Last week was unusually filled with cultural events. On Tuesday I went along to the QBI to hear the University of Queensland's inaugural Diversity Lecture. Minister Leeanne Enoch stepped up to the lectern to share the story of her two grandfathers. One black, one white - they both fought for their country in WWII and as soldiers were treated fairly equally. After the war, the picture was very different, the returned soldier benefits and re-training opportunities provided by the government were only available to the white grandfather. The black grandfather had the right to fight for his country, but not the right to vote in his country. It's always shameful to be reminded that as a society we could think any discrimination is acceptable.
Leeanne went on to talk about some advice from her grandmother, she cautioned her "you can walk amongst them and they'll never know" referring to Leeanne's light coloured skin. It took her many years to process this advice, her conclusion was that she would change it to “I will walk amongst you and you will know.” I loved this assertive response, it's a quietly powerful statement.
After the lecture there was a panel discussion about diversity with The Honourable Leeanne Enoch, Dr Sallyanne Atkinson, Professor Cindy Shannon and Professor Iain Watson. There were individual tales about their fight for inclusion and insightful statements about diversity.
Talking about her role at UQ, Cindy said their focus was "celebrating difference and celebrating the value that diversity brings." Iain hopes "to make diversity normal, not 'special'", he wants UQ to have a culture that is welcoming and safe. To this end UQ has a PLEASE EXPLAIN policy when there is a lack of diversity in applications for senior roles, especially given that femalesnow make up 52% of graduates.
To round off the evening Leeanne stressed the many benefits that many viewpoints can bring "diversity is an important part of a nation's success."