Councils should be encouraged to partner up to pool financial and human resources, and to tackle issues that effect more than one LGA. For example councils with a high proportion of Muslim-Australians can usefully partner up with councils that are predominantly Anglo-Celtic-Australian. Often the ‘multicultural’ councils are the ones that engage with these issues and the main audience and participants are just Muslim-Australians from that area. Partnerships between councils (for example: Bankstown and Sutherland, or Auburn with Warringah in NSW) should be encouraged.
Local, State and Federal government should put their energies into engaging ‘mainstream’ community groups and charities, as well as ‘everyday’ suburban Anglo-Celtic ‘mums and dads’. There is a need to engage beyond church based organisations to everyday people. There is scope to link into this section of the community through parents involved in schools and Saturday sport, for example.
Further, attention needs to be given to engaging a broader cross-section of Muslim-Australian organisations, especially Arabic speaking communities. The Lebanese Australian community was under represented in the ‘contact’ type activities; yet they are the largest of the Muslim-Australian communities and the target of much of the racism and intercultural tensions.
Sufficient funding for activities needs to be offered, particularly to fund key staff on initiatives. This is particularly so for small, Muslim-Australian volunteer run community organisations, many of whom are already over-stretched. Over reliance on the goodwill of volunteers (of course there is a place for volunteers) can lead to burn-out.
There is a great deal of scope for DIAC to foster partnerships with state, federal and local government agencies, and between government, and the community sector. At present, a good portion of the activities uncovered in this study were reliant on one-off Living in Harmony grant funding.
Related to this, it is recommended that DIAC / LIH consider 3 year funding cycles, perhaps on evaluation for projects that demonstrate some success in the first year. The rationale for this is that often projects are really just ‘finding their feet’ in the first year. Moreover, successful projects need to build on initial momentum and be given time to either gain support for internal funding (in the case of local government) or to link into other forms of support.
Additionally, more assistance could be provided in linking successful projects into further support through other levels of government, or NGOs or similar. Good initiatives happen once then don’t continue.
‘What Works’: Where Should the Funding Emphasis be?
Activities in public spaces are important to capture widest audience. Beaches parks, malls, town squares shopping centres.
Interactive ‘contact’ type initiatives with room for informal social engagement.
Reciprocity and hospitality from both sides is a very important aspect of contact type initiatives. Activities where both sides provide volunteers, food etc are examples.
Sport was a positive means of engaging men. There should be additional attention and focus paid to getting parents (both Muslim and non-Muslim) involved.
Activities that engage men, particularly under represented groups.
Documentaries featuring positive stories of Muslim-Australians seemed to have an impact on the disengaged. There is potential to direct funding to the production of these, perhaps in partnership with Australia Council for the Arts.
However unless these are screened on commercial television, viewing among the target audience is minimal. There are two recommendations on this front. First, work with commercial networks to screen such documentaries during the summer non-ratings period, and second, to screen them in public places such as outdoor malls on large screens.
Free outdoor screenings are an important means of engaging the disengaged. A suitable format would be series of mini-documentaries shown in public places over summer. Many councils and community organisations produce little ‘feel good’ DVDs however little or no attention is paid to distribution, and impact on the TARGET community.
Funding for community based activities should also consider funding an associated media campaign (even involving paid advertising and editorial) to promote the community projects that do happen. As many people are affected by just hearing about these things going on.
‘Transforming conflict’ type activities are needed to tackle anti-social behaviour and help solve inter-racial tensions between young people without resorting to violence.
There is more scope for ‘Helping together’ type activities where Muslim- Australian organisations and individuals work with non-Muslims on joint charitable activities such as raising money for drought affected communities, the homeless or the environment. Such activities can be important in reducing the sense of powerlessness many immigrant communities feel, and tapping into positive ‘hospitality’ sentiments.
Neighbouring & Workplace are key sites for activity funding.
Finally, reliance on small scale community based activities is not enough. These need to work in tandem with public ‘myth busting’ campaigns, and strong political and community leadership promoting a message of peace and tolerance.
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