What it’s like to be an IDEA Officer at TMOS

I joined the TMOS as an Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access Officer during turbulent times for the Australian tertiary education sector. Transitioning from my previous position to this new and unprecedented post seemed like a challenge but also an opportunity to work on the first job of this kind in Australia. 

What did I know about inclusion or diversity? As a CaLD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) person born some 20,000 km from Melbourne, I felt that my twenty-odd years of the lived experience of being a “foreigner”, might give me some insight. That, and my previous work at the Centre for People, Organisation, and Work where tackling gender inequities, unfair work, systemic exclusion, etc., became the everyday substance of my engagement with the audience.

It turned out that despite a few policy-writing holes in my own experience, the subject of getting people of different cultural backgrounds, outlooks, denominations, and philosophies to work together, is not as otherworldly as one may think. I found that the element of compassion – understood as being able to imagine being in someone else’s “shoes” – is a great help in researching possible avenues of betterment in an organisation.

Removing ourselves from the equation and looking with an unbiased eye was tricky at first – things we take for granted hence not perceiving them in our environments as problems – might be an everyday occurrence in someone else’s live narrative. The fewer assumptions and more open-ended questions, investigative curiosity of others, and cognitive placeholders we bring to the organisational table, the better.

Regardless of their position in the organisational hierarchy, the team members made me feel that we are all on the same page – with our striving for a better, fairer, and more sustainable diversity and inclusion in a workplace. And in this workplace, collective goals and personal differences need to fuse together somehow to give us more “sparks”, more ideas, and challenges for more innovative, unique, and trailblazing outcomes.  

– Piotr Nowotnik