Diana Hill

on Sunday, 13 May 2012. Posted in Leadership Interviews, Action Motivated Leadership

Diana Hill
President of UNICEF Australia
Diana Hill

Diana Hill is a professional psychologist and educator with an extensive record of service to children and young people. Her career includes over 20 years service as a school psychologist and then as Deputy Principal. Most recently she has served as an adviser and advocate for children at state, national and international levels. 

Diana was elected to the Board of UNICEF Australia in 1994, and became President in late 2002. Her dedication to the interests of children has seen her sit on various other Boards connected to children’s and youth affairs, including the Board of Child and Youth Health in South Australia and the Coordinating Committee of Advisory Bodies for Children. She has chaired a South Australian Ministerial Advisory Committee on students with disabilities, and from 1988 to 2002 chaired an Anti Tobacco Ministerial Advisory Task Force in South Australia. 

Diana travels extensively and since joining the Board of UNICEF Australia has visited UNICEF’s field programs in Timor Leste, Myanmar, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the United Arab Emirates. She is married with four children and two grandchildren.  

Interview with Diana Hill

Why did you become involved in UNICEF? 

I believe strongly that children are the future. UNICEF is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realised. UNICEF is unique in that it has the global authority to influence decision-makers, and a variety of partners at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality. I became involved because I wanted to play my part to build a world fit for children.

What does your position as President of UNICEF involve? What skills and qualities do you feel your position requires? 

As President of UNICEF Australia, I believe first and foremost that the fundraising and advocacy work we do must focus on the best outcome for children. The position requires that I chair the meetings of the Board of UNICEF Australia and that requires understanding of the role of a director of a not-for-profit organisation and all legal requirements under Australian law.  

In addition  there must be a willingness to participate in all aspects of fundraising, a preparedness to speak publicly to groups, governments, school children and the media about the issues facing children, particularly the most vulnerable children – wherever they may be in the world. To do this I need to work closely with the staff of UNICEF Australia, examining issues related to children, preparing strategies for raising awareness of UNICEF in Australia and assisting in raising much needed funds for UNICEF’s programs for children.   

The driving force behind my work is the attitude of the children for whom we work. Their resilience and wish to participate in life as children before they are adults, their joy and enthusiasm when they can play, learn, enjoy good nutrition and better health with their families and in their communities, brings a sense that the world will be a better place because of their participation.  

What have been some of the highlights of your work with UNICEF?

The highlights are my visits to the field where I have the opportunity to sit with children, their mothers and their communities and experience first-hand the difference UNICEF has made to their lives. My visits to a UNICEF Child Friendly Centre and an orphanage in East Timor, to children and women’s shelters in the Solomon Islands and most recently a Centre for Children with Disabilities in the United Arab Emirates have all provided such opportunities. 

Other highlights were when I learned of the success of a girls’ education campaign in Afghanistan. This campaign supported by UNICEF managed to get three million children into school, many for the first time. And in Cambodia, the tremendous progress we’ve made immunising children. These are all success stories that prove that every dollar we raise here in Australia can make a difference to a child’s life. 

What factors are considered when deciding which health, education and child protection programs are funded by UNICEF Australia in the developing world?

UNICEF Australia raises funds from the private sector, including from individuals; and also from the Australian government through AusAID.  

Funds raised from the Australian public are the most important kind of funds to UNICEF Australia because they are untied and can be directed to the most vulnerable children. These funds are generally directed to UNICEF headquarters, which then distributes them according to the areas of greatest need. They are directed towards programs that assist children in countries where there is an unmet need. On the other hand, governments for instance may wish to earmark their contributions towards specific water and sanitation programs in Iraq, which means that protection, health or education programs in Iraq may not have sufficient funds. Public funds can then be used to address the many shortfalls in these areas. 

UNICEF Australia raises a proportion of funds from the Australian government by submitting proposals which are in line with both UNICEF’s and AusAID’s strategic and geographic priorities. Most AusAID-funded programs are located in the Asia-Pacific region. We ensure that our AusAID-funded programs are in line with UNICEF’s core strategic priorities – namely Girls’ Education; Integrated Early Childhood Development; Immunisation Plus; Fighting HIV/AIDS; and Improved Protection of Children from violence, abuse, exploitation and discrimination - and that they incorporate strategies to ensure they reach the most vulnerable children and women. We also look at whether the proposed program is appropriately designed to meet the relevant development needs; and whether it incorporates strategies to ensure sustainability, capacity building and consideration of gender issues; and whether it can be achieved within the proposed timeframe. 

