Professor Desmond Cahill’s Work with Immigrants

July 20, 2010

Prof. Desmond Cahill

From Moonee Valley Weekly PROFESSOR Desmond Cahill’s passion for spreading goodwill and the celebration of religious and cultural diversity is without question. The 64-year-old Flemington resident, leader of intercultural studies at RMIT University, has for decades worked with waves of immigrants trying to integrate into their new home here. This career started after another ended, with the former Catholic priest choosing his wife and a family over the priesthood, a decision he says is the hardest he has had to make. “I had to make a choice. I made the choice and the rest is history. That was the most difficult decision I ever had to make. [But] it’s not one that I regret.” Professor Cahill recalls the first wave of Italian and Maltese immigrants who ventured to Australia in the mid-’60s and needed support. He says his pathway from priest to professor was logical because of his background working with migrants. He has worked at RMIT for decades, predominantly looking at the integration of ethnic communities, such as Latin Americans. One of his main roles has been developing multicultural studies so that others could go and work with ethnic communities, and training others to teach Languages Other Than English courses in schools. A Vietnamese program focusing on the integration of Vietnamese into Australian society started in the 1980s. It led to RMIT establishing a campus in Ho Chi Min City. “It’s always brought me great satisfaction in working with immigrant communities and with immigrants and refugees who want to update their qualifications in Australia or train for new roles,” Professor Cahill says. As well as his work in intercultural studies, Professor Cahill is chairman of the Australian chapter for Religions for Peace International, the world’s largest interfaith organisation. In 2006, he led Melbourne’s successful bid to host last year’s Parliament of the World’s Religions, the world’s largest interfaith gathering, which attracted 6500 delegates. “It’s to bring the religions together in understanding and harmony and to develop joint actions on addressing the world’s major issues in climate change, social cohesion in multifaith societies, food and water for everyone, global peace.” Awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia this year for his service to intercultural education, Professor Cahill says he was humbled by the honour. “It’s an award to me, but it’s also an award to my RMIT colleagues and to my colleagues in the interfaith movement throughout Australia and the world.” Professor Cahill says his work in promoting goodwill has given him great satisfaction. “[The best part] is bringing people together, especially in Australia, through the whole multifaith movement and bringing about harmony between the different multicultural communities and between the different religions.” Click here to read the entire article.

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