“You can do anything you put your mind to! Do not let fear put doubt in your mind– go for it, try, and if you fail that is ok. Pick yourself up and try again! If you succeed, then look around you and see who needs a helping hand!” – Farzana
Hi Farzana! Welcome to our coffee chat and we’re excited to have you as our sixth guest in this series. You are our first guest from Down Under!
Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born in Bombay, India and moved to Perth with my parents, Mahrukh and Firoz Pestonji and my brother Arzan in the early 90’s. I am the eldest of 3 siblings and I have 2 younger brothers Arzan and Shazan (who was born in Australia). All of us are engineers, as is my dad and I am also married to an engineer, Ross.
I am currently working as a Senior Consultant in the (Worley) Advisory team, and I thrive on developing Worley’s Energy Transition projects. I am a process engineer with ~14 years of experience in the oil and gas industry. I graduated from Curtin University with a double degree in Chemical Engineering and Finance and have worked in both design offices, and on-site in construction and commissioning roles.
I am also currently the Chairperson of WISE (Women in Subsea Engineering & Energy), which is a not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers that aims to achieve gender equity through growing the profile of women in STEM roles. Within Worley I am also the co-chair of Women of Worley (WoW) for the state. As a woman from a STEM and technical background, I am passionate about promoting women in leadership and STEM based roles which is why I dedicate so much of my time for these causes.
Finally, I am a mother of two, my son is 8 and my daughter is 5 years old, and in my (little!) spare time I enjoy reading, dancing, baking, and spending time with family and friends. I also cannot wait to be able to travel again!
Having grown up in Western Australia and not having a sizeable Zarathusti population how do you manage to get the members to attend the events? Also, what kind of functions do you all normally have in Perth? Has Covid affected any of that since Australia has kept its international as well as state borders mainly shut? Do you ever have joint events with the Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland organizations?
The Zoroastrian Association of WA (ZAWA) – was founded in 1997 (25 years ago!). As both my parents were instrumental in the creation of this association, I too have been involved in ZAWA in one way or another over the years! Most of the Zoroastrians who have been living here, have all at some stage (and in some cases numerous times) volunteered to be a part of the committee which really helps to bring different ideals and new initiatives into the community – this in turn encourages participation from the members.
We also have a Business Association of WA (BAWAZ) this was created in 2012 by my father, to cater for more business orientated aspects such as holding industry speaker sessions and engaging with like-minded entrepreneurs and professionals. BAWAZ also hosted the 11th World Zoroastrian Congress (11WZC) in Perth 2018. This was the 1st time the Zoroastrian congress for adults has been held in the southern hemisphere!
The associations hold functions such as Navroze, Parsi New Year, various Jashans and Ghambars, lunches/dinners, picnics, quiz nights, and the list goes on. In the past we used to also have a ZAWA chronicle, prayer learning sessions, children’s classes and activities, talent concerts/nights, a ZAWA library, cooking classes for the youth, etc.
Covid has affected some events, however in Western Australia we have been living in our own “bubble” of sorts and things have been good in that life has been normal with some restrictions here and there etc. Initially in 2019 some events did have to be cancelled or postponed in line with the rules, but everyone agreed this was for the best.
Apart from the 11WZC there haven’t been too many other joint functions that I’m aware of apart from the 4th World Zoroastrian Youth Congress in 2006/7. I was, recently part of a team of Zoroastrians from all over Australia and New Zealand that were trying to create FEZAO (The Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of Oceania). The aim of this federation was to be an umbrella body to foster more open dialogs, information sharing and collaborations between the various organisations in the Oceania region, however sadly this idea has been shelved for the time being. I hope that one day we can have our own overarching federation in our region so that we can have a combined voice like FEZANA and others.
You were heavily involved in the organization of the 11th World Zoroastrian Congress back in 2018, can you tell us more about your role and the congress itself? Your father, Mr. Firoz Pestonji was the Chair of that Congress, would you say he inspired and encouraged you and others to get involved? Have you attended any of the other Congresses since then? Will you be attending the next edition to be held in New York City this July?
Yes, I would say that my dad (and mum) inspired and encouraged the dedicated team that were involved! For BAWAZ to win hosting the Congress in Perth was a big feat indeed, as it is a small organisation when compared to others not only in Australia but also worldwide.
When BAWAZ had initially submitted the proposal to host the event, we had asked the other associations in Australia if they would like to assist in organising the congress or to host it in their own states (which have larger populations of Zoroastrians living there). We had support from the other organisations, however none of them were keen to take on the responsibility of hosting the event at the time. It was through determination, vision, working together and good leadership that empowered the 11WZC team, to not only win Perth the privilege of hosting the Congress but to ensure it was a huge success also!
