Conference 2017

‘Discrimination is rife’

By Dinushka Gunasekara and Emily Bradfield

Weeknights at 7pm. Karina Carvalho’s face fills TV screens across the state. From behind the news desk, she presents the daily events with the confidence and grace of the professional that she is.

But what most people forget, is that there is more to her than just the woman on the news.

“People look in your shopping basket a lot at the supermarket. I think it helps them realise you’re actually human and that you exist from the waist down,” she says.

While living a double life is strange enough, she is also one of Australia’s few solo female news presenters and she’s not afraid to own it. She embraces her curls, refusing to yield to the more common style.

“I know a lot of people would like me to straighten my hair and have the newsreader bob but it’s not me,” she says. “This is me.”

Carvalho believes her career happened by accident – the product of being at the right place at the right time. Her presenting career kick started in Western Australia when her boss recognised her talent and offered her a position she couldn’t refuse.

Having no prior experience, Carvalho took it in her stride, with a whole state watching her learn on the job.

She has now become a staple of ABC’s nightly news and wants to use her position to help other women climb to the top. Carvalho encourages women to not be afraid to speak up and believe in what they have to offer.

“Women need to be persistent and they need to be pushy and they need to not think those are negative qualities and that they won’t be regarded well if they are either of those things,” she says.

This drive to help empower other women led Carvalho to the Women in Media program where she has been a mentor for budding journalists. She believes that it is important for young women to have someone to guide them, especially in negative situations.

“Discrimination is rife. People do get told things that are really untoward and being a young woman sometimes it can be difficult to navigate that on your own,” she says.

“It’s just good to have a sounding board or someone who isn’t working right next to you but can understand.”

Her relationships with her mentees, however, have not been one-sided.

“I found I learnt a lot from the mentees themselves because I feel like I’ve been fortunate and I haven’t had to put up with any kind of gender or racial discrimination and so hearing other journalists’ stories kind of puts things into perspective,” she said.

Born in Sri Lanka and Australian-raised, Carvalho believes that everyone should be valued based on their talents and not merely used to promote a profile.

“We need to make organisations look like what you see walking around in everyday life in most Australian cities,” she says. “It’s fascinating and really exciting to be having that conversation because for so long that conversation didn’t happen in Australia.”

Carvalho is very passionate about equality in the media and is excited to continue these conversations at the 2017 Women in Media conference.

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