National Conference on Reconciliation, Multiculturalism,Immigration and Human Rights

Cristina Pebaque
Community Advocate

Community Advocacy, at the Heart of Diversity

A healthy democracy should be able to sustain vigorous criticism. Public policy without community input is flawed, precisely because government is not in a position to assess what works and does not on the ground. Community based organisations have traditionally played a very important role in informing public policy and in advocating for changes that would deliver a fairer outcome for those who are disadvantaged. Equity, integration, equality, those principles which are imbued in public policy and often embraced by political leaders on both sides of the political spectrum, can not be translated into tangible outcomes without ongoing dialogue and a willingness to negotiate. When it comes to settlement and ethnic affairs policy development this healthy exchange of ideas and vigorous debate has come to a halt. Governments are not in a position to do the job of the community sector. We are here for a reason and there are many reasons why we should remain. But to be effective we need to be able to operate free of fear and of political interference and intimidation. Just as we can't manage diversity successfully from an ethnocentric core, nor can we have a robust and healthy democracy if we live in fear. Community based organisations are a legitimate voice for those who can't or won't speak for themselves for fear of persecution. If we as a society are serious about democratic and liberal principles and values then we must be mature enough to demand a rightful place for dissent and opposition, and a legitimate role in this area for the community sector.

Over the last 15 years Cristina has worked as a community advocate in the settlement and ethnic affairs field. Overtime she has managed a number of community based organisations including two Migrant Resource Centres and a Community Legal Centre. Cristina has been an advocate on social justice particularly in relation to migrant and refugee issues, women and older people from non English speaking backgrounds. She has been an active member of a range of state and federal advisory committees, community based management and a number of voluntary positions. She holds a Social Sciences degree from UTS.

Presentation Type
30 min paper

University of Technology, Sydney, 1-2 December 2000

Papers & Workshops