audio close compressed excel CS_logo_icon_solid_yellow_alt Created with Sketch. x x image insta-black menu pdf Print BTN - Shortlist Created with Sketch. Share Asset 1 word


Thought leadership on Global Justice & Multiculturalism

Empathy is the most important tool we have to build a better world

The question of ‘where are you from?’ was never a simple one for Thenu Herath.

She was born in New Zealand to parents who left their homeland of Sri Lanka. Growing up in South Australia, she listened to Jimmy Barnes anthems alongside the stories of conflict from her motherland. Her multicultural upbringing fuelled her belief in the idea that everyone should have an equitable chance to reach their potential, no matter where they are born.

Thenu’s bold and intersectional approach to global justice, foreign policy and building kinder communities has led to varied speaking engagements. She has appeared alongside figures like former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and spoken to numerous foreign and domestic delegates. However, her biggest passion is connecting with young people. She frequently speaks at schools and university conferences around Australia about her experiences and approach to values-based leadership.

Current Work:

Thenu is an advocate for global justice. She is the current board director and former CEO of Oaktree, a non-profit that supports young people in the Asia-Pacific region to lead sustainable development initiatives in their communities. During her term at the organisation, her team pioneered a new development approach focusing on solidarity, decolonisation and collaboration. Thenu is also a Director of the Australian Council for International Development and the leading Melbourne-based social enterprise, Green Collect. She is a co-author of Australia’s first youth national security strategy, which identified climate, health and social factors as the key threats to Australia’s current and future generations. She was also appointed to the global executive committee of the Commonwealth Youth Human Rights and Democracy Network.

In 2022, she was awarded the Faculty of Arts ‘Rising Star’ Alumni award by the University of Melbourne and named one of Australia’s Young Women to Watch in International Affairs.

Talking Points

Why NGO’s can’t solve the world’s greatest challenges alone

Despite sensational strategic planning and thought leadership by many NGOs and global multilateral institutions, the world is not on track to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. In fact, poverty and wealth inequality continue to increase, while the climate crisis accelerates us towards an uncertain global future. It is clear we must rethink the way we approach these interconnected global challenges. Thenu shares how governments and the private sector can work hand in hand with NGOs to more effectively realize these goals before our time runs out

Who is this presentation for: This talk can be adjusted based on the audience, but would be best suited to emerging and established professionals in the private sector or government.

Key Takeaways:
- Appreciation for the urgency we face in addressing our current global challenges through the concept of ‘Deep Time’.
- Understanding the Sustainable Development Goals and the limits of our current approach.
- A step-by-step guide to developing effective ESG strategies and partnerships that support the realization of these goals.

5 Lessons in Values-Based Leadership

Staying true to who we are is incredibly powerful. Imagine if leaders had values such as fairness, kindness and empathy in mind when making important decisions? While such values are often labeled as ‘naive’ in global leadership, Thenu explores how we can harness their power to strengthen our ability to lead. Through poignant story-telling, she explores how values-based leadership could be the key to building thriving communities and organisations.

Who is this presentation for:
This talk can be adjusted based on the audience. It is suitable for all aspiring and established leaders; whether in high schools, universities, NGO’s, corporates or governments.

Key Takeaways:
- Understanding values-based leadership approaches.
- Examples of values-based leadership in practice.
- Frameworks to practice values-based leadership individually or within an organisation.

True Belonging: Going beyond tokenism and quotas in diversity and inclusion strategies

Diversity’ is about getting different perspectives in the room, and ‘inclusion’ is about being welcomed into it. ‘Belonging’ is about having one’s views truly heard and respected within that room. Drawing upon her personal experiences with disempowering diversity initiatives and tokenism, Thenu shares strategies that all organisations and communities can use to strengthen true belonging for all.

Who is this presentation for:
This talk can be adjusted based on the audience. It is suitable for all aspiring and established leaders who want to improve their approach to diversity and inclusion.

Key Takeaways:
- Understanding rights-based approaches to diversity and inclusion.
- How to draw upon lived experience to avoid ineffective diversity strategies.
- A tailored guide for implementation: how to effectively foster true belonging in your community.
Thenu was a skilled speaker at our Government and Public Sector partner conference in April 2022. She spoke passionately about how PwC and the broader private sector could better support and leverage youth leadership and bring young people into the decision-making process more meaningfully. She also brought a unique perspective to the topic of diversity and inclusion by drawing upon her lived experiences. The room was buzzing with thought provoking discussion. PWC

As a former television news reporter, presenter and editorial director, I was extremely impressed with Thenu on so many levels. She comes across as immensely confident with a genuine warmth, and her passion for what she believes in is inspiringly palpable. ??In speaking with our girls, she was highly engaging and cut-through in delivering powerful messaging, demonstrating her clear capacity to effectively communicate with varying audiences.

St Peter’s Girls’ School

Thenu is a very engaging presenter, leading her audience alongside her, as she journeys through her life as a migrant, to passionate human justice advocate and now an experienced CEO. Her approach is humble and warm, yet powerful, as she shares a wealth of knowledge and experience at such a young age.


Thenu is an intelligent, engaging and driven young woman who I wholeheartedly believe will continue to make a significant impact in the world. Her gift for authentic, engaging and inspiring communication made an indelible mark on the audience of young leaders.

World Vision
Let us know

and we'll send all the latest Saxton updates and news direct to your inbox
Thanks, you have been subscribed
View Shortlist