I was heavily involved with the organisation of 11th WZC in Perth. I was part of the core team that ultimately made the final decisions as well as leading various mini projects of my own such as: social media marketing and website creation, program management and logistics, procurement of giveaways and souvenirs, creation and editing the Congress Souvenir book, overall budgeting, and costings, as well as being one of the 4 ladies who MC’ed the event over the 3 days.
I REALLY want to attend the 12th WZC in July this year. If you had asked me pre-Covid, the answer would have been a resounding yes, as I am sure the 12th WZC team will do a fantastic job in creating a memorable event. Unfortunately, however, I am unsure if this will be possible now due to the strict government rulings around Covid restrictions – let’s see what happens...
You were on the Entertainment Committee for the 4th World Zoroastrian Youth Congress in Melbourne in 2006/2007, can you tell us your personal experience and the overall feedback of that congress? Any highlights from that edition? We’ll be hosting the next WZYC right here in London, UK in 2023!
WZ Youth congress was great fun, although in saying, that I unfortunately didn’t get to attend many of the actual talks and seminars as I was helping in the background. I was part of a group of girls from Perth who made up the entertainment sub-committee. The group worked for about a year (or more) before the Congress meeting every month or so and we had planned, budgeted, and thought of every aspect of the entertainment part of the event
When we arrived a few days before to set things up (we traveled from Perth to Melbourne), everything was mainly done from our end. Having spare time, we then set about helping in other areas such as registrations, coordination etc., and that was where we had lots of fun meeting with other youth from around the world.
I would recommend that all Zoroastrian youth attend at least one (if not more) Zoroastrian youth congresses - it is also so much fun, as you get to hear from various leaders who help to explain and history and culture, as well their views on topical subjects!
Your work for the community doesn’t stop there, right – you are also a part of BAWAZ (Business Association of Western Australia), previously part of the ZAWA Committee, and WISE (Women in Subsea Engineering and Energy)! Working full time and being a mum with two young kids, how do you find the time and drive to do community work?
I guess being involved in community work, is a fundamental part of who I am. Be it within the Zoroastrian and Indian community or for women groups within the engineering industry, I am passionate about giving back.
From a young age, I have seen my parents involved with the Perth Zoroastrian and other local Indian communities... I guess that has shaped my values, goals and aspirations.
My parents also started their own business Perth Maxi Charters & Aussie Perth Tours, when I was in high school and on the weekends and holidays, I would help them with it.
Working in the family business has given me an opportunity to learn key skillsets at a young age, which have helped me throughout my life. I was raised with an entrepreneurial way of thinking and balanced my engineering background; I have a novel problem-solving mindset. I love being able to create, organise or deliver something which is novel or different by collaborating with a diverse group of people from all walks of life, I love being able to constantly learn from, as well as help others all while making new connections in the process.
I have always been involved in various teams, clubs and activities throughout my life. In high school I was selected to be in the student leadership team, the debating team and was also chosen to represent my school in a student exchange program which only picked 2 girls and 2 boys from the year group. In university I was a part of various student bodies including DESI the Indian Student body where I was the treasurer, as well as part of a dance troupe that performed Bollywood dancing stage shows to raise money for various orphanages in India. Once I started working, I put my hand up to join the social club, and this is also when I volunteered to be part of the ZAWA committee.
As the years have gone by, I have also held various roles within the BAWAZ committee - I was the secretary for several years and I am currently the treasurer.
There is a lot of multitasking going on! I am constantly juggling many things at a time, but I guess it is about prioritising what is important and getting that done.
I must also say that I am also very grateful that I have a supportive husband and family that helps and empowers me to be able to do my extra activities too. But like anything, “if there’s a will there’s a way”, right? I love doing these things, so I find a way
Lastly, what message do you have for our young members reading this and in what ways can they make an impact?
I really loved the tag line the team created for the 11th
WZC Perth, which was “Together, towards tomorrow” I believe that we all need to work together today, so that our futures are brighter tomorrow. I feel that this tag line can be applied to everything in life.
I would also say, (and I say this to my children too!) you can do anything you put your mind to! Do not let fear put doubt in your mind– go for it, try, and if you fail that is ok. Pick yourself up and try again! If you succeed, then look around you and see who needs a helping hand!
Thank you so much Farzana, for your time and amazing work you do for the community. You are such an amazing role model for our future youth!