From Sri Lanka to Australia - Life as a Working Mum

By Eleanor McKelvey - National Director of Online Engagement (Blog)

For the past 6 years, SisterWorks has been empowering refugee, asylum seeker and migrant women in Australia to become entrepreneurs. They provide legal, fund-raising, marketing and administrative skills to women who have arrived from all over the world.

We caught up with entrepreneur K. D. Dinithi Ishara, who sells handmade and eco-friendly paper quilled gifts. We wanted to hear her perspective on being a working mother in Australia.

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1. When did you arrive in Australia? How long ago did you join SisterWorks?

I arrived in September 2017, coming from Sri Lanka. I was 26 years old, and came over with my husband and 9 month-old child. I joined SisterWorks in June 2018.


2. Before you arrived in Australia, did you expect that you would be able to work whilst being a mother?

I was a primary school teacher in Sri Lanka before I became a mum. I resigned from teaching just 3 days before my delivery. That was a decision I made when I first got to know that I was pregnant, and my husband and family members didn't oppose it, as I really wanted to be with my baby each and every second from the very beginning. I didn't want to miss seeing the things she did for the first time in her life - it makes a mum very happy!

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After the baby was born, I always had family members to help me in Sri Lanka. I was totally pre-occupied with my baby. I was so attached to her (and I am still) that, up until now, I hadn't spent more than 8 hours in total without her.

When I moved to Australia, I initially thought that I wouldn't be able to work, as I didn't have the support with housework that I used to get from my family. I had to do everything by myself. My loving husband supported me but he was also studying. I didn't want to go to work without my daughter too. Working in that situation whilst being a mom was sounded like an impossible task to me. 



2. What assumptions do you think people make about mothers?

In the modern society people think that a mother can and should work too. Rather than looking after kids and doing house chores mothers too can earn money for the family and for herself. Which is true. 

3. How has living in Australia and/or working with SisterWorks changed your views about working whilst being a mother?

I started doing paper quilling as a hobby when my baby was 3 months. My husband and family members encouraged me to make some greeting cards and we sold a few. After arriving in Australia I realised that, since the living cost was high, I could use my hobby to make a small income. I got in contact with SisterWorks and they took me into their family with much love. I was so happy that I could work from home with my baby beside me and, most importantly, I would be able to do my hobby to make an income.

SisterWorks is like a home to me and to my daughter. Whenever I go to Sisterworks I bring my daughter with me. SisterWorks’ motto "work empowers women" is rooted in a deep place in my heart; it gives me confidence, courage and strength. Because of SisterWorks I am able to proudly call myself an entrepreneur.

So I am finally able to work whilst being a mother, and it is not nearly as difficult as I expected. 

4. What skills have you learnt whilst being a mother, that you are able to use now for your business?

  • Patience, creativity, focusing, concentration, time management.

  • Motherhood is the best thing in the world and it teaches us so many things about life.


5. How did being a mother make it harder for you to start up your business?

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In the very beginning I wondered if I would be able to make products whilst having my baby beside me the whole day, along with having to do house chores. I needed to spend a lot of time on making paper quilling products, and to concentrate on it. Then I figured out that I could work on them at night, after putting my baby to sleep. There were countless sleepless nights. My loving husband woke up with me some days to encourage me to work, and help me feel less lonely, as he saw how hard it was on me to balance everything. He helped me with creating my Facebook page, and drops us off at SisterWorks all the time.

Now, as my daughter is growing up, I can combine looking after her with my work during the daytime. She sits on the table with me and tries to copy me!

If you have your mind set on doing something, only the beginning will be difficult. Whilst being a mother, it may seem difficult to do some things, but it's not. Motherhood is not a burden. Enjoy it with the rest of your work!


6. What are some important lessons your own mother taught you?

  • Never give up

  • If you get an idea, try your best to make it a reality 

  • A woman is able to do any kind of Job. Do not stick to one job. Try different jobs and get experience. 

  • My mum has 3 children and while raising us, she looked after her very sick father very well. We were small but she managed to do everything by her self nicely. I learnt from that too. 

7. What hopes do you have for the future?

  • To learn more updating techniques on paper quilling and make better products for the customers. 

  • To work on different kinds of products using paper quilling (full jewellery sets, 3D miniatures, home decorations etc.). 

  • To share my knowledge on paper quilling with others. 

  • To broaden my business and support my family for a better future. 


All paper quilling shown on this page is Dinithi’s fabulous work! You can find her facebook page here!