Conference Abstracts and Biographical Notes A – C

Social Diversity and Harmony Conference Cover

In 2007, the Shepparton Interfaith Network in conjunction with Latrobe University conducted Cultural Diversity and Social Harmony - The Goulburn Valley Experience at Eastbank Centre, Shepparton. Speaker bio's and Conference abstracts are given.




The following contains Speaker bios, Conference abstracts, and where permission has been granted, links to speaker talks and presentations. This page has abstracts A - C.

Conference abstracts and biographical notes

Bhat, Ravi, Reflections of an overseas trained psychiatrist

Social capital has been defined as social networks and associated norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness (Putnam, 2007). Recent research suggests that, at least in the short to mid-term, immigration and ethnic diversity tends to reduce social capital such as trust, even in one's own race, along with reductions in altruism and community cooperation (Putnam, 2007). Studies from Australia, while providing general confirmation to this finding, find that at least in Australia linguistic diversity appears to be more strongly correlated with reduced trust than ethnic diversity (Leigh, 2006). Despite such negative findings Putnam (2007) suggests that in the long term these effects are modifiable through increasing opportunities for socially and linguistically more meaningful interactions between people from different ethnic backgrounds. This presentation will reflect on the meaningful personal interactions in Shepparton that have played a major role in this professional's decision to call Shepparton home.

Dr Ravi Bhat comes from the ethnically, religiously and linguistically diverse India. After completing training in medicine in his home state of Karnataka and deciding that psychiatry was his calling, he trained initially at Christian Medical College (CMe) in southern India and then Central Institute of Psychiatry in northern India. Ravi came to Australia in 1999 with his wife and then 2 year-old son to begin work at Goulburn Valley Area Mental Health Service (GVAMHS). In 2003 he completed further training in Old Age Psychiatry under the inimitable Prof. Ed Chiu. Since 2004 he has been Acting Clinical Director for GVAMHS and Associated Professor in Psychiatry with the School of Rural Health, University of Melbourne.

Ravi is deeply interested in complexity and the complex psychiatric conditions that affect older people and the services that are needed to help them. He is married to Yasmin, a clinical psychologist by training and mother by trade and has two wonderful sons, Aaron Siddharth & Aditya Ryan both of whom go to school locally.

Briggs, Daniel and Porter, Gordon, Koori Court: a culturally attuned justice system

This presentation will discuss the Victorian Koori Court model, explaining how and why it was established, some of the hurdles and challenges it has faced and share some of the successes and benefits of participating in such a model.

Whilst still operating within the realms of the Magistrates' Court, the Koori Court benefits from the involvement of senior Indigenous community members in the sentencing process and allowing defendants to share their journey with the court. Its strength lies in its recognition that Indigenous culture can have a place in the justice system and has contributed to greater successes than the tangible positive statistics that are easily measured.

Daniel Briggs is a Yorta Yorta man from the Goulburn Valley region of Victoria. He was the inaugural Aboriginal Justice Officer, Shepparton Koori Court, North-East Victoria and is currently an undergraduate law student at Deakin University. Daniel has a background in the mental health field where he has been employed for a number of years, working with and delivering culturally appropriate health related services to the Indigenous community.

Sergeant Gordon Porter is the Officer in Charge of Region 3 Division 4 (Goulburn Murray) Prosecutions Office. He is a member of the Victoria Police Force with over 25 years service, 21 of which as a police prosecutor. Gordon was the inaugural prosecutor for the Koori Court and facilitates the moot court training for new Koori Courts as they are established. He is an undergraduate law student with Deakin University, the immediate past Chair of the International Police Association Victorian Region, Chair of the Voice for Harmony group in Shepparton and tribunal member for the North East Soccer League.

Bryant, Rob, The dangers of dependency

Rob Bryant is an Executive Director of Money3 Corporation Limited and involved in other agricultural activities in the region. With his wife Trish he has been involved with refugees for about 6 years and has many friends amongst them.

Their political activism was born out of the disastrous TAMPA situation and the lies that were being told by politicians including our own.

