Friday, June 21, 2019

Creators of Peace (CoP) is an international network that brings together groups of women from diverse backgrounds to acquire the tools for building inner peace, and become community peace builders. In Melbourne, project coordinator Kate Allison spoke with Parveen Muhammed about an exciting new direction the program in Australia is taking.

In 2018, IofC began partnering with the Southern Migrant Resource Centre (SMRC) in Dandenong, Victoria, to expand the outreach of CoP to Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs, and to work in a high school setting for the first time. Based on this partnership, the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) has awarded a grant of $120,000 for a two-year project to be conducted jointly by IofC Australia (IofCA) and SMRC.

Creators of PeaceThe project will support Creators of Peace Circles, networking events and mentoring in the local areas of Casey, Cardinia and Dandenong in Melbourne. ‘The specific target group will be women and young people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, new migrants and refugees,’ said Allison. ‘These are a significant majority in Melbourne’s southeast – an area which has been growing rapidly and has a dynamic mix of people from all over the world.’

SMRC has been working with CALD communities in these areas for many years, assisting them with settling into life in Australia. The organization has worked directly with schools to set up tutoring and holiday programs, and with women to present craft exhibitions highlighting their traditions and skills. SMRC have often had requests from schools in the area for further social support for students from refugee backgrounds. Separately, IofCA has supported Creators of Peace Circles for many years, and has the necessary resources in terms of skilled facilitators, mentors and materials. ‘Cooperation between our two organisations provides a perfect synergy of resources needed for a program such as this,’ said Allison.

The DPC Community Grant Program that is funding the IofCA-SMRC project exists to support social cohesion and community harmony, and foster understanding, appreciation and respect for cultural diversity and equality in Victoria. Allison expressed hope that the planned Peace Circles will help forge strong connections among the target participants through creating a safe space within each group and facilitating sharing of personal experiences and histories.

After each Peace Circle, participants will be offered the opportunity to engage with a volunteer mentor. Mentors will support participants to begin initiatives and projects that contribute to social cohesion and peace in their communities, and may provide access to other networks and resources for youth leadership in community-based peace building.

Project Coordinator Kate Allison
‘The ultimate objective of the program is to build a network of people engaged in peace building and strengthen existing connections in these local areas of Melbourne,’ said Allison. ‘Engaging with secondary school students under this program is a new area of operation for Creators of Peace. We hope that this will be a start of a much-needed intergenerational dialogue that will reap rewards in the future.’