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.
30 min paper