Meet the Greek Australian SA Woman Awards finalist shining a light on neurodiversity

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After having faced her own personal challenges, SA Woman Shine Award finalist Samantha Papavasiliou has turned to advocating for people who identify as neurodivergent.

“I’m overwhelmed. I have never been good at accepting or responding to compliments and nothing I have achieved or worked towards has been aimed at achieving an award,” says the second-generation Greek Australian whose family immigrated from Kastoria, northern Greece to Adelaide in the 1960s.

Now in their fifth year, the SA Woman Awards recognise the achievements of women in business and careers from across South Australia.

L to R: Samantha with her brother Jake, mother Shirley, sister Chloe and father Nick

“Sometimes it’s just about being able to celebrate with the people you care about, all that we have collectively achieved, the opportunities we have had and the challenges we have tackled,” Samantha said.

And although Samantha is not new to challenges due to her ongoing battle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that stems from germaphobia, she says the last twelve months have been the most demanding yet the most amazing of her life.

“I was dealing with my own health and personal issues, when my family learned that Mum was going through renal failure, followed by the emotional roller coaster waiting for a transplant,” she explains.

“Hearing my dad wake up one day and say ‘I will be the donor,’ showed me what true strength and selflessness really is. We are now post-transplant, and they are both doing incredibly well. My dad, a small business owner, eased back into work and my Mum started a PhD.”

Samantha, who works at the Australian Taxation Office and is a senior research fellow at the James Cook University, says her parents, colleagues and mentors have not only supported her along the way but have encouraged her to use the difficulties as a driver to accomplish things.

“Everyone is different, we have different talents, skills and interests. I was brought up to look beyond the obstacles that always seem to appear and look for the opportunities. There is a great deal of support available, just be brave enough to ask,” she says.

Samantha (third from L) with extended family in Kastoria, northern Greece

Looking past her own struggles and wanting to give back to the community Samantha working as an advocate for people who identify as neurodivergent or atypical and is a great supporter of Women in STEM. 

“As a woman in STEM, I see how interesting and challenging the work is, but also the opportunities it provides. The sector needs more females to provide balance in the input and the range of inventions in the different fields through the opinions, views, skills and experience women offer,” she says.

“Having gender diversity in STEM, will increase the breadth and depth of innovations and breakthroughs as it will provide opportunities to view problems differently.”

*Click here to find out more about all the SA Woman Awards Finalists or to vote for the SA Woman Awards People’s Choice 2022 by Monday September 5.

READ MORE: Two Greek Australians among finalists for South Australia’s science and innovation awards

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