Please upgrade your browser.

Why Cross-Cultural Mediation?

Why Cross-Cultural Mediation?

Why are you so interested in cross-cultural conflict and mediation?



Full Transcript

Probably the fact that I am the daughter of immigrants. Refugees to Australia around the time of World War II. And our first language at home wasn’t English. But because I was the last born child or the second child and my parents had been in Australia a considerable period of time, longer than obviously when my brother, my older brother was born. I was the one that spoke English best. And I spoke unaccented English. My brother today, at the age of 70 or almost 70 actually has a bit of German accent even though he was born in Australia. So I was the family’s spokesperson from a very young age. And I had a very strong sense of what I was trying to get across and what I think people were hearing. So there was always a kind of duality about it and so I got very interested in language because I also spoke two languages.


So if I can put this in a joking way for a minute, Aled, your viewers will enjoy this, I was on what used to be famously called, The Bondi Tram. Every tourist from London to Sydney has been to Bondi Beach and you used to get there by tram. Jump on a lovely tram which of course didn’t pollute the way our buses do now and we’d role down the hill towards Bondi, which is where we lived, it’s where all the immigrants lived because it was not a flashy area, I promise you, it is now. And we were sitting on the tram and my grandmother was speaking German to me because that’s the only language she spoke. And somebody said, in the way that Australians did in the ’50s, “Speak English.” You know, probably you bastards, speak English. And I just turned around and said, and I remember doing it guilelessly, and said, “She can’t.” So I didn’t hear it as a racist remark, which is what it was, what it is today.


I heard it as an invitation to do something, which we would of gladly done had we been able. So there was always this kind of duality. They were being racist and they were disarmed by a child saying, “She can’t.” So I’ve always seen things in this double way and I did study language at the University, I did a degree in Post War European Literature and majored in Italian. But I’ve always seen the various meanings that people attribute to things. And I love sitting in a setting and disputes are a classic aren’t they? Where people because of a dispute have come to believe that one is lying and the other is telling the truth. I’m of course telling the truth and you’re lying, that’s the iron rule of disputing.

About the mediator

Kalowski Profile Pic

Joanna has been working with groups as a mediator for over 20years in highly sensitive inter-racial and political settings all over the world. In 2001 she became chairman of LEADR, Australia’s largest non for profit dispute resolution organisation and in 2006 became a visiting fellow at LEADR. She was a member of the administrative appeals tribunal for 10 years and later a member of the National Native Title Tribunal where she mediated land cla... View Mediator