The Centre for Dialogue was established by La Trobe University in September 2005 and inaugurated on 15 August 2006, at the National Gallery of Victoria, with the strong support of the Victorian Government. At the opening, attended by more than 700 people, Judge Christopher Weeramantry, former Vice-President of the International Court of Justice, delivered the inaugural Annual Lecture. Messages of support were received from the Australian Prime Minister John Howard, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, distinguished scholars, international research centres, religious leaders and twenty five governments.
Joseph Camilleri was its founding director from January 2006 to December 2012.
The Centre engaged in research, education and training, policy development and community engagement with a clear focus on the philosophy, method and practice of dialogue.
Priority areas during the first six years were:
- Theoretical perspectives on dialogue;
- The role of religion and culture in Australia and internationally, with particular reference to relations between Islam and the West, and the practical application of interfaith and intercultural dialogue in the context of multicultural Australia and in Australia’s relations with Asia;
- Relations between the three major centres of power and influence in the world (Europe, Asia and the United States), with particular reference to the role of religion, culture and civilisation;
- Application of the philosophy and method of dialogue to education, with particular reference to curriculum innovation and professional development for teachers and other educators;
- The challenges posed by globalisation, and the scope of the ‘dialogue of cultures and civilisations’ in responding to these challenges (with particular reference to energy policy and climate change, nuclear proliferation, economic governance; and
- Dialogue as a possible pathways to conflict reosolution in the Middle East .
Major projects undertaken included:
Dialogue Education Project for Schools
Young Muslim Leadership Program
Australia’s Divided Communities: Exploring the Potential for Dialogue
Developing the UN Alliance of Civilizations in Asia-South Pacific
Athens Dialogue on Establishing a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone
Cyprus Dialogue Project
Australia-China High-Level Talks
Establishing the Northern Interfaith and Intercultural Network