members about?
In the coming year ahead I would like to explore your vision for prevention – what currently works in your contexts, who needs to be at the table for any future information gathering sessions, and what do we need to move towards?
While this is the very start of an ongoing conversation, if you would like to reach out immediately, I would love to hear what you see as the biggest strength of your organisation or individual work as an AWHN member.
How should AWHN members contact you for project collaborations and partnerships?
We’ll be developing an engagement strategy to keep connected throughout the project. For now, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.