Our AusAID-funded programs should also match AusAID’s priorities for funding in the region. For example, UA/AusAID is currently funding a juvenile justice study with UNICEF Cambodia. An important issue that needs addressing in Cambodia, juvenile justice is an area of focus for both AusAID and UNICEF in Cambodia.  

Do the Programs originate from within the country by UNICEF advisors who are in the region? How are the programs’ outcomes evaluated?   

Yes. Each UNICEF field office develops a 5-year Country Program of Operation in coordination with the relevant government. UNICEF Country Programs focus on how UNICEF - in partnership with government - will address the needs of children, women and their communities as established through consultation with communities, baseline studies, situation assessments, evaluations and so on. UNICEF country programs focus on implementing specific education, health, protection and other programs throughout the country at the grass-roots level, as well as advocating for children’s rights at the government level – for example, working to introduce legislative and policy frameworks to protect children’s rights. UNICEF also consults with local committees, community based organisations, local non-government organisations and international non-government organisations to determine areas of greatest need and appropriate program interventions. 

Every UNICEF country office has their own monitoring and evaluation section, so that UNICEF is able to internally evaluate its programs on an ongoing basis. UNICEF evaluates its programs through community feedback and consultations, collection of relevant data, and monitoring of outcomes and of implementing partners. For UNICEF Australia’s AusAID funded projects, UNICEF Australia engages external evaluators to evaluate the programs from the perspective of the communities involved. UNICEF also conducts joint evaluations with donors, such as AusAID. Financial evaluations are conducted on an ongoing basis, with both UNICEF and donors like AusAID employing independent auditors to assess UNICEF finances.  

What are some of the difficulties in raising funding for UNICEF’s programs?

UNICEF derives its income entirely from voluntary contributions. We receive no funding from the UN. The two primary sources of contributions are: governments and intergovernmental organisations; and private sector groups and individuals.  

UNICEF has 37 national committees in developed countries – including UNICEF Australia – which fundraise specifically for UNICEF programs in developing countries. As we essentially operate as a small business, we must ensure that we fundraise to provide a sustainable, regular income to support UNICEF programs. This is why UNICEF Global Parents are so important to us. UNICEF Global Parents provide a regular, reliable monthly income to UNICEF outside of emergencies, disasters and appeals. Our UNICEF Global Parents are incredibly supportive and loyal, but it can be difficult to convince the public of the importance of contributing regularly to a charity.  

Another difficulty is that we must keep our overheads low, and that includes staff and resources. In all fundraising, the greatest problem is that the needs are huge whilst all work must be done at minimum cost. 

Where does UNICEF obtain most of its funding from?

Contributions in 2002 from governments/intergovernmental organisations accounted for two thirds of total contributions, while one third came from private sector sources including the Australian public.  

Regular resources – that is, untied funds - are the foundation of UNICEF country programs. We depend on these to have an effective global presence, to provide continuity in our work, and to ensure long-term planning. Regular resources also allow us to respond quickly to emergencies and changing priorities. While earmarked resources are indispensable for expanding the reach of our country programs, the assured base of regular resources provides predictability for UNICEF’s interventions at the country level. As such, we are working to increase our income from private sector sources and individuals to 50% of our total income.  

How do you personally deal with your encounters with children and adults experiencing poverty and injustice and the awareness of over half a billion children living on less than $1 US per day? 

When I meet children and families and communities experiencing poverty and injustice,  it only strengthens my resolve to do more.

You have said, “Eradicating poverty depends upon the commitment from governments, communities and individuals at national and international levels,” and that eradicating poverty requires:

1 World leadership and clear Goals

2 Basic services through investment by Governments 

3 Protection of Human Rights and

4 Strong advocacy and support

(Children and Poverty an International View Anti Poverty Week 13 –17 October 2003) 

Why do you believe that governments fail to do the above given that the divide between the haves and the have-nots continues to grow? 

Worldwide, there has been a growing focus on national security and defence. Over the last decade international aid has dwindled. In 2000 it was at a record low of 0.22 per cent of GNP of developed countries – less than a third of the 0.7 per cent target agreed by the UN some 30 years ago. 

