Experts discuss belonging

Leading indigenous academics and experts on migration and identity looked at what community and displacement mean in a 21st century globalised world.

Victoria University's Place and Displacement conference co-organiser Associate Professor Christopher Sonn said place-bound identity and traditional notions of community had been thrown into doubt by mass mobility and global change.

"We think of displacement as a consequence of forced mobility "" as with refugees "" but we are also surrounded by the immobile displaced stranded by economic and political changes in recent decades. For them, familiar places exist in an unrecognisable form," he said.

The 3-day conference from 21 November at Victoria University's City Flinders campus gathered leading academics to discuss identity and place for indigenous and non indigenous people, freedom fighters and Occupy protestors, refugees and long-time residents in changing suburbs.

Keynote speaker and National Centre for Indigenous Studies director at Australian National University Professor Mick Dodson will speak about the systematic separation of many Aboriginal people from the lands they traditionally owned and occupied.

"It was not just a physical parting," Professor Dodson said. "It also severed profound religious and spiritual connections reaching well back to the earliest organised societies. Colonialism and its devastating laws and policies shook the foundations of Aboriginal sense of place."

But these roots were not fully disinterred and Professor Dodson discussed how Aboriginal attachment to country lives on and continues to underpin Aboriginal identity and survival. 

Director of Victoria University's Centre for Cultural Diversity and Wellbeing Professor Kevin McDonald looked at movement mobilizations, with reference to Tahrir Square in Egypt, the M15 movement in Spain and the global Occupy Movement.

Other conference speakers covered the changing nature of Melbourne's west with its demographic shifts, the experiences of different migrant groups in Australia and the place of cultural traditions in remembering one's roots in a new community.

The conference was organised by Victoria University's Community, Identity & Displacement Research Network. Professor Dodson's public lecture from 7pm Wednesday night opened proceedings.

The conference program, timetable and presentation abstracts can be viewed on the Network's website.

Venue: Victoria University, City Flinders Campus, 300 Flinders Street, Melbourne. Public lecture on level 12, other sessions on level 11.

Image for this story courtesy of genotypewriter.

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