Activities for 2015 are well underway and we are anticipating another busy year. We are currently developing our program of workshops and events, and we’re looking forward to working with old friends and new diaspora organisations again this year.
For the For the aid and development sector in general though, 2015 will pose many challenges. The Federal Government announced massive cuts to foreign aid last year and many fear further cuts might be in store when the Federal Budget is handed down in May.
These cuts of almost $11billion over five years will have a terrible impact on many programs that are helping the most vulnerable people in all parts of the world. As a share of national income, foreign aid is set to fall from 0.32 per cent to less than 0.22 per cent, which is the lowest level since records began in the 1960s.
Numbers alone are sometimes too abstract to explain the full impact, but the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) has humanised the true cost. A cut of $11b will mean that 1.4 million babies may be born without a birth attendant, putting mothers and babies at risk; 2.2 million children may not get to enroll in school, 3.7million children may not be vaccinated, 4.7million may not have access to safe water and 21.9 million people in emergency situations may go unassisted.
Like many Australians, I want to live in a society that values compassion and global social justice and a fair go for all. It is clear that we must remind all Australians, including our government, that international aid and development are important to us, and make a great difference to lives of millions of our brothers and sisters around the world.
The good news is that a new campaign has been launched to encourage young Australians to get behind Australian aid. More than 50 organisations have developed the Campaign for Australian Aid, which uses social media, technology and a food truck to build an understanding of how effective Australian aid is. You can lend your voice to the campaign by going to http://www.australianaid.org/
This month we said farewell to David Nyuol Vincent who joined us as Community Coordinator last year while Lisa Vettori was on maternity leave. Thank you David for your leadership and insight and welcome back Lisa. We don’t lose David entirely of course, as he is also the Director of one of our partner groups, Peace Palette.
Denise Cauchi (Director)
Victoria’s South Sudanese communities are a step closer to electing a peak body that will unite and officially represent the voices of all South Sudanese in Victoria.
The South Sudanese Unification Committee hosted two debates on Saturday February 14 and 21 in the lead-up to an election to appoint the leadership of Victoria’s first-ever united South Sudanese peak body.
Approximately 250 people attended the opening debate at the African Australian Community Centre in Footscray to hear candidates standing for the positions of chairperson, secretary and treasurer. Candidates seeking other positions had the chance to address the community the following Saturday in Dandenong.
Moses Lado, Secretary of the South Sudanese Unification Committee (SSUC), chaired the meeting. Moses emphasised that the primary goal of the election was “to unify the Victorian South Sudanese diaspora and to leave politics out of the committee”. He also underscored the sacrifice and hard work the committee positions entailed given that those elected would work on a voluntary basis. “The community leaders must act out of conviction,” Moses said.
DAA director, Denise Cauchi, served as the moderator and was herself acknowledged as a key partner of the South Sudanese community.
“This initiative demonstrates what can be achieved when diaspora communities take responsibility for change and work towards a shared vision of unity and positive engagement,” Denise said.
The peak body will formally represent all Victorian South Sudanese communities in dealings with state and federal government, Victoria Police, the Victorian Multicultural Commission and other organisations.
Candidates spoke on a variety of issues ranging from education to employment, peace and unity and the importance of engaging with government and service providers to maximise opportunities for young people and develop new services for their communities. Members of the audience had the opportunity to question candidates on their priorities and their plans to bring consensus among a scattered and diverse community.
All candidates agreed that the unity of the South Sudanese community, as well creating more opportunities for young people, should be the first priorities for the peak body.
The elections follow on from a three-day leadership retreat, which was hosted by the SSUC in conjunction with DAA last December, where community leaders representing about 60 South Sudanese sub-communities agreed to move forward with a peak body.
More information about the date of the elections will be announced soon.
With International Women’s Day just around the corner, we bring you an update on what’s happening with our Women Leading Change program.
DAA’s Women Leading Change program will be back again this year, focusing on Women’s leadership.
A course will be open to women in Victoria who promote peace, development and human rights in their countries of origin. It will focus on four main areas: Empowered Leaders, Community Leadership, Advocacy in Australian and Women’s Activism. It will be held in April and May 2015.
At the end of the course, participants will gain leadership skills in public speaking, lobbying and creating networks while deepening their understanding of gender and community development, as well as meeting other passionate and committed women. Participants will receive a certificate of completion.
One of the main objectives of Women Leading Change program is to facilitate an environment where women can build skills and networks with like-minded women. At the end of this course there will be a networking event to meet women from the business community, civil society, development organisations and government. Don’t miss it!
Watch out for more information about WLC as the program is being finalised. If you would like to receive information about the course or an application form, please contact email@example.com.
Congratulations to our diaspora partner, Bridging Lanka, which has gained official registration in Sri Lanka.
Jeremy Liyanage, Director of Bridging Lanka, said registration would make it easier for the organisation to continue its community work in Sri Lanka.
One of the organisation’s key projects at the moment focuses on developing income-generating initiatives for war widows. This initiative established a rice, flour and spice mill and, most recently, a trial catering company. The important work aims to create a daily income and provide new skills for women who often have a precarious life balancing their time at the mill and catering company with finding casual work in the paddy fields, while looking after families.
Jeremy explains how the organisation operates, from an approach encompassing individuals to broader community development: “It’s from the micro to the macro. We support individuals in very personal ways, sometimes helping them to get into employment, right up to urban development and town plans for the whole district.”
Bridging Lanka are long-term orientated and believe that this, coupled with their extensive range of projects, make a real change more likely. “We’re four and a half years into a 20 year commitment so we are getting to know this area intimately and we have strong connections. Even though it was hard in the short-term, we are well connected now, so the dynamics make it more likely for us to succeed.”
The work taken on by Bridging Lanka has established a good foundation where important relationships have been built, and Jeremy believes they are in an excellent position to springboard into some even wider horizons.
WINDOW DISPLAY AT ROSS HOUSE
Diaspora Action Australia has installed a colourful display in the front window of Ross House to explain the work we do with diasporas in Australia. Drop by Ross House in Flinders Lane during March if you are in the neighbourhood.
We are always looking for skilled and passionate people to join our team of volunteers. People with international development or community development experience, activist backgrounds and refugees and migrants from countries experiencing conflict/humanitarian crises are especially encouraged to apply. If you are interested in one of our current vacancies, or you would like us to keep you in mind for future opportunities, send your resume to our Volunteer Coordinator.