South Asian Heritage Month: Anita's story

Communications Officer Anita Senaratna in traditional South Asian wedding clothing

Anita Senaratna joined North Bristol NHS Trust in June 2023. Here, she shares her story of growing up Sri Lankan in Australia, moving to the UK and rediscovering her culture.

"I’m quite new to the UK – I’ve been here about two and a half years now. I’m Australian-born but my family is from Colombo, Sri Lanka. My parents came to Australia in the late 80s during the country’s civil war and settled in Sydney.

The area I grew up in was predominantly white and I always felt like I wasn’t Australian enough to be accepted by my peers. I also didn’t quite feel Sri Lankan enough to fit in with my parents’ friends, or my extended family when we went back to visit. I used to be able to speak Sinhalese fluently as a child but I can’t anymore, although I can still understand a little bit.

My parents moved back to Sri Lanka when I was 20, to take care of my aging grandparents. I stayed behind to continue my studies, and eventually graduated with a Masters in Journalism.

I’ve always been passionate about writing, and knew from a young age that I wanted to do it professionally. I started writing fiction as a child and continued into my teenage years, but studying journalism  helped me channel that passion into telling real-life stories and raising awareness about important issues and world events.

After graduating, I wrote for local papers and websites to build my experience, and eventually landed a role as a digital producer with NSW Department of Education. This was followed by stints at MSN Australia and the BBC.

After a few years working in mainstream media, I felt like I needed a change. I moved to the UK in 2021, and eventually found work as a social media coordinator for a human rights charity. I found my work incredibly rewarding, but was unfortunately made redundant at the beginning of 2023.

I joined the Communications team at NBT in June this year, and I’m really happy in my new (ish) role. I love talking to people and hearing their stories or listening to them tell me about things they’re passionate about, and that’s something I get to do a lot.

When I was younger I downplayed my heritage a lot in order to fit in, and now that I’m older and living in a city that’s more accepting of diversity, I’ve been making an effort to reclaim it. I’ve been learning how to make Sri Lankan dishes for my husband and my friends, and when I got married I went for a traditional wedding lehenga in red instead of a white dress.

I feel really privileged that I’ve been able to use my position to give something back to my community. I want people to feel proud of who they are and where they’ve come from, and I hope that by encouraging NBT staff to celebrate this month it will lead to more understanding and acceptance of people from South Asian backgrounds."