Dr Susan Carland has been selected to travel around the world in the year 2020 as a recipient of the prestigious Churchill Fellowship Award along with another 114 other visionary Australians.

Participants will meet and work with leaders of influence and gain and exchange in knowledge. For Dr Carland, her aim is to bring home measurable tools for the betterment of Australian culture, to improve inclusion, diversity and acceptance, specifically central to Islam and West relations.

Dr Carland expressed her gratitude for being chosen along with other Australians for the award and highlighted her focus being on addressing world’s best practice when it comes to countering Islamophobia.

“My research involves going overseas to investigate the most cutting edge approaches to countering Islamophobia, as well as speaking with non-Muslim organisations that have been countering the unique bigotry their communities face (such as Jewish organisations facing anti-Semitism, African American organisations fighting racism, etc) to see what can be learned from them. I then intend to develop a tool-box of best practice strategies that Muslim organisations, as well as government and other bodies, can utilise to effectively counter Islamophobia,” she said.

Following the Christchurch attack, Melbourne based Not-for-Profit organisation Benevolence Australia opened its doors for the Annual Open Mosque Day. It was Sunday 17th March, just two days following the most deadly attack in Christchurch where a terrorist, Australian born, white supremacist and member of the alt right opened fire on the Al Nour Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre killing 51 worshipers and injuring many.

In Victoria, Australia, the third annual Victorian Open Mosque Day was already planned and the events of Christchurch just two days prior, saw an outpouring of solidarity, compassion and pain in the many people that visited mosques across the State. Whilst not a mosque, Benevolence as a NFP educational organisation greeted the hundreds who entered the sacred Bene space to feel humanity, to show empathy, to process the profound shock and the sadness that so many were feeling, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Dr Susan Carland, Vice Chair of Benevolence joined Sr Saara Sabbagh, founder of Benevolence Australia in hosting an open-house gathering to enable the many visitors a deeply and profoundly necessary conversation to be had with community.

It was at that moment, that Dr Carland found herself reflecting on all those that had gathered, with standing room only, drawn together as a result of an unrelenting Islamophobic climate of hate and othering. The questions of how we as a society can move beyond this pain resonated deeply within her.

“It was actually when I was sitting in Benevolence during Open Mosque Day straight after the Christchurch attack. I looked around the room and saw it filled with lovely, supportive people, but I wondered “Does this actually do anything? Do events like this change anything?” I went to see what the research said, and saw that while there was a decent amount of research on the causes and impact of Islamophobia, and some on what was being done to counter it, there was very limited research on what was actually effective. I wanted to change that”.

Following the gathering, Dr Carland began researching avenues which could not only enable greater knowledge and understanding but also, provide a pathway for measurable action and change for Australians.

The esteemed Churchill Fellowship Award which provides an unrivalled opportunity for those selected to experience world’s best practice in a specialised field became the focus of her inquiry. The Award stood out as a pathway that can make a measurable difference to Australian Communities.

For more information on the Churchill Fellowship Award, in honour of the late Sir Winston Churchill visit https://www.churchilltrust.com.au/about/the-trust/