Cahill, Desmond, Quality community leadership in multicultural and interfaith Australia

In a world impacted by the various global processes, including world population movements, the creation of global diasporas and the rise of religious fundamentalisms, Australia's ethnic and religious leaders are under greater scrutiny and accountability. In his paper, Professor Cahill will examine Australia's changing ethnic profile and then its changing religious profile in relation to the changes in religion across the world, including religiously-inspired terrorism. The paper will also look at local and ethnic community leadership in the context of a more globalized and multifaith Australia and suggest directions for the future, including the repositioning of the relationship between religion and state and the staging of the 2009 Melbourne Parliament of the World's Religions.

Professor Desmond Cahill was born in Bendigo and as a child, lived for a brief period in Tatura. Subsequently educated in Melbourne and Italy, he is now Professor of Intercultural Studies at RMIT University and has been one of Australia's leading researchers in immigrant and multicultural studies for more than three decades. He has led major projects at the highest level of government, including the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Since the events of September 11th 2001, he has played a major role in researching and bringing together the various faith communities in Australia. With Monash's Professor Gary Bouma, he was commissioned by the Australian government after 9/11 to examine its implications in Religion, Cultural Diversity and Safeguarding Australia (2004). He currently chairs the Australian chapter of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP), and represents Australia on the Asian Conference of Religion and Peace (ACRP). He was the leader of Melbourne's successful bid to stage in early December 2009 the forthcoming Parliament of the World's Religions, the world's largest interfaith gathering. He is also a member of the Victoria Police Multifaith Advisory Council. He has been made an honorary fellow of the Australian Council of Educational Leaders for his work in immigrant, cross-cultural, interfaith and international education, and was recently appointed as an Ambassador for Melbourne.

Carrington, Kerry, and Marshall, Neil, Building social capital for cultural diversity in Shepparton

During 2006 the Centre for Applied Research in Social Science at the University of New England completed a major research project commissioned by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. The results of the project, The Social Costs and Benefits of Migration into Australia (2007), involves an assessment of the social impact of migrants in Australia. As part of the broader analysis undertaken by the Centre, Carrington and Marshall conducted case studies of four regional areas (Shepparton, Toowoomba, Darebin and South Brisbane) which had recently experienced large influxes of migrants. One of the objectives of the case studies was to determine the extent to which these regions had evolved into effective multicultural communities. Of the four, Shepparton proved to be by far the most successful in terms of having developed a functional and productive multicultural milieu. This paper discusses our findings from the Shepparton case study. The analysis examines the quality of the multicultural environment in Shepparton in comparison with the other three regions. We draw on theories of social capital to explain how Shepparton has achieved such positive outcomes. It is argued that cultural diversity in the region emerged from extensive, grass roots networks of bridging social capital, built up over a long period of time. We conclude that Shepparton can further extend its success in this arena by strengthening its institutional capital.

Professor Kerry Carrington is a founder of the Centre for Applied Research in Social Science at the University of New England. She has worked extensively in the areas of juvenile justice, youth culture and female delinquency and violence in rural Australia. She has a particular research interest in the experiences of victims in the criminal justice system, the prevention of sexual violence and -cornrnunity crime. During her time as a senior researcher for the Australian Parliament she broadened her research interests to include a range of social policy issues, such as gender and higher education, domestic violence, immigration crime & border control, trafficking and the sex industry. More recently she has conducted studies into cultural diversity and is co-editor of The Social Costs and Benefits of Migration into Australia (DIAC 2007).

Associate Professor Neil Marshall is a member of the Centre for Applied Research in Social Science at the University of New England. He has published in the areas of Australian public policy and politics, and has a particular interest in local government and rural issues. Recent activity has focused on social capital building in regional centres, and fostering successful multicultural communities. He co-authored several chapters in The Social Costs and Benefits of Migration into Australia (DIAC 2007).

Casey, Sue, Refugee settlement in regional Victoria: what are the factors that lead to successful sustainable settlement?

In 2006-07, over 7‰ of newly arriving humanitarian entrants to Victoria settled directly in rural and regional areas. In addition, there has been significant resettlement as people seek out work, affordable housing and country life. There are now some eleven regional locations where newly arriving individuals and families from refugee backgrounds are settling.

