Khayshie Tilak Ramesh is a shining young leader.
As VMC's Youth Commissioner, the Mayor of the City of Greater Bendigo Youth Council, volunteer at Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre, board director of Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services, Multicultural Ambassador of Bendigo Foodshare and Bendigo Economic Strategy Committee Member – she has a long list of achievements.
But they don’t stop there.
In June this year, the Law Institute of Victoria co-named Khayshie as Law Student of the Year.
We asked Khayshie about winning the award, what inspires her about studying law, how she succeeds and how she overcomes challenges.
A new accolade
When speaking to Khayshie, her drive and passion stand out immediately.
She is intelligent, insightful, motivated and optimistic. Like all great leaders, she is also humble and friendly.
So for Khayshie, being co-named Law Institute of Victoria's Law Student of the Year came as a surprise.
“It feels great, but it was a big shock!”
She thought the calibre of the other candidates was so high, that when her name was announced, she was enjoying her dinner as a spectator.
But she says having her contribution to the community highlighted as a law student was important.
"Both of the winners this year are people who have done community work."
Where it all began
Khayshie’s dedication gives the impression that she has always been committed to law.
“Some people think that because I’m involved in a lot of legal activities now, that I started my life wanting to study law.”
But for Khayshie, studying law was a fortunate accident. She had always imagined herself studying medicine and becoming a doctor. From an early age, helping people was intrinsic for her.
“Dad always tells me the story that I came to him in Year 5 to say I wanted to start an advice column. I wanted to help my friends, I wanted to help people going through issues.”
Khayshie’s parents migrated to Australia about 25 years ago, settling in Bendigo when she was 4 years old.
While growing up, she recognised the sacrifice her parents made to ensure her and her sister would have the best future.
“My parents gave up absolutely everything. They moved away from their family, from everything they knew. I’ve seen them work in all sorts of jobs, in all different fields, to give us the best education.”
At the end of secondary school, she elected medicine as her first choice of tertiary course and law as a fallback option.
“I wanted to make my parents proud – being a child of a migrant family, that’s all you want to do.”
But fate had other ideas in mind. As her sister moved away to study medicine, her father's health suffered.
She faced an important decision.
“On the day of my results, my dad had a stroke. Knowing he wouldn’t be able to work for a while, I knew someone would need to stay home and help. I immediately accepted the Bendigo Bachelor of Law offer.”
A new challenge and a new perspective
At first, Khayshie found studying law daunting, but her healthy thirst for challenge meant that she relished the test.
“As scary as it was going into a career I knew nothing about, it was also enticing. There was an opportunity to make something of it.”
It wasn’t always easy. She didn't study Legal Studies in secondary school and Khayshie felt like a ‘fish out of water’ in her new course. Many times, she wanted to give up. Luckily, some strong, supportive influences helped her to stay on track.
“Fortunately, I had a really good teacher in first year. Whenever I wanted to quit he’d convince me out of it and say ‘look, just try this semester, and keep going’.”
Accepting a law placement in family violence at the Bendigo Magistrates Court also shifted her perspective.
Before then, she says she had thought of lawyers as calculated and clinical practitioners whose skills were more geared to analysis and strategy than supporting people.
“The lawyer who oversaw my placement was so compassionate towards clients, I could see him turning one of the worst days in their lives into one that wasn’t so bad.”
“Suddenly, there was this empathetic lawyer who showed me – we can be the counsellors of the law. We can have a 'lawyers as healers' paradigm, and be the medical professionals of the law.”
As someone with a great passion for supporting others, Khayshie had found purpose.
The secrets to success
So, how did Khayshie go on to win one of the Law Institute of Victoria’s most prestigious accolades?
One secret of her success is simple – getting it done.
“Something I heard recently is that motivation is a myth. If you wait around for the motivation to do it, you’ll just keep waiting for this mystery motivation to turn up. Sometimes, there are things you’re not passionate about that just need to be done.”
She says mentors have been one of the greatest supports on her journey.
“I used to think it was so intimidating to ask someone to meet up for coffee. But one thing I would encourage anyone to do is – find someone you idolise, tell them that you idolise them and ask them out for coffee.”
Mastering self-belief has been another critical way Khayshie overcomes her challenges.
“For me, it’s so important to have a positive mindset. I used to remove myself from the competition really early by thinking ‘I’m not good enough to get this’, or, ‘I’m wasting my time if I try’. You’ve got this negative self talk that always pushes against you.”
She also believes the silence and stigma around failure are huge barriers to realising our potential.
“A really valuable piece of advice I got from mentoring is that there’s so much you can achieve, but no one ever talks about the times that they’ve failed.”
“We’ve created this culture of failure where people don’t even try, and it’s something that we see all the time.
“In my role as VMC Youth Commissioner and Mayor of Greater Bendigo Youth Council, I meet a lot of young people who ask me how I've achieved my goals and they think it came naturally. I like to share with them that I’ve experienced double the amount of setbacks than my successes.”
Khayshie’s greatest learning?
“The worst thing anyone can say to you is, no.”
Reviewed 23 June 2021