The Australian National Commission (NatCom) for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) comprises 17 board members drawn from the community, Parliament and federal government agencies. Under its Charter, the NatCom serves as a focal point for UNESCO matters in Australia. Its mission is to assist with the development and delivery of UNESCO-related programs, to offer advice to the Government on UNESCO issues, and to support UNESCO priorities in Australia and the broader Asia-Pacific region.
The NatCom has played an active role to further core UNESCO objectives in the areas of communication and information, education, natural sciences, culture and social and human sciences. This report highlights some of the NatCom's key activities in the 2012-13 financial year.
The NatCom joined 13 other Pacific NatComs at a UNESCO subregional seminar in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on 14-16 May 2013. The NatCom's Secretary-General represented Australia at the seminar which served two main functions. First, the seminar aimed to build the capacity of regional NatComs by providing training and offering an opportunity to share lessons about best practices. Secondly, it provided a forum for Pacific NatComs to prepare for the UNESCO General Conference scheduled in Paris on 5-20 November 2013. We took advantage of the consultations to underscore the importance of UNESCO's work in education, world heritage, higher education qualification recognition, oceans, cultural diversity and anti-doping in sport, and supported Pacific partners' calls for further UNESCO funding support.
The NatCom's small-scale grants program has been an effective tool through which to promote UNESCO objectives. The program, which drew on $80,000 (excl. GST) in International Relations Grant Program funding, has also served to raise Australia's profile by ensuring Australian ideas and expertise contribute to UNESCO's programs.
In 2012-13, the NatCom allocated funding to support a record ten projects:
- the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Committee (AMWC) was allocated $15,000 (not subject to GST) to foster universal access to information and knowledge in Australia, furthering key objectives under UNESCO's communication and information program. Thanks to AMWC, Australia plays a leading role to preserve and provide access to valuable library and archive holdings;
- Green Cross Australia was awarded $8,800 (incl. GST) to conduct the Green Lane Diary project. Green Lane Diary initiatives have proved a highly effective vehicle in promoting education for sustainable development, furthering a key objective under UNESCO's education program;
- Ricardo Peach Pty Ltd was allocated $8,000 (not subject to GST) to carry out the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (DICE) Promotion Initiative. The project directly furthers objectives under UNESCO's culture program by working to boost the number of regional signatories to the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of DICE through the regional promotion of culturally-diverse Australian art projects linked to the 2005 Convention;
- Friends of the Earth Brisbane was allocated $8,450 (incl. GST) to conduct climate advocacy with and for Torres Strait Islands communities. The project seeks to inform government assistance and raise awareness about climate change issues in the Torres Strait. It furthers objectives under UNESCO's culture, natural sciences and education programs, safeguarding cultural heritage and diversity, mobilising science to mitigate climate change impact and supporting education system responses to contemporary challenges;
- the University of Sydney was allocated $7,050 (inc. GST) to promote a human rights based approach to sustainable conservation and natural resource management in the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve, Cambodia. The project aims to inform best-practice policy formulation in sustainable conservation and natural resource management in Southeast Asia. The project's two-fold focus on the preservation of natural heritage and strengthening national social science research capacity furthers objectives under both UNESCO's culture and social and human sciences programs;
- Tara Ed Incorporated was allocated $4,500 (not subject to GST) to conduct the Tara.Ed Teacher Tour project which aims to build the professional capacity of rural Indian teachers and boost school completion numbers in India. Not only does the project support education in developing countries, but by using Australian teachers to conduct the training, it seeks to promote intercultural dialogue.
- A Fairer World was allocated $5,500 (incl. GST) to organise the Fairer World Festival in Hobart and Launceston on 2-6 September 2013. This youth action event furthers UNESCO objectives in the fields of culture and education by helping to inspire 1,400 Tasmanian school students (and their teachers) to learn, connect and act for social justice, peace and a sustainable world future. The Festival intends to explore UN-related themes such as the UN Millennium Development Goals and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through keynote speakers, interactive workshops, expos and other social activities.
- the Australian Human Rights Centre (University of NSW) was awarded $4,840 (including GST) to arrange the Intersecting Heritage and Human Rights Workshop. The project expects to promote UNESCO priorities under the culture and social and human sciences programs by running this multi-disciplinary workshop to explore the intersections between human rights, heritage and culture through a series of case studies presented by experts in the field from around Australia. The workshop expects to involve academics, industry and field experts and to generate discussion papers which will foster greater understanding of the role of heritage in promoting social cohesion and dialogue, and enhance best practices in the field;
- the YMCA Youth Drop in Centre in Palmerston, Northern Territory, received $12,739.99 (including GST) to enable five Indigenous youth to travel to Vietnam and engage with local school children. The Indigenous youth plan to contribute to promote education and intercultural dialogue in Vietnam through the delivery of English lessons, sharing cultural exchanges (song and dance) and assisting with the development and restoration of a local school building. The project is expected to foster the Indigenous youth's leadership skills and pride in their heritage; promote cross-cultural sensitivity and awareness; and improve the Vietnamese children's English skills and their physical learning environment;
- Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS (YEAH) was awarded $11,493.11 (including GST) to create an "online peer education communication and knowledge hub" to equip young Australians and those who work with them with comprehensive age appropriate sexual health advice, as recommended by UNESCO's International Guidelines on Sexuality Education 2009. The project hopes to maximise the reach, impact and sustainability of YEAH's existing national peer education program by extending its scope to youth from regional and remote Australia who are particularly at risk.
New Australian UNESCO University Chair
The NatCom was pleased to support the launch of a new UNESCO Chair at Deakin University in mid-2013. The Chair in Comparative Research on Cultural Diversity and Social Justice, which was endorsed by the NatCom in 2012, is held by Professor Fethi Mansouri, Director, Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University. The new Chair will help promote an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation, and facilitate collaboration of high-level researchers, in the cultural diversity and social justice spheres.
UNESCO-L'Oreal Fellowships for Young Women in Life Sciences
The NatCom was pleased to continue its tradition of supporting Australian women in science through the UNESCO-L'Oreal International Fellowships for Young Women in Life Sciences. The NatCom helped to advertise the Fellowships on its website and endorsed relevant Australian candidates who applied. While Australia was not awarded any Fellowships this year, Australian women continue to set high standards in science, including Australian Professor Ingrid Scheffer, who was awarded the prestigious L'Oreal-UNESCO Awards in Life Sciences for the Asia-Pacific in 2012.
MOST Scientific Advisory Committee
The NatCom was pleased to contribute to Australia's international engagement on social sciences. In August 2012, the NatCom nominated two Australian candidates to UNESCO's Intergovernmental Social Science Programme "Management of Social Transformations" (MOST) Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). We were pleased that one of Australia's candidates, Dr Michael Woolcock, Lead Social Development Specialist in the Development Research Group at the World Bank and Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, was appointed to the SAC.
MOST was established in 1994 and works principally to transfer relevant social sciences research findings and data to decision-makers and other relevant stakeholders. The SAC functions as a permanent committee, offering guidance on programme conceptualisation, strategy development and scientific advisory research regarding MOST projects.
The NatCom was pleased to raise Australia's international profile under UNESCO's engineering program by lending its support to two Australians in Melbourne, David Beanland and Roger Hadgraft, seeking to publish a book entitled "Engineering Education: Transformation and Innovation". Drawing on the NatCom's support in November 2012, Mr Beanland and Mr Hadgraft were able to secure UNESCO's patronage of the publication. The book deals with the need for change and reform in engineering education - to make engineering education more interesting and attractive to young people, consonant with modern teaching methods and e-learning.