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"You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read."

—James Baldwin (1963)

 

About Sheila Ngọc Phạm

Hi, I’m a writer, editor, producer and curator. I'm also an experienced facilitator of public conversations - in recent times I have chaired talks for Waverley LibrarySydney Writers' Festival, Fairfield City Museum and GallerySXSW Sydney and OzAsia Festival.  I'm also a regular guest on radio and podcasts, with recent appearances on Late Night Live, Big Ideas, Getting Lit, A Seat at Our Table, and The Vietnamese.

Anyone who knows me can attest to how involved I am with different communites. In 2023, this included managing a parliamentary group focused on sexual and reproductive health and international development; curating MÌNH at Fairfeld City Museum and Gallery; being co-Artistic Director of Addi Road Writers' Festival; co-leading The Finishing School writing collective; serving on the Advisory Board of Sydney Review of Books; and volunteering for the P&C of my daughter's public school. This year, I've been taking it a bit easier to focus on finishing my PhD, which also focuses on the intersection between women's antenatal healthcare and online communities.

My creative work is rooted in my desire to make sense of the  fragmented history I've inherited, and being part of a diaspora. What it means to be Vietnamese is, as I wrote in an essay, “one of the great rhetorical questions of my life.” I suppose I relate most to what Elif Shafak refers to as “multiple belongings”, as reflected in my wide range of affiliations and interests. This is why I can often be found hanging out in the borderlands of identities, ideas and disciplines.

I live on Dharug land in south-west Sydney with my husband and two kids, and have spent most of my life in the area.

Sheila Ngoc Pham Portrait, Michael Crouch Room, Vietnamese Posters, SL Magazine

 

Photo by Joy Lai for the State Library of NSW.

Bowstrings

Writer
My writing is regularly published in mainstream media as well as literary and boutique publications. Lately I’ve been venturing into more screen-based writing work; this includes being a storyliner on The Heights and contributing to two other scripted series in development. I received significant funding from Create NSW and Creative Australia to work on an original mainstage play which will likely premiere in 2027.

Editor
I have worked as an editor in a range of professional settings, including at the ABC, where I was Editor of ABC Pool. These days my editing work is more literary in nature: I co-edited the Vietnam Showcase on Kill Your Darlings and am a contributing editor to diaCRITICS, the online journal of the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network.

Producer
My producing work focuses on documentary for audio and screen, as well as events. In the past, my radio producing has primarily been for ABC Radio National, including an award-winning five-part series on multilingualism called Tongue Tied and Fluent (2019) and more recently an SBS podcast series, My Bilingual Family (2022). I also produced two full-length features for radio, The Lost Cinema of Tan Hiep (2017) and Saigon's Wartime Beat (2012). My first co-produced short documentary, connectIRL, premiered at the Sydney Opera House’s Antidote Festival in 2019.

Scholar
My academic qualifications include undergraduate degrees in psychology and linguistics, and a major in history and philosophy of science. I have masters degrees in both public health and bioethics. I’m currently completing a PhD at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation where my focus is on women’s experiences of gestational diabetes and how online support groups intersect with formal healthcare.

Curator
My curation practice for more than a decade has been primarily focused on talks, including live interviews and panels. I've also branched out to exhibitions, beginning in 2019 when I curated an exhibition of Vietnamese traditional art for the State Library of NSW following on from my research into the archive donated by Len Fox and Mona Brand at the Mitchell Library. I recently curated MÌNH at Fairfield City Museum & Gallery.

Communications consultant
I have more than two decades of experience working in communications for non-government, government and commercial concerns. I still do a bit of consulting from time to time and am particularly interested in communications work relating to public health and healthcare.

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Saigon’s Wartime Beat
Saigon’s Wartime Beat
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Languages & Me

Languages are a big part of my life and always have been. My fascination with language led me to a degree in linguistics as well as travel and many different language courses and experiences over time.

Vietnamese is my mother language as my parents are from Vietnam. My current challenge is trying to raise my own kids bilingually in Vietnamese and English. It’s a real struggle, which is why I founded an online community on Facebook called Vietnamese Bilingual Parenting with more than 5,000 members from around the world.

English is my dominant and most fluent language because I was born and raised in Australia. It’s the only language I know how to write in.

French was what I learned for a year in high school and since in France, including a summer in Paris. I can still understand and read a little. Although I loved learning French, and still do, I have long felt conflicted given its colonial relationship to Vietnam. But that history is what makes me feel comfortable with it as well.

Thai entered my linguistic repertoire because I lived and worked in Chiang Mai for over a year. I had twice-weekly private lessons for over a year and can still read Thai restaurant menus.

Dutch and Italian I know a little of because I spent a year living in Belgium, The Netherlands and Italy while undertaking an Erasmus Mundus Master of Bioethics. I've also taken courses in Chinese and Spanish.

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