Congratulations Dr Raji Ambikairajah, NSW Woman of the Year!

On Thursday March 8, UNSW alumna Dr Raji Ambikairajah was presented with a prestigious NSW Woman of the Year Award for 2018. In an event to mark International Women’s Day, Raji received the accolade within the ‘Community Hero’ category to recognise her tireless efforts growing and fundraising for the Sydney chapter of Room to Read. 

Now in their seventh year, the NSW Women of the Year Awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding contribution made by women across NSW to industry, community and society. Over 400 guests attended the ceremony, including His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of NSW; the Premier, the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian MP; Minister for Women, the Hon. Tanya Davies, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs the Hon. Sarah Mitchell MLC. The event was presided over by emcee, Deborah Knight.

The Award celebrated Raji’s efforts and acknowledged her deep-rooted belief that a quality education is the key to unlocking the door to potential and possibility. Speaking of the importance of the awards, Raji tells UNSW that seeing good examples of women in leadership plays a crucial role in the beliefs and spirit of the next generation. 

“For many women, including me, their successes are the result of the strength and the resolve of all those who came before them; who paved the way to ensure that the generations that followed would be given better opportunities than the ones they had,” she says. “The visibility of this is very important in fostering the growth of the next generation.”

To date, Room to Read has transformed the lives of 12.4 million children in low income countries across Asia and Africa by enhancing access to literacy and gender equality in education. Currently an ambassador for Room to Read, Raji previously led the Sydney chapter of the global non-profit organisation for seven years.  

Under Raji’s leadership, the Sydney chapter grew to be the biggest in the world in terms of volunteers, and was in the top five for fundraising, reaching an incredible 116,480 children. She also spearheaded the introduction of new programs and initiatives, including an increase in grassroots fundraising activities across Sydney. 

“I am incredibly humbled and grateful for all the support that I have received. I hope that this award provides an opportunity to shine a light on the work that so many people are doing in the education space, both locally and internationally,” she says.  “To me, we are all working towards creating a world where every child, no matter where or when they are born, has access to a quality education. To be able to showcase that is special.”

Raji is also currently the Chief Operating Officer of Women in Banking and Finance. Over 24 months, she helped to accelerate the organisation's growth to span four cities in Australia, achieved a 32% increase in annual revenue, and impacted more than 2,000 Australian women through the new opportunities she curated for the business.  

An alumna of UNSW Engineering, Raji holds a PhD in electrical engineering, and spent the first half of her career in the technology startup and venture capital sectors. She has also played an active role in the NSW Division of the Centre of Engineering Leadership and Management, and served as a Board Member of the Centre of Engineering Leadership and Management (Sydney) for Engineers Australia.