Master of Human Rights and Democratisation Welcome Ceremony
24 August 2011
MacLaurin Hall was host to a special event on Friday evening 12th August to welcome new students undertaking the Master of Human Rights and Democratisation.
The Master of Human Rights and Democratisation is Asia Pacific's premier regional degree in the field, and provides scholarships to advocates of human rights to undertake study both at the University of Sydney, and then one of four selected universities throughout the Asia Pacific region. The degree was established with European Union funding, as well as donations from alumni and friends, and on Friday evening the second round of students to undertake the course were welcomed with speeches, drinks and canapés, and a cultural performance from students. The guest of honour was His Excellency David Daly, Ambassador for the EU in Australia.
The MCs for the evening were students Bruce Amoroto from the Philippines and Hassan Nasir from Pakistan. Hassan introduced His Excellency David Daly and presented him with a gift of a scarf and cap from his native Pakistan.
His Excellency Ambassador David Daly gave an inspired speech, where he spoke of being 'proud the EU is funding this course in this university', and pointed out that the EU is responsible for 60% of all development assistance granted to projects to protect human rights the world over.
He commended the students for being brave, stating 'I have no doubt you are fearless yourselves in this work', and he called on them to be 'patient, tenacious and prepared for the long hall'.
Professor Duncan Ivison, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences then declared the event 'a wonderful afternoon for the Faculty', and commented on the 'extraordinary cohort' of students. He thanked Associate Professor Danielle Celermajer and His Excellency David Daly, for a course that 'epitomises everything the Faculty is about'.
Associate Professor Danielle Celermajer was awarded the 1.5 million Euro grant that established the Master of Human Rights and Democratisation, and her passion for the course was evident when she spoke to students at the welcome event.
She said, 'This gathering of activists, academics, donors, families, friends and students from across the world represents a wonderful symbol of what it is that we are trying to achieve in this program - and that is, as my most important teacher Hannah Arendt said - to look at the world that we share from as many perspectives as possible so that we may together, in our plurality, better understand how to live together ethically and in a manner that sustains both the world between us and our capacity for freedom and creativity.'
On the role that universities can take in contributing to the cause of human rights globally, Associate Professor Celermajer adds, 'Universities are uniquely placed to imagine alternative futures and alternative ways of being, acting and organising our lives. Especially when empowered with grants of this nature, universities are shielded from the types of pressures that lead to short term, instrumental answers. Our commitment to authentic inquiry and cooperative learning means that we can, unlike any institution in our contemporary landscape, spend time wondering about the nature of problems and experimenting with solutions.'
Further highlighting the effectiveness of the course, Associate Professor Celermajer, who is 'constantly blown away by the depth and practicality of our students' work', gave a few examples of achievements by previous students from the Master course, including Parvez, a Pakistani student who is researching attitudes to human rights education amongst Pakistani school teachers with a view to developing human rights education in primary schools in Pakistan, as well as Vasuki, a Tamil woman who is traveling around Sri Lanka working with women that are emerging from a twenty-year war. Associate Professor Celermajer also mentioned students who have also taken up positions with Earth Rights in Chiang Mai and the Coalition of Asia Pacific Regional Networks on HIV/AIDS in Korea.
Many of the students present at the welcome have their own amazing stories to tell, and are on their own paths to creating change. Two such students spoke about some of the challenges faced by their home community.
Arooma Gul from Pakistan spoke about witnessing a migration in her country and the silence that followed. She spoke of living in a camp looking after vulnerable women and unaccompanied children, and the depravation and lack of human rights that existed within this environment. She also spoke of hope, 'the things we share are far more valuable than the things that divide us…we are still masters of our own fate, we are still captains of our souls'.
Resina Senikuraciri from Fiji also shared her story about the suppression of media freedom, of torture, the expulsion of diplomats and the variety of challenges facing Fiji's development as a nation. Resina sees opportunity in the Masters of Human Rights and Democratisation program. She said 'it's only the first three weeks and I can see the important bonds that we will bring into the work that we will do.'
After a short cultural performance by some of the students the official proceedings of the evening were over, however most of those present stayed to mingle, and to strengthen some of these new bonds made possible by the Master of Human Rights and Democatisation course.
To see more pictures from the event check our Facebook page
Contact: Kate Mayor
Phone: 02 9351 2208