Louise Olliff

Louise Olliff
Degree Title: 
Master's in Anthropology with International Development Studies
Graduation Date: 
2004

I arrived at the University of Guelph in 2002 having spent time in Cambodia as part of the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development program. My undergraduate degree from Deakin University in Australia was a BA with majors in Journalism and International Development Studies. I decided to do my MA partly because I had been challenged by my experiences in Cambodia and was questioning what I believed were some of the power inequalities, injustices and inefficiencies embedded in the aid industry. I wanted to see change and social justice; I just wasn’t sure how to do it without being compromised.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Guelph, particularly the cross-disciplinary approach, the fantastically open teachers who invited critical thinking and, of course, the wonderful friends I made.

After graduating in 2004 I returned to Australia where I began working for a series of community organisations in various communications, capacity building, research and policy roles. This included the Centre for Multicultural Youth (www.cmy.net.au), the Australian Drug Foundation (www.adf.org.au) and the Refugee Council of Australia (www.refugeecouncil.org.au). Over this time I have developed particular expertise and interest in working alongside refugee communities.

In 2006 I travelled independently to Ghana to volunteer in a Liberian refugee settlement. I wanted to understand more about the experiences of refugees in countries of first asylum. There I worked with an inspiring grass-roots community newspaper, The Vision, which had been founded by two Liberian journalists in exile. They had been voluntarily training refugee young people to become journalists and had produced a free monthly paper for four years, keeping residents informed about issues of concern in Ghana, Liberia and within the refugee settlement. This experience was a stark contrast to my time working for large NGOs in Cambodia and consolidated my belief in grassroots community development.

Since 2009 I have been working as a policy coordinator for the Refugee Council of Australia, facilitating national consultations with refugee and humanitarian entrants and the services working with them, advocating as a member of national government advisory bodies, and researching and writing papers to promote the adoption of flexible, humane and practical policies towards refugees and asylum seekers both within Australia and internationally. I plan to continue working in this field and will hopefully capture in a PhD some of the lessons I have learned along the way.