I recently sat down with the Executive Director and co-founder of Diaspora Action Australia (DAA) Denise Cauchi to talk about the unique work DAA does, and why donations are crucial for its success.
Why is DAA important or unique compared to other Australian-based Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)?
Denise: DAA does something that no one else does: supporting refugee and migrant organisations who are working on peace building, human rights, humanitarian response and development in their countries of origin. There are many Australian organisations that work with multicultural communities on local issues—how to settle into Australia, for example—but there’s not really any other group dedicated to helping people of refugee or migrant backgrounds to specifically work for change in their homelands.
Why should Australians care about helping diaspora groups?
Denise: These diaspora groups are us. Almost half of our population have either both or one of our parents born overseas, so it doesn’t make sense for us to talk about Australians as non-diaspora, because half of us are. The other reason is that everyone knows someone, or has some connection with someone who has family members or friends in a country where there are challenges. It could be your co-worker, it could be your neighbour, it could be your boss of a multinational corporation. The fact is, we are a multi-cultural society, so there’s not really any “us” and “them”.
What kinds of diaspora groups are DAA working with?
Denise: We work with any organisation that is working to help people in their countries of origin which are undergoing serious challenges. These diaspora organisations could be working on building hospitals overseas. They might be striving for building peace between two conflicting groups. They might be advocating for human rights “back home”, or responding to the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. They could be building peace in Croatia. We look at the context rather than the country, and we have worked with individuals from many countries in Africa, Asia and Europe.
What is DAA’s role in developing peace building, humanitarian work, or economic and social development?
Denise: There’s a range of things we do here at DAA. We mentor organisations with specific tasks they deem necessary: helping them create a fundraising strategy or develop their communication and advocacy skills. We work with them in building networks between different communities and organisations: for example, the Sudanese might benefit from learning how the Sri Lankans did something. Equally important, Diaspora Action Australia creates linkages between community organisations and government or local NGOs: networking. Behind the scenes, DAA advocates to the government and international development sector about the important work that diaspora groups are doing.
Do you have a success story that DAA has been involved with?
Denise: We’ve done good work with the South Sudanese community. Here’s the story: South Sudan gained its independence in 2011, however, as soon as this happened, inter-tribal tensions within the new country escalated quickly and fighting broke out in 2013. Unfortunately, a civil war has been raging for years in this new country. The reconciliation work that we have been supporting has been providing a space for the different South Sudanese tribal groups located in Victoria to be able to come together to work on areas of common interest to try and heal those divides.
What can you tell us about DAA’s current donation drive and why is it so important for the continuance of DAA’s operations?
Denise: DAA works quietly and behind the scenes. Because we play a supporting role, our work does not attract a lot of attention—but we still need funds to do what we do. Donations will support all our activities: developing mentoring sessions with our diaspora partners, for example, or helping us work on conferences or continuing the important policy work we do. We don’t attract funders with a lot of “bells and whistles”, but when all is said and done, we are committed to working with people to make a real difference in the world.
Posted by: Denise Cauchi with Lucas Watt