But compared to what the world spends on weapons or luxury consumer items, the resources needed to provide for the basic needs of children are modest. The problem is not one of insufficient resources, but a combination of misplaced priorities, and a lack of vision and commitment by leaders.  

In some countries, traditions and taboos – such as those surrounding HIV/AIDS - are barriers to progress. 

By contrast, countries that have achieved significant progress in human development in recent years are those that have made immediate social investments a priority and spent proportionally more on basic social services, viewing these investments as a foundation for development. For example, the Kenyan Government abolished school fees last year to make education free for all children. Since then more than 1.3 million children have entered school for the first time, pushing national enrolment from 5.9 million to 7.2 million. 

To what do you attribute Australia’s reluctance to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (CTOC) 4 and its three optional protocols? 

To the best of our knowledge, the Government is currently in the process of ratifying the Convention and the 3 Optional Protocols. Their explanation for the delay in ratification is that the internal procedures of ratification take time. There does not appear to be any reluctance to ratify the Convention and the Optional Protocols on their part. The Federal Attorney-General’s Department is currently researching all relevant state legislation to ensure that it complies with the Convention and the Protocols and to establish what – if any – domestic action is required in order to comply with the obligations under the Convention. The feedback from this process is that little or no amendments will be required to either federal or state legislation to ensure that Australia complies with the Convention and the Protocols. If any amendments are required, it is expected they will be minimal. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade appeared before the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in December 2003 to update the Committee on the process of ratification. Once all internal procedures are complete, ratification is expected to take place within the next 12 months, at the longest. UNICEF Australia encourages the Government to ratify the Convention and the 3 Protocols and to put in place appropriate mechanisms to protect vulnerable children and women from the serious crime of people trafficking.  

In relation to your current Child Trafficking campaign, why was this campaign initiated and what kind of a response was anticipated? What has been the response to it?

The kidnap and abduction of young children from their homes and families is now big business in many parts of the world, earning traffickers an estimated $12 billion every year. It’s a horrifying thought that when children should be learning, playing and simply enjoying their childhood, hundreds and thousands are being robbed of their innocence and living in fear.

 By far, the best way to combat the evil industry of child trafficking is by raising awareness and developing rehabilitation programs. Education is vital. UNICEF educates parents and children about the dangers of child trafficking. Girls who are enrolled in school are in less danger than those who aren’t. Law enforcement officials, judicial authorities, media and communities are made aware and trained to deal with the problem. For those who have been rescued from the hell of child slavery, UNICEF reunites them with their families, offers trauma counselling and support for those who have been exposed to HIV/AIDS, provides economic support for their families and access to skills training when the children are ready.

The campaign has helped contribute to the current debate on the issue in Australia. It is too early to calculate what the response has been since the campaign is ongoing.

How can women in third world countries be empowered so that they can break the cycle of poverty? What have been some of the programs UNICEF has run to benefit women?

All UNICEF’s work is about empowering people to help themselves. Our programs are aimed at long-term sustainability.

The AIDS education program in India is a good example of how UNICEF is empowering women and children to change their lives. Many children don’t have the information they need to protect themselves because AIDS and sex education are often taboo topics - any information they get is from friends – and there are many misconceptions about how AIDS is contracted. So it’s really a case of what they don’t know might kill them.

But in village women’s groups and schools in Southern Indian states such as Maharashtra, children and women are learning about life-skills now thanks to UNICEF efforts and materials. They learn not just how to protect themselves from AIDS but also about hygiene, teenage pregnancy, basic anatomy and reproductive health.  They then pass on this new-found knowledge to brothers and sisters and parents, and in many schools children have taken it upon themselves to make posters and plays which they’ve performed in the slums, so even more people benefit from this knowledge. Meeting these children and women you see how confident they are, how they have taken their lives into their own hands. Many girls have told their parents they don’t want to marry before 18 or even 21. They now know that the physical and emotional changes they’re going through at this time in their lives are normal.

Empowering women and girls through education is one of UNICEF’s priorities. Only education can empower girls with the confidence to make the most of their abilities and make decisions that result in such social benefits as later marriages; better nourished and healthier children; fewer childbirth-related deaths, and greater opportunities and life choices for women. Under-educated parents, particularly women, are less able to see to it that their children get the education they need. This contributes to factors that help perpetuate the cycle of poverty, such as child labour, ongoing health issues, and low wages.