Audrey Dalton-Power on the environment, intersectionality and development

New Colombo Plan
  • New Colombo Plan
  • Australia
  • Fiji

I was offered an incredible opportunity to live, study and work in Fiji with a New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholarship through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I arrived in July 2019 and after completing my political science minor at the University of the South Pacific, I pursued an internship at Oxfam Pacific in Fiji.

Oxfam aligned with my beliefs in community engagement, localisation and support for non-government and grassroots organisations. Oxfam in the Pacific utilise a diverse team of people with knowledge and expertise from across the region; I was welcomed into a workplace with great professionalism and integrity. I have been working on the Pacific Climate Change Collaboration, Influencing and Learning (PACCCIL) Project, focusing on building action on climate change and disaster resilience in the Pacific region and beyond in a more effective, inclusive and collaborative manner. In doing so, the project aims to strengthen the influencing capacity and collaboration of Pacific Islander’s and civil society organisations to influence national, regional and global climate change and disaster policy and practice. The project is delivered with support from the Australian Government. PACCCIL project is regionally located across the Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian islands with the primary countries of focus being Solomon Islands and Vanuatu with regional interventions benefitting Micronesia and Polynesia. While environmental issues weren’t originally the forefront of my work, they became a priority when I started to gain an understanding of how they can deeply affect women, children and marginalised communities in Fiji.

One of my initial goals for my NCP program was to learn how to manage projects and politicise my work. While this has definitely happened, I more importantly was able to challenge my perceptions of privilege, widen my understanding of intersectionality and really critique development and the power of world leaders. I was able to question my own purpose for being in Fiji, as a young white woman, my thoughts on saviourism and what human equality really looks like. I spent hours in conversation with friends and colleagues from diverse backgrounds discussing gender and the complexities that come with our different identities. Incorporated in this was, of course, culture and country but also class, age, religion, abilities, sexuality and trauma. Throughout these dialogues it became clear that without taking an intersectional approach when working with gender equality or development, we can miss the mark completely. I believe that we’ve been sold an idea about the world through a western lens that is fabricated; our global problems are not inherently due to the failures of humanity but to the systems that we have upheld that are outdated and narrow.

Through this experience my career pathway has become clearer and my passion for working in human rights, development and politics is stronger than ever. I was often told that I would lose my drive once I started working, as if my passion was born from naivety and ignorance. I believe that message was given to me because I am a woman and I am ambitious. It might only be the beginning of my journey, but I’m proud to say that those people were wrong.

I know that the opportunities I have are due to my education and privilege in Australia. The knowledge I have gained around women’s rights is because of the people who have come before me, and who are speaking out now; the voices that are fighting for the world to hear them clearly when they talk about systematic oppression, intersectionality and power. NCP gave me the opportunity to sit at the table and thrive but, most importantly, to listen to the voices of those I’ve never heard before and ensure that whatever work I do in the future, those voices remain.

Audrey Dalton-Power is a 2019 New Colombo Plan Scholar for Fiji, from Victoria University.