"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 Sydney Writers' Festival, Fairfield City Museum and Gallery,  SXSW and OzAsia Festival. My current day job is managing a cross-parliamentary group focused on sexual and reproductive health and international development, so I'm a regular visitor to Parliament House in Canberra.

Anyone who knows me knows how involved I am with the many communities I'm connected to - currently this includes curating an exhibition at Fairfeld City Museum and Gallery, being co-Artistic Director of Addi Road Writers' Festival, helping to lead The Finishing School writing collective, and volunteering for the P&C of my daughter's school.

I relate to what Elif Shafak refers to as “multiple belongings”, which is 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.

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 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.


My writing is published in both mainstream and literary outlets. I cover a wide range of topics like art, literature, food, multilingualism, social history, multiculturalism, migration, travel, Vietnamese diaspora, ethics. But as a professional writer I've  been trained to write about topics that go beyond my own specific interests, though as a freelance writer I really only cover topics that interest me. I have also been published in niche magazines and books, such as New Philosopher and Lonely Planet. 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 have worked as an editor in a range of 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.

My producing work focuses on documentary for audio and screen, as well as events. 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, My Bilingual Family (2022), for SBS. My first co-produced short documentary, connectIRL, premiered at the Sydney Opera House’s Antidote Festival in 2019.

My 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.

My curation practice has been primarily focused on talks. I've branched out to exhibitions as well; in 2019 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 almost 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.

Saigon’s Wartime Beat
Saigon’s Wartime Beat


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 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 struggle, which is why I founded an online community called Vietnamese Bilingual Parenting with almost 4000 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. Even though I have long loved learning French, and still do, I have long felt conflicted given the 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 private lessons for over a year and can still read a bit of Thai.

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.

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