Workshop for Australia Awards scholars
DLP’s Senior Research Partner Chris Roche and Research Fellow Gillian Fletcher, with their La Trobe University colleague Professor Dennis Altman, ran an interactive workshop with more than 275 new and departing Colombo Plan and Australia Awards scholars in Melbourne at the end of June 2015.
The Australia Awards are international scholarships and fellowships funded by the Australian Government. They offer the next generation of global leaders an opportunity to undertake study, research and professional development in Australia. The workshop was part of a day-long 'Welcome and Farewell to Victorian awardees' program organised by DFAT.
More than 30 countries were represented at the workshop, from nations as diverse as Jamaica and Afghanistan. The list of the scholars’ study areas was similarly diverse, ranging from agriculture and fisheries to economic growth, food security, water and sanitation, and regional stability.
Participants were asked to consider what, for them, was the burning issue in international development. Sustainability was talked about by almost everyone and climate change was an issue raised by many of the Pasifika participants. Other topics included corruption, employment, peace, security, and health. A group of Muslim women debated how to negotiate the tensions between issues of gender and sexuality and local culture and tradition. Scholars from Africa and Asia discussed how to best promote South-to-South learning.
Responding to the questions raised, Dennis, Chris and Gillian discussed: the sheer complexity of international development and aid; the inevitably partial nature of all responses; the importance of paying attention to processes (including processes of engagement, evaluation, critical thinking and learning); and of paying attention to power and hierarchies of knowledge by asking questions such as whose knowledge counts, and who gets to decide?
On a light-hearted note, the scholars were also asked to have a go at a practical exercise in creativity and teamwork – the marshmallow challenge. The aim is to make the highest possible free-standing structure from sticks, string and tape, with a marshmallow at the top. ‘It’s an exercise in collaboration rather than technical expertise,’ said Chris. ‘I am happy to report that the politics group beat the engineers.’
Image, top: The Mural Hall at the Myer Building, Melbourne, where the workshop was held