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5 October 2011
President Jorge Sampaio, the United Nation's High Representative for the Alliance of Civilisations and Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, will put Australia front and centre of debate on one of the world's hottest issues - building a society where people feel included - at Australia's first UN Forum on Social Inclusion. (October 6 and 7)
The forum has been brought to Melbourne by Deakin University's Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation, the Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria (ECCV), the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), the Australian Multicultural Foundation of Australia (AMF), the Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC), the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), Darebin City Council and many other state and commonwealth agencies.
For Forum convenor, and Deakin University's Director, Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation, Professor Fethi Mansouri the pre forum briefing featuring President Sampaio and Mr Rudd on the Thursday (October 6) is a highlight of a personal quest to improve social integration and intercultural understanding both nationally and internationally.
Professor Mansouri said their involvement and that of other political leaders, civil society organisations and leading scholars underscored how important inclusion is as a world issue.
"Australia, and Melbourne in particular, has one of the highest levels of diversity in the world and broadly has managed the issue of migration, multiculturalism and cultural diversity much better than other countries.
"But we still have a long way to go before we have a truly inclusive society where absolutely no one is excluded because of their cultural or religious background but we need to be at the forefront of debates and policy developments on social inclusion in the right way, not least to ensure that we showcase to the rest of the world the unique characteristics of our migrant integration policies but also so we can see where we need to improve."
Professor Mansouri said the pre forum briefing would draw attention to how Australia is engaging with the United Nations agenda and its various objectives around social inclusion.
"The Forum proper on Friday, on the other hand, is about practice, the doing and living of diversity and demonstrating what policies are currently being pursued towards building inclusive societies," he said.
"When I was in Doha earlier this year some of the most powerful ideas and recommendations came from grassroots practitioners with first-hand experience of what it means to operate in culturally pluralist societies where resources and information are not always easily accessible.
"The Melbourne forum will be just as powerful.
"Cultural recognition and social inclusion in Melbourne and in Australia and the strength of what is termed multiculturalism is derived from the people who carry it and practice it in their every day lives.
"It will be this vibrancy and energy that President Sampaio will be exposed to."
Professor Mansouri said President Sampaio, Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Senator Kate Lundy, Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, Nicholas Kotsiras, the Chair of the Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria, Mr Sam Afra and the Vice-Chancellor of Deakin University Professor Jane den Hollander would lead discussions in a panel presentation on the Friday.
The forum would then host two panels, one looking at what organisations such as the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and Universities were doing to promote inclusion, while the other panel would examine the role of religion and the challenges of interfaith dialogue and social inclusion in a society comprised of people from numerous different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
"Our conversation on inclusion needs to start with the next generation of Australians, our youth and educational institutions it is for this reason later sessions on Friday will specifically focus on the work being done in education, at local government level, in youth organisations and within the media."
Professor Mansouri said the Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Senator Kate Lundy and President Sampaio would also launch the Building Inclusive Societies (IBIS) website.
The website developed jointly by the UNAOC and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), gathers a worldwide community of policy makers, practitioners and civil society activists who work together to improve relations among migrants and host communities.
The site features ideas and innovative projects from around the world - highlighting successful models and inspiring new initiatives- and is a tool for sharing resources.
It also illustrates the positive impact of migration and the benefits it can bring to host societies, as migrants contribute to the economic, cultural and social life of their new country.
Deakin Media Relations
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