The Australian National Commission (NatCom) for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is the Australian Government focal point for UNESCO. The NatCom provides expert analysis and policy advice to the Australian Government on UNESCO matters and acts as a point of liaison between government, the community and UNESCO in Australia.
The NatCom also seeks to promote and publicise UNESCO's objectives and programs in the education, the natural sciences, the social and human sciences, culture and communications and information sectors. This report highlights some of the key activities in which the NatCom engaged in 2010-11.
UNESCO Grants Program
In 2011, the NatCom used its small-scale grants program to support four community initiatives promoting UNESCO goals. The grants enabled:
- the Australian Memory of the World Committee to hold a national workshop to strengthen the Australian Memory of the World Committee;
- La Trobe University to hold a regional consultation of key stakeholders to develop the Alliance of Civilizations in Asia Pacific;
- Green Cross Australia’s ‘Green Lane Diary’ project to expand its pilot initiative to empower 14,000 children to respond to environmental change through civic action and education, with linkages to national curriculum; and
- the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival to undertake education and outreach activities to advance and encourage awareness of human rights issues through art and film.
Memory of the World
The NatCom has an ongoing interaction with the Australian Memory of the World Committee (AMWC), whose mandate is to preserve and provide access to valuable archive holdings and library collections. Mr Martin Hadlow (Deputy Chair/Communications and Information) and Dr James Moody (Natural Sciences) have both participated in AMWC strategic planning. Support from the NatCom has also assisted the AMWC to maintain and upgrade its website; improve the nomination process for the Australian Memory of the World Register; respond to directives from UNESCO Paris; and convene and record meetings. Funding was provided to hold a one-day capacity building workshop to strengthen the AWMC and develop strategies for achieving sustainability. In 2011, the National Archives of Australia was honoured with an international award from the UNESCO Memory of the World project, to acknowledge its leading role in digital preservation.
Women in Science and Engineering
The NatCom has raised the profile of women and worked to enhance the participation of women in science and engineering. The NatCom collaborated with UN Women Australia and Science and Technology Australia to convene the inaugural Australia Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Summit at Parliament House on 11 April 2011. Dr Moody was one of the key architects behind this event which brought together more than 150 scientists, engineers, business leaders, research funders, policy makers and media to encourage more young women into engineering, in order to boost productivity and equity. NatCom Chair Ms Anthea Tinney and Ms Chrissy Grant (Culture) also participated in the WISE Summit.
A key outcome of the WISE Summit was that a number of leading national research funders, such as the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health and Medical Council (NHMRC), agreed to changes in how they assess research publications in the grant applications of those with interrupted careers, such as accommodating maternity leave. Other commitments included:
- the Australian Technology Network universities have set a performance target that the number of female staff who teach science, engineering and technology (STE) subjects will be in the same proportion as women employed in STE industries (about 16 per cent);
- the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS), Australia’s peak body for science and technology, has undertaken to work with scientific societies Australia-wide to conduct an audit of practices with a view to increasing the participation of women through best practice; and
- all research leaders agreed to take the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles back to their organisations with a view to adopting them.
Dr Moody also promotes and participates in the selection of L'Oreal Fellowships for Young Women in Science. The one-year Fellowships are intended to help women early in their careers who have shown scientific excellence and leadership potential.
Pacific National Commission for UNESCO Training and Consultations
The Secretary-General represented the Australian National Commission at UNESCO’s Pacific National Commission Training and Consultations in Apia, Samoa, in June 2011. The four day event focused on two key areas: challenges and current issues impacting on Pacific National Commissions; and changes impacting all National Commissions from UNESCO Headquarters. The event provided a useful and effective way for representatives to engage, network, interact and discuss key issues and to explore solutions to obstacles and challenges faced by National Commissions.