Nipuni Wijewickrema is the ACT Young Australian of the Year Featured

Friday, 20 November 2015 00:00 Written by  Published in Australia News
Devika Jayawardene, pictured with her children, Vikuman, 22, and Nuwani, 20, is living proof of the value of early cancer diagnosis. Devika Jayawardene, pictured with her children, Vikuman, 22, and Nuwani, 20, is living proof of the value of early cancer diagnosis. Picture: Carmelo Bazzano

Nipuni Wijewickrema is a 22-year-old Canberran making a difference, one flower at a time.

Nipuni Wijewickrema is the ACT Young Australian of the Year.

She joined Alex Sloan on Canberra Close Up to share the story behind her florist business, which employs people with special needs.

"I just want to leverage the cause," Ms Wijewickrema said.

"There are so many messages about social enterprises and employing people with special needs that I need to spread.

"But also, I'm trying to run a florist. That's hard, too. We've got business coming left, right and centre.

"It's been a whirlwind."

Ms Wijewickrema first established the business with her family to ensure 16-year-old younger sister Gayana would have fulfilling work after graduating from high school. Gayana has Down syndrome and while she struggles with basic communication, Ms Wijewickrema said the family business had been a natural fit for her.

Ms Wijewickrema was born in Canberra, and says being a house captain at Girl's Grammar was a formative experience.

"I had a great time and it opened up a lot of leadership opportunities," she told Alex Sloan.

"I was a house captain and it shaped who I am now. Being in a leadership position in an all girl's school is a really rough job.

"I always felt like that big sister and I loved that about it."

Ms Wijewickrema's parents moved from Sri Lanka 35 years ago.

"I sometimes forget I have brown skin," she said.

"My parents have been active in the Sri Lankan community, and they've given so much, but also for the Australian community.

"My dad's a businessman. First and foremost, Canberra is our home."

"There's four girls, plus my stepmum, five, plus the rabbit that's female as well, so dad is really outnumbered," she joked.

"There's lots of hair in the shower; there's lots of fighting. But there's lots of love."

Ms Wijewickrema hopes the florist business will offer more people with disabilities meaningful employment opportunities.


 

Source & Credits : http://www.heraldsun.com.au/

 

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Last modified on Friday, 20 November 2015 13:30
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