The Australian Senate’s Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade References Committee has issued its Report of February 2021 in response to written submissions made to its inquiry on issues facing diaspora communities.
The United Macedonian Diaspora Australia (UMD) lodged a submission on behalf of the Macedonian community in July 2020.
UMD Australia Director, Vera Sekulovska, was invited to give evidence to the inquiry and appeared before the Senate on 6 November 2020.
The support for diaspora communities is outlined in the Report, in the form of 18 recommendations. Many of the proposals raised in the UMD submission are covered in the recommendations, including:
• All levels of government develop more meaningful ways to recognise and celebrate the positive contributions of diaspora communities to Australia’s rich multicultural society.
This proposal is especially important for the Macedonian community to have its standing in Australian society formally recognised and its Macedonian heritage celebrated in the face of ongoing challenges. If implemented properly, this recommendation would provide for a more inclusive future that encourages Macedonian Australians to maintain a connection to their identity, language, and culture and to protect them from external vulnerabilities.
• Government departments ensure they do not exclude or disadvantage small or new community organisations from grants, and that current support be improved including translation resources and online training.
There are many small Macedonian community organisations and groups that will benefit from an improved government grant process and greater resources.
• The development of a new national anti-racism framework and other related initiatives with consultation and focus on diaspora communities.
UMD welcomes anti-racism initiatives in Australia and in the evidence before the Senate, the prejudice that Macedonian Australians face because of the way they choose to self-identify was raised.
• Enhancing knowledge, understanding and cultural awareness at government and public service level of diaspora communities, by consultation with representative bodies. Further, the government develop guidance for communications tailored to diaspora groups covering language, cultural sensitivity and modes of delivery.
Specific to the Macedonian diaspora, the UMD submission sought that government/public officials communicate with our community in an informed and culturally sensitive way due to vulnerabilities on fundamental matters such as identity and culture. This recommendation provides scope for government policy measures to be implemented raising awareness of the identity of members of the Macedonian community. Such measures would build respect between the government and the Macedonian diaspora.
• The government consider establishing a single point of contact for diaspora communities and review its approach to engaging with these communities and their organisations. In addition, the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade develop an internal policy to make diaspora community consultation a systematic element in its policy development processes.
UMD has called for greater diaspora collaboration and consultation with the government to harness existing knowledge and connections for the benefit of the government and the community.
• The government support the attendance and participation of active diaspora-based organisations in intergovernmental dialogue and debate on relevant topics.
This recommendation is particularly relevant to diaspora organisations like UMD which would be given a seat at the table and a voice on matters relevant to the Macedonian community.
UMD Director, Vera Sekulovska states:
“Consistent with the recommendations for greater government collaboration with diaspora communities and organisations, UMD is prepared to meet with the Senators that issued the Report and to engage with them proactively.
We would like to ensure that the recommendations are implemented into appropriate policies that will benefit the diaspora communities, as intended.
We are available to discuss how our own UMD submission for the Macedonian diaspora links with the Senate recommendations, and how to practically achieve positive outcomes for our community.”
Would you like to join the UMD Australia team and get involved in our important work? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Natalie Sekulovska.