Engagement with Local Government

Professor Camilleri has been actively engaged with local government over a period of 25 years. He has frequently spoken at municipal functions, provided advice to local government projects in interfaith and intercultural relations, assisted with community consultations, conducted focus groups, and made a number of submissions for future engagement. What follows is an outline of the some of the highlights of that engagement over the last decade.

Darebin Council

In 2016 Professor Camilleri, in his capacity as Managing Director of Alexandria Agenda, was commissioned by the City of Darebin to design and conduct a dialogue regarding the proposal to erect a community monument for the victims of genocide and genocidal acts. The decision of the Council to support the request of the Darebin Ethnic Communities Council was challenged by two community organisations: the Australia Turkish Advocacy Alliance and the Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights for Sri Lanka Inc (SPUR).

The roundtable meeting brought together Councillors, representatives from Darebin Ethnic Communities Council and the two groups as a way of promoting dialogue, exchanging ideas, and finding the most constructive way of approaching this project. Following the roundtable, the Council was able to reach an informed decision. Eventually the project went ahead without any further public expressions of discontent. Professor Camilleri was invited to chair the launch of the event in July 2016, which included a number of speakers, a traditional smoking ceremony and the placement of candles, incense sticks and flowers by faith leaders and other dignitaries.

Developing the Infrastructure for Locally Based Inter-Faith and Inter-Cultural Dialogue

This three-year ARC linkage project (2007-2010) partnered the Centre for Dialogue with five adjacent municipal councils (Banyule, Darebin, Hume, Moreland and Whittlesea), with each council contributing $15,000 to the project. A number of religious and ethnic community organisations gave in kind support: Australian Multicultural Foundation, Buddhist Council of Victoria, Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria, Islamic Council of Victoria, Jewish Council of Victoria, Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre, Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania - Commission for Mission, Victorian Council of Churches.

Commencing in 2007, the project explored the application of interfaith and intercultural dialogue to the needs and circumstances of Melbourne’s northern suburbs, a region of considerable ethnic and religious diversity. The project was developed jointly by Centre for Dialogue staff and staff form each of the five councils. A steering committee, comprising representatives of all six bodies was formed at the beginning of the project, and met regularly for the duration of the project.

The project involved the following tasks:

•  Surveyed initiatives in Australia in recent years in the area of interfaith/intercultural dialogue, and identified key strengths and weaknesses.

•  Undertook a concise review of international discourse and practice in interfaith/intercultural dialogue (in selected Western countries with substantial religious minorities), highlighting objectives, strategies and outcomes that had relevance for Australia, and in particular for local government.

•  Designed a pilot scheme taking in the northern region of Melbourne with the support of the Victorian Government and the active involvement of all five municipalities.

•  Monitored and evaluated the pilot scheme, provided partner organisations with relevant information, advice, and formulated findings and recommendations for the future development of the method, practice and pedagogy of dialogue in the northern region of Melbourne (and possible applications to other parts of Victoria and beyond).

Following wide-ranging community consultation, and with the support of the five Councils, a decision was made in March 2011 to establish the Northern Interfaith and Intercultural Network, taking in the communities covered by the five municipalities. This was the first major regional interfaith network established in Australia.

Building Bridges across Faiths and Cultures in Melbourne’s Northern Region was sponsored by the Northern Interfaith/Intercultural Network in association with Darebin City Council, Moreland City Council, Whittlesea City Council, Banyule City Council and Hume City Council. The Centre conducted a workshop series over three weeks in October 2010. The aim was to skill, inform and motivate members of the local community interested in strengthening interfaith and intercultural cooperation in the region. The workshops focused on techniques for dialogue facilitation and crisis management.

The format involved a blend of lectures, Q&A sessions, a hypothetical, guest interviews and panel discussions. Participants were organised into three smaller groups facilitate – both during the workshops and informally in-between workshops – conversation, exchange of information, ideas and resources, and on-going evaluation of the program’s effectiveness.

Maribyrnong-Brimbank Interfaith Dialogue Workshops (2009-2010). The Centre for Dialogue was commissioned by the Maribyrnong and Brimbank councils to plan and facilitate four interactive community-based interfaith workshops: 1) Introduction to Interfaith Dialogue; 2) Community Issues/Opportunities and Other Network Models; 3) Preferred Model for Maribyrnong-Brimbank’; 4) Towards a Maribyrnong-Brimbank Interfaith Network. Subsequent to these workshops, the Maribyrnong-Brimbank Interfaith Network was formally established.