Australian Madhavi Nawana Parker Embraces A Life of Service

Madhavi Nawana Parker

Madhavi Nawana Parker has come a long way from her Sri Lankan roots and has founded Positive Minds Australia, a company that helps young people develop their sense of belonging and connection in a highly unconnected world.

Helping others comes naturally to Madhavi having grown up around people from neuro-diverse backgrounds. Her father worked in a leadership role at a psychiatric hospital in the 1980s, with Madhavi and her family living close by. The hospital was her ‘backyard’, where she often played and chatted with the residents. “My mum was an excellent cook and generous host, so Dad would often bring colleagues home. Even as a little kid I loved the stories they shared about their work – it was more interesting to me than homework or TV so I’d find a comfy spot nearby and listen!”

These experiences led to a love for human psychology and a calling in mental health and wellbeing. “My heart dances when I know I’ve lightened a client’s load, “explains Madhavi.

When her father died at 45, Madhavi knew that doing the work that her dad loved was one way of keeping him close to her heart. Coming from a minority culture in Australia, Madhavi faced discrimination growing up, recalling how she often wished she had fair skin and an ‘easy’ name. “Children naturally compare themselves to others as part of working out how they fit in. I think all young people go through discrimination one way or another usually by people who are struggling themselves, don’t know any better and project their frustration on others,” explains Madhavi. As a result, Madhavi is diligent about teaching compassion and kindness in schools. She teaches the value of “embracing all the variations on the spectrum of humanity.”

Madhavi proudly identifies with her heritage, feeling peaceful and connected when she visits Sri Lanka. “Identity is important. As a teenager and young adult figuring out who I was and where I fit in, meant trips to Sri Lanka were always a source of inspiration, “Madhavi explains. She is grateful for growing up in Australia, a country where she learned to be independent and take on other roles she wouldn’t have if she was in Sri Lanka. Today she represents minority groups, working towards fairness and equal opportunities. Her latest book, ‘The Confident Minds Curriculum’, is a culmination of her work to improve culture, relationships, thinking, and wellbeing.

Madhavi is also a public speaker and counselor, wife, and mother to three young children. Like other women, Madhavi has struggled to run her business through pregnancy, raising children and more recently, breast cancer which she has now recovered from. Choosing not to dwell on her struggles, she sees herself as no different from others experiencing challenges. “I try to focus on how far I’ve come and the progress I’ve made. I try to lead by example, learn from difficulties and see the best in myself and others.”

Madhavi’s heart and soul are in supporting people through challenges associated with neuro-diversity. Her parting words leave an unforgettable impression of the essence of her work “Even after twenty years, I leave every interaction with a deep sense of gratitude for the exchange that’s just taken place. I love people and it’s my greatest privilege that I get to help them feel happier, more connected and capable.”