This presentation will provide an overview of current regional settlement and the factors that have contributed to this trend. Sue will then explore the elements that appear to be contributing to successful sustainable settlement as people of a refugee background are staying on and making regional towns and centres home, with a particular emphasis on the health and wellbeing needs of people of a refugee background, and health and community services development.

Sue Casey is the Health Sector Development Manager at the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture at Foundation House. Foundation House is a politically independent non-profit organisation. It provides services and support for adults and children from any country who have fled persecution, torture and war-related trauma to find safety in Australia. It was established in 1987. Sue's role at Foundation House includes rural and regional service development and responsibility for the establishment of the Victorian Refugee Health Network. The purpose of the Network is to bring together key stakeholders to work to build the capacity of the health sector to provide more accessible and appropriate services for people of a refugee background.

Sue brings to this role over twenty years experience in social policy and direct service delivery. She has a particular interest in service system reform and development. Her previous work with the Victorian Department of Human Services included multicultural policy and the development of the Victorian Refugee Health and Wellbeing Action Plan. She has worked in senior social policy roles in both State and local government sectors.

Cobbledick, Julie, Changing our School Plan to reflect our changing school population

Our school population has changed over the past five years with many children enrolling from schools and countries around the world. We have over 20 different cultural backgrounds in our school community. In more recent times this has included a number of New Arrival children with non English speaking backgrounds from refugee situations. We currently have 26 children in our New Arrival Program. The enrichment for our school community has been beautiful to witness. We have had to work through many challenges to ensure that we are inclusive for all. These include changes to enrolment applications forms, emphasis on Harmony Day, acknowledging the home lands of all children through quilt making, being aware of languages, geographic locations of countries just to name a few. Our multicultural school community has also ensured that we have a deeper understanding of our own Indigenous culture and history.

Julie Cobbledick holds a Diploma of Primary Teaching, Bachelor of Education and Graduate Diploma in Student Welfare. Employed in Catholic Education for 26 years she has been principal of St Brendan's Primary School Shepparton since 1995. Julie's strong leadership skills have been acknowledged in her selection to participate in a 2004 Senior Leaders of Education Study Tour to Boston, Washington and Toronto and the 2006 Dare to Lead Cultural Tour to Titjikala (Northern Territory).

As Principal of St Brendan's, Julie made a significant contribution to the settlement programme for the newly arrived Congolese refugee community in Shepparton in 2005, culminating in a remarkable trip to Kenya in October 2006 to assist with a family reunion. She is currently working towards a Master of Educational Leadership.

Cumming, Bruce, Pandher, Malwinder Singh and Read, John, Working with CALD farmers in Shepparton East against salinity: past achievements and future challenges

Shepparton East is 8000 Hectares prime horticultural area east of Shepparton. More than 250 fruit growers grow fruit in this area out of which more than 80‰ are from non-English speaking background including Italian, Greek, Macedonian, Albanian, Punjabi. Indian Punjabi growers are the latest entrants in the area and all are first generation migrants. In 1980s more than 100,000 stone fruit trees died in the area in a short span of time and many more became sick. Rising saline water tables were found to be main reason for these tree deaths. Salinity was posing a grave threat to the long term sustainability and economic viability of small ethnic growers in the area.

The Ethnic Council became very concerned about the plight of predominantly ethnic farmers in the area, whose very survival was at stake and started dialogue with state Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) to meet this challenge. East Shepparton Landcare Group (ESLG) was also born in response to this natural calamity. In 1992 ESLG, the Ethnic Council and DNRE started the "Ethnic Access Salinity Project" in the area. This paper discusses how this project empowered the diverse community in the area to achieve sustainable fruit growing outcomes by overcoming cultural barriers to adoption and participation. It discusses the past achievements and future challenges of this small but important work with huge social implications.

Bruce Cumming works in the Dept of Primary Industries and leads a comprehensive programme which delivers catchment management across the Shepparton Irrigation Region.

Bruce commenced targeted work with the CALD communities around Shepparton in 1992 working closely with the Ethnic Council of Sheppparton and District. Together they worked with local communities, groups and agencies to develop and deliver processes to address the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse communities. The focus was to help people deal with environmental threats including salinity and raising groundwater.

Bruce was instrumental in developing innovative ways to deliver more inclusive partnership methods at local and state levels.

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