On 30-31 August 2019, AfREC co-convened the National African-Australian Diaspora Engagement Conference (NAADEC) in partnership with the Organisation of African Communities in WA (OACWA), the Federation of African Communities Councils of Australia (FACCA), the African Think Tank (ATT) and the Pan-African Australasian Diaspora Network (PAADN). The conference was convened at the University of Western Australia as part of the annual national Africa Australia Week in Perth.
The purpose of NAADEC was to explore opportunities, obstacles and mechanisms for deepening links between African-Australian communities, governments (state and Commonwealth), universities and the African Union. The national conference builds upon a related conference on African-Australian Settlement & Integration 2030 convened in Melbourne by ATT and the University of Melbourne in November 2018. One of the key points of discussion at that conference was the need to move beyond state-based discussions to convene a ‘national, Pan-Australian, Pan-African’ conversation on deepening engagement between these sets of stakeholders. It also drew on the work of PAADN, set up to be a bridge between the African Union and the African-Australian diaspora, and a range of other organisations.
The key aims of NAADEC were:
To identify and compare examples of practices of engagement between the sets of key stakeholders across Australia;
To generate publicly-available data on the relevant characteristics of, and relationships between, key stakeholders;
To identify both best practices and areas in which engagement between stakeholders can be improved;
To make recommendations to key stakeholders on mechanisms and practices for enhancing engagement between them;
To create better communication and an ongoing platform for networking and continued engagement between stakeholders beyond the conference;
To attract a wider audience to Perth for national Australia Africa Week, which follows the conference.
Promote the convening of NAADEC 2020 and beyond.
Speakers at NAADEC included representatives of African-Australian community organisations, representatives of Australian state and federal governments, including the WA Police, representatives of African governments, academics, researchers and postgraduate students.
The conference was organised into two days with related but distinct themes. On Day 1, the theme of ‘Engaging African Communities in Australia: Issues, Strategies, Opportunities’ focused on relationships between Africa-Australian community organisations and Australian governments and agencies. Some of the key questions addressed included:
What is the current profile of the African diaspora in Australia and what relevant trends can be identified? What are the key diaspora organisations and who are the main leaders?
What strategies and models to Australian governments and agencies use to engage with African-Australian communities in their respective jurisdictions?
What are the perspectives of African-Australian community organisations and members on their needs, contributions, and these strategies?
What are the obstacles, challenges and opportunities to deepen engagement between stakeholders?
On Day 2, the theme of ‘Development, diplomacy and the diaspora: Deepening engagement between African-Australian communities, the diplomatic corps and the African Union’s Agenda 2063’ focused on the international dimensions of engagement between the African diaspora in Australia, Australian and African diplomats, Australian universities and the African Union’s long-term regional integration and development agenda. Key questions addressed included:
What is the role of the African diaspora in Africa’s development?
How can, and do, African-Australians contribute to African development?
How does the African Union Commission engage with the African diaspora—as the 6th region of Africa—including in Australia?
What is the role of the African diplomatic corps in Australia in facilitating engagement between the diaspora in Australia and the continent?
How can the Australian government utilise the skills, knowledge, networks and resources in the African diaspora to support African development and deepen Australia-Africa international relations?
What community engagement strategies do Australian universities deploy to work with African-Australian communities in their localities, including African-background students?
What are the obstacles, challenges and opportunities to deepening these forms of engagement?
The organisers are now preparing the NAADEC 2019 Outcomes Report, including recommendations to key stakeholders. Associated outputs are also being produced, including a profile and map of African-Australian diaspora organisations in Australia; a profile of Australia-based academics and other researchers working on Australia-Africa themes; and academic publications. The creation of a participant and stakeholder network for ongoing dialogue is also a key product of the conference. It is hoped that NAADEC will become an annual conference and a platform for raising national issues of concern and interest to African-Australian communities. Please check the NAADEC conference website for key outputs in due course.
AfREC would like to sincerely thank all participants, volunteers, organising partners and sponsors, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australia Africa Universities Network.