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Swinburne appoints director of multicultural engagement in Victorian university first

Trinh Le

Wed Mar 16 2016

Dr Chin Tan Multicultural Engagement Director at Swinburne University

SWINBURNE University of Technology has recently appointed Dr Chin Tan in the role of Director of Multicultural Engagement to ensure its education and services are provided in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner. Trinh Le speaks with the newly appointed director, the first role of its kind in the tertiary education sector.

“Dr Chin Tan?” I asked while approaching the man in the grey suit.

“Just Chin,” he replied.

We sat down on an outdoor table at Swinburne’s Hawthorn campus. He apologised for not inviting me to his “messy” office as he had just started the role a few weeks earlier. We settled instead for an informal interview setting, next to a group of international students who expressed themselves quite loudly and cheerily in their mother tongue.

“Isn’t it wonderful that we’re both doing an interview in our second language? And I’m sure [the students’] first language is different from ours. But we can still understand each other perfectly. That’s the power of multiculturalism!” Dr Tan exclaimed.

Recently appointed the role of Director of Multicultural Engagement at Swinburne University of Technology, Dr Tan’s role is one-of-a-kind. Currently, Swinburne is the only university in Victoria to have such a role, as part of its commitment to facilitating stronger multicultural relationships among the whole Swinburne community.

“Why do we even need a director of Multicultural Engagement?” I asked. “I think the student union already takes care of that, only at a different managerial level.”

“We’re a multicultural society. We all live with it. I know there’s already people who take care of it, but their role is not concentrated. There are directors of access and diversity, but they’re also looking at different areas,” Dr Tan explained.

Until recently, Dr Tan was Chairperson and Commissioner of the Victorian Multicultural Commission, and prior to that he enjoyed a successful career as a practising lawyer that included partner roles at a number of Melbourne firms.

In his new role, Dr Tan’s focus is on developing and promoting “integrated and innovative policies, programs and practices that harness and improves the cultural diversity capacities and resources of Swinburne’s community”, in which international students play a significant role.

He will be dedicated to the application of multicultural principles across the whole university, a mission indelibly inseparable from a concentrated focus on the welfare, benefits and demands of international students within Swinburne campuses.

As part of his agenda, Dr Chin Tan will seek to better facilitate the university’s capacity to appreciate and address cultural needs and expectations of international students and to harness the richness of the diversity for the collective benefit of the entire student population.