Author: Mirjam Keller

David Nyuol Vincent, Director of Peace Palette, was one of three facilitators at Diaspora Learning Network’s (DLN) Peacebuilding and Reconciliation seminar held on 24th February at the University of Melbourne. Speaking about how real change can be effected in their countries of origin, David went on to say that “it’s crucial to get credibility in a very complex political surrounding. We must have a very clear agenda and focus area.”

Along with Jeremy Liyanage, Director of Bridging Lanka, and Sitarah Mohammadi, Monash University student and Hazara Community Advocate in Melbourne, they shared personal experiences with representatives from academia, government agencies and NGOs, all coming together to discuss policy and practice implications of diaspora activity and how best to support them in their work towards peace and reconciliation.

The room was buzzing with stories of hands-on experiences and insights about how diasporas contribute to positive change in their country of origin. One point that everybody agreed on was that diaspora initiatives enjoy increased recognition, particularly by governments, but still do not posses the legitimacy of bigger actors. This also translates into funding. A way to approach this issue is by forming partnerships and working across different diasporas. Inclusivity is important to bring matters to a broader audience.

The importance of the younger generation was also a central topic. Having been raised in Australia, they bring a unique understanding to the table, including the ability to translate between two cultures. Sitarah explains: “It’s hard for my parents to assimilate, for example, because they cannot speak the language. Me on the other hand, I’m very much involved and a part of the community. I speak and think like an Australian. I’m between two different cultures, where I have to understand my parents mindset as well
as the Australian one.”

Events like the DLN seminar provide a common ground to facilitate dialogue and to share knowledge, and hopefully, encourage fruitful collaborations in the future. The aim of this forum was to inform policy development and understand and recognise the role of diasporas in peacebuilding and reconciliation.
We would like to thank everyone involved for this fruitful session and we are already looking forward to the next DLN event about how diasporas help in time of crisis on 7 April 2018 in Sydney.

The event was sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs and supported by the University of Melbourne.