About Me

Sheneli Dona, 23, is a human rights activist and youth advocate, who has represented Australia to a number of United Nations agencies and international discussions.

She established her own not-for-profit, youth-led human rights organisation, The Dona Faith Alliance, in 2018, based in Western Sydney and named for Sheneli and her niece.

Sheneli has a dual Law and Global Studies degrees from the Australian Catholic University. Sheneli completed further studies in international politics/democracy, human rights and foreign policy at St John’s University, New York, which also provided her the ability to complete her advocacy at the United Nations HQ in NY

She is admitted as a lawyer under the Supreme Court of NSW (not practicing).

Early Life

Born in Sri Lanka, Sheneli’s parents migrated to Australia as skilled migrants along with her elder sister and herself at the time. Sheneli grew up in Liverpool, Western Sydney and now lives in Wollondilly Shire with her family, as a proud young Australian.

She attended primary and secondary school in Western Sydney and therein, she completed her dual degree at Australian Catholic University.

Although she has a long interest in human rights and policy, she began her activism at the age of 15, writing on human rights issues to politicians and community leaders, and volunteering with local organisations such as the St Vincent de Paul Society. 

From her early life, Sheneli knew that her parents migrated to Australia to provide greater opportunity and to live in an honest, anti-corruptive and just country. She has always aimed to give back to the country that has given her a new opportunity, and to preserve the representative democracy of Australia.

Sheneli is known for her passion and dedication to ensuring human rights are protected and respected. She is especially determined to ensure that youth and women are well represented within decision-making and diplomatic affairs.

International Work

At 16, Sheneli was invited to represent Australia at the United Nations, for the 20th Anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth. She was one of the youngest delegates to the World Climate Summit 2015, in conjunction with the UN COP21 conference, there to discuss climate change issues and highlight women in sustainable development and innovation.                                                                             

She has since served as an advisor to several UN working groups and contributed to discussions at several UN and World Bank -organised conferences internationally, on topics from the importance of investment in women and youth, to legislative and policy reform at local, national and international levels. These have included the Paris Peace Forum in 2018 and, in 2020, the UN Women Beijing+25 working group.

Sheneli was Girl Rising’s Regional Ambassador for three years, working to empower and prioritise young girls around the world on the international agenda.

In Australia

When Sheneli established her not-for-profit youth-led human rights organisation, The Dona Faith Alliance (TDFA), she chose to include her name and that of her niece, Azariah Faith, in the title to reflect its objective: to empower and educate all Australians, particularly young Australians and the most vulnerable, on human rights, and to provide a platform and opportunities for them to be involved in decision-making, innovation and entrepreneurship.

“I aim to pave the path and equip other young Australians, future generations and groups of Australians that are unjustly classified and stereotyped into being unfit for leadership and decision-making. I will make it easier for future generations. I will always challenge the status quo”

As part of that objective, she founded Western Sydney region’s first youth-based think tank, ‘The TDFA Youth Think Tank’, a platform that encourages corporations to invest in youth entrepreneurship and youth-driven innovative ideas.

In 2021, The Dona Faith Alliance has successfully inaugurated its new ‘Actions Speak Louder Than Words’ Campaign, in partnership with a former President of the United Nations Security Council, Professor Joy Ogwu. The campaign seeks to conduct forums where meaningful discussion can lead to direct action on human rights issues.

Sustainable Future

Sheneli is passionate about working for a sustainable future, for this and future generations, by ensuring the Earth’s leadership can tackle the challenge of climate change. A key driver of her activism, in Australia and internationally, is the desire to see a sustainable, democratic Australia with honest, responsive political leadership.