This text was kindly provided by Maureen Hickman, Editor of the Royal Commonwealth Society ACT Branch’s Newsletter.  A fuller report will be available in the next issue: see


The challenges facing democratic systems in the Commonwealth was the subject of a Workshop at Government House, Canberra, in March, attended by 32 students from 13 Commonwealth nations including Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia, hosted by the Governor-General, the Hon. General David Hurley, to mark Commonwealth Day in 2021.

The Workshop, on ‘Mending Democracy’ was organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society’s ACT Branch and led by Professor Carolyn Hendriks of the Crawford School of Public Policy at ANU and Professor Jolyon Ford of the ANU Law School. ‘

‘Although emphasis on various aspects of democracy varied according to particular conditions in participants’ home countries – all of which have endorsed the principles of Democracy, Rule of law and Human rights that underpin their Commonwealth membership – there was unanimous agreement on trust and inclusion as the main areas needing ‘repair’.

In developing countries in Africa, aspiring MPs were said to be ‘visible for two months leading up to the election and, after handing out gifts of T-shirts and sweets, then disappearing for years until the next election’. As another student put it, why do politicians value 50 million ‘likes’ on Facebook when most of their people don’t have access to the internet, and where young people  –   representing up to 60 per cent of the population – have no jobs and no education in the political process that would motivate them to vote?

All this, together with long queues on voting day, play their part in eroding trust in a political system, which, without local community engagement, is opaque and inaccessible to the vast majority of people. ‘

‘At the plenary session, Professor Hendriks, pointing out that these were big issues, asked for ideas of how they might be achieved.   The answers ranged from reviving the ‘protest culture’ of previous generations to reforming ‘the institutions’, described as ‘the source of most problems due to them not working well’.

As the Workshop drew to a close, the Governor-General played a major role in the summing up, concluding that Democracy is nor a finished product and would evolve. 


Helen Suich Seminar on The Individual Deprivation Measure – South Africa Country Study Results

The Demography Seminar by Helen Suich will be on Tuesday April 20th. These seminars normally run from 1.30 to 2.30 pm although sometimes those via Zoom are held at different times. Please see the  post on this weblog dated 22/09/2020 on Helen’s research on The Individual Deprivation Measure: South Africa Country Study Results.



ANU 2025 Survey

On March 23rd the Chancellor messaged all staff  about the consultations for the ANU 2025 Strategic Plan which had begun in February.

“The Vice-Chancellor and the senior staff leading development of the four ‘strategic pillars’ have already held six town-hall forums, with more than 500 staff and students in attendance; and the ANU 2025 team has received dozens of submissions and pieces of feedback.”

You can watch a copy of the town-hall recordings are available at

“Today, we have launched the ANU 2025 survey. This is your opportunity to respond to some of the themes and ideas raised during the consultation. You can complete the survey here: “

The link may not be easy to use even by pasting into your browser without the full stop but gives the following information: 

“Questions in this survey were developed from ANU community feedback on the ANU 2025 Strategic Plan. We are again seeking your input before embarking on the next phase of the process.

This survey is open from Tuesday 23 March to 11.30pm Thursday 1 April and will take approximately 10 – 15 minutes to complete.

For more information on the development of the ANU 2025 Strategic Plan, you can visit If you have any additional feedback, please e-mail”


Truth and Reconciliation: South Africa and Victoria

Date and time: Thursday 08 Apr 2021, 1–2pm

Speaker: Ibrahim Abraham 

Event series:  Freilich Research Network Event

Location: online zoom webinar, register here

Victoria’s recently announced Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) draws inspiration from the famous TRC initiated in South Africa in 1995. Both initiatives endeavour to reveal historical truths and heal broken and unjust relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous communities. Whereas South Africa’s TRC was limited to political violence taking place between 1960 and 1994, excluding the broader sweep of South African history, the willingness of Victoria’s TRC to investigate events as far back as European colonization makes it a conceivably more radical and potentially more contentious initiative. Offering an overview of South Africa’s TRC, drawn from the presenter’s forthcoming book, this lunchtime talk will also draw out some of the likely similarities and differences between the South African and Victorian initiatives, and highlight some of the challenges inherent in any TRC, including the implicitly religious nature of narratives of confession and reconciliation, and the difficulty of finding a common moral language in diverse societies.

Ibrahim Abraham is the Hans Mol Research Fellow in Religion and the Social Sciences in the Humanities Research Centre of the Australian National University, and a former Convenor of the Freilich Project for the Study of Bigotry. His book Race, Class and Christianity in South Africa: Middle-Class Moralities will be published by Routledge in 2021.

Register here

Books that Changed Humanity: J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace

Date and time:  Friday 19 Mar 2021, 5.30–6.45pm

Speakers:  Dr Ibrahim Abraham (Humanities Research Centre, ANU)

Location:  Zoom (registration required)

Series:  Books that Changed Humanity

Dr Ibrahim Abraham explores this controversial masterpiece of post-apartheid South Africa at the turn of the twenty-first century. Disgrace is the novel that not only earned Coetzee (another) Booker Prize but guaranteed him the Nobel Prize awarded in 2003.

Register here.

Solidarity in Diversity Conference

The African Studies Group (ASG) in partnership with the Melbourne Social Equity Institute (MSEI) is hosting the ‘Solidarity in Diversity’ International Conference in July 2021. The call for papers is now open.

“The conference seeks to highlight the voices of, knowledge and experiences of people of African descent, and from other marginalised groups and communities. It is structured around three key themes: solidarity and diversity in academia; policy framing and engagement; and in practice and community intervention.”

The Solidarity in Diversity Conference will be held virtually from Monday 19 to Friday 23 July 2021. To access the poster and the detailed concept note google this link   

You may have to copy this link into your browser.