Nilgun Olcayoz

Nilgun Olcayoz has played a pivotal role in working with Turkish migrants in Melbourne and Shepparton, helping them to settle in Australia.

Honour Roll

Born in Turkey in 1951, at 18 years of age Nilgun and her family arrived in Australia with no knowledge of the English language. They moved to Shepparton in 1975. Nilgun had sole responsibility for looking after her disabled parents and four younger siblings. She did shift work in a chicken factory and at nights concentrated on reading English literature using a Turkish/English dictionary to develop her English language skills.

Because she was one of the few people in the Turkish community in Shepparton who spoke English, she was frequently called upon to advocate for individuals to gain access to information and services. In 1987 Nilgun enrolled as a mature age student in a Bachelor of Arts degree in multicultural studies at RMIT and after successfully completing her undergraduate studies, she went on to do a Masters Degree in Social Policy. Her studies enabled her to formally qualify to be a community development worker and she has been working since in both a voluntary and paid capacity to help Turkish people in Victoria.

Nilgun was a founding member of the Shepparton Ethnic Community Council and the Goulburn Valley Community Radio station which were established in the late 1970s. She has served three terms as President of the Turkish Cultural Association (1988-90). Her achievements have focussed on working with both government and non-government organisations to pursue policies and programs for non-English speaking background communities in the justice arena.

For 10 years Nilgun has been a broadcaster with the SBS Radio Turkish program and has developed programs on family violence and women's issues which challenged the traditional perceptions of family violence in the Turkish speaking community. She is currently a member of the management committee of the Department of Justice Cultural Diversity Project, which involves identifying barriers to non-English speaking background communities' access to the justice system and she continues her investigative journalism on SBS Radio.

Nilgun has dedicated most of her life to improving the plight of Turkish women immigrants and working to enhance the social, economic and cultural capital of the Turkish community in Melbourne. She has had a direct and positive impact on the lives of many culturally and linguistically diverse women.