Author: Constanza Zehender

After nearly a decade working with Diaspora Action Australia (DAA), our Executive Director and Co-Founder Denise Cauchi has decided to leave her position and open a new chapter in her life. Advocate, diplomat, leader, mentor, teacher, supporter, protestor, questioner, confidante, are some of the words that many may use to describe Denise. Her charming and engaging personality, her colourful and vibrant appearance, and her immense zest for life brightened up our office days. You’ll be missed dearly by all of us, Denise!

Having engaged in activism for the majority of her life, she has worked for different organisations and NGOs, including Oxfam, in countries such as Spain, Colombia, Timor-Leste or India. However, it was at Oxfam where Brendan Ross had the idea that would end up changing the life of so many members of diaspora communities all across Victoria. He brought his two co-workers Denise and Grant Mitchell on board and it all went from there.

“I was amazed by the depth and thoughtfulness of Denise’s leadership”, remembers Beth Eggleston, former board member and Oxfam co-worker. “When I was on the board she ‘managed up’ very effectively, providing an easy path to making decisions for choices that were anything but easy. Her ability to manage a diverse volunteer base, be the champion for smaller NGOs at the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), and manage large events like the Diasporas in Action conference was just so impressive. I have learned from her that you can be principled and passionate while being innovative and having fun at the same time.”

Diaspora Action Australia has provided opportunities to countless people wanting to find a new purpose in life or to gain experience in the industry. Such was the case for former Volunteer Coordinator Nicky Reiss, who met Denise back in 2012.
“I met Denise for the first time in January 2012 when I was interviewing for the position of Volunteer Coordinator.” Nicky, back then, was recovering from a major illness that led her to be out of the workforce for years and, furthermore, had just freshly migrated to Australia. “She was taking a chance on me and I’ll always be grateful for that,” says Nicky. “Denise respects the knowledge and experience of people of all age groups at a time when few others do. That is a wonderful attitude to have. The most valuable lesson I learned from working with her was the importance of a clear focus and the ability to say no. An organisation like DAA receives many requests for assistance and collaboration from the wider world of refugee involvement. However, she knew the importance of defining DAA’s objectives clearly and then sticking to them. This effective approach enabled DAA to use its resources in an efficient way.”

Denise, you have been the pillar of this organisation from the very beginning and the work that you have done is worth all admiration and praise. From all of us here at DAA, we thank you for your dedication and hard work, and wish you all the best on your future adventures. We all know that wherever you go, and whatever projects you’ll take on, you will always find success and bring joy to those around you. We’re all looking forward to hearing what your future has in store for you.

As Sandra Chestnutt, former Community Engagement Coordinator, puts it: “You’re finally leaving us, and you’re finally making your journey to the next phase of your life and it’s about bloody time.”