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Raising Women: Geetha and Gayana

Laura Peppas

There’s an old saying passed on from her mother that Geetha Wijewickrema has held on to: “Never give up.”

It’s hard to find a phrase better suited to the mother of three, step-mother of one and business owner. After raising a daughter with a disability, battling illness and starting a business from scratch, she has come out the other side smiling.

Though Geetha is happiest out of the spotlight, her flower delivery business, GG’s Flowers, has been on the covers of local magazines since opening two years ago.

Geetha’s 16-year-old daughter Gayana, who has Down syndrome, was the inspiration to start the business – a way to ensure she would have fulfilling work after graduating from high school.

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“As Gayana grew older, I started to worry about what she would do after school … I wanted her to be a strong, independent woman, despite her disability,” Geetha says. “I’ve previously worked as a special needs assistant for young people with disabilities, and I’d see these kids and some of them would just stay in their rooms or sleep all day. I thought, ‘that’s not what I want for Gayana’.”

Geetha says setting up a business for Gayana to help run would mean she was well looked after, had a purpose and most importantly, was happy.

“I also wanted it also to be a place other people with special needs could eventually work in,” says Geetha. “So I started a floristry course and that’s where the business was born.”

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Gayana’s smiling face as customers open the door to a delivery of flowers has become a staple of the business, which Geetha and her family run out of their Chifley home.

Geetha says the process of taking an order, making an arrangement and delivering flowers has given Gayana an incredible feeling of self-satisfaction and pride.

“Since the business started, Gayana has been much more outgoing and has come a long way with socialising with people,” says Geetha. “She’ll walk into a room and is confident enough to approach people first. It’s amazing to see that change in her.”

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Born in Sri Lanka, Geetha’s father died when she was young, leaving her mother with five young children to look after.

“My mother was a very strong, very hard-working woman,” Geetha says. “She ran her own business as she was raising us, and I suppose that’s where I got my own drive from. We were a very business-orientated family.”

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Geetha worked as a pre-school teacher until moving to Australia at 30 years old, where she experienced a “culture shock.”

“It was quite hard, to come into a country that was so different from where I was,” she says. “I was coming from a culture I knew, into a culture that I was very unfamiliar with. It took a while to adjust.”

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Geetha married husband Ranjith in 1995, staying at home to raise their young children.

Geetha says she is “incredibly proud” of daughters Rangana, Gayana, Veena and step-daughter Nip, who handles the media side of the business, and this year received the honour of 2016 ACT Young Australian of the Year.

“Growing up with Gayana has made the girls more compassionate,” she says. “I am so glad to see where they are today. The main thing I tell them is never lie, be honest and never give up, of course.”

Photography by Lux & Us.

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This article originally appeared as part of our Raising Women article in our Magazine: Break The Would for Autumn 2016. Find out more about Magazine here

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Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

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