By Pakwasi Nayamekye, Policy Officer, South-East Asia Mainland and Regional Division, DFAT
Understanding and recognising the uniqueness of our individual differences is what makes our communities and countries strong, inclusive and progressive. The recent celebration of Harmony Day got me thinking how, in my role in DFAT, I can give voice to diversity.
During my postings to the culturally and linguistically diverse nations of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Solomon Islands, the aid work of our diplomatic missions involved finding creative and diverse solutions to development and the promotion of stability and peace. The Community Sector Program in Solomon Islands was a great example of this, where Australia collaborated with strong local community leaders to help communities recovering from conflict to chart peaceful pathways. I enjoyed supporting that partnership, as well as working with the Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands.
In PNG, Australia Awards scholarships help to support critical human resource gaps and strengthening institutions. The heart of a good scholarship program is strong relationships with people from diverse backgrounds in targeted sectors. With this base, we can work in transformative ways with PNG women, men, government and civil society. Supporting the selection processes for Papua New Guineans on a journey to obtain Australian university qualifications was richly rewarding. Sitting on selection panels gave me a window into peoples’ unique stories, which flowed from their families and communities into Australian institutions like the Australian National University.
My personal journey on the Kokoda trail during 2015 re-enforced to me the strong bonds between Australia and PNG. The track has become an important ‘cultural touchstone’ for the relationship between our countries. Along the emotional and physically challenging Kokoda trail walk, I experienced the history surrounding the battle of Isurava and spent time exploring battlefields were I heard many tales of Australian spirit and courage. My journey ended at the iconic Bomana War Cemetery (the largest war cemetery in the Pacific) where I reflected on the sacrifices made for the life we live today.
In my current work in the South-East Asia division – one of the fastest growing and diverse regions in the world – I see first-hand the importance of valuing diversity. The Australian aid programs in South-East Asia have programs with a strong focus on gender and disability to transform the lives of women, children and marginalised communities.
My African background and upbringing in Young, New South Wales and PNG means that, as with everyone, I have my own unique multi-cultural perspective on life. I think it is important we all bring these unique perspectives to our work, as they bring a dynamic and innovative culture to an organisation when they are valued and included.
Diversity in its fullest sense is about an organisation harnessing the full spectrum of people’s skills and life assets. Women, people from diverse ethnic, and disability backgrounds bring so much added insight to an organisation. We all bring different values and perspectives, which are critical to developing a well-rounded approach to issues.
These knowledge systems are important components supporting my role in the delivery and implementation of Australia’s foreign policy framework. It is a privilege and personally rewarding to work for an organisation where this is so valued.
Pakwasi Nyamekye is a Policy Officer in the South-East Asia Mainland and Regional Division and has previously been posted to Solomon Islands and PNG.